you can’t love two and still be true, so I’m leaving on a midnight train…

“No one can serve two masters.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Matthew 6:24


(the hydrangeas are quite stunning this year, the first time in a couple of years /Julie Cook / 2018)

Years and years ago…in what was once another lifetime…
I was once a young gal in college who worked summers up in the mountains of
North Carolina at a Christian camp for girls.

I loved my summers working at camp.
For all sorts of reasons.

I’ve written about it before…as well as to how that time spent as a camp counselor
answered my prayer about whether I was to remain an Education Major or switch to Journalism.

Those summers were basically my green light from God…
but like I say, I’ve written about that before, a few years back,
writing all about how and why I spent the majority of my adult life in the classroom.

And so if you know anything about camps or have ever attended a summer camp,
church camp, etc—
well, you know that there are always going to be camp songs.

Both silly and fun songs.

One such song has lent itself to the title of today’s post…

“Darling you can’t love one…

Darling, you can’t love one, darling you can’t love one…
you can’t love one and still have fun
I’m leaving on a midnight train la di da, um huh, oh boy…”

On and on goes the counting and the rhymes…

Darling, you can’t love two, darling you can’t love two,
you can’t love two and still be true,
I’m leaving on a midnight train…la di da, um hum, oh boy…

Hence the title for today’s post…you can’t love two.

And there’s a lot of truth in that one line.

As we are reminded we cannot serve two masters.
We cannot love both masters, whomever or whatever, they may be.
We will love one and resent the other.

And so it is with this thought in mind that our favorite rouge Bishop has
offered a lovely homily marking the Frist Sunday following
the blessed Trinity…better known as the feast of the Trinity.
The first Sunday following Pentecost and marking 50 days since Easter Sunday.

According to CatholicCulture.org a nice historical explanation of the
feast day of the Trinity is…

“The fundamental dogma, on which everything in Christianity is based,
is that of the Blessed Trinity in whose name all Christians are baptized.
The feast of the Blessed Trinity needs to be understood and celebrated as a
prolongation of the mysteries of Christ and as the solemn expression of our faith
in this triune life of the Divine Persons,
to which we have been given access by Baptism and by the Redemption won for
us by Christ.
Only in heaven shall we properly understand what it means, in union with Christ,
to share as sons in the very life of God.

The feast of the Blessed Trinity was introduced in the ninth century and
was only inserted in the general calendar of the Church in the fourteenth century by
Pope John XXII. But the cultus of the Trinity is, of course, to be found throughout
the liturgy.
Constantly the Church causes us to praise and adore the thrice-holy
God who has so shown His mercy towards us and has given us to share in His life.”

In his homily (all of 8 minutes of which I’ve provided the clip below) Bishop Ashenden
reads to us from the Book of Samuel…1 Samuel, chapter 3 starting with verse 1.

This is where God basically explains that following a political world,
or any other sort of world for that matter is not better than living one’s life by
following the Spirit.

We see that God offers opportunity after opportunity to those who stubbornly continue
to refuse His offerings…
So naturally, He tires of such folly and foolishness and replaces them with those more willing.

Just as we read later in the book of Samuel about God losing patience with the folly of
King Saul and allows him to be replaced.

This idea comes into play again in the Book of Revelation when God tells the 7 churches
what happens when they opt to live for and with the world and her culture…
rather than the life and world of the Spirit.
All of which boils down to what extent they, the churches,
will be given the Holy Spirit—or more aptly, not be given.

The good Bishop explains that it is “the Spirit versus those who practice merely “religion”
rather than practicing a living relationship with God.”

Woe to those preferring to go their own way…

Enter Jesus—

The sacrificial lamb who came to find us, love us and bring us home.

And yet we still remain fixed to live a life of the cultural…

Salvator Mundi

“Secularism is no friend of Christ.”
Melody Phillips, journalist for the London Times


(Salvator Mundi / Leonardo da Vinci cica 1500)

Salvator Mundi, or Savior of the world….

A haunting image is it not?
Soft, other worldly and ethereal yet also equally powerful.

Look into those eyes…

At first glance the sockets appear gauzy, almost empty or perhaps out of focus.
Yet upon further inspection, the eyes seem to be like a window, opening into a
different realm or dimension..as in, they invite the viewer to look further
and venture deeper to someplace else.

This particular painting by Leonardo just set a record sale at Christie’s Auction
House, fetching the highest amount ever paid for a single painting…
approximately 450 million dollars.
The buyer is so far undisclosed.

