Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) - Statesman, Revolutionary, Political Prisoner, Prophet, Reconciler: Rest in Peace, Madiba!



Madiba, Nelson Mandela
Madiba, Nelson Mandela, passed away yesterday at the age of 95. He is a great hero of social justice. As a lawyer and the leader of the African National Congress, he fought against the racist Apartheid system in South Africa from 1948 -1994. He spent 27 years as a political prisoner, much of it in solitary. When he became the president of South Africa, he offered reconciliation with the white minority, rather than retribution. As Muhammed Ali stated yesterday, "he taught forgiveness on a grand scale."


No doubt many will try to domesticate his memory, as they have with Martin Luther King Jr. But though Madiba left hate and bitterness behind, he was a firm supported of social justice. He did not shrink back from speaking the truth to power.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, representatives of the world's dominant powers, condemned his as a terrorist. They had stake in maintaining the unjust status quo. It was only in 2008 that George W. Bush signed a bill removing his name from the terrorist list.
Nelson Mandela with Fidel Castro
 
But for many people of the world- for people of African descent, for workers, for the poor, for the oppressed, and for proponents of social justice, he is a liberator. For me he is a hero and a prophet of social justice. This is one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela:

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

Madiba did not let the oppressor of the hook, or any of us, for that matter. We are called to reconciliation, but a reconciliation based on making things right. In this sense, Nelson Mandela is a true prophet, in the Biblical sense; he shines a light on injustice, and calls us to repentance, to change the way we do things and treat each other.

Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest people we have been honored to have on this planet. He is a Statesman, Revolutionary, Political Prisoner, Prophet, Reconciler. Charlie Rose stated on his program last night "It seems to me that if there was not a word for 'dignity,' Nelson Mandela would define it."

We love you, Madiba, may you rest in peace in the arms of God, and continue your work for peace and justice in heaven for us who remain on pilgrimage. May we all be inspired by your example, and shrink not back from the work of peace and justice and reconciliation here in Earth.

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Nelson Mandela with Bishop Desmond Tutu
I read some wonderful prayers for Nelson Mandela yesterday; here are just a few of them...


“Go forth, revolutionary and loving soul, on your journey out of this world, in the name of God, who created you, suffered with you and liberated you/Go home Madiba, you have selflessly done all that is good, noble and honourable for God’s people/We will continue where you have left off, the Lord being our helper."

- Cape Town Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba


Saints of God, come to his aid!
Come to meet him, angels of the Lord!
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.
May Christ, Who called you, take you to Himself;
may angels lead you to Abraham's side.
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.
Give him eternal rest, O Lord,
and may Your light shine upon him forever.
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.
Let us pray: We commend our brother Madiba to you, Lord.
Now that he has passed from this life,
may he live on in Your presence.
In Your mercy and love, forgive whatever sins he
may have committed through human weakness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Let All in agreement say,
Amen.

- Fr. Bruce Christian


Thank you, Nelson Mandela, for all the gifts you gave, the light you shone into the world, and the magnificence of your example.
Dear God,
Please hold Mandela
in Your eternal arms
and give him eternal peace.
Surround him with love
and deliver him to bliss.
And so it is.
Amen

- Marianne Williamson
Nelson Mandela with Whitney Houston

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bishop Kallistos on the Possibility of Universal Salvation: There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God


There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God. Orthodox Christians do not cringe before Him in abject fear, but think of Him as philanthropos, the ‘lover of men.’ Yet they keep in mind that Christ at His Second Coming will come as judge.

Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons man, as a place where man, by misusing his free will, chooses to imprison himself. And even in Hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy. ‘The love of God will be an intolerable torment for those who have not acquired it within themselves’ (V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 234).

Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day comes, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. ‘What is a merciful heart?’ asked Isaac the Syrian. ‘It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures’ (Mystic Treatises, edited by A. J. Wensinck, Amsterdam, 1923, p. 341). Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the Devil.

from Bishop Kallistos' book, The Orthodox Church.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saint Gregory the Wonderworker November 17th

This week we remember Gregory the Wonderworker (Nov. 17), a disciple of Origen. God granted him such gifts of healing that many people came to him to be cured and heard the gospel. The Virgin Mary and the Apostle John appeared to St. Gregory in a dream, and taught him about the Holy Trinity. St. Gregory wrote down what was revealed to him.

"The teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology is based on it. Subsequently it was used by the holy Fathers of the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Symbol of St Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First Ecumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy (source: OCA Website)."

"And if any one does not believe that death is abolished, that Hades is trodden under foot, that its chains are broken, that the tyrant is bound, let him look on the martyrs deporting themselves in the presence of death, and taking up the jubilant strain of the victory of Christ. O the marvel! Since the hour when Christ despoiled Hades, men have danced in triumph over death. 'O death, were is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory'?" - Gregory the Wonderworker

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Bible in the Orthodox Church


The primitive Church did not have the Bible as we know it today. And yet the Church lived according to the Divine Revelation which, with the final screening and codification by the Canon, was understood as Sacred Tradition and Holy Scriptures. One cannot overemphasize the biblical character of the Greek Orthodox Church, for, ironically, members of certain Christian denominations often accuse the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church of neglect in making use of the Bible. They usually label her as involved extensively in symbolism and ritual.

Such a notion of the Orthodox is not justified. And as a matter of fact, the contrary is true. The truth is that the Holy Scriptures occupy a prominent place in the life, thought, and worship of the Orthodox Church. For the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church is very much a scriptural Church. She is the biblical Church par excellence. It is not only that her faith is derived from the Holy Scriptures, but also her very life is deeply imbued with ideas, teachings, and the ethos of the Bible. The various forms of worship and liturgical life of the Church bear the seal of the Bible to an admirable degree.

