mystery

“Love is an endless mystery, because there is no reasonable cause that could explain it.”
Rabindranath Tagore

(Moses by Michelangelo / Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli /Rome / Julie Cook 2018)

“A sculptor who wishes to carve a figure out of a block uses his chisel,
first cutting away great chunks of marble, then smaller pieces,
until he finally reaches a point where only a brush of hand is needed
to reveal the figure. In the same way, the soul has to undergo
tremendous mortifications at first, and then more refined detachments,
until finally its Divine image is revealed.
Because mortification is recognized as a practice of death,
there is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of Duns Scotus**, Bis Mortus; Semel Sepultus
(twice died, but buried only once).
When we die to something, something comes alive within us.
If we die to self, charity comes alive;
if we die to pride, service comes alive;
if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive;
if we die to anger, love comes alive.”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 219
An Excerpt From
Peace of Soul
(**John Duns OFM, commonly called Duns Scotus, was a Scottish Catholic priest
and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian.
He is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of
Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with
Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Wikipedia)

So the other day I posted one of my more short and sweet offerings…
When time is scarce, I rely on a good picture and a couple,
of what I think to be, pointed quotes.
Most often the quotes offered are by the Saints, Christian theologians,
Christian authors and or Christian mystics.

And so it was on a recent day when I posted a quote by C. S. Lewis:
“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,
perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God.
But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.
Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology,
that will not mean that you have no ideas about God.
It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad,
muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God
which are trotted out as novelties today are simply
the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 155
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

that I received the following comment:

“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,”

This was true in regards to both theological and knowledge of everything
but I believe that is the only part the great writer Lewis got
right in this quote.

Theology has not changed, the stories and traditions are basically
exactly the same today but likely more complicated than when they
were created but the general knowledge of our world has
increased dramatically.

We have the massive advancement in both scientific knowledge
and increased educational opportunities that have accumulated mostly
over the last two hundred years, this has cost all religions dearly
in a decline of power especially in first world industrialised countries.

As there is now more freedom of thought there are answers
that explain what we experience in the light of reality without
any supernatural input.

Well, I’ve not had a chance to respond to this particular commenter but
thought I could maybe take a little time now in order to do so…

The picture above is a marble statue carved using the famed Carrara marble
of Carrara, Italy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrara_marble)

The statue was carved by the famed Italian artist Michelangelo…
a statue of Moses that was to adorn the one-day tomb of Pope Julius II.

Pope Julius and Michelangelo had quite the love-hate relationship.
It was this same Pope that sent his guards to bring back the
run-away artist who tried to skip out on his Sistine Chapel project…
but I digress.

Isn’t this just an amazing piece of craftsmanship?
Do you see the veins and tendons in the muscular arm of Moses?


(Julie Cook / 2018)


(Julie Cook 2018)

When I was in Girl Scouts, we were given a bar of soap and were to use our
trusty Girl Scout knife in order to carve something out of the soap.

Despite my grandiose hopes of carving out a bear, I think I managed to
have a whittled pile of soap shavings.

So to be able to see something in a massive chunk of rock and to then,
with only hands, hammer and chisel–with no modern electric or technological
assistance in order to bring forth “life” is, to me, simply amazing.

It is a gift.
Not a rote learned skill…
Now whereas it does indeed take skill to be such a craftsman,
it also takes much more.
It takes vision…seeing that which lies within…
And it also takes something that borders upon the mystical.

Life breathed into a handful of dust….

So our friend’s comment today speaks of both knowledge and understanding.
Noting that each one has more or less come steamrolling in within the
last 200 some odd years…but I dare say it all really took off during
the day’s of Michelangelo…the age of the Renaissance…
and by gosh, it hasn’t dared stop to look back.
Think the Age of Reason…the Age of Enlightenment…
The Industrial Revolution…Post Modernism, Post Christianity…

Whereas we greatly pride our 21st century selves on our breadth,
depth and scope of knowledge…there are, contrary to popular belief,
a few truths that remain…despite man’s dire
attempts to counter it all with his / her hubris and arrogance.

“Supernatural input” our friend notes.

Yet, despite the argument that we are so advanced and now know
all there is to know, there actually remain certain truths…

Take Biology for instance…
I would think Biology is one said truth.