And there is an entire post alone waiting to be written about this particular painting,
of this particular version….but that is for another day—
for today we have more important issues to discuss.

Savior of the World—-
that is indeed, for the Christian believer, Jesus Christ.

He was not simply a moral teacher, a philosopher or Jewish rabbi…
He was, just as He said and just He remains today—
The Savior of the World.

He is of one point to the three pointed triangle of the Trinity.

It is through Him and Him alone that anyone is to be saved.

It is not through good works, it is not through thoughtful actions….
it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Therefore to repent.

To die unto self.

To believe in His Resurrection and His saving Grace.

Grace.

As in nothing done by one’s self…for Grace is beyond self.

Saved from self, from sin, from death…..

That is the summation of the Gospel.

The Bible, particularly the New Testament is the Holy inspired, written retelling
regarding that summation—the Good News.

It is the lynchpin of Christianity.

There is no Heaven, no Salvation, no Grace, no Hope without Jesus Christ.

He is the only way.

And yet today we have mainline churches who are pushing, have pushed,
that one key integral component to Christianity to the side.

It has become secondary to their now all consuming main focus of secularism.

For those who adhere to the progressive Christian narrative,
they are the ones who have decided to make an alliance with those who
push for all things secular…

Progressive, uptick, Christians who now believe and embrace the stance that
the world would have them embrace….and that is to see Christianity in a 21st century,
more modern image.

Yet what they fail to understand is that such a “friendship” will be the death of the Christian Church as we know it.

In the latest interview of Gavin Ashenden on Anglican Unscripted, he makes this
point perfectly clear.

Bishop Ashenden notes that the “anti Christian Secular Narrative is being
swallowed whole as if it is Christianity—
and it is most certainly not”

That narrative being the open acceptance of same sex marriage, openly gay clergy,
the embracing of transgenderism, newly defined family units…
all the while making it clearly known that, anyone opposed to such, shall be
labeled as a hate mongerer…anti love, anti accepting, anti whatever…..
never mind that the lies offered up as a new progressive gospel run counter to
the actual word of God.

In steps a woman named Lorna Asworth.

Lorna is Saskatchewan by birth and was raised as a Mennonite.
But as Life has its way, she married a Brit who was Anglican and so
the UK and the Church of England have now been her home ever since.

That is until most recently.

Lorna has been an active member of the laity who works very closely with the clergy
as she has risen in the lay ranks within the working body of the Church of England.

Yet when someone like Lorna tenders her resignation from said working body of the
Church of England, such a resignation, one would dare assume,
would not, should not, be cause for some sort of henny penny
the sky is falling sort of reaction…yet that is exactly what has happened.

This mild mannered wife, mother and church lay worker who considers herself
a conservative Evangelical Anglican has been active on the Archbishop’s
Council as well as serving in the General Synod for the past 12 years,
has found herself at the center of a growing maelstrom and as somewhat of
a poster child if you will, for the Orthodox voice of the Church.

Lorna recently granted an interview with Anglican Unscripted where she explains her decision to ‘abdicate’ her position from the Church’s working body as
she explains what is currently happening to the Church.

She explains that the Church has lost its way.
It has left behind those who continue to claim the Gospel as the true teaching of the Church. “The Glory of the Lord has departed as the Church of England
is moving outside the presence of God.”

“There are now two different Religious communities.
One is rooted in Christ and its right to ask for the Holy Spirit.
The Second is not—and is where Glory has disappeared.”

Lorna verbalizes so clearly what so many others now feel.
“What am I to do?”
I didn’t leave them, they left me”

She spoke of meetings where those more conservative members would actually
cite scripture to reinforce a point only to be met by rolling eyes and even jeers
from the more progressive attendees.

She cites that the Church is no longer talking about Jesus and the saving message
of Christ as she actually uses the word heresy when describing what is taking place
within the Church.

And in order for the Church to save herself from the inevitable implosion,
Lorna warns that there must be repentance, from the top down.
“We have lost what it is to fear (respect in some translations) the Lord.
If you fear the Lord, you will fear nothing else…and we have lost that.”

And so we leave it to a Jewish woman, one who leans a bit right in her
journalistic style, to write an article for the London Times noting that the departure
of Lorna Asworth from the Church is putting the Church of England on a trajectory
involved in self destruction.

As in it appears everyone gets it but the Church herself….

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/17-november/news/uk/lorna-ashworth-resigns-from-general-synod-over-revisionism

the humble onion

“Life is an onion–
you peel it year by year and sometimes cry.”