There is no sacrament, liturgy or service in the Orthodox Church that does not include selections from the Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testaments are used often. Since the Old Testament is the "paedagogus" leading to Christ, it is used in such services as Vespers and the Orthros. Passages from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jonah, and other Old Testament books, especially the Psalms, are read in each vesper service as well as the Sunday morning service before the Divine Liturgy. Each Liturgy includes two New Testament selections, one from the Acts or the Epistles, and the second from one of the Gospels. These various "pericopes" from the Psalms, prophecies, Gospels, and Epistles constitute and integral part of each service in the Orthodox Church today.

But the claim for the Orthodox Catholic Church for her scriptural character is not based exclusively on the aforementioned readings. Her prayer life, hymns, and rites, are imbued with, one might almost say, permeated by, scriptural spirituality, verses and elements. Every prayer and hymn of each Liturgy, sacrament, and service includes scriptural material and expresses some biblical event. It is true that some services are more scriptural than others, and that the number and extent of scriptural element vary from service to service, but whatever the ratio may be, it is certain that each service is based on some biblical truth.

There are certain books which enjoy a considerable popularity. The Psalms, Genesis, and Isaiah are more popular than any other Old Testament book. Exodus and the Wisdom of Solomon follow. From the New Testament books, Matthew, Luke, 1 Corinthians, Romans, the Gospel of John, and the Epistle to the Hebrews precede all others in that order.

Hymnology is similarly oriented in Scripture. Most of it has been inspired by some event narrated in the Scriptures or by some truth expressed in them.

There is much evidence that an intense reverence for the Holy Scriptures exists in the Orthodox Church. The study of the Bible has always been encouraged; in fact, even the illiterate in the Orthodox world have committed whole Psalms and other portions of Scripture to memory. The writings not only of the Liturgical authors but of the Fathers, teachers, and doctors of the Church, in general, are impregnated with scriptural verses and expressions.

A practice in the early Church, that persons had to know parts of the Bible by heart, and that candidates for the priesthood were impelled to learn a certain number of Psalms, plus a Gospel and several Epistles before ordination, is not required in the Church today. Nonetheless, scriptural sayings and elements are in the mouths of the faithful in Orthodox lands like proverbs and mottoes.

The Word of God is the inexhaustible source of spiritual instruction and nurture in the Orthodox Catholic Church today. The Orthodox faithful are urged to study the Bible diligently, and to make it the guide of their lives.

Thus, it is emphasized that the Holy Scriptures, which have saturated the liturgical books and the hymnology of the Church, indeed occupy a central place in the Orthodox life and worship today.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Julian of Norwich: God is not angry

But notwithstanding all this, I saw truthfully that our Lord was never angry, nor ever shall be, for he is God: He is good, He is life, He is truth, He is love, He is peace; and His power, His wisdom, His love, and His unity do not allow Him to be angry (For I saw truly that it is against the character of His power to be angry, and against the character of His wisdom, and against the character of His goodness). God is the goodness that cannot be angry, for He is nothing but goodness. Our soul is one-ed to Him who is unchangeable goodness, and between God and our soul is neither anger nor forgiveness, as He sees it. For our soul is so completely one-ed to God by His own goodness, that there can be absolutely nothing at all separating God and soul.

- Julian of Norwich

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Julian of Norwich lived ca 1342-1416 (few details  of her life are known, including her birth and death dates).  It is known that she lived as an anchoress in a cell located in a church in the East Anglian market town of Norwich.  Her fame rests on Revelations of Divine Love, a text describing visions she had during a prolonged period of illness.  It was, incidentally, the first literary work in Middle English by a woman.

The excerpt above is from chapter 46 is striking in its treatment of God's wrath.  Or rather, the non-existence of God's wrath.  In our own day, when entire ministries are based upon the presumed wrath of God, Julian's remarks will come across as hopeful and outrageous in equal measure.

- Joe Rawls

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My friend Joe Rawls posted this in his blog, the Byzantine Anglo-Catholic



Saturday, November 2, 2013

Four Movements in My Life as a Christian Believer

There have been four spiritual movements I can discern in my spiritual life as a Christian:

Catholicism - that is, ancient Christianity, based on the Bible, Creeds, Sacraments, Liturgical Hours of Prayer, and subsisting in a covenant faith community. Most readily associated with Roman Catholicism, Old Catholics, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and some Lutheran Churches, but really should apply to all Christians ideally. One is baptized into the Covenant Faith Community, which in turn is gathered around the Lord's Table. The Holy Eucharist is our central act of worship. Time is sanctified via the liturgical seasons of the Church year, and the Daily Office of prayers and scripture readings provide the basis of corporate hours of prayer and personal, individual devotions. For me as an Anglican Christian, weekly Eucharist on Sunday and the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer are important practices for my own spiritual life, and for my participation in the Covenant Faith Community.

Evangelicalism- in the best sense, Evangelical faith is focused on the preaching of Christ from the Scriptures, and involves not only proclaiming the Person of Christ publicly, but a fidelity to the Bible as the rule of faith for the individual Christian and covenant faith community. The Scriptures are for me “bread from heaven.” I seek to hear and see Jesus Christ in the pages of the Bible.

