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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #5, Matthew

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio

In the Gospel according to Matthew, we are told that Jesus saw a man named Matthew/Levi meeting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he advised him, and Matthew got up and shadowed Jesus. (Matthew 9:9)

Jesus totaled among his disciples persons of generally distinctive backgrounds. They encompassed not only Matthew, a previous representative of the Roman government, but Simon the Zealot (not to be mistaken for Simon Peter). The Zealots were obsessive nationalists, determined to smoke out the Romans by paramilitary campaigns, ambushes, killings, terrorist methods, or whatsoever worked. Their maxim was, “No king but Messiah, no tax but the Temple, no friend but the Zealot.” It is not clear that Simon was, or had been, a member of the group, but it seems clear that he would have regarded himself as at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Matthew.

Convention suggests that Matthew/Levi, son of Alphaeus, is the brother of the holy apostle James, son of Alphaeus. As a tax collector for the Romans he was considered a pariah by his own people. In the first century, such bureaucrats were often known to be subject to graft and dishonesty. Christ’s teaching activity is carefully made the warp and woof of the first gospel.

In the early Christian writings of Miscellaneous, Clement of Alexandria tells us Matthew left everything behind to follow Jesus and became a vegetarian, only eating seeds, nuts, and vegetables. And let all the bars be marked with a line round them at one end. Definitely it was such faithful devotion that earned him a position as one of the twelve apostles.

Since Matthew’s Gospel presents the indispensable truths of the Christian faith in impressively persuasive and exquisite ways, it will prove to be a great cure for doctrinal anemia. These premises of Matthew emphasize Jesus’ identity as the Deliverer who rescues God’s people from their sins, the King who rules over God’s kingdom, the Founder of a new chosen people, and God with us acting to make his people new.

Evangelist Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt After Jesus’ Resurrection, Matthew remained in Palestine, sermonizing in Jerusalem. In Matthew’s story, Jesus’ disciples had obviously not stored up grain the day before. But a time came when he and the other apostles dispersed to seek converts in distant lands. The numerous sorts of wood are supposed to be dry. Previous to Matthew departed on his proselytizer journey, tradition suggests that many followers urged this gifted writer to set down from memory the acts and teachings of Jesus. It is said that Matthew realized their request, achieving his gospel some eight years after the Ascension of Jesus. Matthew’s Jesus strongly declares his personal sovereignty, he does not appear to be the primary referent for the neuter comparative pronoun properly translated.

There are many legends of Matthew’s ministry to kings and other high government officials. His education in early life and his talent for proselytization must have enabled him to present Jesus’ teachings to leaders and other important people in the remote regions he visited. Early folklore states that he visited Persia and possibly Macedonia, Syria, Parthia, Media, and Ethiopia. Everywhere Matthew led his ministry, the said exterior parts are each equal to the same constant quantity. Though providing no neat formula or program for reproducing Jesus’ hermeneutics, Matthew does leave us an essential clue to fathoming Jesus’ voice.

  • The holy apostle Matthew has frequently been portrayed in art with a bag of coins, at a desk with an angel, holding a pen and inkwell, or money box. In art he is represented with a spear in his hand—an allusion to his martyrdom. His symbol as evangelist is a winged man. His relics are said to have been found at Salerno in 1080.
  • Holy days: November l6 in the Eastern churches; and September 2l in the West.
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Ever Heard of Professional Mourners and Weepers: “Rudaali” Culture of Moirologists in Rajasthan

Professional Mourners - Rudaali from Rajasthan

Inequalities and Diversities Define Indian Society

Moirologists in Rajasthan, India Caste-like classifications exist in many cultures, although without the fine grades of taxonomy observed in India. India, the land of numerous customs and precepts defined along the lines of gender, religion, caste, class, ethnicity and language, sequentially brings about a relation of disparity through them. These distorted relationships collectively shape the identity of every person, through his or her associations with others and the social atmosphere. Individuality interplays with the gender of the individuals (masculine or feminine), declaring the dogma functioning in the societal milieu. A mainstream Hindu group who were against any change in traditions.

In a socially segregated society, the rank and the status enjoyed by women mirror the social order. Indian culture is a ‘caste society.’ Caste, a qualified status, is a rigid system of imbalanced associations specified by birth, endogamy and associations through ceremonial sacraments. Caste divides society along the lines of jati (a birth-status cluster), hierarchy (order and rank) and interdependence (division of labor linked to hierarchy). Indigenous groups are politicized religious communities that mark social and cultural variances between groups of people. These communities identify their caste status through division by birth, endogamy and interdependence through ritual services. Public policy in modern India showcases affirmative action systems intended to diminish inequality that stems from a centuries-old caste constitution and history of incongruent treatment by gender.

Feminism in India

The Indian society is divided up into groups that are hierarchically interrelated, with some rendered higher status than others. Classical texts talk about four castes—priests, warriors, merchants, and servants—but administration censuses and anthropological surveys have identified hundreds in South Asia. Membership in one of these groups is dependent upon birth.

'Rudaali' women are hired as professional mourners Dalits are a group of people conventionally regarded as untouchable within the Hindu caste pecking order. Contemporary India is witnessing an unparalleled rise and spread of the Dalit development.

