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Holy Grail and Its Healing Properties

A handcolored etching of the Holy Grail, from a series of illustrations for Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal (1882).

Holy Grail is a mystical cup that was thought by Christians to have healing properties.

The Holy Grail is first mentioned in the Arthurian romance Perceval, Le Conte du Graaf (c. 1181) by Chretien de Troyes (1135–1183). The Grail itself is simply a beautifully decorated chalice, or cup, used to hold the Mass wafer, which Catholics receive as the literal, transubstantiated body of Christ. In the story, the wafer sustains the injured Fisher King, who lives by this bread alone. In its earliest conception, therefore, the Holy Grail is best thought of as a romantic medieval appropriation of the Eucharist, which brings health to those who partake of it.

The thirteenth-century poet Robert de Boron added to the Grail legend by describing it as the combination of the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper and the blood of Jesus that Joseph of Arimathea saved during the crucifixion. In this way, Joseph of Arimathea became the first of the Grail guardians, and it was his task to keep the Grail safe until it could help in healing the faithful. In later Arthurian romances, the “Grail Quest” is undertaken by King Arthur’s knights as a means to help restore Camelot-the near paradisiacal kingdom on Earth—which is being torn apart by sin.

Sir Thomas Malory wrote of the Holy Grail in Le Marte d’Arthur (1485): “Then looked they and saw a man come out of the holy vessel …”

Although the Holy Grail has gradually become more than a simple metaphor for the Eucharist, it still retains the strong Christian notion that Jesus’s sacrifice makes possible redemption not only as the healing of moral brokenness (the forgiveness of sins) but also the healing of nonmoral brokenness (the restoration of broken bodies, dying lands, and so on). The legend of the Holy Grail depicts humanity’s quest for redemption, but also hints at what that redemption might look like.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #10: James the Younger

Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #10: James the Younger

In all four inventories of the apostles, James, the son of Alpheus, is grouped with Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. Academics conjecture that there was a common thread amongst these men prior to joining Jesus, and that perhaps they all once fit in to the rebellious religious faction known as the Zealots.

James the Younger is occasionally called “the Less” (Mark 15:40) though no noteworthy reason has been found for this, except for perhaps to differentiate him from “James the Elder” or “the Great.”

It is commonly thought that James was the brother of Matthew, because both were sons of Alpheus. Like his brother, James came from Capernaum in Galilee, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Here Jesus came to land early in his ministry, propagandizing in the native synagogues, private homes, and on the sandy shores of the sea. Crowds congregated throughout to listen, and perhaps James came to hear Jesus’ teachings in such a way. However it is believed that James contrasted ideologically with Matthew, both brothers were inspired by Jesus. Renouncing all else behind, together they set aside their disparities and followed him.

One story maintained in the Golden Legend relates that James so bore a resemblance to Jesus that it was difficult for those who did not know them well to tell the two apart. Perhaps there is a minor kernel of truth here. Might this be the motive that the kiss of Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, according to Scripture, was needed? Perchance it was to make certain that Jesus and not the holy apostle James was detained.

In the Apostle James’ last days he earned the name the “Divine Seed” for he labored during the course of his life to sow the seeds of Jesus’ message. Thus he flourished in planting faith and benevolence in all who listened.

  • His symbol is the fuller’s club (used in blacksmithing) or a book.
  • Holy days: in the Eastern churches on October 9; in the West, the Book of Common Prayer joins him with Philip on May 1; and in the Roman Catholic Church, his holy day is May 3.
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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #9: Simon, the Zealot

St. Simon from Rubens Twelve Apostles series

The holy apostle Simon is called “the Zealot,” (Luke 6:15; Acts of the Apostles 1:13) possibly to differentiate him from Simon/Peter. But there is a hypothesis that Simon, along with James the Younger, Jude Thaddaeus, and Judas Iscariot formerly belonged to the Zealots, a religious sect of “freedom fighters” severely opposed to Roman control over Judea. Some scholars maintain that Jesus made certain announcements recorded in the Bible of a groundbreaking nature that affiliated him with members of the Zealot movement. Still others presume that the word “zealot” when discussing to Simon only suggested that he was a zealous advocate of the faith.