Social Gospel. As an Anglo-Catholic, I honor the heritage of Slum-Ritualism. Anglo-Catholics have a history of working with the poor in the slums in England, and were called "Slum Ritualists." Anglo-Catholics have very often embraced socialism to this very day, and are sometimes called "Sacramental Socialists." The Biblical witness calls us to go beyond charity to social justice, and compels us to critique unjust social and economic structures in the society, and in the faith community. The impulse for social justice encompasses not only economic justice but social justice for all people, regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, in the public realm, and full inclusion of all in the covenant faith community. The Scriptures are filled with calls for social justice for the poor and oppressed, and Jesus' ministry exemplifies love and acceptance for outsiders and the outcast.

Advaita, Non-Duality. Inspired by my spiritual hero Bede Griffiths, his disciple Brother John Martin and other writers like Thomas Merton, I have been intrigued the experience of non-duality, that is, oneness with God, as pursued through contemplation, meditation and direct experience with God. Exposure to Eastern thought has in turn revealed the non-dualistic aspects of Christian theology and experience, The non-dualistic experience brings us beyond religion to the vastness of G-d. I have a Christian Mantra, but I need to create more time for sitting meditation.


All of these movements are a part of my life as a Christian believer.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bob Marley's Conversion to Christianity

Bob Marley's baptismal name was Berhane Selassie, "Light of the Holy Trinity;" his final words were "Jesus, take me." 

I have much admiration for both the Rastafarians and the Oriental Orthodox. Bob Marley was both, and converted to Christianity in 1980. Most people don't know that Bob Marley, one of my favorite musical artists and a true prophet, converted to Christianity in 1980. On November 4th, 1980 he was received into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Abuna Yesehaq, archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere who died in 2005, admitted that he baptized Bob Marley about one year before his death.

The Jamaicans.com website says that Bob remained outside the church for several years after Rita and the children converted in 1972. Bob was under the spiritual guidance of the archbishop but was baptized just a year before his death, after three aborted attempts to convert in Kingston. He backed out each time, says the Archbishop, after being threatened by other rastas. Marley was finally baptised in the Ethiopian Church in New York where less resentments were less inflamed. The Archbishop christened him Berhane Selassie, which is Coptic for "Light of the Holy Trinity".

"Bob was really a good brother, a child of God, regardless of how people looked at him," Yesehaq said. "He had a desire to be baptized long ago, but there were people close to him who controlled him and who were aligned to a different aspect of Rastafari. But he came to church regularly."

"When he toured Los Angeles and New York and England, he preached the Orthodox faith, and many members in those cities came to the Church because of Bob," Yesehaq said.

Yesehaq told interviewer Barbara Blake Hannah: "I remember once while I was conducting the Mass, I looked at Bob and tears were streaming down his face. Many people think he was baptised because he knew he was dying, but that is not so... he did it when there was no longer any pressure on him, and when he was baptised, he hugged his family and wept. They all wept together for about an hour."

Bob Marley's final words were "Jesus, take me."

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Sources:

Bob Marley Died a Christian

Bob Marley knew Jesus 

Side Eye Post of The Day: Bob Marley knew Jesus - The Old Black Church


Interview with Bob Marley's Bishop, Bishop Yesehaq  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Elaine Pagels


One of the foremost scholars of ancient Christianity is Elaine Pagels of Princeton University. She is known primarily for her work with the Gnostic Gospels, and the Nag Hammadi Library, which was a collection of ancient Christian writings discovered in the Egyptian desert in 1945. As a young scholar, she had access to the Nag Hammadi library, and did scholarly research on the Gnostic gospels. She published her landmark popular book, The Gnostic Gospels, in 1979.

Not only did Pagels study the Gnostic Gospels but she also found them personally meaningful. She likes their emphasis on finding the divine within one's self, and the subversive nature of the Gnostic Gospels. Pagels notes in her writings and interviews, that if one can find the divine within one's self, that makes the Church or Church authority superfluous. She hypothesizes that this may be one reason that Church authorities suppressed these ancient Gospels. In particular, she notes Athanasius ordering the burning of Gnostic or Secret gospels, and his Easter letter listing the 27 books of the New Testament as we have it today. Some of the monks though, liked the Gnostic gospels, and one such monk buried his treasure of Gnostic Gospels at Nag Hammadi.

The Gnostic form of Christianity emphasized finding the divine within one's self more than beliefs about Christ or God, according to Pagels; it was not unlike Buddhist spirituality. She also believes that early Christianity was quite rich in its diversity, and that  there were several different ways of understanding Jesus and his message. She also notes that women had authority in some of these ancient Christian communities, though not in the proto-orthodox communities after the second century.

Some will say that the Gnostic Gospels did not make it into the canon because they were not very good, and that because the Gnostic Christian writings are disparate, they did not present a coherent faith. Another criticism of ancient Gnosticism was that it was elitist.

Pagels herself admits that Christianity probably endured because of the coherence of orthodoxy. She even says in her book Beyond Belief that the orthodox understanding of Christianity was likely winning even before it was established by church and imperial authorities. But she also finds the spirituality of the Gnostic Gospels compelling and that it was a vital force in ancient Christianity. Early Gnostic leaders, such as Valentinus and Marcion enjoyed large followings and were a challenge to ancient orthodoxy. As William Barclay notes, Gnostics were part of the ancient church. Pagels says that if the Gnostics had won the day, and had become the dominant form of Christianity, that the Church would resemble more closely the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Pagels experienced personal tragedy in the 1980's as she lost both her six year old son, and several months later, her husband. She describes a morning in which she was jogging in Central Park, trying to deal with the grief of losing her son. As the weather was cold and rainy, she slipped into the back of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. There she observed the worship, and found it comforting and meaningful, and came to appreciate the importance of the faith community. She later remarried a man who had also been widowed, and they raised a blended family together.