Male.
Female.
Egg.
Sperm.
Conception.
Birth.
Life.
Death.

And yet, therein lies the mystery.

Conception / birth / life / death…

Sure there are miscues and misfires.

There are anomalies.
There are exceptions
There are mysteries.

But that does not diminish the truth.

Male.
Female.
Conception.
Birth.
Life.
Death.

Our friend speaks of a “freedom of thought giving way to answers that explain
what we experience in light of our reality…”

Hummmm.

Thought does not necessarily equate to reality…does it?

This particular individual speaks of the supernatural no longer being necessary…
but if it is “super” as well as natural…then is that not a mystery in itself?
That which remains rooted in that of the unknown?

And so as I consider today’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
I marvel.
Our lives are not so readily written off as compartmentalized
reason now are they?

“When we die to something, something comes alive within us.
If we die to self, charity comes alive;
if we die to pride, service comes alive;
if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive;
if we die to anger, love comes alive…”

a little slide of hand…


(27 Feb 1926, Sat The Richmond Item (Richmond, Indiana) Newspapers.com)

I caught a rather interesting story yesterday offered on Newspapers.com regarding
the great escape artist, Harry Houdini.

I thought I might offer the story here as it makes for a nice
diversion from our current headlines.
It offers a snippet of interesting history while touching
on the political climate of Houdini’s time.

For a little bit of background on Houdini, for those unfamiliar with
this early 20th century entertainer, I did a little digging.

According to Wikipedia, Houdini, whose birth name was Erik Weisz
and whose father was a Rabbi, was born in Hungry in 1874.
The family immigrated to the US in 1878, calling Wisconsin home before
eventually moving to New York.

As a young boy, Erich (the family adopted the German spelling upon
immigrating to the US) developed a love running cross country
as well as becoming a trapeze artist.

Young Erich would go on to become a professional magician,
changing his name to Harry Houdini after the French magician
Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdinthe.

Houdini would eventually become America’s favorite escape artist,
illusionist, stunt performer and mysteriarch.
He was a Vaudeville favorite and eventually performed globally.

Contrary to popular belief, Houdini did not die from a stunt gone awry,
but rather from peritonitis from a ruptured appendix at the age of 52.

It is speculated that the ruptured appendix may have originated from
a man who had come to Houdini’s dressing room prior to a performance and
repeatedly hit Houdini in the abdomen.

Houdini often boasted that he had an extreme tolerance to being hit
in the abdomen.
This curious man took Houdini at his word by repeatedly hitting him.
Houdini abruptly had the man stop, explaining that he had not
braced himself appropriately for the blows.

Within a few days of the hitting incident and having suffered severe pain
since the man’s punches, Houdini began running a fever.
He was taken to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a
ruptured appendix.

To add to the mystique of Houdini,
he was known to be a practicing Freemason.

Fast foward to the roaring ’20’s.

America, as well as much of Europe, had become fascinated with
all things of the supernatural.
Mystics, fortune tellers, snake oil doctors, Mediums and seances had become all
the rage.

Intriguing entertainment and fun parlor tricks yet there was
something much more alarming and even deeper than mere entertainment.

Many people longed to reconnect with those loved one who had “passed
over to the other side.”
Those who had lost loved ones who were sorely pressed to hear from
those lost loved ones—longing to hear from them just one more time
would cling to every word offered by a “Medium”—a person who
could connect to the nonliving.

Houdini, who prided himself on his professionalism, was hard pressed
to expose those who were profiting off the emotions of the bereft—
as well as those who were casting a doubtful light on Houdini’s craft.

Houdini boldly brought this issue before Congress as he wanted to have
a federal law created against those working under the guise as mediums
while profiting falsely from the emotions of those who were hurting…

As part of Houdini’s crusade against fraudulent mediums,
two congressmen (Senator Royal S. Copeland and Representative Sol Bloom)
sponsored an amendment to a Washington DC law that would essentially
ban fortune telling in DC.
The proposal was met with stiff resistance from the spiritualist community,
who charged that it would infringe on their right to religious freedom.

Houdini had hired a small army of ‘detectives’ working to uncover the
imposters and hucksters.
One of his most ardent ‘detectives’ was a 34 year old named Rose Mackenberg.

And so during the congressional hearing “the biggest bombshell of
the hearing—at least as far as the news media was concerned—
was dropped by Mackenberg herself.