Carl Sandburg

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

Thomas Aquinas


(Nothing Fancy episode from Foyle’s War)

Having been a baby boomer, I never knew what it was like living during a time of deprivation like those who lived through the lean times of the Depression
or a world war.
I have not had to live with ration stamps, food shortages, or overt sacrifice for the greater good during a time of grave uncertainty and an all consuming war of life or death…not like my grandparents or parents who did just that.

So when I watched an episode of Foyle’s War which featured the raffling of a lone
onion, I was both startled and curious.
A raffle for a prized onion?
An onion?

Foyle’s War was a marvelous British TV Drama that came out in 2002.
The series was set in Hastings, East Sussex in England during WWII and
follows the life and trials of a local police inspector,
Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle
(Michael Kitchen) along with his small team of assistants.
Foyle works the home front, doing his best to maintain order during a time of
worldly chaos.

Dad introduced me to the series years ago when he gave me a boxed set—
I was quickly hooked.
It is historically accurate, well done and rich in cinematography with great
story lines, accompanied by consummate actors.
I think it is the historical war aspect that had me hooked.

During this one particular episode concerning the onion, the episode Nothing Fancy,
the police office was raffling off a large onion.
DCS Foyle’s assistant Sam Wainwright, is seen to pine over the onion
hoping, or better yet almost salivating,
that she might actually be able to win such a treasure.

Now granted the onion was just a bit of side story to the main plot
of murder, mystery and mayhem but yet I kept thinking how odd it was that an
unassuming onion should be raffled off.
And odder still was the fact that everyone really wanted to win.

It was just an onion for heaven’s sake.
But what I hadn’t grasped was the fact that things such as fresh vegetables,
during a raging world war, while living on an isolated Island such as England,
were a rare treasure.

Not because an onion by itself is considered nutritious, exotic or of real value..
but when you have had to live a life of deprivation, existing on ration stamps,
struggling through food shortages…
adding to the fact that most fresh foods were sent directly to the front lines
to provide the best for those fighting the war….
the act of eating was no longer something for pleasure but was for pure survival…
having a small gift of flavor was almost too good to be true.

Variety, flavor and flare were the first casualties as such luxuries
are quickly sacrificed.

If you cook, or know anything about cooking, then you fully grasp the fact that
things such as onions are often taken for granted….
yet they are the subtle key players, hanging out in the background, who are greatly necessary in cooking as they add a depth and complexity to food.

Onions add a variety of flavors pure and simple.
They take bland to an entire new level of taste…
be it sweet and smokey, spicy and hot, caramely and soft,
or they simply add texture and crunch…
Onions are a key ingredient to any savory meal.

So naturally I considered what my life would be without something equally as
necessary yet something that seems to be usually in the background,
something seemingly humble and most often taken for granted….
as in the thought that it will always be there…
Something that, should it be lost or that I should be deprived
of such would be, in a word, catastrophic….

For me, that would be a death without hope…
which is what a life would be without the real presence of God the Father,
the hope of Salvation found in Jesus Christ the Son and the
everlasting guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh,
God made you alive with Christ.
He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,
which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away,
nailing it to the cross.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

2 Colossians 13-15

Trinity

“Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man,
and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God.”

John Wesley

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(Illuminated manuscript of the Trinity/ The British Library)

“The incarnate one is the glorified God:
‘The Word was made flesh and we beheld his glory.’
God glorifies himself in man.
That is the ultimate secret of the Trinity.
The humanity is now taken up into the Trinity.
Not from all eternity, but ‘from now on even unto eternity;’
the trinitarian God is seen as the incarnate one.
The glorification of God in the flesh is now at the same time,
the glorification of man,
who shall have life through eternity with the trinitarian God…
God remains the incarnate one even in the Last Judgement.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Yes is yes and no is no….and the wisdom of an apologist

“[T]he mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of Holiness:
the Glory and the Power of the Trinity is the Glory and Power of God who makes us holy.
There is God dwelling in light inaccessibly, a consuming fire of Holy Love,
destroying all that resists, glorifying into its own purity all that yields.
There is the Son, casting Himself into that consuming fire,
whether in its eternal blessedness in heaven,
or its angry wrath on earth, a willing sacrifice, to be its food and its satisfaction,
as well as the revelation of its power to destroy and to save.
And there is the Spirit of Holiness, the flames of that mighty fire spreading on every side,
convicting and judging as the Spirit of Burning,
and then transforming into its own brightness and holiness all that it can reach.
All the relations of the Three Persons to each other and
to us have their root and their meaning in the revelation of God as the Holy One.
As we know and partake of Him, we shall know and partake of Holiness.”

