Tag Archives: Holidays

Thursday of Mysteries

“When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet before the supper, the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of avarice, and to the lawless judges he betrayed You, the Righteous Judge. Behold, this man because of avarice hanged himself. Flee from the insatiable desire which dared such things against the Master! O Lord Who deals righteously with all, glory to You!”
- Troparion (Plagal Fourth Tone) of Holy Thursday

the_gospel_of_judas_iscariot_by_testingpointdesign

 

“Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal. For someone else will replace you, in order that the twelve may again come to completion with their god.”
- Gospel of Judas

Jesus_Washing_of_Feet_of_the_Apostles_003

“It is not permitted to hold love, as they are called, in the, or Churches, nor to eat and to spread couches in the house of God.”
- Canon XXVIII, Council of Laodicea

Lastsupper-Chartres

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats.”
-Exodus 12:5

john the beloved

 

“Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”

IOHANNES XIII:xxxiv


Review of Tony Silvia’s “Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame”

After two years of hard work, Father Anthony Silvia + brings to us an amazing primer in Johannite spirituality in his Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame bringing to light the foundational practices of the Apostolic Johannite Church for all to see including the Logos Liturgy and the ceremony of the Agape Feast.

The Apostolic Johannite Church is a world-wide network of communities united by the pursuit of gnosis and the communal celebration of the Divine. In Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame, Father “Tony” explains the significance of the central spiritual practices of the AJC after many years of personal practice, explores traditional devotionals in an applicable and approachable way, all the while maintaining his own sincere sense of humility and humor.

This text, following six years on the heels of Monsignor Jordan Stratford’s+ Living Gnosticism and three years on the heels of Father Donald Donato’s+ dutiful translation of The Levitikon: the Gospels According to the Primitive Church, is a foundational text for anyone looking to begin their own personal practice in the tradition of the disciples of the Divine Beloved and includes practices innovated by members of this community in the modern age.

Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame is sure to be a text I will myself refer to in the future as I undergo the seminary program toward priesthood in the AJC and am proud to  suggest to anyone looking for a change of pace in their spiritual practices. My only complaint is that it is a little light on ‘in depth’ philosophy, but it makes up for it in the depth of experience of all the practitioners whose work contributed to the creation of such an amazing text.

ssacredflame


Candlemas

Jumping the gun a bit (because I’m excited), tomorrow is a day of day of celebration in for many things: for the greater pagan community, Imbolc and the commemoration of Bride (or Brigid); but for Christians and Gnostics we commemorate an important day, the commemoration the presentation of the Christ in the temple.

The Feast of the Presentation also called Hypapante (Greek, “meeting”) or, more commonly Candlemas, is considered to be one of the Twelve Great Feasts and is celebrated by Christians world-wide in commemoration of the gospel account of Mary and Joseph’s presentation of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem to complete Mary’s ritual purification forty days after giving birth in obedience to the Law of Moses. By most accounts, the Feast of the Presentation is among the most ancient feasts of the Church and is held in particularly high regard amongst Eastern Christians for being one of the combined feasts of Mary and Jesus – the “Light of the World” who, for the first time in his life, enters into the Temple of Jerusalem symbolically, perhaps, of the Light of God being inflamed in the Temple for all and The All to behold.

In the contemporary Gnostic lectionary, the intent for this feast centers on the “Kindling of the Light in Darkness” as explicitly mentioned in the gospel lesson from the Gospel of Thomas: “Within a man of light there is light and he lights the whole world. When he does not shine, there is darkness.” In the Gospel of Luke which is traditionally read on this date in the outer Church, after Mary and Joseph had made their temple offerings, Mary is approached by a pious man named Simeon who is described in the account as being, “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: [with] the Holy Spirit upon him” (Luke 2:25) who, upon beholding the infant Jesus prophecies to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Between the different sets of readings, the lessons from the Gnostic lectionary are a bit more comforting perhaps and less morose than the experience of a new mother being approached by a holy man saying: “Your kid is finally going to show everyone the light of God, probably die a nasty death, and you’re going to experience some trauma – but it’s okay, since it’s all for the better.” In many respects it’s much easier to focus on the contemplative and intentional cultivation of the Sacred Flame within us but, as we see here, it is because of that same type of cultivation that the prophet Simeon was able to sustain himself on the single hope in seeing the Lord. The light which Simeon beheld that day was also the same Sacred Flame that Mary had lovingly and patiently carried within her womb for nine months, gave birth to during one of the darkest nights of the year and, forty days later, presented openly into the world after purifying herself.