Pagels has written many books, a very popular one being Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, released in 2004. In this book, Pagels talks about the controversy between Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas. One portrays Jesus as the Light of the World, and the unique source of salvation; the other teaches that although Jesus is the light of the world, this light can be found in every person for themselves. She believes that the Gospel of John was written in part to counter the Gospel of Thomas. Of course, Thomas is portrayed as doubting Jesus at first, and then later, confessing him as Lord and God after putting his fingers in the wounds of the Resurrected Christ.

Not all will agree with Professor Pagels, and her take on early Christianity. But she has brought to light the richness of diversity in early Christianity, and the intriguing Gnostic Gospels.

Below are some links for Elaine Pagels:

PBS: Mary Alice Williams's interview with Princeton historian Elaine Pagels

The Politics of Christianity: A Talk with Elaine Pagels

PBS NOW Interview with Bill Moyers

Elaine Pagel's Faculty Page from Princeton University

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Eastern Catholic Liturgies by Nicholas Liesel, reviewed by Lance Goldsberry

Eastern Catholic Liturgies by Nicholas Liesel is truly a classic. First published in Germany in 1956, this book was later published in English in 1960. Donald Attwater, the noted scholar on Eastern Christianity writes a foreword for the book.

It is a great coffee table book, which provides a survey on how all the various Eastern Catholic Churches celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice (Mass in the West). This books highlights the Divine Liturgy as it is celebrated in 12 major Catholic Churches: Ruthenian (Ukrainian), Russian, Greek, Syrian, Melkite (Arabic), Maronite (Lebanese), Coptic (Egyptian), Ethiopian, Armenian, Chaldee (Iraq and Persia), Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara (India) Churches. All of these, except the Maronites, have analogs in sister Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Liesel provides historical sketches of all of the particular Eastern Catholic Churches, which gives one a sense of the Universality of the Church as she grew among various national groups, beginning with the dispersion of the Apostles.

It also underscores the truth of Catholic-Orthodoxy, as we see that the Church offers the single sacrifice of Christ with the same basic understanding of the Holy Eucharist, through out the various lands, nations and cultures that have been reached with the gospel: "For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts."- Malachi 1:11, Douay Bible. Justin Martyr (2nd Century) used this passage to explain the Christian Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The Church reached from the British Isles, across Europe and Northern Africa, and even into Central Asia, and eventually as far as China in the first millennium. Yet, all the Churches maintained a basic Catholic understanding of the Trinity and Person of Christ, Baptism, the Holy Sacrifice, the veneration of the Mother of God, and the Sacraments. This was not a top-down development, but the organic growth of the Church universal among various tribes, nations, and peoples, beginning with the original Apostles of Christ. For example, St. Mark the Gospel writer and interpreter for St. Peter in Rome, founded the Church in Egypt, and was the first Coptic Pope. St. Thomas founded Churches in Iraq and India. These Christian communities have existed in these lands since the first century.

Later expansion of the Church takes place as the Nestorians push into China, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius evangelize the Slavs, and offer the Divine Liturgy in the language of the people. Their work laid the foundations for Churches in Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The narratives for these Churches also underscore periods of suppression and persecution, lending credence to Tertullian's saying that the "Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church."

Liesel, besides providing these fine historical sketches, also gives a detailed description of each of these Liturgies, with their actions and rubrics. Black and white pictures of the Liturgies taken by N. Makula underscore their awe and beauty. All of the pictures were taken in Rome.

Because of the time this book was written, Latinizations that either crept in or were enforced in the Eastern Churches are evident. We see Latin-style garments, and read about spoken Liturgies without sensing in the Ruthenian Church. However, Liesel even at this time notes the urgency for reform to purify these Eastern rites of their Latinizations. The Eastern Catholic Churches have been a stumbling block between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Some may scoff at the quaintness of this book, which features Latinizations and sometimes exhibits a very slight Catholic chauvinism over and against our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. But until someone produces something better, this is a treasure. I hope one day, someone produces a similar book, which will be more up to date, and reflect the period post-Vatican II, featuring the reform of the ancient Eastern Catholic Liturgies and be based on the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well.

I am very lucky. I picked up my copy of this book in good condition with a library cover for only $10 in the area known as Dinky Town in Minneapolis, by the University. However, I have often seen this book for up to $100 on line on eBay or Amazon used books, so if you happen across one in a used book store for a good price, snap it up! I am sure it will provide you hours of enjoyment as it has for me. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

I can't close this review without mentioning that we need also to pray for our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters, who are facing fierce persecution at this time in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and other places as well.

- by Lance Goldsberry

Eastern Catholic Liturgies by Nicholas Liesel

Eastern Catholic Liturgies by Nicholas Liesel is truly a classic. First published in Germany in 1956, this book was later published in English in 1960. Donald Attwater, the noted scholar on Eastern Christianity writes a foreword for the book.

It is a great coffee table book, which provides a survey on how all the various Eastern Catholic Churches celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice (Mass in the West). This books highlights the Divine Liturgy as it is celebrated in 12 major Catholic Churches: Ruthenian (Ukrainian), Russian, Greek, Syrian, Melkite (Arabic), Maronite (Lebanese), Coptic (Egyptian), Ethiopian, Armenian, Chaldee (Iraq and Persia), Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara (India) Churches. All of these, except the Maronites, have analogs in sister Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Liesel provides historical sketches of all of the particular Eastern Catholic Churches, which gives one a sense of the Universality of the Church as she grew among various national groups, beginning with the dispersion of the Apostles.

