Does Cardinal Burke have enough rings on to celebrate the Mass? What about Steve Bannon?

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Cardinal Ray Burke has been critical of the Pope lately.

Certainly there are different ways in which one might celebrate the beautiful history and riches of our faith, and think and teach about the Church.

For example, while I love Vatican II and the “New Pentecost” that is happening in the Church today, I also appreciate the celebration of the Mass in the ancient Latin, a tradition of almost two millennia.

There is no reason that we cannot celebrate both the old and the new, if we are truly celebrating authentic realities of the Church.

The “ancient” certainly has its treasures. For example, priests who are authentic exorcists have noted that the use of Latin in the Rite of Exorcism is quite effective, and that the demons seem to be genuinely dislodged by it. The Latin hits them hard. Perhaps this is because the Latin liturgy was the sole liturgical language for 1500 years. That is a lot of positive spiritual history. How many millions upon millions of prayers, psalms, songs, and Gospel proclamations have been wonderfully proclaimed by the Church in Latin? This is a great contribution to our human evolution in the Holy Spirit. Plus, the demons hate it.

However, Latin is not the only way. The great ancient monks of Egypt, who spoke mostly Coptic and Greek, also have immensely helped our spiritual evolution forward and have removed many demons from human history. And the monks of Mount Athos. And the monks of Russia. And the monks of South Korea. And every lay person, every member of our Living Church of the last 2000 years. They too, and all of us, are a huge part of the immense legacy of good that is our Beloved Tradition.

How grateful we can be to the Church. Gratitude, yes, for all of the Church’s languages and peoples.

However, in his misguided attacks on Pope Francis, Burke resorts to strange tactics and funny partners.

As we know, one of the great things that our current Pontiff has done is to remind the world of our ancient and immediate need to care for the poor.

Why does Pope Francis preach this?

Because, first, the poor are noble beings in themselves. Jesus identifies with the poor. (See the Gospel of Matthew, 25:31-46.)

Second: Because caring for the poor unites our community in the most profound ways. A community that is truly caring for the most outcast is a community that is vigorously strong, a community that is living in charity and thinking of fellowship. A community that is as alive as it can be. Psalm 72 notes how the idyllic leader of israel is most concerned about helping those in society who are the most hurting.

Why?

Because then, the living intelligent earth will know that we, who are, as St. Paul says, earthen vessels with the Holy Spirit within us, yes, the earth will respond joyfully when the human community is living in harmony, when the least are cared for. When the most underprivileged in the community are finally loved and given their place, then, the community will actually be at its very best. In fact, even in ancient Hebrew, we people can all be considered to be “adam,” that is, human. We spring from the “adamah,” which is the earth. We, “adam,” are all connected to the earth, “adamah.” We are all earthlings. With a special indwelling of God’s Spirit within us.

Today, with our advances, we can finally stop hunger and poverty, globally. And the Earth, the physical planet itself, will rejoice when we have done so. (This is also how deeper forms of Koinonia may obtain on earth.)

So why is Cardinal Burke courting an alliance with someone who praises Satan, that is, Steve Bannon?

Now, I understand that Cardinal Burke doesn’t have many friends in the Church any more, because they recognize that Pope Francis is so good and is in harmony with the Holy Spirit so deeply and clearly.

True, Pope Francis does not wear as many rings as Cardinal Burke, nor does Pope Francis have little people behind him carrying his miters and meters of silken liturgical vestments, as Cardinal Burke does.

But the entire Catholic Church, and the World, love Pope Francis.

He is good. He is holy. This is clear to see.

His goodness and his holiness spring largely from his decades of self-giving service to the poorest of the poor in the barrios (slums, ghettoes) of Buenos Aires.

He is simply authentic.

He is true.

Pope Francis is alive with the Holy Spirit of God.

 

Back to Cardinal Burke. In his quest to topple the Pope, who is a gift from God, the Cardinal has had to search outside the Church. And one of his apparent new allies is Steve Bannon, who would like nothing better than to start World War III, a war which could end all life on planet Earth.

And recently, in November, Steve Bannon expressed his admiration for Satan. And Dick Cheney was included in his homage too. (Doubtless, Cardinal Burke, you remember Dick Cheney; he led us into the God-Awful War Upon the Human Beings of Iraq. All was not lost, however, in that evil conflict—happily, Halliburton turned a nice profit.)

Here is the link to the CNN coverage of Bannon’s praise of Satan: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/politics/steve-bannon-donald-trump-hollywood-reporter-interview/index.html

And here is the link to Business Insider’s article reporting this: http://www.businessinsider.com/steve-bannon-donald-trump-satan-darth-vader-2016-11

In conclusion, I gently offer a reminder to Cardinal Burke, that Satan is not who we are supposed to worship. No. We want to avoid such evil. Instead, the Church teaches us to do what is good. We Catholics worship God.

Cardinal Burke, you are a canon lawyer. Do your law books and codices agree with this? I stand confident in my faith in God. But if you peruse your rule books for reassurance, I’m hopeful that you’ll find in them that we worship God, not Satan.

And it is the Love of God that we Catholics then strive to share with all of our brothers and sisters, of all authentic religions and ways, in every land. And in our efforts to do precisely this, Pope Francis has been a wonderful shepherd and teacher for all of us, a true gift of God.

Chiastic Circuits at the Beginning and End of the Four Gospels

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St. John the Divine is doing yet another amazing thing in his Gospel.

John, the last of the four Evangelists, sends a salute of brotherhood and respect to that great midrashic exegete and author of the first Gospel, St. Matthew. And in an echo of one of Matthew’s great literary maneuvers, John finishes his Gospel with a technique that draws all four Gospels into a harmonious set.

In the New Testament (which Christians and Muslims, and others, read), there are four Gospels. The Qur’an refers to the Gospel as the Injeel.

The canonical order of the Gospels, the order found in every Bible, is: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars are in deep agreement that John’s Gospel is the last of the Gospels to be written; the author of this Gospel had the other Gospels “on his desk,” so to speak; he knew them intimately. In fact, the author of John’s Gospel is in deep dialogue with the preceding three Gospels. Further, the fact that these three first Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are already written when he is writing, allows John to go in new directions, and speak of new developments, developments that have already occurred in the brief time since the first three Gospels were written. (The first three Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are called the ‘Synoptic’ Gospels, that is, Gospels written with the “same eye,” because much of the material in these Gospels is shared between them. Even if this label is not entirely accurate—these three Gospels have unique styles and very different emphases—the label does serve a purpose in showing their many connections, and also, in showing that John is breaking radically new ground.) Some tentative dates of the Gospels are: Matthew, …….; Mark, ………; Luke, …………; and lastly, John, ……….. .

So we have four beautiful, mystical Gospels.

John, writing last, has placed many obvious, and many faint, connections to the preceding Gospels in his own masterpiece. Through these connections, he carries on conversations with the previous Gospels, and also uses them as a springboard from which he soars to dazzling new heights.

Of the many ways in which he speaks to the three earlier Gospels, here is a new discovery:

In the last ….chapters of his Gospel, John hiddenly, but now, clearly, makes very many intentional connections to the first ………….. chapters of the canonically first Gospel, Matthew.

These powerful connections have many meanings.

-They draw the four Gospels into a cohesive unit. This is accomplished by the chiastic connections, the matching bookends, that John places on either side of these four books.

-These connections develop the Red Line of Hope.

-These connections teach about our human future. By developing metaphor, they show the way to human evolution.

One note before getting to the direct comparison between the early chapters of Matthew and the later chapter of John: John’s Gospel initially ended at Chapter 20. Some time later, Chapter 21 was added. Our discussion will consider both of these wondrous chapters.

Here is a brief list, without developed explanation, of what these connections and intentional echoes are:

1) As mentioned many times above, the New Testament begins with the Red Line of Hope: The four women of the Red Line of Hope (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba) are mentioned in the first 6 verses of Matthew’s Gospel. And no other women are mentioned, until, at the end of the chapter, we arrive at Mary.

There is a parallel list of women at John 19:25, near Jesus’ Crucifixion (recall that it is at the Crucifixion that Jesus achieves the great integration of humanity, which is achieved by the Beloved Disciple taking “into himself” the Feminine, literally, the mother of Jesus.

These three or four women are “the mother of him, and the sister of the mother of him, Mary (the one) of Clopas, and Mary the Magdalene.” Some scholars believe that there are only three women in the list, considering “the sister of the mother of him, Mary (the one) of Clopas” to be one woman, not two.

If there are four women, then, regarding names, there is an exact parallel to Matthew 1:3-6, where three of the four women are named. Recall that Bathsheba is unnamed, but is clearly referred to as “(the one) of Uriah.” In John 19, we have three women named: all are named “Mary.” (The mother of Jesus is not actually named, but we automatically think of ‘Mary’ with her as well.) The sharing of the same name is perhaps a sign of the profound unity to be shared by all women, both now and in the future. The unnamed sister of Mary may be an invitation of every woman to become a sister to Mary and to thereby become the newest thread, or branch, of the Red Line of Hope; additionally, to all people, including men, it is an invitation to give birth to Christ in our heart.

So in both accounts we have 3 named women and 1 unnamed woman. Additionally, we have one occurrence of a man’s name, which is another form of identifying a specific woman, in both lists: Matthew speaks of “(the one) of Uriah,” and John mentions “Mary (the one) of Clopas.” There is a further difference between them: the first one is given against the background of birthgiving: “Solomon, from (the one) of Uriah,” Solomonta ek tes tou Ouriou. The later woman, “Mary (the one) of Clopas,” Maria he tou Klopa, has not yet given birth—but at the cross, in a few minutes, there will be a grand birth: an integrated humanity.

There is another important reference to the Red Line of Hope in the culmination of John’s Gospel. It is the tunic (coat) of 19:23. Here is that verse, transliterated: “Then the soldiers when they crucify Jesus took (elabon) the garments of him and they make four parts, to each soldier (a) part, and the tunic was yet the tunic seamless/unsewed from/out of the top woven through whole.”

……….bit of explanation here…..

(There are also connections to the torn jacket of Joseph, who was left for dead by his brothers, who told their Jacob that Joseph had been killed by beasts.)

2) Jesus’ first real public words in the Bible are the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, a tremendous discourse beginning in Matthew 5. He begins that great preaching with the Beatitude word makarioi, which means “blessed” or “happy”; He begins the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor….” (Mt 5:3)

John’s Gospel initially ended at the end of Chapter 20. The final thing that Jesus says in that version of the Gospel is, “Blessed (makarioi) are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.” He says this to Thomas, at the original conclusion of the Gospel. The four Gospels ended with Jesus saying a Beatitude, just as his real first public speech in the Bible begins with a Beatitude.

This forms yet another powerful chiastic balance at the beginning and end of the four Gospels.

Also, there are many more levels of meaning in this single word, makarioi: Recall that this is the main word of the menorahs, the Mystical Psalm Menorahs; and the Hebrew version of this word is ashre. So the Gospels begin and end in the light of the Word, which celebrates the hidden realities of the Old Testament’s Psalm Structures. John’s Gospel’s Prologue says that “all things” came into being through the Logos, through Christ. The Gospels celebrate the ancient beauties of the Hebrew Scriptures being brought to a far greater fullness in their life-giving frame and conduit, the Logos. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Ego eimi ho phos tou kosmou, I am the light of the world.” In the first chapter of Revelation, the Son of Man (Jesus) is surrounded by menorahs. Jesus is the menorah, and he wants us to be the branches; just as John’s Gospel says that he is the vine, and we are the branches.

(Notes: See also Rev 22, so 2 sets of chiastic enclosures.)

3) The first word of the New Testament is Biblos, which can be translated as “book.” The same word appears at both of the two endings of John’s Gospel. At the finale of Chapter 20 there is biblioi, book. And at the end of Chapter 21 there is biblia, books, speaking of something like “all the books in the world.” Biblia is the final word of the final version of the Gospel of John, just as Biblos is the first word of the Gospel of Matthew. (Some manuscripts have a concluding “Amen,” but many manuscripts do not, and end with the word “Biblia.”)

4) Twins.

Twins emerging and returning.

The twins Perez and Zerah, and their mother Tamar, are mentioned in the third verse of the New Testament (Matthew 1:3). The Red Line of Hope was attached by the midwife to the wrist of emerging Zerah, who then momentarily pulls his hand back into the womb of his mother, Tamar. So the Red Line of Hope literally begins in the womb of Tamar.