Andrew Murray

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(a cluster of acorns / Julie Cook / 2016)

Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess;
by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other,
and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe,
my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one,
and that They are distinct from Each Other.
This statement is taken in a wrong sense by every uneducated
as well as every perversely disposed person,
as if it predicated a diversity, in such a sense as to imply a separation among the Father,
and the Son, and the Spirit.

I am, moreover, obliged to say this, when (extolling the Monarchy at the expense of the Economy)
they contend for the identity of the Father and Son and Spirit,
that it is not by way of diversity that the Son differs from the Father,
but by distribution: it is not by division that He is different, but by distinction;
because the Father is not the same as the Son,
since they differ one from the other in the mode of their being.
For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole,
as He Himself acknowledges: “My Father is greater than I.”
In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being “a little lower than the angels.”
Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son,
inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another;
He, too, who sends is one, and He who is sent is another; and He, again,
who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another.

Happily the Lord Himself employs this expression of the person of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit),
so as to signify not a division or severance, but a disposition (of mutual relations in the Godhead);
for He says, “I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter…
even the Spirit of truth,” thus making the Paraclete distinct from Himself,
even as we say that the Son is also distinct from the Father;
so that He showed a third degree in the Paraclete,
as we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the Economy.
Besides, does not the very fact that they have the distinct names of Father and Son amount to a declaration that they are distinct in personality?
For, of course, all things will be what their names represent them to be;
and what they are and ever will be, that will they be called;
and the distinction indicated by the names does not at all admit of any confusion,
because there is none in the things which they designate. “Yes is yes, and no is no;
for what is more than these, cometh of evil.”

Tertullian
(c.155-c.240 AD)

Please find this brief youtube clip of Dr. Nabeel Qureshi’s closing remarks during a debate on whether God is Tawhid (oneness) or Trinity… a discussion offered at Wayne State in Detroit, Michigan April 8, 2015 during a discussion between Dr. Qureshi and Dr Shabir Ally
https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=g0U7T6pv2Gc

(prayers for Dr Nabeel Qureshi as he is currently being treated for an aggressive
form of stomach cancer)

friends and mates

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”

―Jane Austen

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(the latest friend in the dammit family / Julie Cook / 2016)

Over the course of the past weekend, my son and his wife moved into their new apartment.
They did so with the help of group of friends.
Going from a house in the suburbs to a smaller apartment in the city will naturally take some adjusting,
however I think their level of excitement is far exceeding any need for adjustment.

I mention that they had a group of friends helping because that got me thinking.
Whereas my dear friends, or better yet mates, in the UK would naturally say
that it was my son’s mates who helped him out…
with mates referring to his friends,
I simply use the word friends…

All variances of semantics I suppose.

Yet when hearing the word friends referred to as mates,
I find that I actually prefer using the word mates as opposed to friends.

Friends come in all sorts of varying degrees of difference.
Close friends,
dear friends,
intimate friends,
partner,
buddy,
pal,
associates,
acquaintances,
roommates,
co-workers,
colleagues…
all of which constitute falling under the one umbrella of the collective word friends.
Some close, some really close, some not so close…

In my opinion however, the word mate, or the plural form mates, seems to refer to a tighter knit connection.
A closer level of familiarity and knowledge.

And when it comes to moving house—
especially with moving from a larger house to a smaller apartment almost 70 miles away,
it takes a really tight knit group of “friends,” hence mates,
volunteering their precious weekend time to drive back and forth,
hauling, lifting, toting, dissembling, reassembling the possessions of another….

As perhaps one’s mates come with a certain level of deeper commitment,
whereas ones friends fluctuate.

And of course in this country we refer to a spouse as a mate.
As in a pair.
As in a help mate.
As in soul mate.
As in a union of two becoming one.

So once again, mate having a tighter connection than just that of friend.

And as we so often refer to our Savior as our friend…
having the relationship with Jesus, as Lord and Savior is anything but that of a friend…
Despite hymns singing to the contrary and many who reference Him as their best friend…
there is difference between friend and God….

For the Xristósis, the Christos, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ…
is far greater than that of friend.
He and His relationship with us, those who claim Him as God,
exceeds the confine of friendship..

