Creating the New Earth Together

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

The Incarnation of God, 3: Unveiling Love, the Gift of You

           Love is at the Heart of Creation 

Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.  —Dylan Thomas

I GREET YOU ON THIS CHRISTMAS MORNING in the Spirit of the Christ, whose birth we celebrate today. Let peace reign in your heart today and throughout the New Year.

Cynthia Bourgeault takes this chapter of her book, THE WISDOM JESUS, home to an unveiling of love.  Recapping the previous two paragraphs for continuity of thought, here is the final installment of this series on the incarnation of Jesus.

♦ ◊ ♦

LET ME BE VERY CLEAR HERE. I am not saying that suffering exists in order for God to reveal himself. I am only saying that where suffering exists and is consciously accepted, there divine love shines forth brightly. Unfortunately, linear cause-and-effect has progressively less meaning as we approach the deep mysteries (which originate beyond time and thus have no real use for it). But the principle can be tested. Pay attention to the quality of human character that emerges from constriction accepted with conscious forgiveness as compared to what emerges from rage and violence and draw your own conclusions.

At any rate, I have often suspected that the most profound product of this world is tears. I don’t mean that to be morbid. Rather, I mean that tears express that vulnerability in which we can endure having our heart broken and go right on loving. In the tears flows a sweetness not of our own making, which has been known in our tradition as the Divine Mercy. Our jagged and hard-edged earth plane is the realm in which this mercy is the most deeply, excruciatingly, and beautifully released. That’s our business down here. That’s what we’re here for. ♦ (Emphasis added)

Unveiling Love

IF MY HUNCH IS CORRECT, you can see how it significantly rearranges the playing field. Our earthly existence, then, is not about good behavior in preparation for a final judgment. It’s not a finishing school in which we “learn what we need to learn,” nor a sweatshop in which we work off our karmic debt. Right here and now we are in the process of speaking into being the revelation of God’s most hidden and intimate name. That’s a difficult assignment, particularly when “success” and “failure” mostly wind up being the complete opposites of what we would normally expect in life. But the most productive orientation for our time here is not to focus on how quickly we can get back to our spiritual homeland, but to give ourselves fully to the divine intimacy being ventured right here and now. We might reassure ourselves that in some conscious (or deeply trans-conscious) way, we have chosen to bear our part in what mystical tradition calls “the suffering of God”: the costliness that is always involved in the full manifestation of divine love. We’re doing it here and now, through the marrow of our own human lives, consciously lived. And these space-time conditions, as fragile and as frustrating as they are, are precisely the conditions which allow it to happen. As the poet Dylan Thomas expresses it in the beautiful lines with which this chapter began, “Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.” It is the reality of the chains that creates the beauty of the song.

Mediator as Bridge

From a God’s-eye view of creation, the real operational challenge is not sin and evil; it is posed by the vastly unequal energetic frequencies between the realms. How can the sun touch a snowflake? How can the divine radiance meet and interpenetrate created life without incinerating it? This is the ultimate metaphysical koan—to which Christianity proposes as its solution the mystery of the incarnation.

This realization, in turn, opens up a whole new line of insight into John’s statement, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The Son, in this wider metaphysical context, is no longer the one who bails us out or who rescues us from our fallen state but the one who becomes our bridge between the realms. Recognizing the enormous difficulty of our mission, Jesus comes to accompany us on it, advocating for our human finitude in a way that respects its integrity but doesn’t allow us to get trapped in it. As in the traditional theological understanding (but with a very different flavor), he becomes our mediator. Standing at the confluence of two vastly different orders of being, he offers his own life as the sanctuary between them.

“Become All Flame”

As we have seen already, these great metaphysical paradoxes lend themselves more easily to poetry and metaphor than to the theological scalpel. One of the classic images Christian mystics have used to portray this cosmic mediation is actually very ancient, from the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus (3:1-6) the story is told of how Moses, while tending his father-in-law’s flock of sheep in the Midianite wilderness, suddenly comes upon a bush fully engulfed in flame and yet miraculously intact. The miracle is quickly revealed as an angel of God speaking through the flame. But for the Christian desert hermits later inhabiting that same wilderness, the burning bush became a symbol of Jesus himself: all flame, yet perfectly intact within his finite container. And there were those among that desert fellowship who yearned for that same incandescent ground. In one of the most famous of the desert parables:

Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.

Would it be possible for us, too, to “become all flame”? Could our own lives become such a perfect fusion of infinite love and finite form that light would pour from our being as an actual physical radiance? I have indeed seen this light in more than a few realized masters toward the end of their earthly journeys; it is the fully revealed mystery of human life lived as a conscious sacrament. How we get there is the secret Jesus will unfold for us through the course of his own consciously sacramental life. But our first step in joining him on this journey is to recognize that his incarnation is not about fall, guilt, or blame, but about goodness, solidarity, and our own intimate participation in the mystery of love at the heart of all creation.