The name of the Apostle Thomas, so prominent in Chapter 20, the original conclusion of John’s Gospel, is ta’am in Hebrew, and means “twin.” Just to make sure we don’t miss this, John also gives the Greek nickname of Didymus, “Twin,” to Thomas. A double emphasis of something in the Bible means that it is very important indeed.

Just as in Chapter 19 the mother of Jesus is literally taken into the Beloved Disciple, so in Chapter 20 Thomas places his hand into the side of Jesus, another sign of deep integration, and a conclusion of a long journey that spanned vast millennia and vital parts of our human evolution.

Then, it is to Thomas and to everyone that Jesus says his final words of the Bible, the final Beatitude (until Chapter 21 was later added).

It is interesting that the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas, found in Nag Hammadi in Egypt, forms a good brother of the four canonical Gospels. It is also an important fact in Salvation History that Pope Benedict XVI taught classes, while Pope, on the Gospel of Thomas, and encourages us to read this exquisitely beautiful book, a gift to us from the sands of the desert of Egypt.

5) egennethe; Mt 1:16, John 16:21

This word concerns “birth.” Many terms related to “birth” appear in the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel; 8 different words for “birth” appear in the first 3 chapters of Matthew, and these various forms of this word family appear 49 times therein, many of them in the long genealogy that begins the Gospel.

One of the words for birth appears in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, at John 16:21. “The woman when she bears, grief has, because her hour has come; but when she brings forth the child (paidion), no longer does she remember the distress, because of the joy that an adult person (anthropos) was born (egennethe) into the world.”

This same word, egennethe, appears just once in the early chapters of Matthew: “And Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mariam, out of who was born (egennethe) Jesus, the (one) called Christ.”

Jesus Christ is many things, means many things, and effects many things. In Matthew, a baby is born. Developing the same word, the same person, John speaks of the birth of a mature, integrated Humanity.

The suffering woman of John 16:21 can be all the women of the Red Line of Hope, and all women in history, who have helped our Human development and evolution forward, who have given love to Humanity.

6) Twins and the Order of Appearance.

Above we discussed Thomas as a twin, who initially appeared without a twin brother. It was more the concept of “twin.” ……………

Now we’ll discuss two sets of twins. Matthew’s Gospel mentions both Perez and Zerah; and we’ll also discuss the powerful balance between Peter and the Beloved Disciple (whom many think is John the Evangelist, John the brother of the disciple James).

When Tamar gave birth to her twins, Zerah partially appeared first, then disappeared again, and Perez was born first, followed by Zerah, who wore the Red Line of Hope on his wrist.

In John 20, informed by Mary Magdalene about the empty tomb, Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John) race to the tomb. John arrives there first. But he does not go in. Peter arrives and goes in. Then John goes in. “And he believed!” (This is probably a gnostic reference to the enlightenment of John: It is as if the text is saying, “No, John had already believed; now he KNEW.” He had achieved a new level of relationship with the Holy Spirit of Jesus; he was vastly more enlightened. Bruno Barnhart said “Gnosis is faith experienced.” This verse symbolizes John becoming a true man of knowledge, and beginning a new chapter of his life of faith.

We see how the motions of John and Peter echo the motions of Perez and Zerah:

“Zerah (partially) then Perez then Zerah”, at their birth.

“John   (partially) then Peter then John” , entering the tomb/womb to new life.

Incidentally, the factor of time and chronological order is also in the story of Thomas, who doubted. All the other disciples saw the Resurrected Jesus first. Thomas did not believe. A week later, he saw Jesus, and he believed.

Additionally, in John’s Gospel, Peter sometimes represents the institutional qualities of the Church; our Church gives birth to spiritual growth, and John represents one such person who has achieved radical spiritual growth, who might (wrongly) be thought to move into “pure spirituality,” beyond the confines of Church rules and rubrics—but this would be prideful, and also wrong. The Church is the Body of Christ, and if a person is a mystic, it is through the Grace of the Church. But mystics don’t scorn the Church who gave them birth; rather, they love the Church and help the Church in her difficult times of her struggles right smack in the middle of the busy world. John shows respect and obedience to Peter (the Church), and humbly waits for Peter to arrive and to enter first. Peter became a mystic and a conduit of miracles himself, of course.

The interplay between Peter and John is a fascinating motif of John’s Gospel, which we cannot discuss further here.

It should not be surprising if we hear motifs and themes from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) reverberating in multiple different characters and situations of the New Testament. Bruno Barnhart once said, “John’s Gospel works in many ways.” Paul said that we are all parts of each other. This is especially true in each of the individual women of John’s Gospel, who sometimes have powerful reflections of multiple women of the Hebrew Scriptures’ portion of the Red Line of Hope.

 

The above 6 chiastic connections between the early chapters of Matthew and the later chapters of John are among the more important of these chiasms.

The following connections are developed more quickly and briefly here. It is hoped that a longer treatment will be given to them in the future.

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7) Myrrh.

Those of us who have just celebrated Christmas know that myrrh was one of the gifts of the Three Wise Men who visited the Babe in Matthew. In John 19, Nicodemus brings 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to anoint the body of the crucified Jesus. Again we here echoes of growth, evolution, and development. This myrrh is at the beginning and the end of the life of Jesus. The Mystical Psalm Menorahs also speak of human development, both the spans of individual lives and the long arc of human development as a global family. The number 100 is connected with the 9-branch menorah too. 100 has 9 factors. Only square numbers have an odd number of factors. 10 is the median factor, and is the shamash in this hidden picture. Perhaps this is why Jesus uses the numbers 30, 60, and 100 in the Parable of the Sower, which is the first and the Prototype of the Parables.

8) Mouth: Word and Spirit.

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus “opens his mouth” to speak. This is the same phrase that Lady Wisdom does in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible (Old Testament).

Lady Wisdom also was born from the mouth of God, like a mist. ….

In John’s Gospel, at the end of his public ministry, when Jesus is crucified and about to die, he gets vinegar raised to his “mouth”; he then bows his head and delivers up the Spirit/breath. (John 19:29-30)

However, in the Resurrection of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and breathes onto them the gift, the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)

9) King.

There are various kings mentioned in the early chapters of Matthew. At the crucifixion in John, Jesus has the word “King” on a sign above his head.

10) “Translated”.

The word “translated” appears in the beginning of Matthew and the end of John. This indicates that God likes all people, and that the words of Scripture can be translated into all languages.

11) Joseph.

Matthew says that Joseph is the human foster-father of Jesus.

In John, Jesus’ human father is not mentioned. However, at the crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea boldly goes to Pilate to request the body of Jesus, and buries Jesus in his own new tomb. We have already discussed the tomb as being similar to the womb, especially the womb of Tamar in Genesis 38. The tomb is a sort of womb to Resurrection life, to a birth into Paradise. There are faint echoes of Mary and Joseph here. And there are strong echoes of the Earth giving birth from her womb, to a greater apprehension of Heaven for us.

Here, at the very end of Jesus’ life, a father figure arrives who gives Jesus his own life, metaphorically. How many fathers have done exactly this for their children? Very many.

At the end of this celebration of the Red Line of Hope, John has made a beautiful and fitting tribute to all the fathers of the world.

12) Mystical Teachings.

In the beginning of Matthew and the end of John, there are actual real concrete teachings about how we can communicate, directly and mystically, with the Holy Spirit, but we cannot go into this further here.

13) Relation to authority figures.

The Wise Men, out of good hearts and human protocol, go to the Jewish King Herod to inquire about the birth of the Messiah and to present their credentials. After they visit the newborn Jesus, they have a dream to go back by another route, and they avoid Herod like the plague. Additionally, their continued time in the region had probably made certain facts about that leader quite clear to them.

In John’s Gospel, the leading religious figures of Jerusalem are groupies about the figure of Pontius Pilate. They flock to him. They want to be looked upon favorably by Caesar, whom they say is their king.

14) Travels by night, travels by day.

In Matthew, as just discussed, the Wise Men are woken by a dream and leave another way. They have also traveled at night, in pursuit of the star.

Joseph also has dreams, and journeys at night to avoid Herod.

John will seize upon this and do another Johannine transformation.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both secret disciples, for fear of the Jews. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, initially, to remain hidden and unknown. In Nicodemus’ three appearances in this Gospel, we see him growing in strength and conviction.

At the crucifixion, both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea boldly make their loyalty to Jesus obvious for all to see.

Wise men to Herod; Priests to Pilate; Wise men to child/Joseph, and avoid Herod.

15) Searching for Jesus.

In the early chapters of Matthew, two groups search for Jesus: The Wise Men, to adore Jesus, and Herod and his troops, to kill Jesus (Isa, in Arabic).

In John’s Gospel, in a precious and humorous scene of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene is searching for Jesus out of love. She is the disciple to the disciples.

16) Brothers.

Brothers figure prominently in the beginning of Matthew and the end of John. This may be connected to the theme of twins and evolution, discussed above.

17) Unexpected clothing remarks.

In Matthew 3:4, John the Baptist, who would later be martyred by Herod, is described as wearing a belt of leather around his waist.

In John 21, Peter, who would later by martyred in Rome, is told by the Resurrected Jesus that when he (Peter) was younger, he fastened his own belt, and walked where he wished. But when he grows old, he will stretch his hands out, and another will fasten his belt, and carry him where he does not want to go. “He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.” (John 21:19)

Additionally, the stretching of the hands here is another connection to the beginning of the Red Line of Hope, to Zerah, who literally wore the crimson thread wrapped around his wrist by the midwife who aided Tamar.

18) Taking care of the Feminine, of the Mother

In Matthew 2:13, the Angel of the Lord wakes up Joseph in a dream, and tells him to “Rise up; take (paralabe) the child and the mother of him, and flee into Egypt….” Variations on this phrase occur later in the narrative of the Holy Family in Matthew’s early chapters.

In one of the most important scenes of the Bible, the Crucifixion as described by John, Jesus unites the “mother of him” to the Beloved Disciple, which is can be all male people, or even all humanity. Jesus says that, now, the Beloved disciple is her “son,” and the woman is his “mother.” The Beloved Disciple, “from that hour took (elaben) her,” not to a geographical location, but took her “into his self.” (John 19:26-27)

19) Fulfilled (Scripture).

There are many discussions of the “fulfilling” of Scripture, with words like “plerothei” and others, but we can only offer a partial list here:

Mt: 1:22, 2:15, 17, 23

Jn:   19:24, 28, 36

20) Not knowing, not recognizing.

Matthew says of Joseph that he took Mary as his wife (Gunaika), but “He did not know her (Mary) until she bore her son.” (Matthew 1:25)

So before the birth of Jesus, there was a lack of knowledge. Immediately after Jesus’ Resurrection and emergence from the tomb, in John, there is a similar lack of knowledge on the part of Mary Magdalene: “….and [Mary Magdalene] beholds Jesus standing, and knows not that it is Jesus.” Jesus says to her, “Woman (Gunai), why do you weep? Whom do you seek?” (John 20:14-15) [Also, the verbs for “know” in the two passages here are different verbs, but their meaning can overlap.]

There are other connections. In Genesis 38, Judah does not know that it is Tamar whom he is being intimate with, because she is wearing a veil. When she is discovered some months later to be pregnant, Judah orders her to be killed, an order which is, happily, counteracted by Tamar, who is working with the guidance of the Divine. Judah says, to his credit, “She is more righteous than I.”

In Matthew, we see a fruit of the Red Line of Hope over the course of our Human evolution. This beautiful stage of development is revealed in Joseph. Joseph must have been very surprised when Mary became pregnant. But his first reaction was to protect her. Whereas the Law says that a woman found pregnant out of wedlock should be stoned.

The growth of Mercy in Humanity, and in Joseph, allowed for the Messiah to be born. Like Tamar, Joseph is also called a “just” person.

The Mercy of Joseph, and of Humanity, is one of the culminations of the Bible.

21) In Matthew 5:44, Jesus suggests that we love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.

In John 20:23, Jesus, after having given them the Holy Spirit, gives the disciples the ability to forgive sins, or to retain them.

22) Sins.

Both Gospels discuss this, usually referring to the forgiveness of them.

23) God with us.

Both Gospels discuss this.

24) Whole/All

Both Gospels discuss these concepts.

25) Tree, fire, branches

26) Matthew mentions “his brother John.” (Mt 4:2)

John’s Gospel has myriad references to Matthew’s Gospel.

27) Feminine Turn and Spirit Turn

Joseph immediately wants to protect Mary (Feminine Turn)

This child of Holy Spirit (Spirit Turn), as well as Joseph’s new relationship w God

 

‘John’ took her, from that hour, into himself (Feminine Turn)

Entered tomb and believed; that is, he KNEW (Spiritual Turn); gentle euphemism

-this is related to initial ending of John’s Gospel, end of Ch 20, and interesting Beatitude that Jesus says, about believing (which is also possibly to be understood as KNOWING, a subtle reference to gnostic faith; Bruno: “Gnosis is faith experienced.”).