According to a custom, in certain areas of Rajasthan, women are hired as professional mourners after the death of a male relative. These women are referred to as a ‘rudaali’ (roo-dah-lee), literally translated as a female weeper. What differ are the details that make the substance of human action and human conceptualization. The framework, within which concepts materialize and the contexts where they travel to, needs expression.

Class and Caste and Praxis: An analysis of the Rudaali Culture

An analysis of the Rudaali Culture Rudaalis in turn publicly express the grief of family members who are not permitted to display emotion due to social status. The ‘rudaalis’ make a scene crying out loud. The impact of their mourning also compels other people at the funeral to cry.

Always dressed in black, they have to sit and cry, crying out loud, beating the ground beating their chests screaming and crying. They are professional tear shedders. They get the details of the dead person, his or her near and dear ones.

Rudaali is one of those disreputable orthodox practices where bereavement was required expressions of unrestrained sentiments by rolling on ground along with songs in praise of the dead. Mostly, women who live in grave poverty and belong to the lower castes are forced to turn out to be Rudaalis.

The socio-cultural custom of hiring a rudaali throws light on the dialectical association between the upper caste and the lower caste in Rudaali. Hiring a rudaali is a status symbol and augments family pride. That the rudaali provides a funeral service in the face of upper caste women being incapable to declare their sorrow hits hard on the gender ideologies scheming obsequies among the caste. Caste defines the social status of women as pure or impure in the community.

Through the gendering of death rituals, women mourners or rudaalis verge as complicated modes of amusement for the upper classes. Rudaali throws light on the agonizing experiences of Shanichari, a widow whose life has been disturbed by hardships. Through heartrending vignettes, Lajmi deplores the appalling life of Shanichari who ultimately becomes a rudaali, giving vent to her sorrows. Meaningfully, while most feminists were disparaging of the state downgrading its commitment to the poor and vulnerable, there were conflicting views.

Kalpana Lajmi’s Movie Rudaali

Feminism endeavors to consider and solve the numerous gender-based problems. It interrogates the pre-conceived expectations about the roles that men and women should have in life. In literary text, feminism brings to scrutiny the representations of gender roles, which tend to enforce social norms, customs, conventions, laws and expectations on the grounds of gender bias.

Shanichari has always resisted the unfairness meted out to her. Toughened by the harsh realities, she can hardly shed a tear, let alone cry. Females are not required to be educated by the guideline which is adopted for men. Women have but one resource, home. The end and aim of her life is to nurture the domestic affections, to care for, to comfort, and exercise her little supervision over household economies. These insights of women’s liberation and autonomy are deeply ingrained in the Indian women’s circumstances within the socio-cultural and economic spaces and archetypes of the country.

These rituals thus uncover the cockeyed gender equations with the women of the lower caste and class consented to serve as rudaalis. On the other hand, aristocratic women, who are kept sheltered, cannot express their sorrow in public, inhibited by their social ranking. That women and not men are chosen to be mourners also exposes the gender inequalities operating within a casteist and class society. Lamentation is gendered and women become the role bearers.

Mourning as Allegory in Kalpana Lajmi’s Rudaali

Mourning as Allegory in Kalpana Lajmi's Movie Rudaali Kalpana Lajmi‘s movie Rudaali is an adaptation of Mahasweta Devi‘s short story, Rudaali. Published in English in 1997, Devi’s short story explains the plight of Sanichari, a woman whose suffering and personal loss informs her work as a professional mourner. Devi offers a emotional account of how this job allows Sanichari to gain a degree of independence and control over her life. Rudaali, the sorrowful tale of womenfolk fated to be funeral-goers, outlines the picture of a habit practiced by the aristocratic families of landlords and noble men, of hiring rudaalis (female mourners) to grieve over the death of their family members.

Rudaalis belonging to the lower castes and classes are convened on these circumstances, for the upper classes never openly convey their grief. Agency and autonomy are always endorsed within specific structures of constraints. The relevant point is that organizations thereby do get redefined. Dressed in black with frazzled hair, the rudaalis shed tears copiously, bemoaning over the dead by dancing sporadically and raucously admiring the deceased. Rudaali is a modern woman who fulfills her individual dreams instead of matrimonial contentment. Rudaali is a determined woman who is over-ridden by individuality and her own well-being. The movie is undeniably a subtle satire on the brutal practices that find expression within the diverse life cycle rituals, be it even the obsequies. These outmoded traditions are the offshoots of a dismembered society, where rituals are cultural power resources.

The custom of employing fake mourners, known as moirologists, begins from the Middle East and China. Professional mourning or paid mourning is a regularly historical occupation practiced in Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures, and many other parts of the world. Professional mourners, also called moirologists are remunerated to grieve or provide an eulogy.

Notes: Rudaali (1992) was directed by Kalpana Lajmi and produced by the National Film Development Corporation of India & Doordarshan, the Indian public service broadcaster. Rudali is based on a story by the Bengali fiction writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi. Dimple Kapadia, Raakhee, Raj Babbar, Amjad Khan star in Rudaali.