Cultivation of the Sacred Flame is something that takes much effort, but when dutifully attended, yields much joy. From the Gospel of Luke we can conjecture that the prophet Simeon himself spend many hours in prayer and supplication and participated regularly in the ritual functions of the Temple. The prophetess, Anna, who is also mentioned in this account, seems to have never left the Temple precinct following her being widowed – a tragic experience for a woman in first century Israel – by her husband some many years earlier. In the case of Simeon, prior to encountering Christ, his experience could be considered something of a “Dark Night of the Soul” looking for the consolation of Israel. Both become inflamed with ecstasy (Gk. ekstasis) by their experiences of “seeing the Light” and prophecy their respective good news which included the foreshadowing Mary would experience herself during the passion of Jesus.

Mary’s position in this is equally one of joy in gaining a brief, illuminative moment affirming the role her son would play in the world as well as a shocking revelation of the suffering she herself would experience in the role of her son’s life. At the time of this event Mary would have still been a very young woman, not even out of adolescence, and to hear such a short time after giving birth that her son’s life was already set, essentially, as a tile for “falling” in a huge domino configuration of events that would tragically pierce through her own soul must have been a very terrifying prospect. As any of us who have attempted to embark on any serious endeavor know, sometimes the fear of failure is enough to make us think twice about doing what we have to do. Yet, through the foresight granted, Mary was able to make the preparations needed within her and for her child to ensure that his mission would fulfill the prophecy of success foretold by Simeon.

The candles which are blessed on this day not only serve to remind us to enkindle and nourish the Sacred Flame within us, but to encourage us to be living examples of that same faith, generosity and love exemplified by Simeon, Anna and Mary in our willingness to share that Sacred Flame with all the world in spite of the difficulties which we know will invariably arise in our course as we seek to go forth into the dark and uncertain territories that we will eventually have to walk through ourselves on the path. With the foreknowledge we have been given through scripture, life experience and prayer, we will find greater light even in dark and confusing situations. As our perceptions are purified by these experiences, and illuminated by understanding, we will be better equipped to handle these rough spots and enlighten others – whomever we meet – along their own paths.

 


A Gnostic Divine Office

The other day, I got to thinking about how much of a role the liturgy of the hours played in my spiritual formation. Nearly every day while in college I would attend at least one of the prayer services lead by the monastic community at Saint Martin’s Abbey. After leaving college, I missed the prayer cycle and the liturgy and the communal worship and, as life would have it, ended up adapting the prayer services used in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Naturally, as the heretic that I am, it left much to be desired for me as a Gnostic to be using a prayer service that didn’t have room for my own personal spiritual experience.

On a whim, I made a post asking members of one Gnostic community if there was anything in their tradition resembling the Liturgy of the Hours – sadly there was not, but fortunately for me I was pointed in a good direction to a book that I owned at one time, never really got around to reading and likely sold or gave to someone at some point. Perhaps this was all for the better. Reading through A Gnostic Book of Hours by June Singer has immediately filled a small void that I have been missing and has inspired me to create a more in-depth Gnostic Liturgy of the Hours combining elements from my experiences in Catholic contemplative prayer, Episcopal devotional service and my own Gnostic beliefs.

Below follows what I’m working with right now as a sort of, Gnostic Divine Office going largely off the model set forth for the Morning Service, Rite One in the Book of Common Prayer. Naturally, this is still very experimental at present, but I’m hoping it will develop into something more fluid and organic as time and practice allows.

A Gnostic Divine Office

The Invitatory and Psalter

All stand

Officiant          O Lord, open thou our lips.

People             And our mouths will proclaim your praise.

Officiant and People

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as
it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Except in Lent,    Alleluia    may be added.

Then follows the Venite or Jubilate.

Venite                                    Psalm 95:1-7

O come, let us sing unto the Lord; *
let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the corners of the earth, *
and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it, *
and his hands prepared the dry land.

O come, let us worship and fall down, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God, *
and we are the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth stand in awe of him.
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, *
and with righteousness to judge the world
and the peoples with his truth.

Jubilate                                 Psalm 100

Be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Be ye sure that the Lord he is God; *
it is he that hath made us and we ourselves;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise; *
be thankful unto him and speak good of his Name.

For the Lord is gracious;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his truth endureth from generation to generation.

Bread of Heaven                The Gospel of Philip

“Before Christ came, there was no bread in the world, just as Paradise, the place were Adam was, had many trees to nourish the animals but no wheat to sustain man. Man used to feed like the animals, but when Christ came, the perfect man, he brought bread from heaven in order that man might be nourished with the food of man. The rulers thought that it was by their own power and will that they were doing what they did, but the Holy Spirit in secret was accomplishing everything through them as it wished. Truth, which existed since the beginning, is sown everywhere. And many see it being sown, but few are they who see it being reaped.”