-Mark’s Gospel may have been recited at Baptism, and it ends w empty tomb (again, its original ending, not the verses that were added later; there too, in Mark 16, there is a ‘soft eruption’ of the Feminine). ……….. In John’s Gospel, the empty tomb is speaking, for the Beloved Disciple, of Spiritual Baptism, and incorporation into the Body of Christ in a conscious and Spiritual way. Of course, the “first Baptism” that Mark’s Gospel may have been used for is open to that possibility, and knows of it, the Spiritual or “second Baptism,” as well.

Thomas seeing, reentering adam through rib cage (Feminine Re-Turn)

Thomas exclaiming, My Lord and My God (Spirit Turn………)

-this brings us to ring structures:

-Psalms 5 & 145: My King and My God

-John 1 & 20: Son of God/King of Israel; My Lord and My God

-Qur’an Surah 1 & 114; names of Allah-God

The Final Image of the Church Year

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A mystical fruit tree stands at the final hours of the Church Year.

Today is the last day of the year for many a Christian Church. Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent, which is also the beginning of the new Liturgical Year.

A fruit tree, the Tree of Life, is on the final page of the Bible, Revelation 22, and it appears in today’s Readings; these are the year’s final readings.

In this final image of the Bible we have a wonderful merging of metaphor: There is a crisp, clear river of the water of life, a street in Paradise, and this miraculous Tree of Life, which seems to appear on both sides of the river/street, and which gives fruit one time each month, 12 times per year. Here is a part of the reading from Revelation 22:

“An angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [power is evidently shared equally in heaven] down the middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit 12 times per year, according to the month one each yielding its fruit. And the leaves of the trees serve as healing medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found anymore . . . . Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign . . . . And the angel said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true, and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, sent (apesteile) his angel to show his servants what must happen with speed. Behold, I am coming speedily. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this scroll’.”

The words in italics discuss the Tree of Life and its fruit. Both the exact form of the tree, and the exact distribution of its fruit (in 12 kinds?) are not easy to describe precisely, as the original text (Greek) seems to be deliberately imprecise. The one tree may have 12 parts, but then, to make the picture (and the tree) more multi-faceted, the 12 parts of the tree go under the street and the river and have exact counterparts on the other side. This being the case, the one tree has 24 main parts. The tree might look like this, viewed from an aerial vantage point (imagine the river and the street running between the left and right sides of the tree):

12                   12

11                    11

10                   10

9                      9

8                      8

7                      7

6                      6

5                       5

4                      4

3                       3

2                       2

1                        1

Of course, this is the same shape as the Mystical Psalm Ladder. So the final image of the Book of Revelation, and of the entire Bible, is the Mystical Psalms Ladder. This is important. Additionally, the brief discussion of the Tree of Life in the text is full of connections to Psalm 1, the beginning of the Book of Psalms. Psalm 1 speaks of a tree, its fruit, its leaves, and the yielding of its fruit at its proper time, just as this Revelation text does.

In fact, if there is an orderly progression of the fruit from 1 to 12, then we see a blooming of fruit imitating the steps of a person climbing of the Ladder, in measured intervals of time (12 months, once per month), from bottom to top. Like a pulsating rainbow of ribbons and bands of brightly colored fruit.

This text has connections to many more passages in the Bible. The word “Blessed,” makarios, is both the first word of Jesus’ first public teaching, the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, and it is the first word of Psalm 1 (ashre in the Hebrew).

Also, after an unusual conversation with Nathaniel at the end of John 1, Jesus says, “Behold, you will see greater things than this. You will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (future of humanity, child of humanity).” (John 1:51) This is one of the clearest allusions in the New Testament to the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

Thus, we see that this final word of the Bible has powerful connections to at least three (3) beginnings in the Bible: 1) Jesus’ first preaching in the Bible, at the Beatitudes, and 2) the beginning of John’s Gospel, and 3) the first Psalm of the Book of Psalms. Indeed, this ending image of the Bible joyfully celebrates beginnings. Perhaps we shall always be growing into new beginnings. (A 4th and obvious connection would be to the trees in the Garden of Eden, in the first chapters of Genesis.)

Today’s Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 95. It urges us to joyfully sing, with each other, songs to God, which is exactly what the Psalms do. Psalm 95 ends on a mysterious note, with the Promised Land being cut off from the weary traveling Hebrews of the Exodus. But this could be a form of ancient Semitic humor, such as we find in the final verse of Psalm 147 at the end of the Psalter (Book of Psalms). It’s just a matter of time before all the saints come marching in. (It’s probably the case that God wants everybody to be at the final party, and won’t take “no” for an answer (although some might require some difficult purgation and cleansing).) And it will be fairly impossible not to be happy once one has arrived. In fact, yesterday’s Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 84, perhaps the most central Psalm of the Psalter, and a Ladder Psalm. It celebrates pilgrimage and arriving at the destination: the New Jerusalem. And Psalm 84 has more appearances of the Beatitude term “Blessed/Happy,” ashre, which is in Psalm 84 three (3) times, more than any other Psalm.

Tomorrow, the First Sunday of Advent, has some wonderful readings, the first of which is from the Prophet Isaiah. This first text of the New Church Year speaks of Jerusalem, and of our climbing/ascending to a transformed, revitalized Jerusalem. This famous text from the second chapter of Isaiah also mentions that swords and spears shall be transformed into plowshares and pruning hooks. “One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2:4)

This is speaking of an evolved humanity, a humanity that has learned how to love. A Humanity that has learned to see the Other, that has learned how to say “I and Thou.” This is our true pilgrimage, our true goal, our true Jerusalem.

These are intimations of paradise on earth. And we as humans, in God, can begin to achieve this. God clearly is leading us to such a “place.”

The reading from Isaiah concludes, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

Owen Dodson’s Knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures Revealed in “Powerful Long Ladder”

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This is the first of two introductory essays that will discuss Owen Dodson’s Powerful Long Ladder, and show how this volume of poetry is in deep dialogue with the Psalms and with William Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

However, there is a difficulty. Dodson’s poetry is so powerful, and the dialogue with both the Psalms and the Mystical Psalm Structures is so intricate and profound, that I purpose to begin with a small section of his book in this first brief essay, and then, after having made some relatively basic observations, proceed to the more massive part of the task at hand in the second essay. (Additionally, the next essay shall serve as more of an introduction to Dodson and his work.)

The Book of Psalms of the Bible comes to us in 5 parts. The final redactors (editors) of the Psalms almost certainly did this intentionally. On the one hand, it echoes the division of the Torah (Pentateuch, 5 Books of Moses) into 5 books. And Psalm 1 mentions the Torah twice. Therefore, the Psalms are recommending themselves to intertextuality, that is, to conversation with other texts. The Book of Psalms is saying that the Psalms, or any book of Scripture, is meant to be in living dialogue with other books of Scripture. Without experiencing this powerful but often hidden dialogue with other books, we miss huge realms of meaning within the Scriptures.

This is perhaps why Owen Dodson’s incomparable Powerful Long Ladder is also given to us in 5 books, 5 sections. That Dodson is speaking directly to David and the Psalms is clear from the fact that he quotes the Psalms several times, alludes to them many other times, mentions the memorizing of the Psalter (Book of Psalms), and has a poem entitled Jonathan, who was the best friend of David, the mythical author of the Psalms.

Dodson, who knew the Bible extremely well, would have, with his poetic mind and acting skills, have been very attracted to the Psalms, those amazing poem-prayer-songs.

Another person who was both an actor and a poet was William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s entire main book of poetry, his Sonnets (which number 154), are also in a hidden dialogue with the 150 Psalms of the Bible.

And Owen Dodson broke the code. He broke several codes.

He knew the Mystical Psalm Structures. And he knew, profoundly, what Shakespeare was secretly doing in his Sonnets.

Dodson’s knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures will be more fully discussed in the next essay.

In this essay, I shall focus on the central section, the 3rd of 5 parts, of Powerful Long Ladder. This central section is entitled Poems for My Brother Kenneth. There are nine (9) poems in this part of the book, and they are simply titled by Roman numerals, from I to IX.

One more poem is connected to this group. After the 3rd part of the book, the 4th part of the book is entitled All This Review. And the first poem of this section is Countee Cullen. (The poet Countee Cullen was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.) For reasons that shall become obvious, this poem is connected powerfully not only to its own Part 4 of the book, but also to the 9 poems that make up Part 3 of the book.

This essay shall consider only these 10 poems. (There are 48 poems in Dodson’s entire book, and some of them, in other sections, are quite longer than those that we shall be discussing here.)

The Interwoven Menorahs

of the

Mystical Psalm Structures

Dodson and Shakespeare are both aware of the Mystical Psalm Structures that are hidden in the Book of Psalms. One of these hidden realities is the Interwoven Menorahs. These are two candelabras, menorahs of 9 branches each, that are intertwined with each other. These amazing menorahs are hidden in the Psalms. They were placed there not by human redactors (editors), but by the Holy Spirit.

The following essay introduces the Mystical Psalm Structures, and in its discussion of the Interwoven Menorahs, discusses Jesus’ Beatitudes:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

One of the amazing features of the Interwoven Menorahs is that in the 18 Psalms that form the 2 menorahs (9 Psalms form the 9 branches of each menorah), there is a 350% greater appearance of the word “light” than in the other 132 Psalms of the Psalter. This is an amazing statistic, especially because “light” goes well with candles. Additionally, these 18 Psalms emphasize loving couples, children, families, and community.

The 9 poems of the central section of Powerful Long Ladder dialogue with, and re-present, the Mystical Psalm Menorahs.

But there is much more. Jesus’ first real, public words in the Bible are the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7, and this great discourse begins with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes, therefore, are Jesus first real public words. And what he does there is amazing. He re-presents the Mystical Psalm Menorahs in his own words.

Dodson knows what Jesus is doing in the Beatitudes. He knows that Jesus is making a new word-picture of the Interwoven Menorahs.

Dodson does this too. After his 9 central poems have replicated the Interwoven Menorahs of the Psalms, the first poem (Countee Cullen) of section four (All This Review) of his volume imitates and replicates the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The purpose of this essay is to show these 2 maneuvers of Dodson.

The Interwoven Menorahs in the 9 Poems of

Poems for My Brother Kenneth

The menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures have 9 candles each. Powerful Long Ladder has a central section entitled Poems for My Brother Kenneth, and there are 9 poems therein, numbered from I to IX. These poems are making a picture of the Psalm menorahs.

Poem III gives us just a hint of the Menorahs with its phrase, “blow a candle out.” Psalm 112, a Menorah Psalm, shows three of the candles of a menorah being lit, in an artistic way. Dodson is performing a mirroring, opposite action to the Psalms here.

In Poem IV Dodson tips his hand, giving us hints about the languages of the Holy Spirit. In verses 13-14 he says, “There is a new language to learn/ And I am learning like a truant child.” This new language could be that of the Holy Spirit, which we may actually begin to learn in this life. As Dodson knew the Mystical Psalm Structures, and as his life knew much suffering, he most certainly had entered such a direct relationship with the Holy Spirit. Yet Dodson admits that learning this language is either more difficult, or very different, than the kinds of learning he has hitherto engaged in: “And I am learning like a truant child.” What does this mean? He could be chastising himself for playing hooky and missing school. Or, it could mean that the Holy Spirit is teaching him in entirely new ways—as if the Spirit has ordered him to depart from standard paths, to “play hooky” and to skip normal routines, so that the Holy Spirit could have all his attention. The Spirit can be demanding like that.

Or, the “truant child” could mean that on occasion the Holy Spirit browbeats us humans, and reminds us that we have to grow a great deal. We are all like children when we start learning the deeper ways of the Holy Spirit.

The next verse, 15, begins, “I do not understand this code . . . .” Well, it’s clear that Dodson had already learned much of the some codes, because he’s broken codes in the Bible and in Shakespeare. However, as he knows too, there’s always more to learn. Sometimes the communication of the Holy Spirit can be difficult to grasp.

Jumping almost entirely over the first four poems, we shall consider poem V, which is the center of this collection and perhaps the center of the entire book:

 

V

If we had counted all the stars

And made each constellation clear,

I’d recognize more than this spear

Swinging from the solid side of Mars.

 

But when we went, not long ago

Exploring all that silver land,

I would not stay because the snow

Turned ice within my hand.