Prior to the May hearings,
Houdini had sent his undercover investigators, including Mackenberg,
to visit suspected phony mediums in DC and gather evidence against them.
During her testimony, Mackenberg alleged that two spiritualists
had independently divulged that a number of their clients
were U.S. senators, and she even went so far as to reveal the names of
four of those senators while on the stand.

But most shocking of all, Mackenberg testified that one of the mediums,
Jane Coates, had boasted that seances had been held in the White House,
with President Coolidge and his family present.”

So it seems that maybe we should have exorcized the White House years ago
and maybe we wouldn’t be having the problems we’re having today…
but of course I digress…

Here is a link to the story…it makes for some interesting reading…
enjoy the diversion…

https://blog.newspapers.com/astonishing-adventures-of-houdinis-favorite-detective/

king for a day or king for life—it’s a choice

“It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world!”
St. Aloysius Gonzaga

“It is necessary to have an absolutely sure intention in all our actions,
so that the generous fulfillment of our daily duties may be directed
toward the highest supernatural ideal. Thus, our life, apart from moments of prayer,
will be a prayerful life. It is clear that the habit of giving an upward glance
to God at the moment of action is a great assistance in aiding us to
behave always with a pure intention and in freeing us from our natural impulses
and fancies, so, that, retaining our self-mastery, or rather,
God becoming the sole Master, all our movements become dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
We see in the Gospel that whenever our Lord was about to undertake some important step,
He always paused for a moment to raise His eyes to Heaven,
and only after this moment of recollection did He take up the work He had to do.
‘He lifted up His eyes to Heaven’ is a phrase that recurs with significant frequency.
And doubtless, when there was no outward sign of this prayer,
there was the inward offering. The ideal is the same for us.
The constant subjection of self to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
is made easier from the fact of His presence in the soul,
where He is asked explicitly to preside over all our doings…
We shall not submit wholeheartedly to the invisible Guest unless
He is kept in close proximity to us.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 37-8
An Excerpt From
How to Pray Always

Deus absconditus

“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man:
to know what he ought to believe;
to know what he ought to desire;
and to know what he ought to do.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(a fallen leaf hangs in the balance by the thread of a spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

“One of the most formidable obstacles to the conversion of a soul is the fact that
God is a hidden God: Deus absconditus.
But God, in His goodness, reveals Himself, in a certain manner, through His saints,
and even through fervent souls.
In this way, the supernatural filters through and becomes visible to the faithful,
who are thus able to apprehend something of the mystery of God…
make no mistake, there is a sort of instinct by which souls,
without clearly defining what it is they sense,
are aware of this radiation of the supernatural.”

Dom Jean-Baptist Chautard, p. 124-5
An Excerpt From
Soul of the Apostolate

Christendom

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.
We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand,
we are obliged to act accordingly.

Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard


(a hornets nest on the side of a house Blue Ridge, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church.
I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom.
It is the end of Christendom, but not the end of Christianity.

What is Christendom?

Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as
inspired by the gospel ethic. That is finished.

Abortion, the breakdown of family life, dishonesty,
even the natural virtues upon which the supernatural virtues were based,
are being discredited.

Christianity is not at the end.
But we are at the end of Christendom.

And I believe that the sooner we wake up to this fact,
the sooner we will be able to solve many of our problems.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

Crystal ball gazing

“If it is hard to make predictions about what the year ahead holds for society,
it is doubly difficult to predict what will happen to the Church.
It’s not just that we suffer the vagaries of all human sinners and societies,
but the Holy Spirit will not be restricted to our timetables and limited visions.
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus after the crucifixion and before the
day of Pentecost – who could have foreseen what would happen?”

David Robertson


(Wizard of Oz / 1939)

Oh hear the wistful sighs…..

Ode that we could somehow take a peak, a gander or even predict….the future…
Ours, others, the world’s….
All whilst gazing into our very own all seeing and all knowing crystal balls.

We humans, particularly as we have advanced in areas of all things scientific,
communication and technological, have grown, over the past couple of centuries,
increasingly frustrated when we can’t see how it’s all going to go, going to be,
or going to end…

And despite saying we aren’t ones to sneak a peak at how the book or the
story will end, deep down, we all really want to know…

Perhaps it is the odd peace in knowing… or perhaps more aptly,
it is a peace in accepting, that which is to be….
For the lack of not knowing eats away at us more than the actual knowing.