Then follows

The Psalm or Psalms Appointed

At the end of the Psalms is sung or said

Officiant                Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
People                   As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Lessons

One or two lessons, as appointed, are read, the Reader or Officiant first saying

A Reading (Lesson) from _______________.

A citation giving chapter and verse may be added.

After each Lesson the Reader may say

Officiant               The Word of the Lord.
People                   Thanks be to God.

Or the Reader may say        Here endeth the Lesson (Reading).

Silence may be kept after each Reading. One of the following Hymns is sung or said after
each Reading. If three Lessons are used, the Lesson from the Gospel is
read after the second Canticle.

Hymn to the Living Soul                  A Manichaean hymn in Parthian.

You, oh Soul, would we praise, our bright Life!

You would we praise, Jesus Messiah!

Merciful savior, look upon us!

Worthy are you to honor , redeemed Soul of Light!

Salvation to you, and may we also receive salvation!

Worthy are you of the Soul of Light, bright shining limb of Light.

You have salvation, bright Soul of the gods that shines in the darkness.

You sons of Truth, praise the Soul, the valiant god eager for battle.

This fettered Soul has arrived, gathered in unity

Coming forth from heaven and from the depths of the earth,

And from all creation.

Meritorious and blessed is the auditor who gathers the Soul

together, And blissful is the elect who purifies it.

This redeemed Soul has come,

It has come to this Church of Righteousness.

Praise it forever, you elect,

So that it may wondrously purify me

And lead me to life.

Blessed are you, oh Soul, you with the divine form!

Blessed are you, oh Soul, weapon and battlement of the gods,

Blessed are you, radiant Soul,

Splendor and glory of the … Worlds of Light!

Blessed are you, divine radiant Soul,

Weapon and might, soul and body, gift of the Father of Light.

 

A Triple Trisagion                  from the Hymns of Hermes

Holy art Thou, O God, the Universals’ Father.

Holy art Thou, O God, Whose Will perfects itself by means of its own Powers.

Holy art Thou, O God, Who willest to be known and art known by Thine own.

Holy art Thou, Who didst by Word make to consist the things that are.

Holy art Thou, of Whom All-nature hath been made an Image.

Holy art Thou, Whose Form Nature hath never made.

Holy art Thou, more powerful than all power.

Holy art Thou, transcending all preeminence.

Holy art Thou, Thou better than all praise.

Accept my reason’s offerings pure, from soul and heart for aye stretched up to Thee,

O Thou unutterable, unspeakable, Whose Name naught but the  Silence can express!

Give ear to me who pray that I may ne’er of Gnosis fail — Gnosis which is our common being’s nature — and fill me with Thy Power, and with this Grace of Thine, that I may give the Light to those in ignorance of the Race, my Brethren and Thy Sons!

For this cause I believe, and I bear witness. I go to Life and Light. Blessed art Thou, O Father. Thy Man would holy be as Thou art holy, e’en as Thou gavest him Thy full authority to be.

Excerpta ex Theodoto

What makes us free is the gnosis of who we were, of what we have become; of where we were, of wherein we have been cast; of whereto we speed, of wherefrom we are redeemed; of what birth truly is, and of what rebirth truly is.

The Prayers

The Lord’s Prayer

The People stand or kneel

Officiant      The Lord be with you.
People        And also with you.
Officiant      Let us pray.

Officiant and People

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our tresspasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

We give thanks to You! Every soul and heart is lifted up to You, undisturbed name, honored with the name ‘God’ and praised with the name ‘Father’, for to everyone and everything (comes) the parental kindness and affection and love, and any teaching there may be that is sweet and plain, giving us mind, speech, and knowledge: mind, so that we may understand You, speech, so that we may expound You, knowledge, so that we may know You. We rejoice, having been illuminated by Your knowledge. We rejoice because You have shown us Yourself. We rejoice because while we were in (the) body, You have made us divine through Your knowledge.

The thanksgiving of one who attains to You is one thing: that we know You. We have known You, intellectual light. Life of life, we have known You. Womb of every creature, we have known You. Womb pregnant with the nature of the Father, we have known You. Eternal permanence of the begetting Father, thus have we worshiped Your goodness. There is one petition that we ask: we would be preserved in knowledge. And there is one protection that we desire: that we not stumble in this kind of life.

Then may be said

Officiant                 Let us bless the Lord.
The People            Thanks be to God.

As a note, at present I’m simply using the readings as assigned according to the Revised Common Lectionary for the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures and the synoptic Gospels. In place of the epistle (typically the second reading), I’ve been using the suggested readings from Singer’s A Gnostic Book of Hours to round things out according to her model of following the Liturgy of the Hours cycle.