 

 

Here is the poem again with emphasis placed on words that we’ll discuss:

V

If we had counted all the stars

And made each constellation clear,

I’d recognize more than this spear

Swinging from the solid side of Mars.

 

But when we went, not long ago

Exploring all that silver land,

I would not stay because the snow

Turned ice within my hand.

 

We have 8 lines of poetry here, like the 8 regular branches of the 9-branched menorah. The ninth branch, the movable lighting rod, is called the shamash. And it is clearly present in the word “spear.”

The menorahs may also have sexual imagery. The 8 candles, 4 on each side, are the female sexual organ, and the shamash is the male sexual organ. In the center of the poem is a gap, and, heavily swinging next to this gap, is “this spear/ Swinging from the solid side of Mars.” This is the center of the poem, the section, and perhaps the entire book, Powerful Long Ladder. As we’ll discuss in the next essay, the “Ladder” can be seen as feminine too.

Back to the spear and the partition, or gap. After the “spear,” i.e., the lighting rod or shamash, lights the menorah’s candles, it is returned to its own place, which is often in the center of the menorah, with 4 candles on one side and 4 candles on the other. If the spear would be placed in the center, then we have exactly that image here.

Additionally, “counted” and “silver land” refers to Sonnet 12 and Psalm 12, respectively. These are important for the Psalm Ladder, and for Shakespeare’s discussion of it. “Snow,” “ice,” “side,” and “Mars” refer also to Sonnets 153 and 154, which conclude the Sonnets in a secretly shocking, evolutionary manner. Future essays shall discuss these. For now, we’ll just say: Dodson knows precisely what Shakespeare is doing.

Poem VI takes up this development, and also has allusions to Shakespeare. The Sonnets are engaging in multiple conversations at once. So when Dodson writes, “The two shine contrapuntally . . . ,” he is referring, among other things, to Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ ability to speak in multiple themes at once. He is doing the same himself in Powerful Long Ladder. The word “contrapuntally” relates to “counterpoint,” which Merriam-Webster defines as:

-a combination of 2 or more melodies that are played together

-a melody played in combination with another

-something that is different from something else in usually a pleasing way.

Shakespeare and Dodson are both doing complex feats with counterpoint, with the Psalms and with other themes.

This part of the essay has briefly considered some links between the Interwoven Menorahs and the central section of Dodson’s volume. There is much more to discuss, but we must proceed to the next section, which is the main part of this essay.

 

Part II

Countee Cullen and the Beatitudes

As mentioned above, the first 9 lines of Countee Cullen re-present the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew’s Gospel.

The Beatitudes themselves are in the shape of the Interwoven Menorahs. Just as Psalm 1 discusses the Torah, so do the Beatitudes discuss the Mystical Psalm Structures. Intertextuality includes the conversation, clear or hidden, between various texts. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Dodson’s Powerful Long Ladder continue this great and long ongoing conversation.

For ready reference, here are the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel, with emphasis added:

 

Happy/Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy/Blessed are those who mourn,

For they will be comforted.

Happy/Blessed are the meek,

For they will inherit the earth.

Happy/Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they will be filled.

 

Happy/Blessed are the merciful,

For they will receive mercy.

Happy/Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they will see God.

Happy/Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called children of God.

Happy/Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Happy/Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

These nine (9) Beatitudes are 8 + 1. There are eight (8) “3rd Person” Beatitudes, which begin, “Blessed are they….” But then the 9th and final Beatitude shifts to direct 2nd Person address, “Blessed are you….” This change in person clearly differentiates the 9th Beatitude from the previous 8. In a similar way, the menorah’s 9th candle, which is the lighting rod or shamash, is different that the other 8 candles, which do not move (or which are added and lit over a period of time). In fact, this 9th Beatitude is the shamash, the lighting rod, to the other 8 branches of the menorah, the first eight (8) Beatitudes.

Other literary clues indicate that the Beatitudes form a picture of the Interwoven Menorahs. The “promise,” or, the second strophe, of the 1st and 8th Beatitudes are identical: “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This makes the outermost Beatitudes a pair, just as there is a pair of the outermost candles in a menorah.

Additionally, Jesus himself mentions menorahs in his next breath. Two verses after the Beatitudes, he says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it give light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16)

In the original Greek text of Matthew’s Gospel, the word for “lampstand” is luxnian. This Greek word luxnian is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew word menorah. In fact, in the first ancient translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) into Greek, the Greek word luxnian always translates the Hebrew word menorah. Jesus is clearly beginning his public speech in the Bible by painting a picture of the Interwoven Menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures.

Dodson knows this, and is commenting on this Biblical reality in his poem Countee Cullen.

Countee Cullen is the 1st poem of the 4th part of Dodson’s book. Before getting to the menorahs that he places in this poem, it is necessary to discuss how Countee Cullen is powerfully connected to the last poem of the central section of the book, the poem entitled “IX.”

The following important words or thematic vocabulary groups appear in BOTH Countee Cullen and in “IX”:

Earth, blanket, cold, hemlock are words that appear in both poems.

-Both poems have varieties of birds, and varieties of plants.

-Both poems have time units: “IX” has “day” and “month,” while Countee Cullen has “year.”

 

Obviously, these poems are connected with each other, and form a strong thematic and linguistic connection between the 3rd and 4th parts of Dodson’s book.

Here is the first poem of the section entitled All This Review:

 

Countee Cullen

(1903-1946)

Now begins the sleep, my friend:

Where the cold dirt blanket is, you will be warm,

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.

The dilapidation of our earth is left for us to order.

Your heart that was strong will help us carry

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like hope to smile our lips

—We would be ugly now except for hope.

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:

You showed us that men could see

Deep into the cause of Lazarus,

Believe in resurrection.

You come back to us

Not unwinding a shroud and blinking at known light

But singing like all the famed birds,

Nightingale, lark and nightjar.

You come back to us with the truth

Of your indignation, protest and irony.

Also in your brave and tender singing

We hear all mankind yearning

For a new year without hemlock in our glasses.

 

The nine (9) poems entitled I-IX form the Interwoven Menorahs, as discussed above. The 1st nine (9) lines of Countee Cullen re-present the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel. This is the topic of this part of this essay.

The 1st eight (8) lines of the poem echo the 1st eight (8) Beatitudes.

The 9th line is in the place of the 9th Beatitude, and is the shamash of the menorah, and even has a dash, “ — ” to signal its uniqueness and its role.

Here are the 1st nine (9) lines of the poem again, with emphasis and notes added to show the Beatitude-like and menorah-like qualities of the poem. The lines of the poem are generally to the left, and the commentary is added to the right, in italics:

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:                                 fulfilled promise of Beatitudes

Where the cold dirt blanket is, you will be warm,         sounds like a Beatitude

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.               promise of Beatitudes

The dilapidation of our earth is left for us to order.   3rd Beatitude, inherit the earth

Your heart that was strong will help us carry         6th Beatitude, pure (strong) of heart

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,         8th, 9th Beatitudes

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,           7th Beatitude, Happy the peacemakers

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like hope to smile our lips       Happy” is

       in all Beatitudes

—We would be ugly now except for hope.               Hope: In Dodson’s 8th and 9th lines

 

The word “hope” in lines 8 and 9 clearly echos the Beatitudes, as Matthew’s 8th and 9th Beatitudes share words with each other.

We see here many connections between Dodson’s lines and the Beatitudes.

Yet there are more ways in which we can analyze and study this poem. One of these ways is to also look at the chiastic connection, the mirror images, of the 1st eight (8) lines. In a similar way, the branches of the menorah form pairs with their opposites:

Branches 1 and 8 form a pair, as do 2 and 7, 3 and 6, and finally, 4 and 5. Here are these lines presented in a different format, to show how they balance and mirror each other:

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:                                                                -friend

Where the cold dirt blanket is, you will be warm,                                           -warm

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.                         -seed, root, flower

The dilapidation of our earth is left for us to order.                   -dilapidation

 

Your heart that was strong will help us carry                            -strong, help,

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,                  -blossoms in spring

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,                                                        -hot anger

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like HOPE to smile our lips     –happy, smile

 

—We would be ugly now except for HOPE.

 

Lines 1 and 8 have “my friend” and “smile our lips”; friends often smile when they see each other.

Lines 2 and 7 “blanket” and “eyeLIDS,” both of which cover things. Additionally, verse 2 has “warm,” and verse 7 has “anger,” which can make us “hot.”

Lines 3 and 6 have “root,” “flower,” and “springs.” However, in poetic reversal, Dodson notes that when “trouble springs” it does not raise the person, rather, it can “hunch our backs,” thereby lowering the deforming the person.

Lines 4 and 5 present “dilapidation” meaningfully set against “Your heart that was strong will help carry us.” Such is the work of heroes such as Countee Cullen.

This has shown chiastic, or mirroring, connections among the lines of the poem. In the same way, the candles of the two sides of the menorah are connected to each other in pairs.

 

Returning to the Beatitudes, there is another way of analyzing the relationship between the Beatitudes and these lines of the poem. As mentioned above, the 1st eight (8) Beatitudes are indirect 3rd Person address: “Blessed are they….” But then the 9th Beatitude turns and engages direct 2nd Person address: “Blessed are you….” In a similar way, Dodson changes “person” in his nine (9) verses. He picks up where the Beatitudes left off, utilizing direct 2nd Person address; but then he changes person to 1st Person, the most inclusive form of speech: Us, our, we. Just like the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer. Here is a chart to show the transition from 2nd Person to 1st Person in these lines, and to compare this to the Beatitudes:

 

 

Matthew’s Beatitudes       Dodson’s Beatitudes

1st                    3rd Person                  2nd Person (1st Person Possessive Pronoun)

2nd                   3rd Person                  2nd Person

3rd                   3rd Person                  2nd Person

4th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

5th                   3rd Person                  2nd Person, 1st Person

6th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

7th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

8th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

 

9th                   2nd Person                1st Person

 

What is the purpose of this transformation? Perhaps it shows the ongoing working evolution of humanity. Perhaps it shows the necessity of us, all of us, becoming more like family and less like enemies. It shows our unity.

 

There are more connections between these verses and the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have obvious and subtle repetitions murmuring through the stream of nine (9) units, and so do Dodson’s verses here. This shows some of the repetition occurring in this part of the poem:

Now begins the sleep, my friend:

Where the cold dirt blanket IS, you will be warm,

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.

The dilapidation of our earth IS left for us to order.

Your heart that was strong will help us carry

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like hope to smile our lips

—We would be ugly now except for hope.

This shows some of the obvious and subtle forms of repetition that are happening in these verses. As mentioned above, the repeated “hope” in verses 8 and 9 echoes the shared words between the 8th and 9th Beatitudes.

Verses 2 and 3 of the poem have a “Where . . . , you will . . .” formula, which directly mirrors the “Happy are those . . . , for they will . . .” statements of the Beatitudes.

Additionally, the repetition of “Where” at the beginning of these verses, and the triple repetition of “Whatever” at the beginning of verses 6, 7, and 8, most powerfully form a parallel response to the formulaic beginnings of the Beatitudes.

And the two appearances of “Where” appear in the first four lines of the octet, and the three appearances of “Whatever” appear in the last four lines of the octet, which again emphasizes the two distinct halves of the menorah.

 

Very briefly, here is the rest of the poem Countee Cullen, with notes added in italics:

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:                     repetition of line 1

You showed us that men could see                     cured blindness

Deep into the cause of Lazarus,                           resurrection

Believe in resurrection.                                         Mary, sister of Lazarus, believed

You come back to us                                          Lazarus, Jesus

Not unwinding a shroud and blinking at known light -(shamash candle, again,

         physically much longer than all other lines of stanza)

But singing like all the famed birds,             singing, Psalmody, poetry, music

Nightingale, lark and nightjar.                     2 of these are birds of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

You come back to us with the truth             Shakespeare’s hidden knowledge of Psalms

Of your indignation, protest and irony.       William S hid facets of his life in his Sonnets

Also in your brave and tender singing         David, Shakespeare, and Countee Cullen

We hear all mankind yearning                     David, Shakespeare, and Countee Cullen

For a new year without hemlock in our glasses.

 

There are many themes herein that connect to both the Psalms, the New Testament, and Shakespeare. These shall be addressed in future essays.

(There is much more going on in Matthew’s Beatitudes, which we cannot discuss now. There is also much more going on in Dodson’s poem, and we can only present certain aspects of his poetry now.)

This paper has merely presented some of the literary structures in a small portion of Powerful Long Ladder. The meaning of the poems has hardly been addressed at all in this initial essay.

The next essay will be deeper in scope, and will be more complex in its treatment of the literary structures that Dodson employs, and their connections to the Mystical Psalm Structures. And a caution: The next essay might be more emotionally evocative. (It may be very emotionally difficult reading for some.) It will also discuss the commentary that Dodson offers on the situation of African-American people in late 19th century and 20th century America.

Although he chose to keep his dialogue with the Mystical Psalm Structures and with Shakespeare’s Sonnets hidden (or was instructed to do so by the Holy Spirit), Dodson now clearly has placed himself as a vital stage of the secret mystical river of great poets who are engaging the living mysteries of the living God.

The Jesus Prayer, Mantras, and Meditation

icons_sinai_christ_pantocrator_6th_century

Yourself, Peaceful, and, Effective

Part II

The Jesus Prayer, Mantras, and Meditation

 

Repetition, rhythm, harmony, and beauty are the creative base of music, poetry, and other kinds of art. We are attracted to goodness, beauty, and truth. We are attracted to music and poetry.

A mantra is connected to this reality.

The Mantra

A mantra is a word or phrase that holds special meaning for us. Mantras have been made from all of the cherished Scriptures of the globe.

These words, or verses, from our various Scriptures carry immense significance for us, and give us healing and integration at many levels of our being. They communicate the Divine life and knowledge to us. Although we never finish understanding the words of our Scriptures, mantras allow us to understand some parts of our Scriptures at profound depth. We dwell deeply with particular Sacred words. We get to know them better. The Scripture begins to merge with us.

Then, to this word or phrase, we add the elements of time and repetition. A form of musical rhythm, and powerful repetition, takes the Sacred word to different places in our soul. We repeat the mantra many times. It begins to operate in us in manifold new ways.

These mantras can have many powerful good effects in our life. They calm us, as does music and poetry that we choose for that purpose. They enlighten us. They comfort us in times of difficulty, trial, and emotional extremes. Mantras lead us into prayer, or can also be the entirety of our prayer. They become very familiar to us, like our favorite gloves on a cold day.

 

Mantras are in all religions, and various verses from all Scriptures have been used to form mantras.

Mantras are connected with our breath, and all traditions know the importance of our breathing—how spiritual our breathing, our breath, is. The words of the mantra are in two phrases; the first phrase is said on the inbreath (inhale), the second phrase is said on the outbreath (exhale). The prayer is meant to be said silently, not aloud. (Notice that we can only physically speak or sing when we are exhaling.)

We repeat the mantra in intentional times of prayer, or, at informal times. Such informal use of the mantra can be extremely helpful. When we are riding the bus or subway, waiting in line, placed on hold during a phone call, we can instantly convert otherwise wasted moments into spiritual fruitfulness.

Teachings about mantras vary from religion to religion, from community to community.

The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a specifically Christian form of prayer. It is like a mantra (although technically, it’s not a mantra, but it’s own category of prayer). It involves the name of Jesus and a plea for God’s mercy, which is God’s own love that sustains the universe from one moment to the next.

Although we don’t know precisely when the Jesus Prayer started, some think it began with the great desert monks of Egypt, those wonderful Ammas and Abbas, about 300 years after the time of Christ. From there it spread through the entire Eastern Mediterranean region, invigorating Eastern Christianity. For centuries it has been the central spiritual practice for great numbers of people, most dynamically in the Greek and Russian churches, and in many other communities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Eastern Europe. While it has been long known and practiced in western monastic circles, in the last century it became much more popular throughout the larger western world also. Today, it is prayed around the globe. A friend who is a Christian monk recently wrote a book in Chinese about the Jesus Prayer.

It has been very important for Orthodox Christian spirituality, and has been a staple of monastic life in Egypt, Ethiopia, North Africa, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Iran, Iraq, India, Eastern Europe, and many more places, for centuries or millennia. For example, in Mount Athos, a peninsula in Greece that is and has been home to dozens of monasteries and hermitages for more than 1,200 years, has always practiced the Jesus Prayer. For some of the monks of Mount Athos, the Jesus Prayer is almost the entirety of their spiritual life—these holy monks pray the prayer without ceasing. Many of these monks find the prayer waking them up for their vigils in the middle of the night. When they are sleeping in light sleep, they feel the prayer praying itself in their heart. Likewise, the prayer has been central in the Russian Orthodox Church. A famous anonymous story about the Jesus Prayer, The Way of the Pilgrim, has been frequently read around the globe.

Typically, the Jesus Prayer is said with these words:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,                (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner.                                   (outbreath)

 

However, modification of the prayer, and personal tailoring, is certainly allowed.

People today have wider psyches, and many more things to integrate in our life. In today’s world, many individuals cannot identify in their own prayer with the notion of being a “sinner”; it is simply too much for them. This is especially true for victims of abuse and people who have suffered much. Therefore, today many people like this formula:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God                 (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Me, Your Sister (or Brother)         (outbreath)

We say this. And then we repeat it. That’s it. We repeat it as much as we want. That is the whole prayer. We say it once a day, or repeat it many times at dozens of opportunities during the day, or whatever we like. It’s that easy and flexible. If we’re walking down the street and we see a beautiful tree, we might remember to say the prayer in thanksgiving for the amazing tree. But what if a friend suddenly rounds the corner? Well, drop the prayer and respond fully to your friend. The Jesus Prayer does not need formal beginnings or endings. It is meant to be very flexible and easy for us to use. When we are done talking with our friend, we are free to begin saying it again. But we don’t have to.

The key words are “Jesus” and “Mercy.” Remember, God’s own Mercy is not a bit of pity or a small token of kindness. Rather, God’s Mercy is the Love that sustains the universe from one moment to the next.

Another version of the prayer is:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,                (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Us, Your People                              (outbreath)

 

Another version:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,                                  (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Me                                                    (outbreath)

 

Or:

Lord Jesus,                                         (inbreath)

Have Mercy                                        (outbreath)

 

Once we have a formula that works well with us, it is good to stick with it for a while. This allows for the Prayer to grow roots in our heart.

Variations of this prayer have been popular all over the world. In the 20th Century, many people would instantly pray, “My Jesus Mercy!” upon hearing some difficult news concerning themselves or others.

There are prayer ropes that are made specifically for the Jesus Prayer, and many forms of beads as well.

Benefits of the Jesus Prayer

The prayer gathers us. It unifies and focuses us.

When we are praying it, negative thoughts are kept away (this is important for all people, especially the young members of the community, as negative forces can prey upon young minds that have nothing good to occupy them). Today, many people are susceptible to fear. But the Jesus Prayer drives away fear and gives us confidence. The word “confidence” means “with-faith-ness,” from the Latin word for “faith,” fides.

Additionally, having divine names, and words from Scripture, constantly circulating through our mind and psyche, does immeasurable good for us.

There are two main ways we can say the prayer:

One is the formal way: We intentionally sit in prayer time for 2, 10, or 20 minutes, or whatever we choose. We say the prayer interiorly. When (if) we move into the silence, we are free to continue saying the prayer, or we can stop saying the prayer and simply be in pure silence.

Another way is the informal way: We say the prayer when we are walking, standing in line, riding the bus, and at many other times. This converts otherwise wasted moments into awesome prayer time. Turn your bus ride into a cathedral or zendo. We can begin and end the prayer at any moment, and, as mentioned above, we do not need clear ‘beginnings’ and ‘ends’ for the informal prayer. The next time that we have an open moment on our hands, we simply start praying again.

This ‘informal’ way of the prayer is extremely powerful and centering.

Another note on our breathing. ‘Ruach’ in the Hebrew and ‘Pneuma’ in the Greek both mean Spirit, breath, and wind. That’s a remarkable fact.

The prayer is woven into our breathing. All religious traditions celebrate the importance of our breath.

The Jesus Prayer, and Meditation

A brief note about the ‘formal’ practice of the prayer (or any form of meditation): As soon as we sit to meditate, a bunch of thoughts surge into our consciousness. These are regrets/anger/shame about the past, or worries about the future. It is completely normal for these thoughts to arise. They need to come up, and it is good and healthy that they appear. Each time we become consciously aware of them, we turn our consciousness back to the prayer. Gently. We don’t get frustrated, we don’t get angry with ourselves. We simply return to the prayer. Just doing this is great prayer.

We’ll notice our prayer deepening with time. This also has the benefit of letting issues surface. If/As issues arise, it is good to talk to one of our advisors/spiritual directors/counselors about them.

Prayer likes consistency.   Same time each day, if possible. If we cannot do that, ok. A practice of the ‘informal’ prayer will suffice until we can get meditation back on the plan. (The ‘informal’ prayer needs no schedule.)

Other Ways of Meditation

There are very many ways of meditation in the world. A book that gives an introductory overview of meditation practices from different religions is Journey of Awakening, by Ram Dass.

Also, a superb discussion of the theology of the Jesus Prayer can be found in The Power of the Name, by Kallistos Ware. Bishop Kallistos is a Metropolitan Archbishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a monk of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos, which is the legendary place of the vision and writing of the Book of Revelation, and, he is a professor at Oxford. This holy booklet of 29 pages delves into many wonderful facets of the Jesus Prayer.

(The icon at the beginning of the essay is Christ Pantocrator (6th Century), which was discovered mere decades ago at the Monastery of St. Catherine, at Mount Sinai in Egypt.)

Yourself, Peaceful, and, Effective

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We are a young Humanity. We are growing, developing, and evolving now.

Do teenagers ever go through awkward, even infuriating times? Sure. Growth can be messy and painful, with lots of missteps and misadventures. However, God can use everything from our past to help us forward into a better level of integration and growth. Ultimately, the biggest disasters, failures, and hurts of our life will mean very little. At some point in the future, we’ll look back upon them and laugh. Even the worst times. What is more, these difficult times can even be highly useful for our growth. The Divine can operate in various ways, and turn the most painful things from our past into capacities for tremendous spiritual gifts. And joy.

We have much growth ahead of us, even in the next life.

However.

While we’re walking this walk in this life, it sure is good to have some ability to make sense of things, and to pray deeply. To be centered. To be able to achieve calmness if we need to.

(Additionally, there is the entire quest to deepen our prayer life and become closer friends with God, and to understand the ways of God better.)

This is especially true today, as there are some chaotic situations in the world. Additionally, as humanity has registered so many new things—not exactly neat uniform growth—but advances and progressions, some of which are technological, there is a lot for us to integrate.

With techonology, and modern tugs on our attention, we are often very distracted.

This can have a positive side: It is preparing our minds to receive, and engage in, more kinds of activity.

But we must integrate this new growth, so that we return to health.

We have to learn how to integrate things.

When we have integrated these things, and rediscovered our center, then we will be more potent human beings. We are meant to be strong, intelligent, caring, loving, expressive, and thinking. And spiritual. And happy. The word “happy” is a very important term in all Sacred Scriptures. It is deeply connected to the proper being of the Human Person.

Ok. So how do we get there? How do we become centered in this life?

There are ways.

Actually, there is a wide spectrum of techniques and tools that we are free to choose from.

Some background: For 6 years I was a monk, and learned some things about spirituality. (In all my adult life I’ve been interested in the soul and the spirit, and in God.) I’ve had some really good teachers. I’ll spare you the details of my own development, but lately I’ve been thinking about returning to some forms of prayer and meditation that I have not done in a while. Maybe changing things up a bit. And as some people are distracted today, and as many people have been asking me for advice about this, and as I’m far behind on responding to emails in this regard (for which, my apologies), I thought maybe a few brief reflections might be helpful to people.

These comments will be in two categories:

1) Attitude(s)

2) Practices

 

Attitude

 

1) Changing Frames (Also Known as the ‘Big Picture’)

 

It’s good to step out of our box and survey our attitude(s). It’s good to have dexterity of perspective.

For example, let’s say that something is bothering us.

This is a mind-obstacle that can happen to us fairly often in life, especially if we have not yet become practitioners of centeredness.

So then. To avoid being trapped in this small trap, we can say to ourselves, “Our universe has trillions of galaxies, and that’s only what we know about. I’m going to befriend them and know them all some ‘day’. Also, this universe started 13.7 billion years ago. And some ‘day’ in the future, I’m going to know all time. And I’m getting to be better friends with God, who is bigger than all that anyway. So I’m not going to let a little problem affect my mood. Because I’ve just recalled one snapshot of the bigger picture.”

A person whose mind is as strong as a diamond can often shift their perspectives quicker than quicksilver (mercury).

And they don’t lose their center in the process.

Notice how children get stuck in “ruts of mood.” Once they land in a particular attitude, they remain stuck there until an external event of larger gravitas than their present mood totally switches the entire landscape for them. This external event could be the promise of an ice cream cone, or a fascinating image or object that they have never seen before, or when a child of the same age suddenly is brought by their parent into the same aisle of the supermarket where the child and her/his parent is. When this happens, and their mood changes, the child does not even realize that their mood has just been instantly transformed.

Adults who are centered (and even mature children) can do this themselves, without the external stimulation. (Or, to say it better, their bedrock state is stable while they freely move between particular expressions, maybe slightly tasting those emotions.)

Yes, it is good to be able to fluidly change our perspective, or, to look at a bigger picture. After a while, things don’t even bother us. (Or at least not as easily as before.)

 

2) Let nothing scandalize you

 

Up until a couple centuries ago, in any religion, if you had the ‘wrong’ religious views, you could find yourself in hot water.

St. John of the Cross lived in Spain as a Carmelite priest in the 1500’s. He was good friends with St. Teresa of Avila. Both are Huge mystics and Doctors of the Church. They knew God. (St. Teresa used to get angry at God when God levitated her during Mass in the chapel at her monastery when she was the Abbess there. So she had metal rails put in on either side of her chair, so she could hold herself down to earth when he levitated her. They are still there today.)

Well, earlier in his life, John held views that his superiors in the order didn’t agree with. So they imprisoned him in a latrine sewer. For some months.

He survived the experience and become a giant of the contemplative life. One of his sayings was, “Let nothing scandalize you.”

Think about it.

If someone does something that strikes you as being radically wrong; Or if another’s views are something so incomprehensible that you think that they are from a different species: Their behaviors or attitudes are radically different.

In such cases, it is easy, and tempting, to put up the walls of separation. (These attitudes can spread into prejudices. For example, don trump has perhaps never had a meaningful conversation with a person of Mexican origin. So he wants to wall off an entire nation, a huge realm of the Earth with its population of Human Beings.)

It is easy to say, “Oh, trump himself is all bad. He is Radically Different, Radically Other, and so I’ll have absolutely nothing to do with him or society.”
Of course, the vast majority of us think that trump’s views are bonkers crazy. His views of people from other nations are views that are racist and wrong.

But the fact that the person named “don trump” has those views means that people can get mangled up enough to eventually land in these views.

But if we think about it….

One way of looking at our lives is that they are made by our choices. And if a person has made some unfortunate choices, that often lands them in deteriorating situations, in which the person makes yet worse choices. And so the downward spiral continues. Some drug addicts have grown up in poverty.

The person, or the person’s actions, reach a point where they seem to us to be monstrous. We might think of that person as a monster.

And don trump was born with a silver spoon in his ear. Obviously, his lack of parental love and his being a brat have had negative effects on his life.

If a person does the unconscionable, if a person does the ridiculous, well, that just means that a person can arrive at that situation. A person can simply get to that place. That’s all. We are still somewhat the same as that person. They have merely had different choices and different life situations that have led them to their (unfortunate) actions and attitudes.

The Duke of Wellington won the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most decisive battles in the history of warfare. Upon the return trip back home, he and his entourage passed a small village, where a person who had done something wrong was being led out to be hanged. One of the Duke’s attendants made a comment about the poor chap. The Duke of Wellington merely said, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

At a moment of huge victory, of giant personal accomplishment, which is a chance for pride, the Duke remembered the intimate connectedness of all people. And the shared status of our being Creatures, who, all of us, have been created by the same Creator out of the same Earth with the same Spirit within us.

No, we don’t need to accept the horrible behavior from an individual(s) in society. We can organize and move to stop evil legislation, for example. However, instead of reacting angrily to it, how might we look at it differently? From that new point of view, from that fresh perspective, how might we respond in a truly creative manner? How might we guide a person, or a government, to health?

And, if we remain centered, we’ll be able to get trump out of office as quickly as possible.

 

3) A Focus that Teaches; A Focus that Redirects Small Mistakes

 

Humanity is meant to be having an effect on creation.

Our pets and animals can learn from us. We have effects on them.

How much more do we have effects on other people.

We are social beings. (Capable also of thought and individuality.)

The word “virtue” is related to the ancient Latin word for “strength.” The Latin word for “man” is also cognate with the term.

If we are in a clear position of leadership, with employees, students, or children, how we act is the biggest way in which we can transmit models of behavior for them.

For example: It is good to have a classroom of students in which the young people really care about each other. (I have been a teacher at several places.) At specific times I would give the students brief spans of time when they were permitted to talk. On Friday afternoons I would open the playground and gym for them to have recreation, and it was all a great time.

In class, if two of them were talking at a time when I was teaching, I would try to use the smallest measures possible to refocus their attention. Without skipping a beat in the lecture, I would put my hand out and make motions to get the talkers’ attention and remind them to save their conversation for later. This worked most of the time. No need to get angry at them, to put them down, or to get myself flustered. Simple.

We can do the same with our own person. Instead of getting angry at ourselves about whatever, we say, “Ah, mental note, try to improve on this….” Or: “Ah, mental note, when this situation recurs next time, try to act in this way….”

We tend to respond better to small suggestions for course corrections.

Turning the rudder just a little bit can bring about significant, positive changes.

 

4) Forgiveness.

 

Well, an entire essay or book could be written just on forgiveness.

One of the desert monks used to invent reasons why he should forgive people.

The Song of Songs says: “Love is stronger than death.” How is that connected to forgiveness?

 

5) Every dawn is a new Creation. A New Genesis.

 

Love renews.

God is Love. (1 John 4:8; 4:16)

God wants us to learn to be Love.

God wants to share God’s being with us, and God’s being is Love.

Shunryu Suzuki was a master of Zen Buddhism who came to the U.S. from Japan. He wrote a wonderful book that has one of my favorite book titles: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. We are always beginning. We are always starting afresh. Our being is infinite because God created us and loves us. The more we tap into this reality, the more we will be able to constantly begin again. The more we can begin again, the more we incarnate this Reality in our living life.

We travel lightly. We begin again. We always start over. We always begin. With this attitude in place, we make wonderful progress in God’s good Creation.

 

Part II

Techniques

 

There are practices and thoughtful acts of attention that we can do throughout the day to make things better and more integrated in our lives.

 

1) Breath

 

With every breath we breathe we give life to the billions of cells in our bodies.

Breath is highly spiritual in all religions. In a moment of silence, even on the subway or bus, we can focus on our breathing. This centers us.

 

2) Stretching

 

body, muscles

mind

Stretching is good for our overall integration. If we stretch, our body and mind are closer together. Our mind is able to take some time and focus on our body. How the body feels, the joy of the body, the health of the body.

(If you have not been stretching recently, before you start, it would be good to consult a good video, book, or knowledgeable person about this.)

 

3) Enjoy a cup of tea

 

Having taught children and adults in urban, suburban, and rural areas, I’ve learned some things about helping people avoid stress and unnecessary tension. All people, including children, can have various stresses upon themselves.

For children, school itself can be stressful.

After work or school, go home. Prepare yourself a cup of tea. How you like it. Sip it in a relaxed way. Enjoy it. Taste it. No other agenda for this time.
(A lot of benefits come from this practice.)

 

4) Mantra

 

What is a mantra?

A mantra is a word or phrase, often from our favorite Scripture, that we repeat. Silently, interiorly. This radically simple practice has many benefits for us.

Part II of this essay will discuss mantra.

 

5) Meditation

 

There is a wide range of verbs, nouns, and practices that come under the term “meditation.” This word has been used in many ways.

 

The next part of this essay will discuss this at greater length too.

 

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All Saints and the Revelation Menorahs

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The beginning of the Book of Revelation is blossoming with menorahs.

Menorahs are the 9-branch candelabra that are in people’s homes for the Festival of Lights.

In fact, there are so many menorahs about the place in the first pages of the Apocalypse (which simply means the “Uncovering”) that the Son of Man seems to be among a forest of menorahs. (The phrase “Son of Man” is a literal rendering of the Greek. It’s understood to mean “Jesus,” and there is much agreement on that.)

Now, candles make an alluring glow. Their light is warm. When people are intimate, babies arrive. This is pertinent to the essay below.

And this is exactly what God tells us to do in the first pages of the Bible: Be fruitful and multiply. When God sees what he is creating, the text of Genesis repeatedly says, “And God saw that it was good.”

But when God created Humanity on Day 6, the text states, “And indeed, it was very good.”

Today is the Feast of All Saints, also known as All Saints Day. The readings from today are truly worth contemplating. In fact, hidden within them are the Interwoven Menorahs from the Mystical Psalm Structures.

The Interwoven Menorahs are an intertwined pair of 9-branched menorahs; the menorahs are made of the Psalms that are multiples of 8. In these 18 Psalms (all multiples of 8) that form the menorahs, the word “light” appears with a 350% greater frequency than in the other 132 Psalms. This is noteworthy, especially because the word “light” goes well with candles/menorahs. (However, the word “menorah” does not appear in these 18 Psalms, and the Psalms’ own Mystical Menorahs have been mostly hidden for millennia.) The final Psalm of the menorahs, that is, the final Psalm that is a multiple of 8, is Psalm 144. In the first reading from today’s Mass, there is the number 144 multiplied by 1000: 144,000.

Other themes of the 18 Psalms that make the Intertwined Menorahs include loving couples, the birth of babies, and the raising of children. This goes well with the above discussion of sexuality and human procreation.

Here is the Gospel from today’s Mass, which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,

For they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

For they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,

For they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,

For they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you [shift to direct Second-Person discourse] when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, For your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-12)

 

These are the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ first real public words of the Bible. And here’s a shocker. They form an image of the Interwoven Menorahs, the mystical structure from the Book of Psalms. Jesus’ first public words make a word-picture of the Intertwined Menorahs of the Psalms.

The menorah is 8 + 1 candles; 8 candles and the shamash (moveable lighting candle), which is the 9th candle.

Similarly, we see that there are 8 + 1 Beatitudes; 8 Third-Person Beatitudes (Blessed are THEY….) and 1 direct Second-Person Beatitude (Blessed are YOU….).

The Intertwined, or Interwoven, Menorahs are 9 + 9. Two menorahs, made of 18 branches, and 18 Psalms. We have the same with the Beatitudes. The 9 Beatitudes are all in 2 parts: The first part is the formula that begins with “Blessed….”; the second part begins with “For….”

So, true to the Mystical Menorahs hidden in the Psalms, we have 2 intertwined menorahs hidden here in the first publicly proclaimed words of Jesus in the Bible.

In case we have doubts about this, Matthew gives us a reassurance a couple verses later. Jesus says,

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand (luxnian) and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16) In the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) into Greek), the Greek word “luxnian” always translates the Hebrew word “menorah.” Here in the Matthew’s Gospel of the Greek New Testament, the word “luxnian” continues to mean “menorah.”

However, there is a change. The word “house” here no longer means the “2nd temple”—the ancient Israelites called the temple the “house,” or “beit”—but rather, the human house is the new place of holiness. The house, the home, is where the human family is.

Also, the first and the last of the initial 8 Beatitudes, that is, the 1st and the 8th Beatitudes, have identical second strophes: “For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” This is the only time that an entire strophe—half of a verse—is repeated in the Beatitudes. This places the first and last Beatitudes as a pair, as bookends to all the other Beatitudes, which are between them. Or better, it makes the first and last Beatitudes the outmost arms of the 9-branch menorah. The second-person Beatitude, “Blessed are YOU,” becomes the central candle, the lighting rod, or shamash. Here is a diagram, if you turn it 90 degrees, of the menorah(s) formed by the Beatitudes:

 

 

………………………………………………………………….. 9th Candle

. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

.           For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

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………………………………………………………………………….flame

.

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………………………………………………………………………….flame

.

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………………………………………………………………………….flame

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……………………………………………………………. Shamash (Moveable Lighting

.                                                                                   Candle, in Center)

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………………………………………………………………………….flame

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………………………………………………………………………….flame

.

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………………………………………………………………………….flame

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…………………………………………………………………… 1st Candle

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

                               For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

 

Again, two verses after the Beatitudes, at 5:14-16, Matthew’s Jesus talks about light in the family household, and actually pronounces the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “menorah.”

In the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel, there is again a 9-branch menorah, but Luke constructs his differently than Matthew’s. In Luke 6, there are 4 Beatitudes balanced by 4 Woes. These form the 8 branches of the menorah. In the middle is the shamash, the lighting rod, which claims the verbs “rejoice” and “leap for joy.”

It’s wonderful that Pope Francis has just made 6 new Beatitudes today. This goes perfectly well with the growth of the Menorahs from  7 to 9 branches.