It also underscores the truth of Catholic-Orthodoxy, as we see that the Church offers the single sacrifice of Christ with the same basic understanding of the Holy Eucharist, through out the various lands, nations and cultures that have been reached with the gospel: "For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts."- Malachi 1:11, Douay Bible. Justin Martyr (2nd Century) used this passage to explain the Christian Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The Church reached from the British Isles, across Europe and Northern Africa, and even into Central Asia, and eventually as far as China in the first millennium. Yet, all the Churches maintained a basic Catholic understanding of the Trinity and Person of Christ, Baptism, the Holy Sacrifice, the veneration of the Mother of God, and the Sacraments. This was not a top-down development, but the organic growth of the Church universal among various tribes, nations, and peoples, beginning with the original Apostles of Christ. For example, St. Mark the Gospel writer and interpreter for St. Peter in Rome, founded the Church in Egypt, and was the first Coptic Pope. St. Thomas founded Churches in Iraq and India. These Christian communities have existed in these lands since the first century.

Later expansion of the Church takes place as the Nestorians push into China, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius evangelize the Slavs, and offer the Divine Liturgy in the language of the people. Their work laid the foundations for Churches in Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The narratives for these Churches also underscore periods of suppression and persecution, lending credence to Tertullian's saying that the "Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church."

Liesel, besides providing these fine historical sketches, also gives a detailed description of each of these Liturgies, with their actions and rubrics. Black and white pictures of the Liturgies taken by N. Makula underscore their awe and beauty. All of the pictures were taken in Rome.

Because of the time this book was written, Latinizations that either crept in or were enforced in the Eastern Churches are evident. We see Latin-style garments, and read about spoken Liturgies without sensing in the Ruthenian Church. However, Liesel even at this time notes the urgency for reform to purify these Eastern rites of their Latinizations. The Eastern Catholic Churches have been a stumbling block between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Some may scoff at the quaintness of this book, which features Latinizations and sometimes exhibits a very slight Catholic chauvinism over and against our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. But until someone produces something better, this is a treasure. I hope one day, someone produces a similar book, which will be more up to date, and reflect the period post-Vatican II, featuring the reform of the ancient Eastern Catholic Liturgies and be based on the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well.

I am very lucky. I picked up my copy of this book in good condition with a library cover for only $10 in the area known as Dinky Town in Minneapolis, by the University. However, I have often seen this book for up to $100 on line on eBay or Amazon used books, so if you happen across one in a used book store for a good price, snap it up! I am sure it will provide you hours of enjoyment as it has for me. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

I can't close this review without mentioning that we need also to pray for our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters, who are facing fierce persecution at this time in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and other places as well.

- by Lance Goldsberry

Patriarch Bartholomew on Apophatic Theology

If one speaks theologically, then one always does so within the context of an intimate relationship with God, who is the source of all theology. Moreover, if one articulates theology within the context of prayer, then one also realizes that the most appropriate method of theology is the way of silence before the awesome divine mystery that can never be fully grasped or described.

The final word, then, of theology is silence; its essence lies in the absence of words. For if it is difficult, as St. Gregory the Theologian claims, to conceive God, it is impossible to define God. Theology is best not said; it is most authentic when it is expressed in silence. This is why icons of St. John the Evangelist or Theologian will depict him with his fingers across his sealed mouth, as if to underline the importance of mystery and silence. So the way of Orthodox theology and spirituality cannot be properly understood without an appreciation of its negative or apophatic dimension.

Through the apophatic approach...Orthodox theology affirms the absolute transcendence of God while at the same time underlining the abiding immanence of God.

However, apophatic theology is is not simply another intellectual method of approaching God. It is not a better or even more effective way of knowing God. Theology always remains the knowledge beyond all knowledge; ultimately, it is a form of divine “ignorance.”

Negative theology, therefore, is not merely a corrective or corresponding way to the affirmative approach. It is the only way to God...


- Patriarch Bartholomew in his book, Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Jesus liberates the oppressed; the "Prosperity Gospel" does not liberate

Last night on TV, I heard a famous preacher say that Christians should never file bankruptcy, except in rare circumstances.  This is contrary to the Bible’s message of liberation. Never mind the fact that 66% of the bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical bills, in this a society that has not provided universal health insurance. Forgiveness of debt is a biblical concept. Jesus tells a parable about a creditor forgiving a debtor who owes him a substantial amount of money (see Matthew 18.21-35). The Torah prescribes forgiveness of debt and a return of the land to its original owners in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25.10-13). When Jesus began his public ministry, he read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4.18,19, NIV

The "year of the Lord's favor;" the text that Jesus reads refers to the Jubilee. Jesus preaches a message of liberation, the Gospel is GOOD NEWS.

The prosperity gospel is not a gospel of grace, but of bondage; it does not liberate the oppressed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Poor Man's Heaven. The Rich Man's Hell

via Heaven and Earth

 
There is a lot of talk about religion out there. What passes for Christianity in some quarters not only bears no resemblance to the Founder's vision of faith, it is down right immoral.

The current crop of right wing religionists in the House of Representatives deny food stamps to the poor in direct contradiction to the Founder's admonition; "Feed My Sheep". (John 21).

Now they want to deny health care to the poor and the 48 million Americans who have no health care, in direct contradiction to the Founder's admonition; "visit the sick in their distress". (Matthew 25:36)

It is fitting that the Gospel for this last Sunday would be the famous story of the rich man and Lazarus. They both died. But the rich man went into Hades (an interesting Greek concept for the afterlife) and Lazarus, the poor man went into the bosom of Abraham where he was comforted and filled with good things.