Being both God and Spirit, as He is of the Triune Godhead,
He commands so much more than our mere friendship…

Rather He commands our awe and wonderment…
And our reverence and our homage.

For He is not a mere friend,
not even a mate…
but rather a Sovereign God…

A God who cares about both our physical and emotional wants and needs,
yet deserves our reverence, our wonderment, our praise, our worship…

It is good to have friends, even better to have great mates…
but most importantly it behooves us to have a Savior, who gave His very life
for each and every last one of us…..

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Good for the goose

“A wild goose never reared a tame gosling.”
Irish Proverb quotes

The early Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit ‘the wild goose.’ And the reason why is they knew that you cannot tame him.
John Eldredge

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(a goose in search of his breakfast Harvey’s Point Lodge, Louge Eske , County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook)

An Geadh-Glas, otherwise known to English speakers as the wild goose, is most likely the furtherest thought in one’s mind when thinking about Christianity, Christian symbolism or especially when pondering the most mysterious component of the Triune Godhead, the Holy Spirit.

Yet the early Celtic Church, that amazing amalgamation of deeply mystical Christianity and equally mystical yet enigmatic Celtic culture, saw not a docile gentle cooing dove as the supreme representative of God’s Spirit but rather the often loud, raucous, stubborn and determined goose as a more true emblematic example of God’s most untamed and fiercely determined nature–a nature much like their own.

The Celts were a fierce warrior nation comprised of the bloodlines of Vikings, Danes, Druids, Picts and members of the northern regions of ancient Albion (northern Great Britain)
The Roman Empire never occupied Ireland, nor did the Anglo Saxons who later filled the void in the Birtish Isles following the fall of Rome.

These very supertisious people were fiercely independent, steeped in their haunting pagan rituals and customs–much of which remain as a continuing mystery to modern historians and archeologists.

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(Drombeg stone circle, known as the Druid’s altar, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Drombeg stone circle, known as the Druid’s altar, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

It was in this land of lush misty covered greens, haunting shifting shadows and talk of the wee folk…where land, sea and sky join as one, that both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolken roamed, finding abundant inspiration for each of their most famous literary works.

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(Killarney National Park within the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Killarney National Park within the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit, translated simply as St Patrick, is probably the best known and most famous Irishman who in actuality was Scottish by birth. Patrick had been spirited away to Ireland as a young child by marauding pirates yet eventually became the revered patron saint of the entire Irish nation. It is Patrick who is credited for not only having introduced Christianity to the Emerald Isle, but for being the “designer” behind what we know as the celtic cross.
That most familiar image of a latin cross wrapped with a circle.

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(celtic cross in the graveyard at Dumcliff Church / County Sligo, Ireland / 2015 / Julie Cook)

It is said that the pagan Celts considered the sun to be an integral part of their worship. Circles have been found etched and carved on many excavated Celtic ruins. I think it’s rather easy to understand the importance behind worshiping the sun for the Celts— if you’ve ever spent much time in Ireland, you know how wet and grey it can be. There are parts of Ireland which receive up to 225 days of wet rainy weather each year, in turn making any and all sunny days a rare and treasured commodity.

Patrick had to be inovative if he wanted to get the Celts attention and gain their trust as the ultimate goal was total conversion and allegiance to the one true God. So Patrick set about with a brilliant plan combining both a component most important to the Celtic nation, that being the sun–a revered circle, bridging the abyss to the most important image to Christians, the Latin cross, with the addition of a circle ringing around the cross–a combination representing both sun and Son as the circle is also a Christian symbol representing God’s endlessness.

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(covering of one of the many purported wells used by Patrick to baptized the new converts to Christ, found buried near the site of present day St Patrick’s Cathedral /Dublin, Ireland / 2015 / Julie Cook)

Patrick is also considered as the one person who established the shamrock as one of Ireland’s most endearing symbols. The Celts were an agrarian nation as Ireland is a rich fertile island due in part to being on the receiving end of the warming and wet energies of the Atlantic gulf stream. As an island people they were deeply connected, attuned as well as dependent on the land. So Patrick utilized those things that were common and entrenched in the common man’s life. A most humble yet prolific example being the clover. The clover was a perfect teaching tool as it so beautifully manifests the image of the Holy Trinity.

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(early clover images on an ancient carving on a crypt in St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / 2015)

In the early days of the young Christian Church, many a humble yet determined monk of the fledgling Christian Church came and went from this mystical isle in hopes of further spreading the Gospel.
Some traveled freely while others sadly disappeared…lost in time…victims of pirates, invaders, and local hostilities.