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Vincent van Gogh’s First Sunday Sermon

Vincent van Gogh: Christian Missionary, Evangelist, and Visionary Painter

Vincent van Gogh Christian Missionary, Evangelist, and Visionary Painter It is difficult to comprehend the disastrous undertones of Vincent van Gogh’s lifespan and to attach the power and beauty of his work with his lethal decline into insanity and suicide. The eldest son of devout Christian parents, Van Gogh sensed a sense of familial responsibility to what he supposed were their hopes for his life.

First-time readers of Van Gogh’s letters are frequently registered by the fact that their originator possessed a keen spiritual kindliness from his earliest days— undeniably, that his initial occupational predispositions were concerning the life of missionary and evangelist.

Painting did not become his main enthusiasm until, at age 27, his discharge from the missionary society, under whose patronages he had labored, obligated him to seek another means of expression for his spiritual zeal.

In addition to his official duties at the school, Van Gogh ostensibly felt a strong responsibility to comprise himself with the local church congregations. Armed with the self-confidence that regularly comes with practice, he started to teach and to give a sermon, and the letters to his brother Theo are abounding with biblical citation and insinuation. In a heart rendering letter to Theo, Vincent wrote,

It certainly is a strange phenomenon that all artists, poets, musicians, painters, are unfortunate in material things- the happy ones as well-what you said lately about Guy de Maupassant is fresh proof of it. That brings up again the eternal question: Is the whole life visible to us, or isn’t it rather that this side of death we see only one hemisphere? Painters-to take them alone-dead and buried speak to the next generation or to several succeeding generations through their work. Is that all, or is there more to come? Perhaps death is not the hardest thing in a painter’s life. For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it, but looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. One thing undoubtedly true in this reasoning is that we cannot get to a star while we are alive, any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, gravel, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion, just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means. To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.

Vincent’s conception of an “almost smiling” death reflected his fervent faith in rebirth and immortality—an idea that found early articulation in his sermon: “there is not death and no sorrow that is not mixed with hope—no despair—there is only a constantly being born again.” Vincent sought an identification with his father, and chose the profession of his father, a profession in which he could bring God close to mankind. He just wanted to be active in the profession of his father. He went to live with his uncle in Amsterdam, with the purpose of learning Latin and Greek and to prepare for the State examination. In the intervening time, he became anti-social due to all of his piousness. He composed sermons, went to church six or seven times on Sundays, and even visited the synagogue.

Insofar as it was probable to become a missionary in a very short time at the Borinage in Brussels, he decided to go there. But now, at a time when he had tumbled deeper than ever before into the well of self-absorption, he found in it a new treasure: he began to draw again, and now with his whole soul.

  • “You know that I go to the Methodist Chapel … every Monday night. Last night I spoke a few words on the subject ‘Nothing pleaseth me but in Jesus Christ, and in Him everything pleaseth me.'”
  • “Last Monday I was again at Richmond, and my subject was “He has sent me to preach the Gospel to the poorest but whoever wants to preach the Gospel must carry it in his own heart first. Oh! may I find it, for it is only the word spoken in earnestness and from the fullness of the heart that can bear fruit.”
  • “It is a delightful thought that in the future wherever I go, I shall preach the Gospel; to do that well, one must have the Gospel in one’s heart. May the Lord give it to me.”
  • “How difficult life must be if not strengthened and comforted by faith.”
  • “Theo, woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel- if I did not aim at that and possess faith and hope in Christ, it would be bad for me indeed; but now I have some courage.”

Vincent van Gogh’s First Sunday Sermon: 29-Oct-1876: “I Am a Stranger on the Earth”

Vincent Van Gogh's First Sunday Sermon Psalm 119:19: I am a stranger on the earth, hide not Thy commandments from me. It is an old belief and it is a good belief, that our life is a pilgrim’s progress—that we are strangers on the earth, but that though this be so, yet we are not alone for our Father is with us. We are pilgrims, our life is a long walk or journey from earth to Heaven.

The beginning of this life is this: there is only one who remembereth no more her sorrow and her anguish for joy that a man is horn into the world. She is our Mother. The end of our pilgrimage is the entering in Our Father’s house, where are many mansions, where He has gone before us to prepare a place for us. The end of this life is what we call death—it is an hour in which words are spoken, things are seen and felt, that are kept in the secret chambers of the hearts of those who stand by, —it is so that all of us have such things in our hearts or forebodings of such things. There is sorrow in the hour when a man is born into the world, but also joy, deep and unspeakable, thankfulness so great that it reaches the highest heavens. Yes the Angels of God, they smile, they hope and they rejoice when a man is born in the world. There is sorrow in the hour of death, but there is also joy unspeakable when it is the hour of death of one who has fought a good fight. There is one who has said: I am the resurrection and the life, if any man believe in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live. There was an apostle who heard a voice from heaven saying: Blessed are they that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labour and their works follow them. There is joy when a man is born in the world, but there is greater joy when a spirit has passed through great tribulation, when an angel is born in Heaven. Sorrow is better than joy—and even in mirth the heart is sad—and it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasts, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. Our nature is sorrowful, but for those who have learnt and are learning to look at Jesus Christ there is always reason to rejoice. It is a good word that of St. Paul: as being sorrowful yet always rejoicing. For those who believe in Jesus Christ, there is no death or sorrow that is not mixed with hope—no despair—there is only a constantly being born again, a constantly going from darkness into light. They do not mourn as those who have no hope—Christian Faith makes life to evergreen life.