According to the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, a second-century Apocryphal work, Simon obtained his call from Jesus while with many of the other apostles at the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22.) Yet a different account names Simon the husband-to-be at the Wedding in Cana, the juncture of Jesus’ first public miracle when he turned water into wine at the request of Mary, his mother. In this institution Simon was so stirred by the miracle that he exited the wedding merriments and his home to turn into one of Jesus’ apostles. The last reference of Simon is found in the Acts of the Apostles when, following the Ascension, he revisited to the city of Jerusalem with the other apostles and Jesus’ mother. (Acts of the Apostles 1:13–14)

The holy apostle is related with Thaddaeus in the Apocryphal Passion of Simon and Jude, which tells of their proselytization together in Persia. In the West the two are always combined in the ecclesiastic calendar and in the devotions of churches. An Armenian practice claims that he sermonized in Armenia along with Thaddaeus, Bartholomew, Andrew, and Matthias.

St. Simon the Zealot's (Simon Kananaios) cave in Abkhazia

Simon, the Zealot, Disciple of Jesus Christ

The New Testament tells us little of Simon, the Zealot, except that he was called by Jesus to be one of the Twelve Disciples. He is identified by Luke as “the Zealot,” referring to his membership in a Jewish sect which urged religious freedom in the face of Roman domination. Simon also is called the “Canaanite,” and this too refers not to his place of origin, but to his being zealous.

He must have been fervent in his beliefs, one who worked hard to hold high his ideas. Perhaps he hoped that Jesus would be a political Savior, who would overthrow the unjust rule of Rome.

But Simon did not try to make of Jesus a zealot; instead he changed himself into a humble disciple of the Christ.

His name is again mentioned as the apostles await the coming of the Holy Spirit, indicating his steadfast loyalty to Christ and his work with the early church.

  • Simon’s later life and the nature of his death are unknown.
  • The holy apostle Simon’s symbol is a book.
  • Holy days: in the East: May l0; in the West, with Jude Thaddaeus on October 28.
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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #8: Jude Thaddeus

Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #8: Jude Thaddeus

The Gospels mention Jude Thaddaeus in the list of the holy Twelve. Sometimes he is called “Lebbaeus;” however the Aramaic meaning of Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus is the same, “beloved” or “dear to the heart.”

The Fourth Gospel tells us that Thaddaeus asked Jesus, “How is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” And Jesus answered, “If a man loves me and obeys my teachings, my father and I will love him and we will come to him and abide with him” (see John I 4:22–23.) Many scholars believe it was the last question Jesus answered before he began his prayer vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest.

Thaddaeus’s esteemed reputation as a miracle-worker may be due to a legend concerning Abgar of Oseoene—the twenty-eight-year-old king of a small, prosperous domain located some 400 miles from Jerusalem. Shortly before Jesus’ arrest, the young king wrote to Jesus asking to be cured of a painful disease. Though Abgar never met Jesus, he accepted him as the Savior, and warned that in Jerusalem there were plots against Jesus’ life. Abgar offered his own kingdom as sanctuary, saying, “I have a very small yet noble city which is big enough for us both.”

Jude Thaddeus - Holy Days - Eastern and Western Churches

He is titled Jude in the lists of Luke 6.16 and Acts 1.13. Certain scholars believe that Thaddeus is an alternative of the Greek name Theudas. According to a very early tradition in the Church the James referred to in “Jude of James” is JAMES, son of Alphaeus, and James and Jude are to be recognized with the BROTHERS OF JESUS (i.e., His relatives) mentioned in Mt 13.55 and Mk 6.3. Furthermore, since Jude was probably less known, to recognize him better his name was associated with that of his brother. This has persisted the principal view among Catholic commentators.

Although Jesus graciously declined the invitation, Abgar was promised that an apostle would be sent to cure him. After the Ascension, Thaddaeus was chosen to travel to Oseoene. He healed the king and many others as well. The legend ends with the grateful Abgar offering Thaddaeus a large sum of gold and silver. But Thaddaeus refused, saying, “If we have forsaken that which is our own, how shall we take that which is another’s?”

The traditional material about Jude Thaddeus’s later ministry and martyrdom is completely unreliable. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 2.40) relates various assumed areas of his preaching, while the Roman Breviary mentions only Mesopotamia and Persia. He is said to have died a martyr, and in art he is represented with a halberd, the means of his martyrdom.

Jude Thaddeus - Saint of Lost Causes for Christians in France and Germany

  • Since the eighteenth century, Christians in France and Germany have prayed to Jude Thaddaeus as the Saint of Lost Causes; today he continues to be petitioned by many Christians throughout the world. His symbol is a gold sailing ship with silver sails before a red horizon.
  • Holy days: Eastern churches celebrate Thaddaeus on June l9; in the West; with the apostle Simon on October 28.
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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #7: Bartholomew

The Apostle Bartholomew by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn After Philip was chosen by Jesus, he sought out his close friend Bartholomew and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about … and of whom the Prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” But Bartholomew said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” “Come and see,” Philip answered. When Jesus saw Bartholomew approaching, he observed, “This man is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Bartholomew asked, and Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Bartholomew declared, “Master, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John I: 44–51)

Bartholomew is described in The Apostolic History of Abdias (Bishop of Babylonia ordained by the apostles) as a man of middle height with long curly black hair, large eyes, straight nose, and a thick beard. Always cheerful, he had a voice like a trumpet, and knew all languages. Twenty-six years he wore the same white robe with a purple stripe, and a white cloak; yet the garments never tattered or soiled.

Bartholomew’s ministry belongs to the tradition of the Eastern churches. He traveled to Asia Minor (Turkey), perhaps in the company of Philip, where he labored in Hierapolis. In the region the ancients referred to as India (The term ‘India’ was used indiscriminately to refer to Arabia, Ethiopia, Libya, Parthia, and the Medes.) it is said that “Bartholomew, one of the Apostles” left behind the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew.

Apostle Bartholomew: The Patron Saint of Dermatology

Apostle Bartholomew and the Question of Nathanael’s Identity

In his long life Bartholomew performed many wonderful feats, including the healing of the sick. With the aid of an angel, he banished from a false idol a demon-described as “sharp-faced, with a long beard, hair to its feet, fiery eyes, breath of flames, and spiky wings.” An Apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew remains to this day.

Apostle Bartholomew synonymous with Nathanael of Galilee The discrepancy between the synoptic material and the Johannine material has been the cause of much speculation over the centuries. The question of Nathanael’s identity has led many to explore further the identity of Bartholomew. Whenever Bartholomew’s name is revealed in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-16, and Luke 6:12-16), he is also declared as being in the company of Philip.

  • The Armenian Church claims the holy apostle Bartholomew as their founder. In art he is often depicted beside a chained demon; his symbol is a knife blade.
  • Holy days of Apostle Bartholomew: in the East, June 11; in the West, August 24.
  • Apostle Bartholomew is also known as Nathanael. He is mentioned as Bartholomew, one of “the Twelve” in Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; and Acts 1:13. There is no further mention in the New Testament. However, John I:45 refers to him as Nathanael, which has led theologians to believe that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person.

Apocryphal Gospel of Saint Bartholomew

Apostle Bartholomew: The Patron Saint of Dermatology

Bartholomew has long been associated with skin diseases and may be considered the patron saint of dermatology. This characteristic is attributed to one theory concerning his proposed manner of death. When Bartholomew cured the daughter of King Polymios of Armenia, the King adapted Christianity. Consequently, Astyages, the King’s brother, condemned St Bartholomew to be whipped and skinned alive, after which he was crucified upturned.

In the Sistine Chapel, Apostle Bartholomew is portrayed in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” as lashed and holding his own skin in his left hand. In Marco d’Agrate’s sculpture of St Bartholomew, found in the Basilica of Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma, Italy, he is represented carrying his skin round his body similar to a coat or blanket. As a consequence of this ghastly history, he has been renowned as the saint of dermatology. This connotation has also gotten him the label of patron saint of tanning, in which animal skin is detached and processed to produce functional goods.

Apostle Bartholomew: The Patron Saint of Dermatology

Little is known about St Bartholomew’s life, other than that he was born in Galilee in the first century and served as one of Jesus’s 12 apostles. Even his correct name is uncertain, as his name can mean “son of Tolmay” or “son of the furrows.” Per se, he is often thought to be synonymous with Nathanael of Galilee, who was introduced to Jesus through his apostle Philip.

Several other stories of St Bartholomew’s death exist, involving one in which he was abducted, beaten, and cast into the sea to drown. Afterward, his body amazingly washed up at Lipari, a small island off the coast of Sicily. Close by, a large piece of his skin and bones were kept as relics at the Cathedral of St Bartholomew the Apostle. Over time, this church opened a medical facility, and St Bartholomew’s name and relics became associated with medicine and skin disease.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #6, Philip

Saint Philip the Apostle, Peter Paul Rubens' famous Apostle Series (Prado Museum in Madrid)

The name of holy apostle Philip derives from Greek, signifying “he who loves horses.” He was a resident of Bethsaida.

It seems this gentle man had a distinct relationship with the Greek-speaking Gentiles in the society. When they wanted to meet Jesus, he was contacted first. Distrustful his own assessment in the matter, Philip turned to Andrew, who took him to tell Jesus of the request.

On the occasion of the miracle of the loaves and fishes to test Philip, Jesus enquired him where they would get enough food to feed 5,000. Philip, thinking in pragmatic terms, answered, “Half a year’s wages wouldn’t buy enough bread for everyone to have a bite.” (John 6:7).

In John 14:8–9, Philip invited Jesus to reveal the Father, obtaining the answer, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” In later legends, he was often mistaken with St. Philip the Evangelist (Philip the Deacon), one of the seven deacons of the primitive church (Acts 6:5)

Philip replied Jesus’ call (“Follow me”), and was involved in the call of St. Nathanael (probably St. Bartholomew the Apostle), whom he brought to Jesus.

St. Philip by Giuseppe Mazzuoli. Nave of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Rome).Apart from these facts, nothing more is identified about the Apostle.

If as a vigorous apostle he lacked confidence, Philip mellowed, becoming an stimulated speaker and healer. After Pentecost, tradition tells that for twenty years he lived and preached in Scythia, and then in Asia Minor at Hierapolis, which in Greek means “Holy City.” His sister Miriam and his four daughters joined him in propagandizing the word of God.

When Philip the apostle went forth from Galilee, a widow was carrying out for burial her only child, who was all she had. Now the apostle was very concerned in his soul when he saw the poor old woman slashing out her hair and mutilating her face. He said to her: “What religion was your son practicing when he died so young?”

Hierapolis Tomb of the apostle Philip, Archive of the Italian Archaeological Mission to HierapolisToday Philip’s tomb can be found within the ruins of the Turkish city of Hierapolis. There, a constructive mineral spring of warm sparkling water pours forth from the rocks, establishing an enormous crystal clear falls that cascades over the side of a mountain, a wonder nearly as large as the Niagara. In Biblical times it was a famed spa, visited by the sick from all over the Near and Middle East. Looking out at the remains of this ancient city, it is easy to imagine Philip carrying out his ministry with his family. Undeniably, legend tells that once the tombs of his daughters, all prophetesses and well-known in the church during the first and early second centuries, could be discovered in Hierapolis as well. In Hierapolis two alphabetic oracles have been found, one, very fragmented, built into the Martyrium of Philip, the other, preserved almost complete, on a former statue pedestal that was reused in the foundation of the temple of Apollo.

  • In medieval art Philip’s symbol when not loaves of bread is a tall cross.
  • Holy days: in the East, November 14; in the West, May 1. May 1 is jointly with James the Younger; later transferred by the Roman Catholic church to May 3. The feast of the Apostle St. Philip, together with that of St. James the Less, was celebrated in the West on May 1 until 1955, when it was transferred to May 11; the Greeks celebrate it on May 14.
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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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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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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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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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