We want that total knowledge and peace that everyone is going to
live happily ever after…
And if that’s not to be the case..then by George, we will do something about it…
because that who we are and how we operate, we do something about it, or we
get those who can do, to do…..

We prefer to leave nothing to chance because if we ‘know’ we can therefore control;
and if we can control, we can therefore orchestrate; if we can orchestrate,
we can therefore be in charge…

Becoming the masters of our own ships, our own destinies and our own souls!
In essence becoming our our demigod.

In the mid 19th century in Victorian England there was a huge rise in public
interest in occultism and spiritualism…
but not exactly for that of Christian spiritualism.

In his article The Victorian Supernatural, Roger Luckhurst notes that
the 19th century is routinely thought about as the era of secularisation,
a period when the disciplines and institutions of modern science were founded
and cultural authority shifted from traditional authority of religion to
explanation through the scientific exposition of natural laws.
The sociologist Max Weber spoke about this process as the disenchantment
of the world.

Yet he goes on to note that “while we might still accept the broad brush strokes of this story, the Victorian period is also of course a period of deep
and sustained religious revival.
There was an evangelical revival in the Christian church but also a host
of dissenting, heterodox and millenarian cults.
It was a golden age of belief in supernatural forces and energies,
ghost stories, weird transmissions and spooky phenomena.
For a long time historians ignored these beliefs as embarrassing errors or
eccentricities, signs of the perturbations produced by the speed of cultural change.

Roger Luckhurst who is Professor of Modern Literature at Birkbeck College,
University of London goes on to note, that in the turbulent,
revolutionary year of 1848, a new religious movement emerged from the melting pot
of upstate New York.
The young Fox sisters had claimed to have come into contact with the
unquiet spirit of a murdered man in their house,
who communicated with them by loud knocks on wood.
This very local sensation (later shown to be a fraud)
was the origin point for the Spiritualist movement,
which elaborated a method of communicating with the dead in séances through mediums. Mediums were often women because they were deemed to have more delicate,
sensitive nervous systems than men.

Men who were mediums – such as the famous D D Home who so enraged Robert Browning
that he was the source for his poem ‘Mr Sludge’ –
were often abjected and despised.

Although communication with spirits was strictly forbidden in the Bible,
this became a popular form of dissenting belief, a ‘proof’ of the survival
of bodily death in an era that demanded empirical testing and experiment.
The spirits would exchange banal but comforting messages with loved ones;
some would elaborate extensively on the social and political institutions
of the afterlife, called Summerland by some.

So as we consider the thoughts of one historian’s observation,
or better yet his little explanation into this lasting fascination of humankind
with its endless quest of being able to reach the other side, see beyond today,
desiring to know how the ending will be…there remains that single notion—
the “demanded of empirical testing and experiment….
i.e.the knowledge of the truth.

But what truth is that?

As we are reminded of a similar resigned and rhetorical
question, uttered nearly two millennium ago by a weary Pontius Pilate
“What is truth”
….as man is still hounded by that very query, despite having been offered
the most sound statement of Truth itself that very day….

And so our friend the Scottish Pastor and Wee Flea blogger gives his own
take of what 2018 might just be holding in store for those who are curious
or perhaps even worried about such.

Yet we must note that Pastor Robertson’s “predictions” are not those based on
Mediums and Occultism nor of séances, Ouija boards or even crystal balls….
but rather his thinking is based of keen observation, historical observations,
insight into the human psyche as well as a heavy dose of Biblical study
and of course always prayer…..

For an article in Christian Today, the good Pastor offered his
“10 prophesies for the Church in 2018

(see link: https://theweeflea.com/2018/01/02/10-prophecies-for-the-church-in-2018/)

And it is with keen interest that I pay particular attention to number three
as it addresses life on this side of the pond….

3.The American church will continue to fracture and decline as the word
‘evangelical’ becomes even more meaningless.

The American church is rich and powerful and has need of everything.
Whilst J I Packers’ quip that the US church is
‘3,000 miles wide and one inch deep’ may have been unfair,
it is nonetheless the case that whilst there are vast resources in the US church
(people, money, gifts) there is a danger it could implode.