The tree of life keeps growing. John 15 says that Jesus is the vine, and that all of us are the branches. Therefore, there are now billions of branches. There are lots of us people.

In a similar way, the roll of Saints in Heaven keeps getting longer. Tomorrow, the day after All Saints Day, we celebrate All Souls Day. All these souls, if they haven’t already become saints, are on their way to becoming saints. They are doing that good work to really make their souls strong and pure, and capable of withstanding the glorious and mighty presence of God, and of each other, when we can more truly see each other.

The menorah has grown from 7 to 9 branches. This is prefigured in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Book of Zechariah, when a 7-branched menorah is pictured with two olive trees. The two olive trees are 2 new, and very creatively new, branches to the menorah, making it a wondrous 9-branch menorah. (See Zechariah 4.)

This picture is clearly alluded to in the Book of Revelation. (See Revelation 11:4.)

There are several Zechariahs in the Scriptures. The Zechariah who appears in the New Testament and the Book of the Prophet Zechariah of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) both figure prominently in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an has so many references to the Mystical Psalm Structures, including many significant connections to the Interwoven Menorahs. Arabic and Ancient Hebrew are both Semitic languages. The Arabic word “Minaret” means “house of light.” The Hebrew word “menorah” means “lampstand.” The center and root of each word is “light.” Many words, such as “light,” share a common root between these two languages.

Surah (Chapter) 9 of the Qur’an is one place where there are many connections to the Mystical Menorahs. Another place is the famous “Light Verse” of the Qur’an, 24:35. Some of the words of the Quranic verse that are obviously connected to the Interwoven Menorahs of the Psalm Structures are highlighted:

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”

-The “light” is obviously connected to the Intertwined Menorahs of the Psalms and the menorahs hidden in the Beatitudes, and publicly uncovered in the family house 2 verses after the Beatitudes.

-The “lamp” is related to the word “menorah,” which means “lampstand.”

-The olive tree is “blessed,” a term which appears in the Beatitudes, which begin 9 times with the word “blessed.” Additionally, in the 18 Psalms of the Interwoven Menorahs, the word “blessed” (ashre) and its cognates appear 9 times, matching the 9 appearance of the Greek word “makarios” (blessed) in the Beatitudes.

-The “olive tree” is single here at this verse in the Qur’an: recall that there were two olive trees in Chapter 4 of Zechariah of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and there are also two olive trees in Revelation 11:4 of the New Testament. A Quranic olive tree may also be near, or atop, Mount Sinai. This is mentioned in Surah 95, which will be discussed in a separate essay. In Zechariah, the two olive trees form the 8th and 9th branches of the menorah, a foreshadowing of the 9-branch menorahs that would appear in the Mystical Psalm Structures, and would appear physically in the Hanukkah menorahs of many centuries later. It is interesting that in the discussion of menorahs that are seen in close proximity to the Son of Man in the first two chapters of Revelation, there are 7 menorahs. But the text does not say how many branches are on the menorahs. They could well be 9-branched menorahs—or they could have more branches. Later in Revelation, at 11:4, there are two olive trees with, now, two menorahs. The picture is similar to that of Zechariah, but with one more menorah. The fact that the New Testament’s Book of Revelation also has a pair of menorahs is another acknowledgement of the Interwoven Menorahs of the Psalms.

-The phrase “neither of the east nor of the west” is also reminiscent of the Book of Zechariah. The two olive trees are to the right and left of the menorah. This mirrors “east” and “west.” Also, by saying “neither of the east nor of the west,” the Qur’an could be saying that the spreading tree, or vine, or menorahs of humanity are global—they are not limited to one race or people. In this, the global vision of human love and unity in Islam is precisely like Christianity.

-The “oil,” which is olive oil: The earliest menorahs were illuminated not by candles, but by lamps that were fueled by olive oil.

-The phrase “Light upon Light” is like a phrase from Psalm 36: “In your light we see light.” Christians have often interpreted this as meaning: “In the light of the Holy Spirit we see the light of Christ, or the light of community, or the light of Creation.” (Psalm 36 is not a Menorah Psalm, but it is a Ladder Psalm.)

This reflection quickly charts deep literary and mystical connections between the Quran, the New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).

Each one of us is a branch of the vine, a branch of the family tree, a branch of the menorah. We are very deeply connected to each other. All Saints and All Souls.

The Pivot Point

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In today’s First Reading there is an evolutionary pivot point:

“Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, and solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others.”     (Philippians 2:1-4)

It is somewhat counter-cultural, and so evolutionary, to “regard others as more important than” ourselves. Paul does not suggest that we put ourselves down falsely, or to intentionally debase ourselves.

Rather, the letter suggests that we think from the perspective of other people. That we make the mental leap to imagine the world from another’s point of view.

What if there’s a plate of home-made cookies in the kitchen at the workplace. Tom had one earlier at the morning coffee-break. In the afternoon he swings through there again for some icewater. There is one cookie left. He considers, “Should I take it? I don’t feel that I need it at the time.”

But then Tom thinks: “Maybe someone else would really enjoy it. Maybe it would benefit them, and give them a boost of energy, and a bit of happiness. They might enjoy the taste even more than me. OK, I’ll let another person have it.”

Simple thought exercises like this are highly evolutionary. They get us thinking about other human beings. They get us thinking about the happiness of other people.

Men might find it harder than women do to think of the point of view of other people. Also, people who are not parents of children might find it more difficult to do this “wider perspective” thinking than adults who are parents. But all of us can do the imaginative labor of considering not only the perspective, but also the benefit, of other people. The happiness of others is at least as important as the happiness of me.

Could such thought-exercises actually transform us into more evolved beings? Could such attitudes begin to connect our souls in more profound ways?

The desert monks of Egypt, those great Ammas and Abbas who began Christian monasticism 1700 years ago, helped lead me to join the monastic life. Bruno Barnhart, a monastic teacher of many, once said about monks that he knew as a young man, “They were like tough old men with hearts of gold.” They helped him join the monastic life.

As a young monk I was trying to figure out how to love other people. Is it possible to actually love other people? Nietzsche said something very humorous about Jesus. He said that Jesus had an illness. The illness of Jesus was this: When people were mean to Jesus, Jesus’ response was to love them. Nietzsche hinted that this illness that Jesus had was not too contagious, because he also said that “the only Christian died on the Cross.”

Well, Nietzsche, that witty misanthrope, was just plain wrong.

Yes, learning how to love is difficult.

Yes, people can make us really angry at times.

Yes, there are distractions that would take us away from the pursuit of love.

Yes, in times of confusion, people tend to contract into themselves, and it is less inviting to reach out to others in love.

But look at how much humanity has achieved in recent millennia. There is so much love in the world, despite the evening news, and despite the chaos. There is much to be thankful for (and much work yet to be done).

So as a young monk, when I was trying to figure out how to more authentically love people, I asked Bruno, “How does one do that?”

Sitting up more sharply at his desk, making his eyes large, he said in a louder-than-usual voice, “One of the desert monks said, ‘Love my enemies?! I can’t even love those who love me!’”

He paused a minute to let that sink in.

Now, that day at Mass, the Gospel had been from Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. One of Jesus’ brilliant teachings there is this:

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your bosom. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive.” (Luke 6:38)

Bruno said, “Do you remember today’s Gospel?”

I nodded yes.

He said, “The pivot is to give.”

To give. To get into the mode of thinking of others, of giving to others. This is the development of the verb-stature of Love inside of our beings.

When we love. When we love. When we overcome our fears…. When we have Faith enough to love: We find that the universe responds to us. With love. There are helps along the way that teach us how to love more effectively. How to grow. People help us out, too. People love us, too.

A great deal of this has already happened in our history. Thank goodness.

Somewhere on the internet this morning I read an Islamic author who said that Love is more like a river than a reservoir.

Jesus Discusses the Mystical Psalm Structures

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Jesus Discusses the Mystical Psalm Structures

Throughout the New Testament

The Mystical Psalm Structures, which are found in the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), are referred to in all the Gospels, and most epistles, of the New Testament. But in hidden ways. Also, The New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles and Book of Revelation discuss the Mystical Psalm Structures, again, in hidden ways. Jesus is often the one who is alluding to them. (A question for another paper: Is Jesus the one who taught his disciples about the Mystical Psalm Structures?)

Today, 29 October 16, in the calendar of the Church, is Saturday of the 30th Week of Ordinary Time. The liturgical year will conclude at the end of November, and the new liturgical year will start with the First Sunday of Advent.

Today’s readings are wonderful, and the Gospel shows how the New Testament is loaded with (hidden) conscious knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures.

Let’s skip over the first reading and go the Responsorial Psalm, which is from Psalm 42. The number “42” is a multiple of 21, and of 6. Therefore, Psalm 42 is both a Pillar Psalm and a Ladder Psalm, respectively. Only Psalms 84 and 126 share this particular multiplicity of connection with Psalm 42 (notice that the number “42” is a factor of both 84 and 126). This essay discusses these:

https://scripturefinds.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/the-mystical-psalm-structures/

Psalm 42 begins with a stunning image: “As the deer longs for streams of running water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” The poem-prayer-song continues, “My soul thirsts for God, the Living God. When can I see the face of God?” It is interesting that when the thirsty deer finally reaches water, they’ll see a reflection, a face similar to their own therein. (In the first reading today, Paul desires God.) The Israelites prayed this Psalm when they met the Babylonians in Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity. Initially, they hated the Babylonians.

However, when the Israelites left Babylon about 70 years later, they loved the Babylonians. This is depicted in Psalm 126; in this Psalm, the Israelites reflect and share words, memory, and Scripture with the Babylonians. Who would have thought that the ancient Israelites were the world’s first missionaries? God is bold. God’s wondrous plans, often confusing when we’re living through their initial stages, are lovingly concerned with the well-being of every human soul in history. Um, even if we all have some rough times on the way. Psalm 147 is the final Pillar Psalm. It says that God’s wise-understanding is beyond numbering, beyond calculation. Although we humans cannot understand all of it, we can grow in our capacity to understand significant portions of it.

The Gospel today is amazing. It is a scene at the banquet that occurs in Luke 14. In the middle of the scene is a TABLE:

“On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, “Give your place to this man,” and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted’.”

As with Psalms 42, 84, and 126, there are spatial journeys, comings and goings, although in this Gospel, the voyage seems to be of vastly lesser distances: places at a table.

Table travels.

Something is not sitting well with me here. I feel an intellectual discomfort, or a deeper discomfort in my soul, at the words of Jesus.

True, this Gospel has been teaching people about the virtue of humility for 2 millennia.

But there’s something else.

When Jesus says, “Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table,” that bothers me. It does not sound like Jesus. Perhaps Jesus is being mildly sarcastic here. Perhaps the mild sarcasm of Jesus is pointing to something else:

Table travels.

Ah, there it is. Jesus is discussing the angels moving up and down the Ladder. Eureka!

Jesus is talking about the angels flying up and down the Mystical Psalms Ladder. He is painting a verbal picture of this.

The shape of a long table is like the shape of the Mystical Psalms Ladder (see the above link). The movement along the sides of the table, including the lowest and higher places, is like the motion of the angels on the Ladder; in fact, the motion of the angels’ flight starts at the lowest place on the Ladder, Psalm 12, which is where the action of the Lucan parable also makes a visit.

First, a couple of connected realities:

-Psalm 128 shows one of the most beautiful pictures in the Bible. It is a family gathered around the table. The children are described as shoots of olive trees, young trees growing up towards heaven, uniting heaven and earth. There is love in the home.

Indeed, with Psalm 128’s additional imagery of “wife,” and “vine,” there is a picture of a restored, improved, future Eden. Paradise. Psalm 128 is neither a Pillar Psalm nor a Ladder Psalm; it is, however, a Menorah Psalm. The Mystical Psalm Menorahs celebrate the beauty of the human family, and of a united, evolving Humanity. Psalm 128 may be the most important Psalm in the Psalter (Book of Psalms), perhaps even more important than Psalm 84. Like Psalm 84, it has multiple cognates of the word “ashre,” which means “happy,” or “blessed.” It is the equivalent of the Greek word “makarios,” which appears later in Luke 14.

-This combined theme of “Ladder” and “table fellowship” is also present at Jesus’ Resurrection appearances:

-In Mark 16, the Resurrected Jesus appears to the 11 disciples when they are reclining at table.

-In Luke 24, the identity of the Resurrected Jesus is made known to the 2 disciples walking with him when he blessed and broke the bread at table with them that evening. Along the way, Jesus had been explaining mysteries of the Bible to them, and their hearts were burning. Right after their encounter, the “Psalms” are mentioned. This appearance of the word “Psalms” is very interesting. Some background: The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are made of three groups of texts: the Torah (the 5 Books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Ketuvim (the Writings, which include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Chronicles). Jesus alludes to this three-part grouping of the Scriptures (Luke 24:44). But he removes the word “Ketuvim,” the “Writings,” and replaces it with the word “Psalms!” This puts a very strong emphasis on the Psalms. Just 4 chapters earlier, at Luke 20:42, for perhaps the first time in history, the Psalms are called the “Book of Psalms,” uniting them into an intentional volume. Luke, a few chapters later in his next book, the Acts of the Apostles, will again refer to the Psalms as the “Book of Psalms” (Acts 1:20).

Did the Resurrected Jesus explain to his disciples the Mystical Psalm Structures?

-Additionally, in John 21, a chapter that was added some years later to John’s Gospel, there is a remarkable catch of 153 large fish. It is interesting that the fish were counted. It is also interesting that there are 150 Psalms. A forthcoming essay shall discuss John 21.

-Here is another beautiful image, and it begins at Revelation 22:1. It is the final image of the Bible. From the discussion thus far, we see how the New Testament’s partially hidden incorporation of the Ladder into vital scenes has always to do with community, and it helps lift the family table of Psalm 128 into such a discussion.

The final image of the Bible is in Chapter 22 of the Apocalypse. The word “Apocalypse” in Greek simply means the “unveiling.” Another title for the book is “Revelation.”

The heavenly Jerusalem has begun to be discussed in the preceding chapter, Chapter 21. She descends from heaven to earth (Ladder imagery) as a bride (Psalm 128 has the only positive appearance of the word “wife/woman” in the entire Book of Psalms).

Paradise will be glorious. No temples will be needed because holiness will be clearly visible. In the connected people. In the community.

There is a river. But this is no ordinary river. More than a millennium before Dante, there is here in Revelation a powerful blending of realities. The river is also a gorgeous street, and is also a mysterious fruit tree. The fruit tree is spectacularly unique. It seems to have 12 parts, and seems to grow on both sides of the river-street. The Greek is wonderfully intentionally inexact here. If the 12 parts of the tree are on both sides of the river-street, with the tree appearing in 24 places, then we have a precise picture of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. And this is the final image of the Bible. And we also have an intentional echo of the powerful image of the gathered family in Psalm 128. (See Rev 22:2)

Paradise is entirely about community: joyful, loving community. All the people in Paradise are members, full members, of this community.

Revelation has many allusions to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The listing of the 12 tribes is a textual replication of the 12 steps of the Ladder. The 12 strophes discussing the 12 tribes are exactly alike each other, except for the names of the tribes. (See Rev 7:4-8) The number of those to be saved is 144,000, which is 12-squared multiplied by 10-cubed. Obviously, this number is not intended to be literal, but metaphorical—perhaps all of humanity will be together in paradise (eventually). Wouldn’t that be nice.

The Mystical Psalms Ladder has 12 steps. The top rung is made of Psalms 138 and 144. Psalm 150 is centered atop the Ladder, and represents heaven, and contains a word for “heavens.”

Just in case we miss the connection to 144, the number 144 is given to us again in Rev 21:17, discussing the measurements of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Indeed, the entire Book of Revelation is full of allusions to the Mystical Psalm Structures. Perhaps this is the “Key of David” that is discussed at Rev 3:7.

Additionally, if we return to Chapter 14 of Luke’s Gospel, we see much more hidden Psalms imagery.

The chapter begins with a Sabbath question. If your donkey or ox (some manuscripts have “son” in the place of “donkey”) FALLS into a pit, would you not PULL THEM UP? This is a rudimentary rehearsal of the climbing of the Ladder.

Then there is the observation of the political jockeying for higher places at the banquet table. The table-mover, or Ladder-climber, moves both up and down. The Upward motion begins at the lowest point of the table, which corresponds exactly to the Upward motion of the Ladder: The Upward Human or Angelic Flight begins at Psalm 12, on the lowest rung of the Ladder.

[At another level, Jesus is making a critique of hurtful social climbing. It’s interesting that the term “climbing the corporate ladder” is connected with such (often harmful) maneuvering in the business and financial world. One of the things being said here is: concentrate more on building community. Try to love your neighbors in community. Don’t use your fellow human beings as stepping stones. That’s not what they are for.]

In this story there is mention of the Greek words “arche” and “eschaton.” These words can also refer to the beginning (Creation) and the end times (Eschaton). Also, Jesus uses not only horizontal spatial imagery in discussing the table, but also vertical spatial imagery: “Go up higher” (Luke 14:10).

Jesus seems to give the moral of the story in verse 11: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Note, again, the vertical motion of ascent and descent—like what happens on a ladder. St. Benedict founded the main body of Western monasticism about 1500 years ago. In Italy. His monks eventually became members of what is known today as the Benedictine Order, and this community now includes many branches on the family tree: the Cistercians, Trappists, Camaldolese, Olivetans, and more. He wrote a short document called the Brief Rule to help organize the communities. Monasteries still study the Rule closely today, and it is often memorized. There is much Wisdom therein. Chapter 7 has the wonderful “Ladder of Humility.” Like the Psalms Ladder, Benedict’s Ladder of Humility has 12 steps, 2 sides, there is heaven at the top and earth at the bottom, and there are angels flying up and down the ladder. Benedict gives maybe 50 hints that he knows about the Mystical Psalms Ladder, but he refrains from mentioning it overtly. In this chapter from his Brief Rule, a main Scriptural text is this verse of Luke 14:11, about humility and exaltation.

Next in Chapter 14 is the Parable of the Great Dinner. It metaphorically discusses the invitation to the banquet of the Kingdom of God. The first three invitees decline the offer. The first one has just purchased a piece of land, and must go see it. The second one has just purchased 5 yoke of oxen. 5 pairs. This is interesting. There are 5 books of the Torah that are yoked with the 5 books of the Psalms. (Scholars believe that the division of the Psalter into 5 books was done intentionally to mirror the 5 books of the Torah.)

The third invitee has recently been married. The Ladder (Feminine) and Pillar (Masculine) go together in a conjugal way. So we see in this story hidden references to the Mystical Psalm Structures.

Then in Chapter 14, Jesus discusses family, seemingly in an odd perspective. He mentions the word “wife.” Then he says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” The tower here is like the Pillar of the Psalm Structures. Jesus is here alluding to the fact that the Psalm Structures were planned and overseen by the Holy Spirit, not merely by human redactors/editors. The forthcoming book on the Psalm Structures will discuss this at greater length.

Then Jesus considers a king with 10,000 troops waging a battle, or avoiding such a conflict, with 20,000 troops of the enemy. The numbers “1” from the 10,000 and “2” from the 20,000 are important. The Psalms of the Pillar are the multiples of 21 (“2” and “1” together make “21”). Or, the “1” and the “2” can make “12.” 12 of the 24 (25) Psalms of the Ladder, that is, the 12 Psalms of the left side of the Ladder, are multiples of the number 12.

Jesus may be alluding to something else here too. The name of “David” appears in the body of the 25 Psalms of the Ladder with 429% greater frequency than in the 125 other Psalms of the Psalter. This dislocates the Ladder from Jacob’s ownership. It’s David’s. But only for a moment. Jesus is the “Son of David,” and at John 1:51 accomplishes the transfer of the Ladder to all Humanity.

Back to an earlier point of the Old Testament: 2 Samuel 2 has the Battle of Gibeon. The troops of David, led by Joab, fight the troops of Saul’s son Ishbaal, led by Abner.

Before the main battle is a mini-battle. 12 youth from Joab’s forces form a line against 12 youth from Abner’s forces. 12 against 12, 2 lines, just like the Psalms Ladder! The 12 youth of either side approach each other, grab their opposite, and stab each other. All 24 youth die. This is a sort of Old Testament anti-type, an early image, of the Mystical Psalms Ladder and the River of Life/street/fruit tree of Revelation 22, which is gloriously joyful.

This brief reflection has considered just a few of the appearances of the Mystical Psalm Structures in the New Testament.

Tomorrow, Sunday, in the Gospel, Zacchaeus will climb a tree in Jericho to see Jesus. (Ladders back then were made from wood, from trees.) Jesus will stay in his house that evening. (Recall that the Ladder can also be the temple, the “beit,” the house. In Psalm 128, it is the family home that is the religious center.) In the community, the hundreds of millions, or even billions, of family homes of all people form the joyful centers of the global Human family.

People’s Hearts are God’s Homes

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People’s Hearts Are God’s Homes

(or, We Carry God’s Spirit Within Us)

Today, 28 October, is the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, for many Christians. Simon and Jude were Apostles. They lived with Jesus and traveled with him.

The Responsorial Psalm for today is a passage from Psalm 19, verses 2–5, which begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God….” This declaration is received on earth, where people continue to share and spread that message in new, loving, and creative ways.

The Gospel is from Chapter 6 of Luke’s Gospel, right before the Sermon on the Plain. It is the passage in which Jesus picks his 12 Apostles, and goes well with today’s feast.

However, what I would like to focus on is the First Reading. In the book that contains the Mass readings, in the place of the first reading, there is the instruction, “See the Common of the Dedication of a Church (p. 2415), for First Reading Eph 2:19-22.”

And I thought, “Well that’s fascinating.” Here we are celebrating 2 important saints of the Church, and the first reading is from one of Paul’s letters, a text that is often used for the dedication of a Church building. What is the connection between a person and a building?

Here too Paul helps us to see. He says that each person is the temple of God, and each person is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Each person is precious in God’s eyes. And hopefully in our eyes too. Paul lifts the metaphor of “Church” to a new level. He says that people are the Body of Christ, and that the Body of Christ is the Church. So in a very real way, people are the Church. Buildings are often beautiful, but the people inside them are the real temples, the real holy places. People are holy.

Here is the reading from Ephesians:

“Brothers and sisters: you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

This letter to the Church in Ephesus was probably written not by Paul himself, but by his friends shortly after Paul’s life. Scholars largely agree in this theory. These friends of his knew his teaching and thinking quite deeply.

Today’s passage from Ephesians is one of many texts in the Pauline corpus that discuss the merging of “the human person” with the “temple of God.”

The Greek text here is revelatory. In Greek, the word “house” is “oikos.” From this word comes “economics,” which originally referred to the good stewardship and management of the “things of the house.” Today, “economics” has a wider sense, and refers to how people caringly distribute the amazing bounty of the earth so that all people may live lives of joy and meaning.

Also, it is important to know that the ancient Israelites referred to the 2 temples of Jerusalem as the “house,” the “beit.” So whenever Paul is discussing the house or the building, this important theological issue is there: The presence of God, the Shekinah, has moved. The Spirit of God has moved from a constructed building to Humanity itself. In Luke 2, the Prophetess Anna and the virtuous Simeon represent the 2nd temple building “come to life” as it were. Luke employs daring personification light years ahead of its time. Anna and Simeon welcome the Holy Family into the temple. Their mission has been successful. They have helped prepare humanity to reach the point in our development where we can be, ourselves, the temple of God. Where we ourselves move and live more closely with the Holy Spirit.

After this meeting, Simeon sings the “Nunc Dimittis,” which Christians have been singing at the very end of the day for 2000 years. Simeon was acknowledging to God that his work was done, and that he was ready to meet God. It is the swan song of each day, and of the old stone temple. The temple’s great work was finished. A few decades later, the stone temple would end its physical existence.

In this brief passage from Ephesians, Greek cognates of the word “house” appear an astounding five (5) times. Again, there is the theme of the transfer of the Dwelling Place of God from a building to Humanity itself. This also makes good evolutionary sense.

Here again is the passage from Ephesians, with the added Greek words:

“Brothers and sisters: you are no longer strangers and sojourners (“paroikoi,” or “outside-the-homers,”) but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household (oikeioi) of God, built (“epOIKOdomethentes,” or “being-on-home-builded”) upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure (oikodome) is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together (sunOIKOdemeisthe, or “are-being-together-home-builded”) into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Humanity is the house of God. More than that, the fact that God is among us is actually transforming Humanity in truly radical ways. The passage that says, “Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord,” could be more literally rendered, “the (human) home-building is-being-together-connected and is growing.” Humanity is connecting with each other more deeply than ever before, despite some of the chaos in our world today. Also, this connection among humanity has new modalities. And this is wonderful news for every person on Earth.

One can see why this reading has been chosen for the liturgy that celebrates two Apostles of this good news.