We are pilgrims on the earth and strangers—we come from afar and we are going far. -The journey of our life goes from the loving breast of our Mother on earth to the arms of our Father in heaven. Everything on earth changes—we have no abiding city here—it is the experience of everybody. That it is God’s will that we should part with what is dearest on earth—we ourselves change in many respects, we are not what we once were, we shall not remain what we are now. From infancy we grow up to boys and girls—young men and women—and if God spares us and helps us, to husbands and wives, Fathers and Mothers in our turn, and then, slowly but surely the face that once had the early dew of morning, gets its wrinkles, the eyes that once beamed with youth and gladness speak of a sincere deep and earnest sadness, though they may keep the fire of Faith, Hope and Charity—though they may beam with God’s spirit. The hair turns grey or we lose it-ah-indeed we only pass through the earth, we only pass through life, we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The world passes and all its glory. Let our later days be nearer to Thee, and therefore better than these.

Yet we may not live on casually hour by hour—no we have a strife to strive and a fight to fight. What is it we must do: we must love God with all our strength, with all our might, with all our soul, we must love our neighbours as ourselves. These two commandments we must keep, and if we follow after these, if we are devoted to this, we are not alone, for our Father in Heaven is with us, helps us and guides us, gives us strength day by day, hour by hour, and so we can do all things through Christ who gives us might. We are strangers on the earth, hide not Thy commandments from us. Open Thou our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of Thy law. Teach us to do Thy will and influence our hearts that the love of Christ may constrain us and that we may be brought to do what we must do to be saved.

On the road from earth to Heaven
Do Thou guide us with Thine eye;
We are weak but Thou art mighty,
Hold us with Thy powerful hand.

Our life, we might compare it with a journey, we go from the place where we were born to a far-off haven. Our earlier life might be compared to sailing on a river, but very soon the waves become higher, the wind more violent, we are at sea almost before we are aware of it—and the prayer from the heart ariseth to God: Protect me 0 God, for my bark is so small and Thy sea is so great. The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, its tides and its depths; it has its pearls too. The heart that seeks for God and for a Godly life has more storms than any other. Let us see how a Psalmist describes a storm at sea. He must have felt the storm in his heart to describe it so. We read in the io7th Psalm: They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth and raiseth up a stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to Heaven, they go down again to the depth, their soul melteth in them because of their trouble. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

He bringeth them into their desired haven.

Do we not feel this sometimes on the sea of our lives?

Does not every one of you feel with me the storms of life or their forebodings or their recollections?

And now let us read a description of another storm at sea in the New Testament, as we find it in the VIth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John in the i7th to the 21st verse. “And the disciples entered into a ship and went over the sea towards Capernaum. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five-and-twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto the ship and they were afraid. Then they willingly received Him into the ship and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” You who have experienced the great storms of life, you over whom all the waves and all the billows of the Lord have gone—have you not heard, when your heart failed for fear, the beloved well-known voice with something in its tone that reminded you of the voice that charmed your childhood—the voice of Him whose name is Saviour and Prince of Peace, saying as it were to you personally, mind to you personally: “It is I, be not afraid.” Fear not. Let not your heart be troubled. And we whose lives have been calm up till now, calm in comparison of what others have felt—let us not fear the storms of life, amidst the high waves of the sea and under the grey clouds of the sky we shall see Him approaching, for whom we have so often longed and watched, Him we need so—and we shall hear His voice: It is I, be not afraid. And if after an hour or season of anguish or distress or great difficulty or pain or sorrow we hear Him ask us: “Dost thou love me?” Then let us say: Lord Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. And let us keep that heart full of the love of Christ and may from thence issue a life which the love of Christ constraineth, Lord Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee; when we look back on our past we feel sometimes as if we did love Thee, for whatsoever we have loved, we loved in Thy name.

Have we not often felt as a widow and an orphan—in joy and prosperity as well and even more than under grief—because of the thought of Thee.

Truly our soul waiteth for Thee more than they that watch for the morning, our eyes are up unto Thee, 0 Thou who dwellest in Heaven. In our days too there can be such a thing as seeking the Lord.

What is it we ask of God—is it a great thing? Yes, it is a great thing, peace for the ground of our heart, rest for our soul—give us that one thing and then we want not much more, then we can do without many things, then can we suffer great things for Thy name’s sake. We want to know that we are Thine and that Thou art ours, we want to be Thine—to be Christians—we want a Father, a Father’s love and a Father’s approval. May the experience of life make our eye single and fix it on Thee. May we grow better as we go on in life. We have spoken of the storms on the journey of life, but now let us speak of the calms and joys of Christian life. And yet, my dear friends, let us rather cling to the seasons of difficulty and work and sorrow, for the calms are often treacherous. The heart has its storms, has its seasons of drooping but also its calms and even its times of exaltation. There is a time of sighing and of praying, but there is also a time of answer to prayer. Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

The heart that is fainting
May grow full to overflowing
And they that behold it
Shall wonder and know not
That God at its fountains
Far off has been raining.