This is especially true in the evangelical church where the word
evangelical has become increasingly meaningless.

‘White evangelicals’ who don’t go to church and don’t believe
(according to one survey) 60% of the basic Christian doctrines can hardly be called evangelical. And yet everyone wants to be called an evangelical
(or ‘post evangelical’ if you want to be cool).

On the other hand the heirs of 19th Century Protestant liberalism are 21st
Century liberals like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Steve Chalke,
who use the language of evangelicalism but give it a completely different meaning.
Such a church cannot survive. And does not deserve to survive.

As this thought reminds me of the words by Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
“our secular culture is attracting many believers…..”

And whereas none of us actually have a true working crystal ball,
allowing us to see into let alone accurately predict what may come…
And whether we agree or not or even like to consider such ominous words
of a murky future…there does remain,
as the good Wee Flea reminds the Faithful, always hope.

Because that is but one thing that remains forever unchanged…..
the Truth of God and His Word.

He was, He is and He will always be—

And it is in that simple fact, that we may rest—

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God,
mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

Deuteronomy 10:17

This time of year….

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

William Shakespeare

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish saying

Halloween Pumpkins, Witch, Devil, and Black Cat
(vintage halloween card)

What is it about this time of year…
This time of year when we seem to crave the supernatural?
Is it in our nature to lean-in, ever so closely,
to those ancient tales of the “other side”?

Halloween,
what once was an evening relegated to the innocence of the imaginations of children,
has grown to become the second largest commercial “holiday” following Christmas.
No longer is All Hallow’s Eve a single night for young children to don costumes…
all the while as they canvass their neighborhoods, singing trick or treat,
as they amass a small mountain of candy…

Adults have gotten deep into the act.
With Halloween merry making and party going exceeding that of New Years Eve…
For it has now become a month long event….

Yet aside from candy and costumes, which innocently afford one the opportunity to play
dress up as some alter ego,
Halloween has become, more or less, a spiritual excuse.
An open invitation allowing ourselves to taste a bit of a spiritual realm…
But the trouble…
for that is what it becomes, a trouble…
lies in the choice of realms…

Bemused, you may wonder if there is a problem with this yearly interest,
of which borders on obsession,
in this revelry of the realm of the spirits…

And I fear that…yes, perhaps there is.

For you see, we are indeed spiritual beings…
with spirituality being hardwired into our DNA—
And history has proven that it is not necessarily always a need
for a monotheistic God that we seek,
but some sort of spirituality none the less.

Hollywood has long jumped on the bandwagon of our desire to examine spiritual realms,
while at the same time allowing us to exert that odd need to be frightened.
Spook and Horror movies, as well as those tales of witchcraft,
demon possession and specters, have long topped box offices
as we have an almost sick obsession with such.

It is as if cultures worldwide use Halloween as some sort of green light,
a go ahead in affording ourselves permission to dabble in the art of
fortune telling, tarot cards, palm readers, seances, Ouija boards,
paranormal hunting…the supernatural.
All coupled with jaunts to places that are supposedly haunted, creepy and even perhaps dangerous…
and lest we forget the trips to the myriads of haunted / horror houses
which open throughout the month.

Even Disney and Six Flags have each gotten into the act…

So we tell ourselves that that makes it all perfectly safe and harmless.

And yes Halloween, and the thought of spirits,
does indeed course through the blood of humankind….
With those roots traveling far back to Celtic Europe, the ancient Pagan Middle Eastern Kingdoms,
ancient tribes of the Americas, Asia and even Africa—
as every race of people has had that aspect of the supernatural and mystical tied
to their very beginnings.

So maybe we’ve just deem it as all innocent fun as we explore this need of the mystical.

Perhaps we merely convince ourselves that it’s simply wired
deep within the ancient core of our brains…
this odd desire to be scared and frightened…
all the while as we parle into a realm different from our own…

Maybe it’s just something we simply enjoy…

“So what,” we grouse, if it morphs into something else…
something other…
“I’m not scared, I don’t believe in that
hocus locus business…it’s just harmless fun…”

Yet there is just something troubling about it all…
Something actually quite unsettling…
Something actually very dangerous..

For in the naiveté of opening seemingly harmless doors,
we enter into an on-going battle…
an ancient battle for which we are simply not prepared to fight…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13