♦ ◊ ♦

Life is sacred wherever it is expressed in Nature.  A life lived with love is truly a sacrament.  I love Cynthia’s passionate presentation of the incarnation and life of Jesus.  Speaking of passion,  I was listening to Bishop Michael Curry on NBC’s Today Show this Christmas Eve morning give his Christmas message, which is all about giving the gift of YOU to all those you meet in your daily activities by greeting them with a smile and a kind word or two to make a connection with them for sharing love.  He exemplifies this in his own robust ways.  We each have a gift to give of our Self, which is a gift from Heaven from whence we came into this world.  The gifts of Spirit are always coming down from God out of Heaven.  We need only be still enough and prepared in our hearts to receive and deliver them.  My friend in South Korea, Jae Hyoung Lee, shared this timely message on his Facebook page today: 

How careful are you that the atmosphere in you, that your state inside yourself, is of such a nature that the delicate things of God will not be destroyed? Such things will be destroyed by self-indulgence in such things as resentment, fear, hate, jealousy. All such attitudes produce a coarse atmosphere within a person, where the delicate plant cannot grow, where the delicate plant in fact will be destroyed. The way the world now is the atmosphere is so coarse that the things of God cannot exist here. They must first be placed in a womb, and the womb is provided by human beings, who were created for this purpose. We are the human beings through whom this development needs to take place, and we are responsible for maintaining security.  —-Martin Cecil

There a beautiful hymn we used to sing in choir that speaks of the womb of the Earth for beauty to be born and our crowning role as emissaries of beauty and light.  I’ll leave it with you to hold in your heart during this Christmas Season and throughout the coming year. 

Our God did make the earth a place of beauty, love and light, Where skies and seas and all of life reveal Him with delight. For God did make the earth a womb where beauty might be born. 

The flowers drink the rain and sun above the good brown earth, And do not seem to have to try to fill their life with worth. For God did make the earth a womb where beauty might be born.

And man He made with crowning care to share His majesty, To let His gifts of life appear, His glory ever be. For God did make the earth a womb where beauty might be born.

May your Christmas be a joyful celebration of the gift you are and the gifts of friends and family.  Feel free to share my Christmas message with friends and loved ones.  See you next year!  

Merry Christmas . . . and Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and neighbors! 

Anthony

 

The Incarnation of God, 2: Many Mansions

“The crucifixion wasn’t really the hard thing for Jesus; the hard thing was incarnation.”  

THE PASSAGE ABOVE, attributed to the mystic Bernadette Roberts, sets the tone for this second in a series of three posts on the theme of the incarnation of Jesus, the son of God.  I continue from where my previous post left off sharing from Cynthia Bourgeault’s  beautiful and provocative book, THE WISDOM JESUS, Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message.  We came into Being in Heaven before coming into Human form on Earth, and our journeys here were anything but pleasant.  We fell into this illusive world “from a lighter gravitational field to a heavier one.” With this post I celebrate the Winter Solstice and the beginning of yet another solar cycle initiated by the increase of Light.  Enjoy.  

♦ ◊ ♦

“Many Dwelling Places”

We Christians still inhabit a rather small universe, metaphysically speaking. We know that we live here on earth, and some of us may believe that above it is a place called heaven, counterbalanced by a place down below called hell. At very best it’s a three-tiered universe. But the ancient wisdom traditions (now strongly reinforced, incidentally, by findings emerging from modern physics and cosmology) universally suggest that we need to throw this three-story world out; it is far too cramped to contain the vastness of divine consciousness. There are many realms, wisdom teaches: not just earth, heaven, and hell, but countless densities or dimensions of existence, all of which exist to manifest or mirror an aspect of the divine fullness. Jesus himself states this very clearly to the disciples in his farewell discourses in the Gospel of John, when he says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (John 14:2). He does not mean physical places but rather states of consciousness or dimensions of divine energy (as we saw in chapter 3 with Jim Marion’s recognition that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was Jesus’s way of referring to nondual consciousness). The tradition of sophia perennis (perennial wisdom) pictures this vastness as a “great chain of being” or “ray of creation.” which begins in a pure, high-intensity, invisible, subtle consciousness and “descends,” thickening as it does so, into this world we inhabit: the realm of sharp edges and tables and chairs and human beings crashing and banging against each other in a finite and terribly solid world.

The contemporary Christian hermeticist Valentin Tomberg envisions this ray as a vast energetic cascade, beginning in divine consciousness itself and ending up in our familiar empirical universe. In Meditations on the Tarot he writes:

“Modern science has come to understand that matter is only condensed energy. Sooner or later science will also discover that what it calls energy is only condensed psychic force, which discovery will lead in the end to the establishment of the fact that all psychic force is the condensation, purely and simply, of consciousness; i.e., spirit.”

Like a mountain whose base is solidly on the earth but whose summit is hidden in the clouds, this insight leads us step by step up the ray of creation. Modern physics certainly would have no difficulty with the assertion that matter is only condensed energy; this is officially the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But what about this next realm, “psychic force”? Here the paths divide. This second form of energy is well known to spiritual seekers, but largely invisible to hardcore science; it is the energy flowing through prayer, attention, intention, and will: those more subtle exchanges which science has so far declined to measure but which we know have the power to create demonstrable effects in the physical realm.”