My peace I leave with you—we saw how there is peace even in the storm. Thanks be to God, who has given us to be born and to live in a Christian country. Has any one of us forgotten the golden hours of our early days at home, and since we left that home—for many of us have had to leave that home and to earn their living and to make their way in the world. Has He not brought us thus far, have we lacked anything, Lord we believe help Thou our unbelief. I still feel the rapture, the thrill of joy I felt when for the first time I cast a deep look in the lives of my Parents, when I felt by instinct how much they were Christians. And I still feel that feeling of eternal youth and enthusiasm wherewith I went to God, saying: “I will be a Christian too.” Are we what we dreamt we should be? No, but still the sorrows of life, the multitude of things of daily life and of daily duties, so much more numerous than we expected, the tossing to and fro in the world, they have covered it over, but it is not dead, it sleepeth. The old eternal faith and love of Christ, it may sleep in us but it is not dead and God can revive it in us. But though to be born again to eternal life, to the life of Faith, Hope and Charity, —and to an evergreen life—to the life of a Christian and a Christian workman, be a gift of God, a work of God—and of God alone, yet let us put the hand to the plough on the field of our heart, let us cast out our net once more—let us try once more. God knows the intention of the spirit. God knows us better than we know ourselves, for He made us and not we ourselves. He knows of what things we have need. He knows what is good for us. May He give us His blessing on the seed of His word, that He has sown in our hearts. God helping us, we shall get through life. With every temptation he will give a way to escape.

Father we pray Thee not that Thou shouldest take us out of the world, but we pray Thee to keep us from evil. Give us neither poverty nor riches, feed us with bread convenient for us. And let Thy songs be our delight in the houses of our pilgrimage. God of our Fathers be our God: may their people be our people, their faith our faith. We are strangers on the earth, hide not Thy commandments from us, but may the love of Christ constrain us. Entreat us not to leave Thee or refrain from following after Thee. Thy people shall be our people. Thou shalt be our God.

Our life is a pilgrim’s progress. I once saw a very beautiful picture: it was a landscape at evening. In the distance on the right-hand side a row of hills appeared blue in the evening mist. Above those hills the splendour of the sunset, the grey clouds with their linings of silver and gold and purple. The landscape is a plain or heath covered with grass and its yellow leaves, for it was in autumn. Through the landscape a road leads to a high mountain far, far away, on the top of that mountain is a city wherein the setting sun casts a glory. On the road walks a pilgrim, staff in hand. He has been walking for a good long while already and he is very tired. And now he meets a woman, or figure in black, that makes one think of St. Paul’s word: As being sorrowful yet always rejoicing. That Angel of God has been placed there to encourage the pilgrims and to answer their questions and the pilgrim asks her: Does the road go uphill then all the way?”

And the answer is: “Yes to the very end.”

And he asks again: “And will the journey take all day long?”

And the answer is: “From morn till night my friend.”

And the pilgrim goes on sorrowful yet always rejoicing—sorrowful because it is so far off and the road so long. Hopeful as he looks up to the eternal city far away, resplendent in the evening glow and he thinks of two old sayings that he heard long ago—the one is:

“Much strife must be striven
Much suffering must be suffered
Much prayer must be prayed
And then the end will be peace.”

And the other is

“The water comes up to the lips
But higher comes it not.”

And he says: I shall be more and more tired but also nearer and nearer to Thee. Has not man a strife on earth? But there is a consolation from God in this life. An Angel of God comforting man—that is the Angel of Charity. Let us not forget her. And when each of us goes back to the daily things and daily duties let us not forget that things are not what they seem, that God by the things of daily life teacheth us higher things, that our life is a pilgrim’s progress, and that we are strangers on the earth, but that we have a God and father who preserveth strangers, —and that we are all brethren.

Amen.

And now the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us forever more.

Amen.

Reading: Psalm XCI.

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Dharma: Does the Universe Have an Inherent Order?

Indian sculpture of the footprints of Buddha with soles of the feet are two Dharmachakras

Dharma is a central Hindu socioreligious precept that may be defined as order, the moral order, or duty, as well as both religious and customary law. Dharma literally means “what holds together” and thus is the basic Hindu concept for all order, whether individual, social, or cosmic, as established by the Veda. The Hindu concept derived from the Vedas of social obligation or duty and that is the basis of all Hindu social laws and ethics.

The concept of dharma dates back to the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE. It is expounded later Hindu texts, such as the epic work Ramayana (500-100 BCE) and the 700-verse Bhagavad Gita (c. 100CE), and is present in other Asian traditions such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Dharma comes from the Sanskrit word for “uphold” or “support.” In Hinduism, dharma refers to the inherent order of things, both in terms of natural laws and social/ethical norms. Karma is a causal force that connects all things in the universe. As a result of this force, everything that a person does affects not only his own future, but also the futures of others.

As stated the word dharma is rendered in the new inscription by eusebeia. Scholars of Hellenistic Greece assure us that this Greek word in Hellenistic contexts refers not only to the veneration of gods, but also to a “generally reverential attitude toward the orders of life,” and that it is used “also for conduct toward relatives, between husband and wife, and even for the conduct of slaves toward their master.”