An Ethiopian "Magic Scroll"


A Season for Krampus

As I have written in previous entries, I am and remain a very strong supporter of the Occupy movement and what it represents as the largest and most diverse social, economic and civil rights demonstration of the past sixty years. While some may argue that it is too slap-dash and incapable of formulating a coherent set of demands, it is important to consider that it is a peoples’ movement and there are a lot of questions and concerns and demands on the plate that still need to be sorted out. Discussing politics is, however, not the purpose of this essay – instead I want to talk a little bit about Krampus.

Krampus vs. Guy Fawkes

Since the beginning of the Occupy movement, the most iconic image has been supporters and demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks reminiscent of the one worn by the anti-hero “V” in the recent film, V for Vendetta based on a graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. While I am definitely a big fan of the message of the film itself and think that there are many symbolic elements that can be utilized by participants in the Occupy, one must invariably consider that Guy Fawkes is something of a failed symbol in many ways despite the rehabilitation effort on part of the character, “V”.

The original Guy Fawkes, a British soldier and citizen, belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 that was aimed at destroying the British Parliament and re-instating Catholic interests in post-Reformation England. Fawkes as inevitably discovered and was subject to trial during which he and his co-conspirators were to be “put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both”, their genitals mutilated and burnt before their eyes, their internal organs removed, their heads decapitated, and what remains survived be put on display as “prey for the fowls of the air”. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies”, and aided by the hangman began to climb the ladder to the noose. Although weakened by torture, Fawkes managed to jump from the gallows, breaking his neck in the fall and thus avoiding the agony of the latter part of his execution. In short, he died and celebration of his death continues in England to this day in which his effigies are placed on public display every November 5th amidst chanting and celebration and publicly burned.

Guy Fawkes on Fire

Krampus, on the other hand, is an interesting symbol whose origins from the European Alpine region are largely shrouded in mystery.  In these regions, Krampus is represented by a demon-like creature accompanying Saint Nicholas, whose job it is to dole out frighten and doll out punishments to naughty girls and boys during the Christmas season. Throughout many cities in Switzerland, Austrai and Southern Bavaria, especially the market town Berchtesgaden; young men dress up as Krampus on the evening of the fifth of December and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells with the hopes of encouraging them to engage in more responsible behavior throughout the rest of the season and the year to come.

Krampus holding the torch

While there are many good reasons for members of the Occupy movement to related to the rehabilitated image of Guy Fawkes/”V”, I am personally convinced that the image of Krampus could potentially be a much more effective iconic symbol of the Occupy movement, especially in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas which is arguably one of the biggest and most lucrative times of year for large banking institutions and corporations that have been shown to have connections to less-than-equitable business practices. Krampus represents responsibility and accountability for one’s actions while more than willing to punish those who engage in harmful practices – business and otherwise.

Krampus has a long history of political action

Even though the image of Krampus is decidedly punitive in nature – a symbol that many in Occupy would gladly see extended to plutocratic industries – it is also creative in origin in that everyone can embody Krampus and each person who don’s that mask and costume puts their own creative faculties and energy into becoming something that is unique and individual and cannot be recreated or pre-packaged. Krampus very much represents community involvement on a highly radical level, something that many Occupiers can appreciate. In addition to the homespun creativity put into making Krampus come to life, there is music, dancing, and community celebration in addition to food. These elements, which are traditional to pre-Coca Cola Christmastide are also values that can be extended throughout the rest of the year as a part of radical self-reliance and community engagement. As an agrarian, pre-Christian folk deity; Krampus’ horns equally represent fertility and the hope for real change in the darkest part of Winter through the Spring.

For the above reasons, I propose the following “Top Five Reasons Why Krampus is Better Than Guy Fawkes” with the hopes that other readers will contribute their reasons in the comments:

Top Five Reasons Krampus is Better Than Guy Fawkes

  • Encourages radical community involvement.
  • Actually aims to punish wrong-doings.
  • Horns are much scarier than a mask and pantaloons.
  • Makes reasonable demands.
  • Hasn’t been usurped by Time Warner and was never a Papist tool.

While arguing over which symbol is better is arguably childish, the fact is that symbols do have their own peculiar power and can be used by those who seek to make radical changes. I’m not saying that Guy Fawkes/”V” is a bad symbol per se, however I personally feel that Krampus would be a more effective symbol for the needs and goals of the Occupy movement which, hopefully, could provide a little bit of levity as we enter into the darkest part of the year – both in terms of decreasing daylight and the overwhelming suffering brought upon millions by depression, mass-consumerism and a culture addicted to personal gain over community involvement.


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