Beyond psychic force, yet another energetic realm awaits us, claims Tomberg, for psychic force is itself only the “condensation” (that is, the densification or coarser expression) of a substance incomparably more intense and subtle: pure spirit, pristine consciousness itself, unmediated by any form of expression. This primordial quality is known by many names in the tradition-“I AM” in Judeo-Christian tradition, wujud (“reality”) in mystical Islam, rigpa (“pristine awareness”) in Tibetan Buddhism. The names vary, but the understanding remains the same. Virtually unanimously, the ancient wisdom roadmaps picture the cosmos as a vast light stream, radiating out from the ineffable Godhead through the realm of primordial intention (known in Christianity as the logos), into archetypal form and energies, and finally into human, earthly becoming. Our life here in this physical cosmos is merely the endpoint of a long journey of what you might call “divine redshift”— that is, the condensation or cooling down of the intense energy of pure spirit in order to make physical manifestation possible.

Down Here on the Edge

So here we find ourselves on this plane of existence, at or near the bottom of the great chain of being. What are we to make of our position? What are we doing “down” here in a world that seems so dense and sluggish, so coarse and fragile and finite? Even in our dreams we move faster than the speed of light, and our mystics and visionaries are perpetually reminding us that in our heart of hearts we remember and yearn for a state of greater spaciousness and fluidity.

It’s curious, when you come to think about it, how virtually all the world’s spiritual traditions see this earthly realm as somehow deficient. Depending on the tradition, our world is either an illusion or a mistake, but in either case we “fall” into it, from a lighter gravitational field to a heavier one. We have seen how the Judeo-Christian tradition upholds this understanding in its primordial myth of the fall of Adam and Eve. Other traditions (primarily the Eastern ones) see this world as a mirage, an illusion to be dispelled. Still other traditions, such as mystical Islam, carry a profound sense of exile and a “nostalgia for the infinite.” Here is not home.

Is there another way of looking at this? I believe there is, and I think that it is actually at the heart of what is intended by that beautiful mantra, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” But it is so spiritually counterintuitive that it remains almost entirely unspoken — at least I myself have never heard it spoken or written about in any of the traditions. To the extent that what I am seeing here is correct, Christian wisdom steps out into unknown territory, leaving even sophia perennis behind.

Here is my take: Yes, this is a very heavy, frustrating, difficult density that we come into by taking birth in the human realm. Because of the binary, finite nature of both the physical world itself and the egoic operating system we use to navigate it, it seems as though we’re always bumping into sharp edges. Life presents us with a series of seemingly irrevocable choices: to do one thing means that we have to give up something else; to marry one person means we can’t marry another; and to join a monastery means we can’t marry at all. Our confused agendas clash both inwardly and outwardly, and we cause each other pain. Our bodies age; we diminish physically; loved ones fall out of our lives. And the force of gravity is tenacious, nailing our feet to the ground and usually our souls as well.  I remember my granddaughter, now five, who from the very moment she arrived on this planet expe­rienced an intense frustration bordering on fury at her inability to move. “What the hell?” she seemed to be saying as she flailed her little arms and legs and tried even at four months old to wriggle herself across the room. I have never seen a child who
felt the constriction of this planet as much as she did. 

Yes, we come into constriction, but is that the same as punishment! I believe not. I believe rather that this constriction is a sacrament and we have been offered a divine invitation to participate in it. 

Remember our discussion of sacrament at the beginning of this chapter! A sacrament reveals a mystery in a particularly intense way while at the same time offering the means for its actualization. And in this sphere of human life, the sacrament is finitude and the mystery is “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known….” 

Notice that there is a subtle double meaning at work in this phrase. At one level “I loved to be known” is a synonym for “I longed to be known” (and the phrase is often translated that way). But you can read the words in another way: “I loved in order to be known”– and when you do, they reveal a deeper spiritual truth.  In order to become known to another, we must take the risk of loving that person, and this includes the real possibility of rejection and the even more painful prospect of heart­ break if the beloved is lost to us. It is difficult to risk love in a world so fragile and contingent. And yet, the greater the gamble of self-disclosure, the more powerful the intimacy and the more profound the quality of devotion revealed. 

Could it be like this for God as well? 

Could it be that this earthly realm, not in spite of but because of its very density and jagged edges, offers precisely the conditions for the expression of certain aspects of divine love that could become real in no other way? This world does indeed show forth what love is like in a particularly intense and cost­ly way. But when we look at this process more deeply, we can see that those sharp edges we experience as constriction at the same time call forth some of the most exquisite dimensions of love, which require the condition of finitude in order to make sense — qualities such as steadfastness, tenderness, commitment, forbearance, fidelity, and forgiveness. These mature and subtle flavors of love have no real context in a realm where there are no edges and boundaries, where all just flows. But when you run up against the hard edge and have to stand true to love anyway, what emerges is a most precious taste of pure divine love. God has spoken his most intimate name. 

Let me be very clear here. I am not saying that suffering exists in order for God to reveal himself. I am only saying that where suffering exists and is consciously accepted, there divine love shines forth brightly. Unfortunately, linear cause-and-effect has progressively less meaning as we approach the deep mysteries (which originate beyond time and thus have no real use for it). But the principle can be tested. Pay attention to the quality of human character that emerges from constriction accepted with conscious forgiveness as compared to what emerges from rage and violence and draw your own conclusions.