All human beings have a responsibility to maintain the natural order, which is manifested in the caste system of Hindu society. A person’s actions lead to karma, which determines their gunas (traits) and varna (caste), which in turn dictate the moral obligations that individual has to other people (dharma). For example, in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna’s dharma as a kshatriya (warrior) obligates him to fight in a war even though he does not want to.

In Buddhism, dharma refers to not only the natural or moral order, but also to the teachings of the Buddha. Dharma determines a person’s duties at various stages of life (ashrama):

  • in youth, a student’s obligation is to learn;
  • in middle age, a householder is expected to promote the good of society;
  • in advanced age, the forest dweller and renunciant are expected to focus on spiritual cultivation.

The domain of what is moral was never as clearly emphasized in Hinduism as it was in Buddhism. On the one hand, the realm of dharma stretches out well beyond what is moral; on the other hand, dharma, in most of its contents, is not common to all humankind.

Dharma is one of the central metaphysical justifications for the caste system in India. The symbolic representation of dharma, the Dharmachakra or “dharma wheel,” appears in the center of the flag of India, representing the idea that truth and virtue should be the guiding principles of the nation.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #4, John the Evangelist

John the Evangelist. Engraving by A.H. Payne after C. Dolci.

In the Fourth Gospel, John is never mentioned by name, but holy tradition recognizes him as the author and unidentified apostle in the text “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John I 9:26)

It is further believed that John, son of Zebedee and the younger brother of James the Elder, came from a prosperous family. Like Andrew, John may have been a devoted follower of John the Baptist before becoming Jesus’ disciple. (John I:34–40) With Peter, Andrew, and his older brother, John left his fishing nets when Jesus called them to follow him.

The holy apostle seems to have been one of Jesus’ beloved companions. During the Last Supper, John sat in the privileged seat at Jesus’ right. Later, he was present in court at Jesus’ trial; possibly John was permitted because his wealthy family was known to the chief priests.

In Jesus’ final hours he called to John from the cross, asking him to take care of Mary, Jesus’ mother (John 19:26–27.) As one of the first to see the empty tomb, John’s faith was steadfast, for he tells us ” … he saw, and believed” (John 20:8)

This gentle, modest apostle rose to a position of great respect within the church. In due course, moving from Jerusalem to Ephesus in Asia Minor, he became pastor of the church in that large city, and held influence over other churches in the area. Since the fourth century, there has been a strong belief that John brought Jesus’ mother with him to Ephesus, where she stayed until her death.

St John the Evangelist by Domenichino - National Gallery, LondonJohn was banished to the Greek island of Patmos during the persecution under the Emperor Domitian (81–96 CE), where, according to tradition, John is recognized the authorship of the Book of Revelations, and three Catholic epistles besides the Fourth Gospel. From these writings we learn that he lived a long life, and thus witnessed and achieved the rise of the early Christian era. The last of the twelve to join his master in heaven, folklores say John died peacefully in Ephesus at an advanced age in the year A.D. 100.

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Karma: What Goes Around Comes Around Meaning and Every Action Has Consequences

Karma: Every action has consequences

The idea of karma illustrates that every action has consequences that go beyond a mere human lifetime.

Karma is a law of causality that first appeared in the Upanishads, the sacred texts that expound the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE. Karma is also a key concept in Buddhism and Jainism.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is God’s inviolable law that karma never fails to produce its effect.”

The term karma means “action” in Sanskrit, and refers to the idea that every action has a specific set of causes and effects. Ethically, karma is a metaphysical record of a person’s moral worth. When someone commits an evil act, they acquire karma; when someone does good, they acquire merit, which cancels out karma. Karma is linked to samsara (the cycle of reincarnation) because when people die, their karma determines the type of rebirth they will have in the next life.

In Hinduism, this is closely tied to the varna (caste) system: a virtuous life eradicates karma and guarantees rebirth in a higher caste that is more capable of attaining moksha, a state of unity between a person’s atman (true self) and Brahman (ultimate reality).

The Meaning of Karma

'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' by Sogyal Rinpoche (ISBN 0062508342) Max Weber wrote in The Religion of India (1916) that “Karma doctrine transformed the world into a strictly rational, ethically-determined cosmos; it represents the most consistent theodicy ever produced by history.” Schools of established Indian philosophy have established more or less sophisticated paradigms of the psychological processes that typify the relations between karma, rebirth, and spiritual fulfillment. Tibetan Dzogchen Lama Sogyal Rinpoche wrote in ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’,

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.” Similarly he said: “Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.” Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

In Buddhism, life is characterized by suffering; the goal of spiritual cultivation is to eradicate karma and attain nirvana, a state in which all karma is nullified and a person can exit the cycle of rebirth. In Jainism, expunging all karma leads to moksha, a blissful state of liberation from samsara. In Hinduism and Buddhism, people receive karma only for intentional acts, whereas in Jainism, even unintentional acts can generate karma.

Karma in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy

Understanding Karma

Karma is a principal doctrine to Indian theology and has a similar meaning in both Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. It represents the proposal of universal justice, the conviction that in the end, good will be rewarded and wrong doing penalized. Karma is an objective force functioning to meet out outcomes of actions. The concept of karma is in contradiction of the understandings of the Western Abrahamic beliefs (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) where a personal God adjudicates individual souls at the end of time and dispenses rewards or castigations in proportion to one’s actions in life. Karma is involuntary and not a judgment of one’s conduct but merely a outcome occurring by way of action. 'What the Buddha Taught' by Walpola Rahula (ISBN 0802130313) The Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Walpola Rahula wrote in ‘What the Buddha Taught’

The theory of karma should not be confused with so-called “moral justice” or “reward and punishment.” The idea of moral justice, or reward and punishment, arises out of the conception of a supreme being, a God, who sits in judgment, who is a law giver and who decides what is right and wrong. The term “justice” is ambiguous and dangerous, and in its name more harm then good is done to humanity. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment.

Every volitional action produces its effects and results. If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice, or reward, or punishment meted out by anybody or any power sitting in judgment on your action, but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law. This is not difficult to understand. But what is difficult is that, according to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.’

Karma is Complex

'Karma: What It Is, What It Isn't, Why It Matters' by Traleg Kyabgon (ISBN 1590308883) Karma is frequently spoken of as the law of return, that whatsoever you spread toward others in behavior will return in due course. Contrasting the Western monotheism which postulates only one life for each person, in Eastern beliefs the individual has an entire series of lifespans in which to progress their spiritual and ethical development. The wheel of existence in both Hindu and Buddhist thought is a series of births, lives, and deaths over infinite eons. The individual soul or karmic core gets passed along through consecutive incarnations until spiritual development leads to final union with the divine ground of Being. In Hinduism this is viewed as Brahman, and in Buddhism, this is simply termed enlightenment, or the fully awakened state.

Karma has become a popular term in New Age spirituality; all actions can be good or bad karma, contingent on their ethical characteristics. The Lama Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche wrote in ‘Karma: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters’,

The Buddha, radically interpreted the individual as a compound of many different elements, physical and mental – a psychophysical complex. Therefore our feelings, thoughts, emotions, memories, dispositions; our perceptual capability, our cognitive capacities, and our physical conditions – all are constantly interacting and impacting each other.

And agents themselves are also continually interacting with other agents. Logically, then, we need not compelled to identify ourselves with a single thing, a core element to our psyche, as it is really a matter of being in a state of flux. In this sense, karma could be said to operate as streams of networking karmic processes, where all kinds of living, breathing individuals are involved. The really important principle to grasp about this approach is to look closely at things, for things in their nature are complex. Acknowledging this will bring us great reward in fact. Doing the opposite, looking at things in a very simple way, keeps us trapped in ignorance.

Due to the prevalence of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Asia, karma has become a central moral paradigm. The doctrine of karma has influenced the spiritual beliefs of numerous traditions, including Sikhism, Falun Gong, and Theosophy.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #3, James the Elder

Saint James as the Moor-killer by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

The early church referred to the holy apostle James as “James the Elder” or “James the Great” to differentiate him from “James the Younger” or “James the Less,” the son of Alphaeus, who was purportedly a smaller and definitely a younger man.

We can imagine James the Elder as a robust, impressive figure, with piercing eyes, a full beard, and a resonant voice that must have commanded respect.

The son of Zebedee, a affluent fisherman, James was the older brother of John, and a partner of Peter‘s in business. Jesus called James and John Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder” in Greek, for their enthusiastic zeal (Mark 3:17.) Once when the innkeepers in a Samaritan village declined accommodations to Jews, the irritated brothers asked Jesus to call down fire from the heavens to avenge the affront. But Jesus refused, saying, ” … the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)

Holy Scripture describes James, John, and Peter as Jesus’ favorite apostles; those in his inner circle. Some consider the brothers were the Lord’s close relatives and that Peter was their dear friend. These three were present when Jesus raised from the dead the young daughter of Jairus, the synagogue president. They were also with Jesus at the unique revelation on the Mount of Transfiguration; and during the long night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Saint James the Great by Guido Reni, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston After Pentecost, James’ name disappeared from the gospels. Some very olden traditions dating back to the earliest centuries try to explain his absence. It is said that in the years following Jesus’ Resurrection James travelled to Sardinia and Spain to preach the word of the Lord before returning to Jerusalem.

During the Middle Ages the holy apostle James the Elder was one of the most well-liked figures in Christian Spain, and his patronage was invoked in time of war. His symbol is the sword or the bishop’s hat, for he is claimed as the first bishop of Spain.

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Buddhism Teaches that Only Knowledge Brings Redemption

Buddhism Teaches that Only Knowledge Brings Redemption

According to Buddha’s teachings, it is not prayer, not grace, and not sacrifice that brings redemption, but only knowledge.

An abstract understanding of theming is still absent, chiefly in the context of a religion-themed environment. How religion should be themed in an embedding environment to meet expectations of redemption remains undetermined. Never in the history of the world had a stratagem of redemption been put forth so simple in its nature, so free from any superhuman agency, so independent of, so even antagonistic to the belief in a soul, the belief in God, and the aspiration for a future life.

This knowledge lies within the power of the individual. It is won by his own insight, based on the power of his own moral conduct. No god bestows insight, the gods themselves are in need of it. Buddha imparts it. Each man who hears it must make it his own. Hence the last words: Strive unremittingly. In this sense, Buddha’s doctrine is philosophy. It lies in man’s power to acquire it.

The Four Buddhist Truths are frequently misinterpreted to mean that the Buddha’s teaching is cynical, or that it stresses only the suffering, pain and unhappiness which are inherent in us. But it is just the opposite. His teaching shows us convincingly what is disappointing and how to surmount it.

'Buddhism: The Complete Guide Of Buddhism' by Djamel Boucly (ISBN 153497850X) But once this faith in redemption by each man’s efforts was shaken, Buddhist thinking was bound to undergo a change. Now the Buddhist cries out for a helping god. But the gods themselves are in need of liberation, hence ultimately powerless. The Buddhist seeks help without abandoning his idea of a man who redeems himself by insight. And he obtains it when Buddha himself becomes a god. A whole new pantheon comes into being, though its figures are not called gods. Buddha, who wished only to bring a doctrine, becomes a divine figure over all the gods. The belief in Buddha’s insight is no longer philosophical faith, but faith in Buddha.

The first factor indicates to the social motivation of being in a stimulating place with family and friends and sustaining curiosity; the second factor refers to the combination of experiencing the environment of expressions of religious redemption and seeking an escape from daily life; and the third factor includes items related to achieving a sense of redemption, being close to God and achieving fulfillment.

Buddha himself, as his last words show, had no desire to attach his wisdom to his person. But the Buddhists did not preserve the human veneration which opens the student to the master’s teachings. At an early day the impact of Buddha’s personility led to his deification.

Authors such as Matthew Arnold (1822—1888) gained the belief to contest the principal Protestant precept of salvation by faith, as well as the conventional reliance on revelation through miracles, in part from the ethical focus and historicism that he learned from Buddhism and, even more so, from the tactic of comparative religion. There is a central distinction between saying that being is incessantly miserable and saying that sorrow is an unavoidable part of the human condition.

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The Death of the Buddha

The Death of the Buddha

The memory of Buddha’s death and the period preceding it has been preserved. The date of his death, 480 B.C.E, is regarded as certain. His last wandering is described in detail. At first, he tried to get the better of his painful illness and cling to his life. Then he put his will behind him: “Three months hence the Perfect One will enter into Nirvana.”

Journeying onward, he casts a last glance back at the beloved city of Vesali. As they enter a little wood, he gives his last instructions: “Make me a bed between two twin trees, my head to the north. I am tired, Ananda.” And he lay down as a lion lying down to rest.

When one of his disciples wept, he said: “Not so, Ananda. Do not mourn, do not lament. Have I not taught you that it is in the very nature of all things near and dear to us to pass away? How then, Ananda, since whatever is brought into being contains within itself the inherent necessity of dissolution, how can it be that such a being should not be dissolved?”

The disciples believe that with Buddha’s death the word will have lost its master. “Think not so. The doctrine and the order that I have taught you, they will be your master when I am gone. The Perfect One thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood. … I am now grown old, my journey is drawing to its close, I am turning eighty years of age. Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth.”

His last words were: “All accomplishment is transient. Strive unremittingly.” Then, rising from one stage of contemplation to the next, Buddha entered into Nirvana.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #2 Andrew

The Crucifixion of St. Andrew, by Mattia Preti, Art Gallery of South Australia

Today the lush hillsides and blue waters of Galilee are virtually unchanged since Biblical times, when the holy apostle Andrew lived and worked as a fisherman. Andrew was the first apostle whom Jesus chose. His brother was Simon, whom Jesus later renamed Peter.

Fascinated in the spiritual life, the young Andrew seems to have left his fishing nets to follow John the Baptist. He walked for miles to find this holy prophet expounding at the Jordan River. After Andrew was baptized by the prophet, there came among them looking for baptism, Jesus of Nazareth.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he turned the attention of the crowd toward this solitary figure and said, “Behold the Lamb of God … ” (John 1:29–30.)

Andrew knew that he must seek Jesus out, and he brought his brother Peter, and later Philip to meet Jesus. Though Andrew, Peter, their young cousin John, and Philip were not yet apostles, they escorted Jesus and his mother to the wedding feast at Cana. (John 2:1–11) There they saw him achieve the miracle that changed water into wine. They returned home and took up their trade as fishermen, until Jesus came one day to summon them, saying, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18–20)

Saint Andrew - Apostle and Patron Saint of Scotland Andrew took the lad with the five loaves and two fish to Jesus. And he assisted in the distribution of the food once Jesus miraculously multiplied the small provisions so that the crowd of 5,000 would have more than enough to eat. (John 6:1–14) He is listed as an apostle in the Acts of the Apostles; it is the last record we have of him in the New Testament.

Presently, the apostle Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland; his cross in the shape of an X is the symbol of the country. He is also declared as patron saint by Orthodox Christians and of fishermen. He is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Amalfi (Italy), singers, spinsters, fishmongers, fishermen, gout and sore throats.

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