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(plaque commemorating the lives of the Teelin monks who set sail for Iceland in the 5th century / Teelin , Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yet for all the anguished years of famine and immigrations, for all of her tumultuous history of waring invaders and defiant fought battles, Ireland has held fiercely fast and tight to her Christian roots. We are all aware of the growing insidious cloud of secularism that is sweeping across Europe and Western society…we are also all painfully aware of Ireland’s past “troubles”—the deep and often bloody mistrust and resentment between north and south, Catholic and Protestant, British Crown and Independent…yet despite all the years of bloodshed, turmoil, both internal and external, Ireland has laid claim and held on undeterred to her faith…a faith of deep respect for the God of all Salvation as well as the Great Creator of both land and sea, heaven and sky.

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(both cat and goose wait for feeding / Harvey’s Point Lodge, County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man
who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man
who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
Salvation is of the Lord.</em
>

Symbolism

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I can remember sitting in my 10th grade English class reading either Main Street by Sinclair Lewis or Our Town by Thornton Wilder—either way, there was a story about some fictionalized small American early 20th century town and our teacher was keen on having us unmask all of the symbolism.

I recall rolling my eyes, once again, wondering why this couldn’t be just some sort of story that simply means what it says and says what it means—does there always have to be “symbolism” behind everything!? Can’t it just be a story for the sake of a story? Why can’t people just write what they mean without having to hide it, leaving the poor reader (in this case me) to not only read something (I) deemed as boring but tasked with, on top of everything else, trying to figure out what on earth the author was trying to say.

To this day I tend to be rather direct in my own thoughts, words and deeds, eschewing hidden meanings…but this is not a story about that. I am also a person who is now very intrigued by symbolism but not necessarily that which involves conspiracy theories, bizarre ancient cults, free masons, or what Leonardo da Vinci was attempting to tell the world in buried secrets throughout his art work …this rather, is a story about The Holy Trinity— The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit and my relationship with this group of Three. Talk about symbolism…

As a Christian, I am here to say that I learn something new each and every day about what it means to be a Christian…from not only the history of our Faith, but to what it means to live one’s life as such, not to mention how much I learn from others who are living examples of this thing we call our Christian Faith…. there is always something new to learn and encounter.

Our Faith is a living Faith—which I think equates to ever growing, ever changing, ever moving. As we live, our Faith lives—it lives through our actions, our words and our deeds—that’s why, when Mother Teresa says for us to “spread the love of God through our lives but only use words when necessary,” she is speaking to the fact that God’s love is present to others through our actions, by our “doing”—the spoken word is merely secondary…as it is our actions, and actions alone, which speak volumes. Unfortunately many of us forget this fact during the living of our oh so busy lives…

To understand my Faith, I need to look at the three components, which makes it so vastly different from all of the other religions of the world and that is the concept of the Trinity—The Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost/ Spirit. The Three in One. But how can that be? How are three, one? This is an age old question that is asked, and has been asked down through the ages, by many believers as well as non-believers. It is a perplexing mystery and yet so simple.

The omnipotent God and Creator, the Alpha and Omega Son and Savior, the ever-present Spirit and Helper or Paraclete. As I am not versed in theology, I am not here to debate the roles and existence of the Godhead Trinity. I am not here to debate the glitch in the progression of that Trinity which brings contention between western and eastern Christians; I am, however, here to tell you that I marvel in the very existence of the Three in One.

It is in my marveling that leads me to often yearn to have a tangible connection. I yearn to make a connection. A connection with that Godhead of Three. I yearn to explore the beauty of the unity of the Three in One. It is a complex layering of relationships. There is a “connectiveness” which in turn yearns to bring me in to that very connection and bond of the Three.

There are many aspects to me and to my little blog, as the blog is just a bit of an extension as to what makes me, me. I love to cook, I love to travel, I currently have a broken ankle, I am a retired art teacher, I like sharing with others, I feel, that even though I may be a retired educator, I still feel as if I have things to “teach”. I have an aging father who is dealing with a fading memory. I have a son who is working very hard to finish his degree, and he has a fiancée,so that means I have a daughter-n-law to be, I have a husband who works very hard to run his small business, but at the core of all of that is the single fact that I am a Christian. I am a part of an ancient and living Faith.

In my art I have often tried to reach towards the Divine. Not on some grand scale as those bigger than life artists have in the past. Not like some esoteric new age artist. No, I have merely just wanted to make a connection between me, the created, who yearns to know the Creator.