At any rate, I have often suspected that the most profound product of this world is tears. I don’t mean that to be morbid. Rather, I mean that tears express that vulnerability in which we can endure having our heart broken and go right on loving. In the tears flows a sweetness not of our own making, which has been known in our tradition as the Divine Mercy. Our jagged and hard-edged earth plane is the realm in which this mercy is the most deeply, excruciatingly, and beautifully released. That’s our business down here. That’s what we’re here for. ♦ (Emphasis added)

♦ ◊ ♦

I love Cynthia’s passion and I’m finding her insights enlightening relative to the evolution and transformation taking place in Christian thinking and in the collective consciousness as a whole, probably because I still have a place of compassionate caring in my heart for my Catholic roots.  Not that I’m setting out on a mission to save the Catholic Church.  It’s the betrayed and misled that I care about, and who I have in mind and heart sharing Cynthia’s writings.  Please feel free to wisely share these blog posts with friends and family.  We will find out where the author is taking this consideration in the final series installment, which I will post on Christmas day.  Until then, Happy Solstice.

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com 

The Incarnation of God

I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known, and so I created the worlds both visible and invisible.” — Islamic Tradition

CHRISTMAS IS A YEARLY CELEBRATION of the incarnation of God’s only son, the Lord of Love and Prince of Peace, on Earth. I would like to share with you an insightful view and perspective of the incarnation of Jesus as a fully humanized being, taken from Cynthia Bourgeault’s beautifully written and profoundly insightful book THE WISDOM JESUS.  Its author is an Episcopal priest who has written several books exploring Jesus’ life as a mystical teaching and sacrament. 

Having emerged from a Catholic upbringing myself, and having spent seven years in Catholic Seminary, I do enjoy sharing this author’s vision of what Christianity could be simply by adopting a more metaphysical view and understanding of it core truth and of the One whose birth we celebrate this week.  Cynthia takes us from where we’ve been in our religious path of worshiping God, to where we are now at the threshold of opportunity for a radical shift in our attitude and consciousness, and forward to how we could easily move into a more spirit and love based path to knowing God.  I will share selections from her book in two or more blog posts.  I hope you will enjoy her as much as I do.

♦ ◊ ♦

THE INCARMATION

IN THE FIRST PART of this book we explored Jesus’s teachings as a comprehensive spiritual path. In this second part we will be shifting our focus to consider Jesus’s life itself as a teaching. By “a teaching” I mean a model, of course; all authentic teachers walk the talk. But more than just a model, I want to consider his life as a sacrament — that is, as a spiritual force in its own right. The traditional definition of a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” But what to my mind this definition does not make sufficiently clear is that a sacrament does not merely symbolize a spiritual reality; it lives that reality into existence.

Jesus’s life, considered from this standpoint, is a sacrament: a mystery that draws us deeply into itself and, when rightly approached, conveys an actual spiritual energy empowering us to follow the path that his teachings have laid out. This sacramental life of Jesus rests on four cornerstones which are both historical events and cosmic realities: his incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension. Together they compose the foundation of the Christian mystical and devotional life, and to open oneself fully to the meaning of these great mysteries is to be able to read the inner roadmap of the Christian path. In the next four chapters we will be exploring each of these mysteries in turn. My hope is to move beyond the usual theological and critical-historical explanations in order to follow the living mystical thread that will allow us to appropriate each one of these mysteries as food for the journey.

Since the ground we will be traversing is also the sometimes prickly shared territory of Christian liturgy and sacramental theology, let me remind you once again of my own background here, so that you will know where I am speaking from. While I wear the collar of an Episcopal priest, most of my lived liturgical life has been within the wider stream of Benedictine monasticism, primarily Western and Roman Catholic (although the Episcopal liturgy is in most respects identical), and it is from this perspective (as well as my earlier training as a medievalist) that I will primarily be speaking when I describe the ritual celebrations that unfold these great mysteries. I am less familiar with the Orthodox traditions (except through my exposure to the  Christian inner tradition), but at ease within the Celtic and Oriental Orthodox spiritual streams, whose extraordinary insights I will draw on at appropriate moments. As Meister Eckhart once observed, “There is no being except in a mode of being,” and the Western Catholic mode of being is the stream in which I have primarily come to know what I know. With that disclaimer in place, let us see what we can discover about the first great mystery, the incarnation.

“For God So Loved the World . . . .”

I remember being struck many years ago by an insight from the contemporary mystic Bernadette Roberts that crucifixion wasn’t really the hard thing for Jesus; the hard thing was incarnation.” Crucifixion and what followed from it — his death and resurrection — were simply the pathway along which infinite consciousness could return to its natural state. What was really hard for infinite consciousness was to come into the finite world in the first place. With nothing to gain from the human adventure — nothing to prove, nothing to achieve, and a dangerously unboundaried heart that left him defenseless against the hard edges of this world — Jesus came anyway: that, claims Bernadette Roberts, was the real crucifixion! As we saw earlier, Paul grasped that same point in his beautiful hymn in Philippians 2:9-16. The first self-emptying that Jesus goes through is the self-emptying that lands him in bodily form on this planet, a human being. There is definitely something spiritually counterintuitive about this business of incarnation, and to really get what’s at stake in this mystery is for me the acid test as to whether you understand what Christianity is all about.