When the rich man begs Lazarus to send someone from the dead to tell us about the consequences of our behavior in this life, Lazarus explains that a great chasm separates the rich from the poor; and Heaven from Hell. And so it does. The great chasm between the rich and the poor is exceeded only by the chasm between the poor who are comforted in the bosom of Abraham and the rich who rest in torment.

Read the original if you don't believe me.

Let us pray for the rich and the poor in this country that we may find a way to close the chasm to make the salvation of all possible. Read these words carefully. If ever there were a headline for America to read today, this is it!

Religionists, please take note.

Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Middle Class Christians

"It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians- I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians- go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord's parable, seeing human need all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side...Christians, alas, they are many- whose ambition in life seems to be building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves."

- J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pg. 63

Monday, September 23, 2013

Archbishop Thabo of Capetown on the Nairobi Mall Terrorist Attack

Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

The following media statement was issued on 23 September 2013

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The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, has written the following letter to his counterpart, the Most Revd Dr Eliud Wabukula, the Archbishop of Kenya:

‘My dear brother in Christ

The Bible tells us that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer together.

Yet I write to you, and to the Bishop of Nairobi, Rt Revd Joel Waweru, following the terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall, to express not only that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa stands in solidarity with you at this time, but that we too share in the grief that this senseless attack has brought. For a very dear churchwarden of my own Diocese, Mr James Thomas, has been confirmed among those whose lives were so brutally taken.

We have watched events unfold with shock and horror, knowing only that violence and death inevitably beget further conflict and loss of life. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones, as well as to the injured. We hold them in our hearts and in our prayers, knowing that we are united both in our humanity and in our grieving.

And so we pray for the fractured human family, in which such inhumane acts can be perpetrated. Alongside our desire for a swift end to the siege, and for justice to be done, we ask also that God will guide you with his holy wisdom. As you speak and act in response to these terrible events, may you be a channel of God’s grace: to comfort the bereaved, bind up the broken hearted, and proclaim the triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over both evil and death. In condemning this appalling crime, may you also be able to bring God’s redemptive possibilities into the complex political, historic and religious context in which it arose. May the God whose light shines in the darkness shine through you, as a beacon of the hope and promise that are at the heart of the gospel.

Yours in the service of Christ our Lord and Saviour – crucified, risen and ascended

+Thabo Cape Town

Cc: Bishop of Nairobi, Rt Revd Joel Waweru

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Rich African and African-American Heritage of Christianity




African and African-American Christians have a rich, diverse Christian heritage.

St. Luke specifically mentions that there were pilgrims from Africa- from Egypt and Libya- present on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church.



We read of the Ethiopian Eunuch, a minister of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia, accepting Christ through the witness of Philip in Acts Chapter eight.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest national Churches in Christendom. Athanasius consecrated her first bishops. Emperor Haile Selassie, who claimed to be ancestor of King David, was a devout Orthodox Christian, and sent an Orthodox Bishop to Jamaica to evangelize the people there. Bob Marley, the great reggae star, Rastafarian, and prophetic voice, was Baptized in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, died in its bosom, with the Name of Jesus on his lips. His Baptismal name was Berhane Sellasie, Light of the Holy Trinity.
 St. Mark the Evangelist was the first Bishop in Alexandria, and a martyr there.  Some of the greatest  Church Fathers in the ancient Church are from Africa- Tertullian; Clement of Alexandria; the greatest scholar of the ancient church, Origen; Athanasius, the defender of Orthodoxy at Nicea; Cyprian, bishop and martyr; Augustine of Hippo, one of the two greatest doctors of the Church; Cyril of Alexandria, the defender of Orthodoxy at the council of Ephesus.

There are great female and male martyr-heroes in the Ancient African Church, most notable being Perpetua and Felicity. Saints Perpetua and Felicity are Christian martyrs of the 3rd century from Africa. Perpetua (born around 181) was a 22-year old married noblewoman and a nursing mother. Her co-martyr Felicity, an expectant mother, was her slave. Her family pleaded with her to renounce Christ and avoid being put to death, but she wouldn’t, and the two young Christian women were fed to the lions. They suffered together at Carthage in the Roman province of Africa, during the reign of Septimius Severus, about 203 CE.

Two of the greatest heroes of ancient orthodoxy are from Africa. Athanasius of Alexandria prevailed at the Nicene Council in 325, and Cyril of Alexandria presided over the council of Ephesus in 431 CE.  These councils provided dogmatic definition for how we understand the Person of Christ today. The very canon of Scripture as we have it now was codified in Africa, in ancient church synods at Carthage and Hippo in the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
 
The ancestors of most African-Americans came in bondage to this country; yet they put their faith in the Lord. They composed spirituals, and took the Exodus as their narrative, a narrative of Liberation. The Church operated as a base for the civil rights struggle the last two centuries, and gave us Martin Luther King Jr. African-Americans suffered centuries of oppression and persecution, by fellow or professing Christians, and they were sustained by their faith in Christ in the Church.

 
American and European missionaries came to Africa, to evangelize “the savages,” and the missionary enterprise went hand-in-hand with imperialism; yet Christianity took root in Africa, and now has grown to the point where the future of Christianity lies in Africa, not the West. The Anglicans, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals are some of the largest and fastest growing Churches in Africa. The Anglican Church in Africa has produced Bishop Desmond Tutu, who is a prophetic voice for our time, and who led the non-violent opposition to Apartheid.

There is a wonderful African-Christian heritage, from the Ethiopian Eunuch to Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu.
 