There is a contemporary song that has a line in it that really strikes at a chord within me when I hear it. It is from Love Song for A Savior by Jars of Clay:

Someday He’ll call her and she will come running
And fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and she’ll pray,
“I want to fall in love with You”

(here is a link to a lovely little You Tube video based on the song, it is a song about the loving arms of Jesus, unlike the depiction used in the on-line Christian dating service of the arms being that of a couple—totally wrong use of the song, but I digress http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_wb38KMXLs )

I often feel as if that song is talking to me… I simply don’t quite yet understand, I don’t quite get it… but one day I will and when I do, I will run into those outstretched arms…those arms that will actually be there—tangible arms…. All I want is to run into His arms and finally feel that embrace of unconditional love. To simply rest in that embrace. The embrace that knows all of the junk and crap I carry and doesn’t care. The embrace that is bigger and stronger than any fret or worry, any pain or sorrow I have ever known. The thought of such is overwhelming to me—it brings me to tears. I want that—I somehow think all humans yearn for that—and that is the bond of Father and child.

Many hardened hearts however hear such and call it sentimental gibberish. They scoff at the idea of a “loving” Father, a resurrected Son/Savior, a descending wind left to “Help”— This however is not gibberish, this is all about Grace, pure and simple… but as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, it is a costly Grace. Not all of us wish to take on that type of cost in order to follow. Following does require much from us, it requires our very being—and it is a struggle for Believers each and every day.

So I suppose, when working with my art, I enjoy exploring that “feeling” as well as for the use of symbolism, which makes up much of the Christian Faith. I appreciate the relationship Christianity shares with Judaism. I think a lot of Christians forget that Jesus was not a Christian—he was a very devout and religious Jew. Therefore our Faiths are inextricably linked. I like exploring that eternal link between our two faiths.

And as one who loves history, I like exploring the history of our Faith—from our earliest Roman and Greek roots to our links with the Celts as well as for our bonds with the eastern cultures of the Orthodox Christians—as there is more that binds us rather than divides us—I just wish we could all remember that.

I am also one who deeply and greatly appreciates the depth of the rich Christian traditions—I greatly appreciate those bells and whistles, or bells and scents if you will, of the early church. No modernism for me—there is a mystery that is still retained in our rituals and rites, based on and within the early baby church, which speaks to an ancient chord in my soul. The mystery of what takes place during the service of the Eucharist—the Transubstantiation, the Mystery, the Change, the Trans-Elementation, μεταστοιχείωσις metastoicheiosis, is just that, a mystery—one that I cannot necessarily ever understand as I am the created and not the Creator.

It is not for me to pick apart this Holy Union and attempt putting it under a microscope for definition or worldly explanation of knowledge. God remains a mystery—and so He should. He has broken it down in terms that you and I can understand—there is Love, Action, Compassion, Empathy, Concern, Sacrifice, and a few others words that put this Mystery in a language we can better understand.

I will never totally understand, as it is not for me to do so, but it is for me to wonder, to exalt, to glorify, to love, to share and I hope I do so, in some small tangible way for others…….

This latest piece I completed, which is still waiting to be framed, is about 3ft by 3 ft. It explores visually the connection of The Trinity—tying in aspects of all 3 into one piece.
It is a cutout, layered piece that symbolizes the depth of layers to our relationship with the Godhead Trinity. A picture does not do it justice as the literal depth of the piece is lost.

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These other framed pieces are also large and unfortunately as they are framed it is difficult photographing them due to reflections and glare.

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(all art and Photographs by Julie Cook)

My secret German love

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Call it Feng Shui, Chi, Balance, harmony or simply symmetry–
however you wish to view it or to name it, it is me and I am it.
I don’t know if I came preprogrammed this way or not,
but I am a very symmetrically oriented person.
Equally weighted and equally balanced.
None of this asymmetrical business for me.

And so it goes when I work on my own art.

I have always loved working with watercolors…
I like working with people, birds, nests, eggs, and you name it.
However, all my life I have felt that I have really wanted / needed to create
some type of opus, some sort of monumental tribute to God.

Why is that you ask?

Well, I think people who have talents and gifts—
well, they just don’t plop out of the sky.
A gift is just that—a gift…and it is something someone has given to someone else.
God has given me much, so what little I can give back…
well I’ve wanted to do it with a visual piece of art.

I’ve spent a lifetime looking at the Italian Renaissance masters,
passing later on to the Northern Renaissance…
with then the Germans and Dutch masters.
Powerful artists, who not only mastered body and mass,
but captured the epitome of emotion.
I can find myself in tears, full of emotion, while staring at various pieces.
I love the works of the Italian Caravaggio (see post What is an Icon).
Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul, or as it is actually known,
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus… is but one such piece.

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The space is tight; the figures juxtaposed with precarious lines of placement
and the use of light, crucial light—
oh Caravaggio’s use of light…
Critics argue about the use of space with the horse,
Paul /Saul, the groomsman, too many legs, not enough focus on Paul, etc.
I must disagree with the “critics” as I find it powerful.
Very powerful!

It is my belief that because this is a tremendous moment in time and
that it is somewhat crammed into a tight space as the horse seems to precariously
control his mighty weight so as to not step on Paul…
who is splayed out on the ground beneath him,
as a sword is dropped to the ground, just as the stricken figure of Paul/ Saul
lies now defenseless having been struck blind…
It is because of all of this and more that seems to make this big moment even bigger.
It’s a millimoment in time that is captured… and it works—or at least works for me.
It makes me feel overwhelmed and leads me to believe that I am witnessing something that is
shattering time.
Oh those Italians——always masters of emotion——
the wonderful excess of such.

However as far as an artist who captures raw emotion with such vivid use,
there is none more so, to me, than the German Matthias Grünwald.
Who you ask?
A German, not an Italian?
All I ever talk about is my love affair with all things Italian and here I am suddenly
coming out with a secret German love?!
Yes.
I confess, a secret German love.

Unfortunately there is not much to the history books regarding Matthias.
He is a bit of an enigma.
His last name is really not his real last name.
As it seems a 17th century biographer inadvertently added Grünwald.
It is believed his name was actually Matthias Gothardt Neithardt.
He was born in Würzburg in 1480 but even that comes under question.
Who he studied under, who studied under him, all remains but a mystery.

The one thing that is not a mystery is Grünwald’s use of emotion.
We must remember that the artists of Grünwald’s time operated in a time even before
the printed word.
Images were everything;
they spoke volumes to the viewer—–their works, their paintings,
were the You Tubes of the day.
And yes, I like art that evokes emotion, passion and feelings–
why stare at something that speaks of nothing?

It is Grünwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece that, for me, evokes that tremendous emotion.
(again see the post “What is an Icon” as I’m taking from that post a tad)

crucifixion

This is one of my most favorite images of the crucifixion,
as it shows not a languid image of an intact pretty European body of Christ seemingly
floating against a cross, but rather in contrast,
it shows in graphic, vivid detail the results of a deadly beating,
a body nailed, pierced, abused, now dead body in full rigor mortis—-
the altarpiece was commissioned for a hospital in Colmar (now France but originally in Germany)
for patients with various skin afflictions (most likely plague and leprosy and St Elmo’s fire).
Hope in suffering—
resurrection form death…
Glory and victory over sin.

It is believed that Matthias may have been a plague victim and perhaps he had seen the
Black Death up close and very personally…
leading to his apparent visual knowledge of the human body in the midst of the mystery
known as death.
It is also his vision of what transpires after that death which is also worthy of attention.

It is from my appreciation of Matthias, and other artists,
who can so realistically capture the emotional dramas of human life and death,
as well as the mystical beauty often found in illuminated manuscripts,
that has lead me on my own journey of exploration of such mysterious moments
in time through my use of the visual arts.

I started working on my “spiritual” pieces about 12 years ago.
They began with the idea of the cross, ancient medieval texts,
the use of biblical languages such as Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic,
as well as the use of mysterious mystical images as teaching tools.

The latest piece is a Triptych—
hence my love and need for balance and the symbolism as captured most
respectfully in this piece for the blessed Trinity.
It is not complete.
This whole “retirement” issue threw me for a bit of a loop and the groove of my diligent
quest has been slightly sidetracked.
There is a monastery in Hulbert, Oklahoma, Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey that I wish to
eventually donate the piece to—
they are a group of Benedictine monks,
originating out of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault,
a French Abbey, which belongs to the Solesmes Congregation.
I will write a later post about St. Benedict and the Rule of Benedict—–
a wonderful standard in which to conduct ones life.
I will also showcase the monks of Clear Creek Abbey.
http://clearcreekmonks.org/

I thought that during Holy Week,
it would be fitting that I share my love of God’s idea of symmetry
(Trinity/ Triptych/tri/three) with you, my viewing friends.

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