Unfortunately, this understanding is hard to come by: not only outside of Christianity, but inside it as well. Make no mistake, Christianity is intensely a religion of incarnation. Millions of people caught up in mass hysteria during the Christmas season can’t all be wrong! But even the sentimental excesses of the season only go to reinforce the point. There is a deeper truth at work here that stirs us in spite of ourselves. Who among us has not awakened in the wee hours of Christmas morning to catch the live broadcast of the Ceremony of Lessons and Carols from Westminster Abbey and thrilled to the sonorous reading of those immortal words from the prologue to the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us”? There is a deep soul-truth here that both contains and redeems our frantic efforts to penetrate its meaning at a more superficial level.

If you were to imagine the great world religions like the colors of a rainbow, each one witnessing in a particular way to some essential aspect of the divine fullness, Christianity would unquestionably hold down the corner of incarnation — by which I mean the vision of God in full solidarity with the created world, fully at home within the conditions of finitude, so that form itself poses no impediment to divinity. There is another beautiful phrase in John’s gospel proclaiming: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).  At its mystical best, Christianity reverberates with the warmth of this assurance: with the conviction that creation is good, that God is for us, and that what ultimately gets worked out in the sacred mystery of Jesus’s passage through the human realm is a profound testament to love.

Who Screwed Up?

Unfortunately, Christianity as a religion has never had a sufficient metaphysical understanding of its own core truth. The message gets obscured by its primary interpretive vehicle: the theology of fall and redemption. Virtually all Christian teaching begins from the supposition that Jesus’s incarnation is brought about by the fall of Adam and happens in response to it. “As in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive” is the classic Pauline formulation of this idea (I Corinthians 15:20). The primordial parents Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and plunged the world into chaos; Jesus came to rescue it. Thus, incarnation is framed from the start within the context of God’s response to a mistake that should never have happened in the first place. This assumption, in turn, deeply colors our understanding of the phrase, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It sounds like: “God didn’t give up on us; God bailed us out.”

In a more mystical nuancing of this same basic idea, we encounter the theology of “0 felix culpa”~”O happy fault”~ to quote the first line of a traditional Gregorian Advent hymn which expresses this theology particularly clearly. Rather than blaming Adam and Eve, this line of argument claims, we ought to be grateful for them because their mistake set in motion the chain of events through which Christ would fully reveal himself to this world. Without that initial fall there would have been no need for the redemption. In the most subtle versions of this teaching (as in Karl Barth’s Christ and Adam) linear cause and effect are reversed, and we see Adam and Eve falling into this space/time continuum out of God’s “prior” decision (that is, already made in eternity) to reveal himself in human form. Rather than being the cause of the fall, Adam and Eve become the instruments of the ultimate divine self-communication. This is a much more affirmative teaching, which brings the theology of fall and redemption to its most mature expression.

But I would like to push the metaphysical envelope still further and see if we can approach the mystery of the incarnation through a conceptual framework that does not rely on fall and redemption at all but unfolds along an entirely different line of understanding. Instead of a cosmic course-correction, this other approach envisions the steady and increasingly intimate revelation of divine love along a trajectory that was there from the beginning. The best expression of this idea is actually contained in a beautiful saying from Islamic tradition (although its roots go down into perennial wisdom ground): “I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known, and so I created the worlds both visible and invisible.” Both the saying itself and the understanding that illumines it derive from a profound mystical intuition that our created universe is a vast mirror, or ornament (and the Greek word “cosmos” literally means “an ornament”), through which divine potentiality — ­beautiful, fathomless, endlessly creative — projects itself into form in order to realize fully the depths of divine love. And remember that “realize” has two meanings: “to recognize” and “to make real.” The act of loving brings hidden potential to full expression, and the more intimate and costly the self-giving, the more precious the quality of love revealed. This subtle and beautiful understanding of creation will also, as we shall see, have something very important to show us about our true work as human beings.

♦ ◊ ♦

We are each one an incarnation of Divine Being.  Our personal incarnations were stressful and limiting, descending from the peaceful Realms of Light and landing in the dark wet terrain of busy embryonic cellular activity; from flying freely in the air of spirit to crawling on our bellies until our toddling forms learn to walk and run.  How we yearn for the freedom we knew before incarnating.  I remember very vivid dreams of flying above the ground at breakneck speed in my youthful years.  Who hasn’t had such dreams?  And I can relate to the thrill a jet pilot must enjoy flying through the air at supersonic speed.  One has to be fit and well trained to fly a jet.  Likewise our human capacities need compassionate care and vital nourishment in order to be fully fit and available in accommodating the incarnate divine beings we are.     

Yet here we are, fully awake and learning how to navigate a multidimensional universe of energy-shaped-and-driven hard and complex materiality only God comprehends.  Being incarnate gods ourselves, we have been gifted the privilege of sharing in Divine Consciousness and comprehending reality that is incomprehensible to the human intellect—for the darkness cannot comprehend the Light in the same way that Light comprehends the darkness.  We incarnate to bring Light into the dark corners of Creation to bring forth a heavenly world here on Earth where we are.  This gives us great cause for celebrating, at Christmas time and throughout the year. 

I celebrate you, dear reader, this Christmas, along with my own Divine incarnation—and my gift to you and myself is unconditional love and acceptance.  May the joy of Love fill you full to overflowing during this Holiday Season.  Until my next post — which will be published this coming Wednesday,

Be love.  Be loved.

Anthony    (tpal70@gmail.com)

Credits: Artistic drawing by Rose Meeker, author of MAGIC AT OUR HAND – Releasing Our Lives into Order and Beauty

 

The Historical Reason for the Season

“For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given . . . .  And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9;6)

(Click on Handle’s Messiah to enjoy the music)

A question that’s been around for some time now is: “Was Jesus born on December 25th?” The answer, according to Rabbi Jonathan Chan, is NO, Jesus was born in the Spring — “Nissan One”– in March or April, the only time of the year when shepherds would be out watching their flock at night when baby lambs are being born. It would also have been around the year 4 BC, the historical date when King Herod the Great died.  In case you are unfamiliar with the story, he was the king who ordered all the male infants two-years old and under killed after he learned from the Magi that a “king of the Jews” had been born.

(When you have 24 minutes to spare, click on the the Rabbi’s name above to view the entire compelling argument and historical, as well as astronomical and celestial evidence. He’s quite entertaining as well.)

I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago that the “Bethlehem Star” was seen back in June of 2015 for the first time in 2000 years—according to a CNN special report. The “star” is thought to be a brilliant phenomenon in the heavens created by a planetary conjunction involving Jupiter and Venus. There is also conjecture that the Star of Bethlehem could be a super nova, or a “gamma burst” as this clip demonstrates.

Well, there was such a “triple conjunction” on February 25 in the year 6 BC with the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars forming a triangle low in the western sky. This is when the “Three Kings” of the Magi saw “his star in the East” and proceeded to Bethlehem to see the newly-born child “King of the Jews” and to bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It apparently took them two years to reach their destination. So, we can remove the three kings from our Nativity Scene as they were not there yet. They can be put there on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, which commemorates the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi. 

The Real Reason for the Season

So, why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th? And what’s the real reason for the Season? Here’s what I found at Space.com:

In ancient times, Dec.  25 was the date of the lavish Roman festival of Saturnalia. It was a time when gifts were exchanged; homes, streets and buildings were decorated; people came home for the holidays and everybody was in a happy, party mood. 

It has been said that early Christians chose the date of the Saturnalia in order to avoid attention and thus escape persecution. When the Roman emperor Constantine officially adopted Christianity in the 4th century, the date of Christmas remained Dec. 25.

The real “reason for the Season,” then, is gift-giving, and in the Christian world, in celebration of the birth of Jesus, celebrated by Handle as “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  (from Isaiah 9;6). It is said that after Handle finished composing this masterwork, he exclaimed “I have seen the face of God.” (Click on Handle to enjoy the music)

Thanks to the Romans, we can have a “White Christmas” in December, which we could not have in March or April.  How wonderfully perfect it all worked out!

LOVE IS BORN ANEW IN OUR HEARTS

Meister Eckhart saw the true meaning of Christmas when he penned these words:

Where is he who is born King of the Jews? Now concerning this birth, mark where it befalls. I say again, as I have often said before, that this birth befalls in the soul exactly as it does in eternity, neither more nor less, for it is the same birth: this birth befalls in the ground and essence of the soul. . . . God is in all things as being, as activity, as power.” 

Here’s something I would like to share with my readers during this year’s Holiday Season. It’s from “Daily OM” and written by Madysin Taylor:

Holding the holidays in your heart throughout the year it can be wonderfully transformative. Holidays and joy are two elements of our lives that are naturally intertwined. Traditional celebrations awaken within us an ardent desire to reconnect with the people we care about and to share our abundance. During the holiday season, we feel more driven to actively practice compassion, tolerance, selflessness, and gratitude. When we feel stressed, we find peace in the company of loved ones. And, filled with warm thoughts, we endeavor to ensure that others can share in our celebrations. Yet while happiness and holidays go hand in hand, the serenity and optimism that blossom within as we act on our festive feelings need not be relegated to a few days or weeks each year. We can carry the holiday spirit within us all year long if we make an effort to embrace a celebratory frame of mind no matter what the date.

Holding the holidays in your heart can be wonderfully transformative. Changing your life can be as simple as thinking about the uplifting activities you engage in and the positive attitudes you adopt during the holiday season and then integrating them into your daily life. If you learn to always be as open to wonder as you are around the holidays, the world will seem like a more magical place, whether it is December, March, or August. While holidays represent a great opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, there is little preventing you from reaching out to the people you care about throughout the year. The patience, compassion, goodwill, and tolerance you feel while celebrating can easily become a part of your everyday experience. Likewise, you will soon discover that the generous charitable gifts you give once a year mean just as much during other months and are often needed even more.

To remind yourself of your decision to carry the holiday spirit in your heart, consider displaying some small part of your holiday décor to signify your commitment. Remember that giving, whether your gifts are tangible or of the soul, always feels good, whatever the occasion. However you prefer to celebrate the holidays, practicing the ideals of the season every day means experiencing the beauty of the holiday season all year long.

We just finished watching the Global Citizen Prize television extravaganza this Friday evening — celebrating the world’s most inspiring activists — hosted by the exuberant John Legend.  What a huge release of love and compassion for humanity and care for the planet! What a reprieve from the daily national news! This is truly the “eleventh hour” and there’s so much more to be done to save our species and the natural world. It was so good to see and to honor with gratitude those who are leading forth in this effort and the much they have already done. God’s blessings upon them each one.

I leave you to  enjoy the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s offering of an excerpt from Handle’s Messiah.

And with that, I wish you all and each one a very Happy Holiday Season, a Blessed Solstice, and a healthy New Year in 2020.

Merry Christmas and “May God bless us each one.”

Anthony

Email: tpal70@gmail.com

 

The Music of Christmas

“Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright”

12/01/2012

I wish it were so in the world this Christmas. But it’s not silent, nor holy. All is not calm. Neither is it bright, except for all the artificial lighting and cheerful shopping, stressful as it is.  

In the midst of all the rush and preparations of the Season, the saving grace for me is the joyful and peaceful music of Christmas. My favorite Christmas albums are Johnny Mathis’s 50th Anniversary Christmas Celebration and A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf choir.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir presented a fabulous program a couple of nights ago on our PBS station. For me, it’s the music that carries forward the light of hope and love into the world at Christmas time.

Here’s an hour-long video of the St Olaf choir’s Christmas concert in Norway for your enjoyment.  I just love seeing our youth sing with such love for their beautiful heavenly music. Bonnie and I wish you all and each one a silent, holy, calm and bright Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Transcending The Christmas Myth

My Chorale PicMany of our cultural holidays are historically based on ancient mythology. Mythology itself is largely based on myths about gods and goddesses who inhabited ancient skies. In those days, deities were brought down to earth and given human incarnations as sons and daughters of gods and goddesses.

The Greeks had hundreds of deities, one for every human and earthly activity, from Apollo the Olympian God of the sun, light, knowledge, music, healing and the arts, to Zeus the very King of Heaven and god of the sky, clouds, thunder, and lightning. They had female deities as well, such as Hera, Queen of Heaven and goddess of the air and starry constellations, and Artemis, Olympian Goddess of virgins and young women, of the moon, nature, hunt and the wild animals. They had Astriaos, Titan god of stars and planets, and the art of astrology.

There was Aphrodite, “Goddess of beauty, love, desire, and pleasure. Although married to Hephaestus, she had many lovers, most notably Ares, Adonis, and Anchises. . . . Her Roman counterpart is Venus.” (Wikipedia)

There was Athena, “Goddess of reason, wisdom, intelligence, skill, peace, warfare, battle strategy, and handicrafts. According to most traditions, she was born from Zeus’s forehead, fully formed and armored. . . .  She is a special patron of heroes such as Odysseus. . . .  Her Roman counterpart is Minerva.” (Wikipedia)

Then there was Ares, “God of war, bloodshed, and violence. The son of  Zeus and Hera, he was depicted as a beardless youth, either nude with a helmet and spear or sword, or as an armed warrior. Homer portrays him as moody and unreliable, and he generally represents the chaos of war in contrast to Athena, a goddess of military strategy and skill. . . .  His Roman counterpart Mars by contrast was regarded as the dignified ancestor of the Roman people.” (Wikipedia)

They had many female deities, such as Demeter, “Goddess of grain, agriculture, harvest, growth, and nourishment. Demeter is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and a sister of Zeus, by whom she bore Persephone. Demeter is one of the main deities of the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which her power over the life cycle of plants symbolizes the passage of the human soul through life and into the afterlife. . . .  Her symbols are the cornucopia, wheat-ears, the winged serpent, and the lotus staff. . . .  Her Roman counterpart is Ceres.” (Wikipedia)

Some of these died and rose from the grave.

Dying-and-Rising Gods

Amazing what one can find on the internet. If you look up “dying-and-rising gods,” for example, you’ll come upon this on Wikipedia:

Examples of gods who die and later return to life are most often cited from the religions of the Ancient Near East, and traditions influenced by them including Biblical and Greco-Roman mythology and by extension Christianity. The concept of dying-and-rising god was first proposed in comparative mythology by James Frazer‘s seminal The Golden Bough. Frazer associated the motif with fertility rites surrounding the yearly cycle of vegetation. Frazer cited the examples of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Attis, Dionysus and Jesus Christ.[6]

Gods Born to Virgins on December 25 Before Jesus Christ

If you Google “Gods born to virgins” you’ll come upon this very interesting article, from which I will excerpt a few paragraphs:

There are common themes in ancient religion that make one wonder if Christianity was not the one exception to the rule that societies tend to adopt beliefs, stories, and traditions from one another. True, it’s not always clear whether common themes are a testament to the human exchange of ideas or to the universal imagination of early human thought (parallels may exist between religions on entirely different continents, for example, but that does not necessarily mean one influenced another).But what is clear is where certain ideas in human history did not originate.

Long before Yahweh and Jesus Christ, many religions had gods who were born in strange, miraculous ways, at times to virgins, who came to earth, and (though these are not the focus of this article) performed miracles, taught about judgement and the afterlife, were killed, reborn, and ascended into heaven. True, these stories are different from those of Christ, but the common archetypes in cultures in close proximity to Palestine suggest pagan influences on the biblical story of Christ’s birth.

December 25 was an important birthday for many human gods.

Most Christians understand Christ was not actually born on this date (biblical scholars believe he was born in the spring, because the Bible mentions shepherds in the fields at the time of his birth).

The idea that Christ was born on December 25 doesn’t appear in the historical record until the fourth century A.D.; the earliest Christian writers, such as Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and the gospel authors, are silent on the subject. . . .

Late December, the time of the winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year), was full of pagan European celebrations. The Roman Empire declared December 25 a holiday to celebrate the birth of their adopted Syrian god Sol Invictus in 274 A.D. Some 50 years later, Roman Emperor Constantine officially adopted December 25 as the day for celebrating Christ’s birth.

Before 1,000 B.C. we have the following gods or demigods born on December 25: Horus, Osiris, and Attis. Before 200 B.C. we have Mithra, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, and others (see All About Adam and Eve, by Richard Gillooly). Some of these characters, you will see below, were also born to virgins. . . .

Interestingly, in ancient mythology, many gods are born to women with names derived from “Ma,” meaning mother: Myrrha in Syrian myth, Maia in Greek myth, Maya in Hindu, Mary in Hebrew. . . .

The Magi’s star isn’t unique to Christmas – nor is the Magi.

Stars, meteors, and heavenly lights allegedly signaled the birth of many man-gods, including Christ, Yu, Lao-tzu, various Roman Caesars, and Buddha (see Gillooly). This parallels the strange and fantastic events that surround the births of purely mythological figures, such as Osiris in Syria, Trinity in Egypt, and Mithra in Persia. But nothing was more spectacular than virgin birth. . . .

Virgin birth, and a reverence and obsession with virginity, was a common theme in ancient religions before the time of Christ and near where Christianity originated (see “The Ancient Beginnings of the Virgin Birth Myth,” by Keyser). It marked the child as special, often divine.

Two thousand years before Christ, the virgin Egyptian queen Mut-em-ua gave birth to Pharaoh Amenkept III. Mut-em-ua had been told she was with child by the god Taht, and the god Kneph impregnated her by holding a cross, the symbol of life, to her mouth. Amenkept’s birth was celebrated by the gods and by three kings, who offered him gifts.

Ra, the Egyptian sun god, was supposedly born of a virgin, Net. Horus was the son of the virgin mother Isis. In Egypt, and in other places such as Assyria, Greece, Cyprus, and Carthage, a mythological virgin mother and her child was often a popular subject of art and sculpture.

Attis, a Phrygian-Greek vegetation god, was born of the virgin Nana. By one tradition, Dionysus, a Greek character half god and half human, was the son of Zeus, born to the virgin Persephone.

Persephone also supposedly birthed Jason, a character with no father, human or divine. Perseus was born to a mortal woman named Danae, and fathered by Zeus. Zeus also slept with a mortal woman (though daughter of a nymph) named Io, and they had a son and a daughter. He slept with the mortal Leda, who gave birth (hatched, actually) Helen of Troy and other offspring.

Even Plato in Greece was said by some to have been born to a virgin, Perictione, and fathered by the god Apollo, who gave warning to Ariston, Perictione’s husband-to-be.

Some followers of Buddha Gautama decided he was born to the virgin Maya by divine decree. Genghis Khan was supposedly born to a virgin seeded by a great miraculous light. The founder of the Chinese Empire, Fo-Hi, was born after a woman (not necessarily a virgin) ate a flower or red fruit. The river Ho (Korea) gave birth to a son when seeded by the sun. Krishna was born to the virgin Devaka. In Rome, Mercury was born to the virgin Maia, Romulus to the virgin Rhea Sylvia (see “An Old Story,” Chapman Cohen).

The Persian god Mithra was made the “Protector of the Empire” by the Romans in 307 AD, right before Christianity was declared the official religion. Some versions of Mithra’s story, predating Christianity, make him the son of a human virgin. His birth, on December 25, was seen by shepherds and Magi, who brought gifts to a cave, the place of his birth (see Godless, by former pastor Dan Barker).

Well, what do you think? Is the Christmas story just that, a mythical story, perhaps composed after the life of Jesus to explain and support his messianic divinity?

In closing this post, however, allow me this transcending perspective. We hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas during these days of commercialized everything. Personally, I believe that Christ was never omitted from Christmas, commercialism notwithstanding.  The Christ is Love, as we each one are in true identity.  Love is born and reborn every year when we celebrate its birth through the man Jesus two-thousand years ago. Love is very much in our hearts and in expression this time of year. I feel it strongly as we spend time with our children and grandchildren this week. I feel it when friends near and far wish me and others a “Merry Christmas,” or a “Happy Holidays.” I don’t think that Jesus would feel slighted by such a seasonal greeting as “Happy Holidays” if he were around. The Love is there so the Christ is there.  So, I wish you each one a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays, a Happy Hanukkah if you’re Jewish, and a Happy Solstice if you’re into celebrating the goddess Gaia’s seasons of the year . . . and while I’m at it, Have a Happy New Year!    ~Anthony Palombo

Read my HealthLight Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com where you’ll find many excellent articles. The current feature is on “Artic Ruby Oil and Fat Reduction.”

 

Have an “Inner Christmas”

                                       

A friend posted this video link on Facebook and it is such a beautiful and meaningful movie I simply have to share it with my blog readers. Enjoy!

Wishing you each one a deep and renewing “Inner Christmas” this year!

(Video link:  http://www.theinnerchristmasmovie.com/ )

May your days be merry and bright!  May your Christmas Day be quiet.

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