Haile Selassie on the Holy Bible

WE IN ETHIOPIA HAVE ONE OF THE OLDEST VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE, but however old the version may be, in whatever language it might be written, the Word remains one and the same. It transcends all boundaries of empires and all conceptions of race. It is eternal.

No doubt you all remember reading in the Acts of the Apostles of how Philip baptised the Ethiopian official. He is the first Ethiopian on record to have followed Christ, and from that day onwards the Word of God has continued to grow in the hearts of Ethiopians. And I might say for myself that from early childhood I was taught to appreciate the Bible and my love for it increases with the passage of time. All through my troubles I have found it a cause of infinite comfort.

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11.28)" who can resist an invitation so full of compassion?

Because of this personal experience in the goodness of the Bible, I was resolved that all my countrymen should also share its great blessing and that by reading the Bible they should find truth for themselves. Therefore, I caused a new translation to be made from our ancient language into the language which the old and the young understood and spoke.

Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumbling before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realise that the Bible is his refuge, and the rallying point for all humanity. In it man will find the solution of his present difficulties and guidance for his future action, and unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great Message, he cannot hope for salvation. For my part I glory in the Bible.

-    Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (+1974).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Jesus is the Divine Avatar of My Enlightenment and Liberation


Jesus is the Divine Avatar of my enlightenment and liberation, and I am devoted to Him; His grace will turn all my karma into ashes.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Chanting the Name of the Lord:

Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya

Hare Yesu Hare Yesu Yesu Yesu Hare Hare
Hare Christa Hare Christa Christa Christa Hare Hare.

Om Namah Christaaya (I bow to the Christ, the Anointed One, or, I worship the living presence of the Anointed One).

Om Ishaaya Christaaya (Lord and Christ we worship you)

Namo Namaste Christo Namaste (Christ we adore you)

Om Namah Kristaya
Om Sri Yesu Bhagavate Namah
Yesu Om

A Nest, not a Cage

Perhaps the most influential spiritual teacher in my own personal life is the late Bede Griffiths, of blessed memory.

Bede was truly a holy man, and challenged us to go beyond religion to God. One of his favorite verses of sacred writing is from the Hindu tradition:

I know that Great Person of the brightness of the sun beyond the darkness. Only by knowing him one goes beyond death. There is no other way to go.  — Svetasvatara


One of the metaphors that Bede used for religion was that of a bird's nest. Religion in this metaphor is like the bird's nest, it nurtures us, and helps to give us our start in the spiritual life; but then, like a bird, we must grow up out of religion, and fly away into the vastness of sky that is God.


But often religion instead of a nest, becomes a cage; it traps us and keeps us from growing up and flying away on our own. Sometimes the gatekeepers of religion are like a jealous mother bird, who does not want the young birds to grow up, but to keep them imprisoned in a cage.


But we are meant to grow up. Religion helps us on our spiritual life, but eventually, we must grow up, and fly away into that vast expanse that is God, for God is infinitely beyond religion.


Father Bede's successor at the Holy Trinity Ashram in India is Brother John Martin Sahajananda, OSBCam. Brother Martin wrote a wonderful book, You are the Light: Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus. In this book, he further develops the Nest and Cage metaphor, and relates many other beautiful ideas about spirituality and realizing our oneness with God.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Brother Martin: Jesus Liberates from Religion

Jesus is always there to liberate people from the cage of religion. - Brother John Martin Sahajananda, in his book, You Are the Light: Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Teach Me to Fish in Deepest Waters


"Teach me to fish for Thee in the deepest waters of my soul." - Yogananda Paramahansa

“I call to remembrance my song, and in the night I commune with mine own heart, and search out my spirit" - Psalm 77.6, Coverdale

Buddhism and Christianity

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama

The Famous theologian Paul Tillich said that the meeting of Buddhism and Christianity would lead to a spiritual revolution.


Paul Tillich


In the 20th Century, several notable representatives of both faiths of worked to make this meeting happen.


John C.H. Wu


Wu Ching-hsiung, also known as John C. H. Wu, was an author, lawyer, juristic philosopher, educator, and prominent Catholic layman. He was president of the Special High Court at Shanghai, Wu translated the Psalms and the New Testament into Chinese.


Although he converted from Buddhism to Catholicism, he did not reject his Buddhist heritage. He translated the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 1, "In the beginning was the TAO, and the TAO was with God, and the TAO was God." As a Christian, he wrote a great book called The Golden Age of Zen, and made one of the most authoritative translations of the Tao Te Ching.


He served as Chinese minister to the Holy See (1947-48). Wu authored and translated numerous books and articles on many subjects including Religion, Philosophy and Law.


Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, the Roman Catholic Monk, was very interested in the affinities between Christian and Eastern Mysticism, particularly Buddhism. He was friends with both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and wrote several books on the relationship between Christian and Buddhist spirituality, including Mystics and Zen MastersZen and the Birds of Appetite, and his Asian Journal.  He died in Thailand, where he was addressing a meeting of Christian and Buddhist Monks. 


The Dalai Lama and Bede Griffiths


Bede Griffiths, the English Benedictine who led a Christian Ashram in India, was an exponent of deep ecumenism, and taught that all religions had the same Reality "at the center." Bede engaged in dialog with Buddhists and met with the Dalai Lama. Bede brought Buddhist teachers from both the Zen and Theravadan traditions into his Christian Ashram to teach meditation techniques.


The Dalai Lama himself led the John Main Seminar for the World Community of Christian Meditation in September of 1994. A book based on the seminar, The Good Heart, was released, with portions of the Dalai Lama's talks and dialog from other seminar participants. Most the Dalai Lama's comments were his reflections, from the viewpoint of  a Buddhist, on select readings from the Christian Gospel.


Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Master and popular Buddhist writer and speaker. Influenced in part by the social action in Christianity, he champions "engaged Buddhism," which seeks to combine Buddhist mindfulness and awareness with social justice. Th?y, as he is affectionately called, says that on his own personal altar in France he has images of both Christ and Buddha, and he wrote two books on the relationship and affinities of Christianity and Buddhism, one the classic, Living Buddha, Living Christ, and the other Going Home, Christ and Buddha as Brothers. He notes that as Christians take refuge in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. He makes a connection between Buddhist mindfulness and the Holy Spirit.


In summary, Christ and Buddha indeed are brothers. Both teach wisdom and compassion, both lead the way to peace- within ourselves and in the world. We Christians and Buddhist can learn from each other.


When I was in undergrad, I took a class with a Unitarian Universalist Minister who also was a therapist with a Jungian orientation. It was at that time I was reading a lot on Buddhism, and was very interested in Thich Nhat Hanh's engaged Buddhism. My professor gave me this formula "contemplation + awareness = liberation." In other words, our meditation practices should not take us out of the world, but help equip us for engaging the world. The first step to justice and world peace is to find peace within ourselves. Christ and Buddha both show us how to seek peace.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Beggar Condemns the Priest: “You are responsible! You are the Criminal!” - Brother John Martin Sahajananda, OSBCam


After trying to be some kind of Christian nearly all of my adult life, changing churches and modes of theology and spirituality several times, I have come to realize that the spiritual teachers I admire most are Bede Griffiths (+ 1993) and his disciple, Brother John Martin Sahajananda of the Shantivanam Ashram in India. Their teaching resonates with me, makes the most sense to me. I recently have had an experience in which I encountered the Life Force, the Spirit of God, outside of the confines of religion. I find the teachers of the Shantivanam Ashram can speak to this experience whereas much religious teaching cannot.  
I treasure Brother Martin’s book from 2003, You are the Light: Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus. It is a powerful and moving teaching on our status as children of God.
Below is a brief excerpt from Brother Martin’s book, about the encounter he had with a poor beggar girl and the impact it had upon him.
Although Brother Martin’s book is not about liberation theology, I feel this piece represents liberation theology at its best and most spiritual. One of the implications of Brother Martin’s teaching on non-duality is that we are all connected, and responsible for each other, and that our choices as affluent people directly impact our brothers and sisters in the world.
-         Lance 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
One evening, I was going for a walk, when something unusual happened to me. Whenever I walked out, I would come across many beggars asking for help and I would feel pity for them, and give them whatever I could give. But on this occasion a girl of 10 years came up to me, stretched out her hand with an empty bowl, begging for something. Her condition was pathetic. Her eyes had sunk inside her sockets. Her stomach was empty, as if she had not eaten properly for days. With her torn clothes, she was half naked. Her bowl was empty. Confronted by this a new revelation came to me.
In front of her empty bowl I found myself with pockets full of money.
In front of her empty stomach I found myself with a full stomach.
In front of her insecure life, living on the footpaths, I found myself living a secure life with all of the luxuries. 
In front of her orphaned and uncared for life, I found myself in a well-cared for life.
In front of her half-naked body I found myself with cloths and fully covered.
Then I felt a kind of call:
            The empty bowl is calling to the full pockets, “fill me.”
            The empty stomach is calling to the full stomach, “feed me.”
            The insecure life is calling to the well-secure life, “give me security.” 
            The uncared for life is calling to the well cared for life, “care for me, love me.”
            The half naked body is calling to the fully covered body, “Cover me.”

The material emptiness was calling to the material fullness, but the material fullness had no life to flow spontaneously. I did not know what to do. I felt myself standing like a criminal in front of a judge who was condemning me.
            Your pockets are responsible for my empty bowl.
            Your huge buildings are responsible for my desolate life on the footpaths.
            Your cared for life is responsible for my uncared for life.
            Your well-dressed body is responsible for my nakedness.
            You are responsible. You are responsible. You are the criminal. You are the criminal.

My ears resounded with these words. I felt as if she was the prophetess sent by God to open my eyes. I could not bear any more. I took two rupees from my pocket and placed it into the empty bowl of the little girl. When the girl saw the two rupees, there was joy in her face. She slowly turned and started going. But I still heard the words, even as she left:
            “You are responsible. You are responsible. You are the criminal. You are the criminal.”
This was not just an encounter between the little girl and me. It was an encounter between two classes of society of which we were only representatives. As an individual I came from a poor family, but as a seminarian, I belonged to the official church, I was rich. It was an encounter between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the powerless, the able and the disabled, the masters and the slaves, the secure and the insecure, the employer and the employee. It made a deep impression on me. I felt as if millions of these helpless people were standing on the side of the road, mocking me, saying, “See here goes the criminal! See, here goes the criminal!” Even today whenever I see a beggar I hear the same words.
That evening I began to reflect on the incident. Am I responsible for the suffering of my millions of brothers and sisters in the world? I slowly realized that I am responsible for them, because I am not an isolated individual but part and parcel of a system that exists. In choosing my own options, either political or economic, I choose for the whole of humanity and not just for myself. My decisions, my choices, my options affect the lives of my fellow human beings. I realized I had been committing a mortal sin against my fellow human beings by separating myself from them.

-         Brother John Martin Sahanjananda, OSBCam, from his book, You are the Light: Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus, 2003, O Books, pages 28-30.

You can read more of Brother John Martin here:

Unfortunately, Brother Martin’s books is out of print, but you may find and order a used copy here: