Blog Archives

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.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

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.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

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.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #1, Peter

Repentance of St. Peter by Jusepe de Ribera, Oil on canvas, Spain, 17th century, State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Holy Scripture identifies Peter the first of all the apostles, though Peter, a modest fisherman, never put himself first. In many ways the holy apostle is most like us, for his compound nature exposes him to be very human; he is passionate and loyal, cowardly and courageous.

Once called Simon, he was given the name Peter (meaning rock) by Jesus, who said of him, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew I 6:13-19)

Jesus moreover told Peter at the Last Supper that he would deny him. Peter loved his master, yet that night, after Jesus’ arrest by the temple soldiers, a terrified Peter swore three times he did not know Jesus. Then he recalled Jesus’ prediction and was almost driven to misery for his timidity. Unlike Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, Peter deeply atoned and was pardoned.

Following the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his apostles. On one such occasion he was by the Sea of Galilee as they were out fishing. Identifying him, they swiftly turned their boat toward the shore. But Peter was too impatient and eager— spontaneously he jumped into the water and swam to his master. (John 21:1–8.) Whilst all the rest were filled with the greatest joy to see Jesus, Peter alone seems to have been driven by his brash heart.

Symbols of St. Peter, the Apostle: Keys, Cockerel at Holy Trinity Church, Hildersham, UK After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles rousing them to preach the word of God, Peter and the others endangered their lives everyday going about their master’s work. In the Acts of the Apostles we discover that it wasn’t long before Peter was imprisoned, but as he lay asleep in his cell, an angel of the Lord came and liberated him.

The location of Peter and Andrew’s house is still marked today. A church was built on the site in A.D. 352. Later it was substituted by a basilica, and excavators unearthed two ancient fish hooks and a small axe for cutting stone. Possibly the fish hooks and axe belonged to Peter and his brother.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

St. Thomas Aquinas’s Five Proofs of God’s Existence

St. Thomas Aquinas receiving the Holy Spirit (in the shape of a dove), by Andrea di Bartolo (c. 1368-1428)

Intellectual arguments for the existence of God, based on reason and observation Of the many attempts to prove the existence of God, arguably the best are the five proofs, or five ways, that were offered by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) in his unfinished work Summa Theologica (1265-74) They are:

  1. motion (motion cannot begin on its own and so there must have been a first mover);
  2. causation (the sequence of causes that created the universe must have a first cause);
  3. contingency of creation (all things depend upon other things for their creation, so there must be a being that caused the initial creation);
  4. degrees of perfection (there are differing degrees of beauty in the universe, so there must be a perfect standard-God to which all things are compared);
  5. intelligent design (the universe follows laws that appear to have order, which implies the existence of a Great Designer).

Technically more of an attempt to clarify the ways in which people conceptualize the creator as described in Christianity, the five proofs are generally seen as earnest arguments for the reality of God. Thus, like many other philosophical claims, the five proofs have taken on a significance different to the one intended by their author. After all, Aquinas, being a Roman Catholic, already knew of God’s existence through faith. In Summa Theologica (1265-74), St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is better to … deliver … contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.”

The adequacy, or inadequacy, of the five proofs brings up the provocative issue of the relationship between the divine and rationality. Indeed, the five proofs highlight the strained relationship between that which is known a posteriori (through experience) and that which is known a priori (through reason), which then calls into question the priority of philosophical inquiry over scientific inquiry, and vice versa.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

Stephen Fry on Respect for Devout and Pious Members of the Catholic Church

In October 2009, English comedian, actor, writer, and humanitarian Stephen Fry joined provocateur extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens to debate against former Member of British Parliament Ann Widdecombe and the Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan on the topic of ‘Is Catholicism a force for good in the world?‘. Television and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi moderated the session hosted by Intelligence Squared held at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

Fry’s passionate and emotional speech opened with a reiteration of his respect for individuals’ choice of Catholic faith and appealed for their respect for others’ choices too:

I want first of all to say that I have no quarrel, no argument and I wish to express no contempt for individual devout and pious members of that church. They are welcome to their sacraments. They’re welcome to their reliquaries and to their Blessed Virgin Mary. They’re welcome … to their faith, to the importance they place in it, … to the comfort and the joy that they receive from it. All of that is absolutely fine by me. It would be impertinent and wrong of me to express any antagonism towards any individual who wishes to find salvation in whatever form they wish to express it. That, to me, is sacrosanct, as much as any article of faith is sacrosanct to anyone of any church or any faith, in the world. It’s very important. It’s also very important to me, as it happens, that I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the enlightenment. They are a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion Philosophy and Wisdom

The Chapel of the Transfiguration in the Grand Teton National Park

The Chapel of the Transfiguration in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

This rustic Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration was built in the summer of 1925. First services were held here on July 26 of that year, and on August 16, it was consecrated by The Rt. Reverend N. S. Thomas D.D., then Bishop of Wyoming.

The first suggestion for a chapel in this location was made about 1920 to a group seated around a campfire at the summer camp of Dr. George Woodward, of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. Having made a long and tiresome trip that day from their camp near the outlet of Leigh Lake to the nearest place of worship in the town of Jackson, Mrs. Woodward expressed the wish that a chapel could be built at Menor’s Ferry, which was the center of what was the “dude ranch” portion of the valley. She discussed the idea with her friend, Miss Maude Noble, who owned and later generously donated the land where the chapel stands.

Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Plans for the building did not fully materialize until the early spring of 1925, when Archdeacon R.H. Balcom came to take charge of the Mission in Jackson’s Hole. He became actively interested in the idea, designed the building, and wrote of his plans to Mr. C. B. Voorhis, of Pasadena, California. Mr. Voorhis, who had a beautiful ranch on Torrey Lake, near Dubois in Wyoming, had been a lifelong friend of Bishop Thomas. He was greatly interested in the bishop’s work and had contributed significantly to the church and the first hospital in Jackson. Discussing the plans for a chapel at Menor’s Ferry with Bishop Thomas, Mr. Voorhis assured him that he and Mrs. Voorhis would be glad to finance the project. From that moment, work on the Chapel progressed rapidly.

The Chapel is built of lodgepole pine, with pews of quaking aspen, cut in the valley. Above the altar is a plate glass reredos window framing the Grand Tetons. For twenty-four hours every day during the tourist season, the door is open to all who come.

Chapel of the Transfiguration in the Grand Teton National Park is built of lodgepole pine with pews of quaking aspen.

The Chapel is named most appropriately in commemoration of the Gospel story of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28–36), where we are told of Jesus going into the mountains with Peter, James and John and appearing to them in the company of Moses and Elijah, resplendent in dazzling white clothing. Then a cloud enveloped them, and a voice said, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” When the cloud went away, Jesus was seen, standing alone, by His disciples.

The Altar was given as a memorial by the C.B. Voorhis family; the font was given in memory of Miss Quita Woodward; the vestibule stained glass was presented by Miss Jessie Van Brunt. The bell, cast in 1842, is from St. Barnabas Church, Irvington, N.Y. The organ was given in 2009 by those who love worshipping here.

Address all communications to St. John’s Episcopal Church Jackson Hole in Jackson, Wyoming 83001.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion Travels and Journeys

Byzantine Architecture & Spiritual Glory of Hagia Sophia

The vast, echoing interior of Hagia Sophia

For 900 years, this mountainous hulk of a building was a Christian cathedral, then for 500 years a Muslim mosque. It has not only felt the tread of mighty emperors and sultans, but also suffered the cruel predations of invading armies. Indeed, for a place of worship, Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) bears more than its fair share of scars. Many of its once-glorious Byzantine mosaics have been either damaged or destroyed, while its sumptuous Islamic carpets have been rolled up and removed, following the building’s conversion into a museum in 1935.

Today the two religions co-exist inside, locked in a state of suspended disharmony. Gigantic wooden discs, bearing the names of Allah and his prophet Muhammad, stare across at restored gold images of Christ Pantocrator (“All Powerful”). One faith (Islam) forbids the representation of the human or divine form, the other (Christianity) exults in it, and here the contradiction finds dramatic expression.

Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya Museum, Istanbul But while the works of art on the walls may give off conflicting messages, the building itself communicates an aura of might, with its sturdy stone columns, echoing marble floors and great slabs of stone from across the Mediterranean world (Egyptian porphyry, black stone from the Bosphorus, yellow from Syria). The great central dome soars 180 feet above the floor, pierced by 40 windows, through which stream shafts of light, giving the effect that it is floating, weightless, suspended by some heavenly force. The Hagia Sophia was rebuilt at the orders of Emperor Justinian in 537 CE. Then, for 900 years, Hagia Sophia had been the center of Orthodox Christianity until 1453 when the city was concurred by Ottomans. 500 years following the conquest of Muslims, it became a jewel for the Muslim world and as the grand mosque of the sultans.

It took 10,000 laborers to build this immense structure, and by the time it was officially consecrated in 537 CE, it was already the third Christian cathedral to have been built on this site (the first was in 360 CE). Since then Hagia Sophia has endured the very worst that humankind (wars and looting) and nature (fires and earthquakes) can visit upon it. And it is still standing.

Hagia Sophia was chosen a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. Hagia Sophia has became one of the most important monuments on the planet with its architecture and historical richness.

Tagged
Posted in Travels and Journeys

Towering ‘Cristo Redentor’ (Christ the Redeemer) Gazes out upon Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Enormous Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro

The statue of Christ the Redeemer bestrides a 2,300-foot mountain named Corcovado (“Hunchback”), weighing 635 tons, standing 130 feet tall, and measuring 98 feet from the tip of one outstretched hand to the other. The statistics alone are awe-inspiring.

The striking figure of the enormous Christ the Redeemer statue can be seen from almost any point in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Christ the Redeemer gazes out upon a city celebrated more for the pleasures of its flesh than for the saintliness of its sculptures.

However, the unique place that Cristo Redentore occupies in the hearts of all Brazilians depends on its sheer visibility. There’s scarcely a sunlit beach or a shadowy favela (shanty town) in the entire city from which the massive, reinforced concrete and soapstone image of the Saviour cannot be seen, his arms held apart in distant benediction.

The absolute scale of the structure means that humans are dwarfed when they stand at its foot—only by leaning back at an impracticable angle can they glimpse the carved features of Christ. In addition, of course, while many choose to look upward to mull over the face of divine power, others direct their gaze downward, over the spectacular panorama that encompasses both the natural splendors of the nearby coastline and the rampant urban sprawl that characterizes the restlessness of Rio.

Cristo Redentore, Rio de Janeiro Given the difficulty in accessing the site, up torturous, twisting roads, it’s not hard to believe that the statue took nine years to build, between 1922 and 1931. Nor that in a intensely Catholic country, a small chapel should have been built within its base dedicated to the Marian apparition, Nossa Senhora Aparecida (“Our Lady of the Apparition”), patron saint of all Brazil.

Symbol of hope, constant reminder of God’s presence, Christ the Redeemer serves not just as the guardian of the people who live in its shadow, but also as a steady companion through all their joys and travails. Although it stands thousands of feet above sea level, the statue’s foundations are rooted in Brazil’s very soul.

Tagged
Posted in Travels and Journeys

30 Verses and Thoughts from the Bible for Victorious Living, chosen by Joel Osteen

Joel Scott Osteen, an American preacher, televangelist, author

I’m clearly a big advocate of positive thinking as the best way to achieve your goals, but it transpires that it can lead to happiness too. Know that the future is taken care of in a positive way, as you allow yourself to enjoy the present moment. Cheerfulness and self-esteem are some of the best indicators of people who lead contented lives. Happy people feel empowered, in control of their lives, and have a positive outlook on life. Feel good about who you are, and know that your victory benefits others.

You can have victory in every area of your life. You deserve this time of victory. Your steadfast focus and dedication have resulted in blissful manifestation. Pastor, televangelist, and author Joel Osteen has put together a simple and effective tool to help you set your thoughts on victory. Peace and pleasant feelings are yours right now. Let your focus be on this present moment, and savor each feeling and experience fully. You will feel encouraged and ready to face any difficulty you are dealing with. When your thoughts are filled with victory, your actions and experiences will be filled with victory—to the Glory of God!

  • Think The Way God Thinks—“No man has ever seen, heard or even imagined the wonderful things God has in store for those who love the Lord.” From I Corinthians 2:9
  • Develop a Vision of Victory—“Behold I am doing a new thing. Can you not perceive it?” From Isaiah 43:19
  • Make a Plan—“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” From Proverbs 16:3
  • 'You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner' by Joel Osteen (ISBN 1455575712) Speak What You Seek—“Declare what is to be …” From Isaiah 45:21
  • Standing Strong During Adversity—“Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” From Ephesians 6:13
  • Be Joyful Always—“For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” From Nehemiah 8:10
  • You are Approved—“Before you were ever formed in your mother’s womb, I saw you and approved you.” From Jeremiah 1:5
  • Pursue Your Victory—“This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, I press on towards the mark …” From Philippians 3:13-14
  • Have an Attitude of Gratitude—“Let no foul or polluting language come out of your mouth.” From Ephesians 4:29
  • Overcome Opposition—“A wide door has been open to me and with it are many adversaries.” From I Corinthians 16:9
  • Declare Blessings—“Say to them, may the Lord bless you protect you.
    May the Lord smile upon you and be gracious to you.
    May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.” From Numbers 6:23-26
  • 'Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day' by Joel Osteen (ISBN 0743296923) Develop a Restoration Mentality—“I will restore the years that the locust has eaten and I will bring you out with plenty and you shall be satisfied.” From Joel 2:25-26
  • Focus on The Future—“Do not cast away your confidence for it will be richly rewarded.” From Hebrews 10:35
  • Feed You Faith—“.. For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” From I John 5:4
  • Live to Give—“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over …” From Luke 6:38
  • Live By The Spirit—“If you live by the Spirit, you’ll not fulfilled the lusts of the flesh” From Galatians 5:16
  • Release The Past—“… but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” From Philippians 3:13-14
  • 'Break Out!: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life' by Joel Osteen (ISBN 1414585890) Filter Your Thoughts—“I will set no evil before my eyes.” From Psalm 101:3
  • Stand Firm—“Fear not; stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today.” From Exodus 14:13
  • Live a Balanced Life—“They have made me a keeper of vineyards, of my own vineyard I have not kept.” From Song of Solomon 1:6
  • Expect Favor—“… the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk is blameless .” From Psalm 84:11
  • Forgive Past Hurts—“But let all bitterness, indignation, wrath, resentment, quarreling and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you.” From Ephesians 4:31
  • 'Your Best Life Begins Each Morning: Devotions to Start Every Day of the Year' by Joel Osteen (ISBN 0446545090) Raise Your Self Image—“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” From Proverbs 23:7
  • Avoid Strife—” For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is strife and every evil work.” From James 3:16
  • Wait and Rest—“The vision is for an appointed time. Though it tarry, wait earnestly for it, for it will surely come.” From Habakkak 2:3
  • Expect God’s Best—“Those who wait for the Lord, who expect, look for, and hope in Him, shall renew their strength.” From Isaiah 40:31
  • Be Who You are—“For you are God’s own handiwork, recreated in Christ that you may do the good works that God predestined.” From Ephesians 2:10
  • Let God Defend You—“God is just a God and He will repay the exact compensation owed you. He will settle and solve the cases of His people.” From Hebrews 10:30
  • Guard Your Heart—“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flows the springs of life.” From Proverbs 4:23
  • Praise Him For The Victory—“But You will give us victory over our enemies… And we will praise Your Name forever.” From Psalm 44:7-8

Recommended Books

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion