Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Assumption of Mary

Today we commemorate the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, celebrated in the Orthodox and Eastern Church as the solemnity of the Dormition. Throughout the history of Christianity, Mary has been an inseparable part of Christian and Gnostic devotion. In my own tradition, she is revered in many diverse ways – come viewing her as a manifestation of the Holy Sophia, others taking a more conventional devotional angle to her as the bearer of Christ or Theotokos.

assumption

As we enter the Sophanic half of the year, the year of subtle turning inward and nuturing the divine within and furthering our own spiritual dialogue with the Divine Beloved. This self-emptying of the ego or kénōsis may seem strange to many people, but it is precisely at the moment that we empty ourselves, we are able to be filled up with divinity in the same ways as Mary came to bear the Christ within herself saying,”Yes!” to the angel Gabriel and bringing forth God into the world.

Even in a culture so full of longing for spiritual fulfillment, it’s often-times difficult for us to say, “Yes” to the Divine as we know it. To open ourselves up is also to make ourselves extraordinarily vulnerable. Imagine if you will the reaction of Saint Joseph when Mary anounced her experience with the Angel Gabriel:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:18-21

It would have been very easy for Joseph as the bridegroom of Mary to simply walk away increduliously at the suggestion that his bride to be was with child. Instead, Joseph as well made that emptying of the self to the will of the Divine and today is well remembered as the devoted foster-fother of Jesus and husband of Mary.

Mary’s own devotion to her son and to the emerging Christian community is most evident in her standing beside him even unto his death on the cross where she became not just the mother of Jesus, but also the entire Christian community along with John the Apostle who became her devoted son even standing beside her as she lay peacefully, falling asleep in the Lord before being raised up heavenly three days later, according to pious tradition mirroring the three days of repose before the resurrection of her son.

Dormition

Interestingly, as a modern Gnostic, I recently became aware of a tradition in action Greece that takes place around the octave of this curious solemnity. Near the 15th of August in the Greek village of Markopoulo on the island Cephaloniaat the Church of the Panagia, one can see snakes slither towards a particular church, the island has many churches but the snakes only go to this church, on the actual day, the 15th they slither on the icon of the Virgin Mary as the church becomes filled with people. In spite of the priest, clergy and people holding the service the snakes show no sign of fear.

According to pious legend, as the island was under the assault of pirates, the nuns at this particular church begged to the Virgin Mary to be saved from what presumably evil fate would befall them at which she turned them all into serpents. Conversely, one thing I may suggest, is that this tradition may also be reflective of an earlier tradition pre-dating the formation of what would become orthodoxy:

“This fellow Epiphanes, whose writings I have at hand, was a son of Carpocrates and his mother was named Alexandria. On his father’s side he was an Alexandrine, on his mother’s a Cephallenian. He lived in all only seventeen years, and at Same in Cephallonia was honoured as a god. There a temple of vast blocks of stone was erected and dedicated to him, with altars, sacred precincts, and a museon, The Cephallenians gather at the temple every new moon and celebrate with sacrifices the day when Epiphanes became a god as his birthday; they pour libations to him, feast in his honour, and sing his praises. He was educated by his father in the general education and in Platonism, and he was instructed in the knowledge of the Monad, which is the root-origin of the Carpocratians’ heresy.” Clement, Stromata.

“And thus, if ungodly, unlawful, and forbidden actions are committed among them, I can no longer find ground for believing them to be such. And in their writings we read as follows, the interpretation which they give [of their views], declaring that Jesus spoke in a mystery to His disciples and apostles privately, and that they requested and obtained permission to hand down the things thus taught them, to others who should be worthy and believing. We are saved, indeed, by means of faith and love; but all other things, while in their nature indifferent, are reckoned by the opinion of men–some good and some evil, there being nothing really evil by nature.” Iranaeus. Ad. Haer.

The cult of the snake as a familiar spirit would have been very common in ancient Greece as in Rome, interestingly, there also appears to have been some continuation of this in other Gnostic sects, most notably the Ophites and Nassene gnostic communities. While we know very little from the Carpocration literature beyond the Mar Saba letter and Clement’s Stromata, it is known that the Carpocrations were a dominant force on this very island in the Second Century of the Common Era and it may be possible that even to this day some element of their presence may remain on the island.


The Way of the Heart and the Way of the Cup

Handed down from master to disciple in an unbroken chain of succession, the prayer of the heart as a spiritual discipline was fixed in writing by the eleventh century Byzantine, hesychast monk Symeon the New Theologian who taught that humanity could and should directly experience theoria, or direct contemplation of the experience of Godhead. In the Orthodox tradition, the preparation for vision of God takes place in two stages: purification, and illumination of the mental faculties. Without this it is impossible for man’s selfish love to be transformed into selfless love and unceasing prayer, as praised by the Apostle Paul who exhorts us in Thessalonians to, “Pray without ceasing.”

Though never achieving much currency in the West, the way of the heart as an esoteric discipline would become a central principal in the writings of the French philosopher, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin who, in his Theosophic Correspondences shares with us, “The inward or centre is the principle of everything; so long as this centre is not open, the greatest external wonders may seduce without advancing us; and, if I may venture to say so, it is our inward which ought to be the true thermometer, the true touchstone, of what passes without. If our heart is in God, if it is really become divine, by love, faith, and ardent prayer, no illusion can surprise us.” In Saint-Martin’s teachings, through similar meditation on God, one may undergo a spiritual process of reintegration with the Divine.

The way of the heart, in both hesychast and esoteric doctrines, is ultimately a form of theurgy. For Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus, the goal is henosis, or unity with God; in the Orthodox East, it is theosis, or the absorption into a divine way of life. I would posit, similarly, that in the esoteric doctrine of the West and the principals of the teachings of Saint-Martin, the achievement of reintegration is a form of spiritual and evangelical salvation of the soul at home with the universal Mind which, after its descent into the innermost core of being, must spread outward in all directions in a like manner as Christ, having experienced at a pivotal point in time descended into Hades and, upon ascent, drew them likewise out of the depths and later, again, spread outward in the form of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost imbuing the Apostles with the same knowledge of doing the same.

Although penitential in tonality, the way of the heart does not contradict Iamblichean principals of theurgy, but indeed does “[enlarge] very greatly our soul’s receptivity to the gods… and accustoms [our] eyes to the brightness of divine light, and gradually brings to perfection the capacity of our faculties for contact with the gods.” (De Mysteriis 5.26.18-40) Similarly, Saint Martin writes: “I think they would do better to call it the sentiment of the presence of intermediate agents doing the will of God. I believe we always perceive this reaction of the Virtues whenever we seek the Verb, not outside of us, but within, looking with intelligence at the temple in which He dwells.” My personal preference for keeping Saint-Martin’s usage of the ‘Verb’ adequately presents the activity of the divine as opposed to the rather abstract and now poorly understood Word, or Logos.

It occurred to me recently that this process is a form of eternal liturgy resulting in the fractio of our limited selves into the chalice representing the fullness of both our hearts and minds. Joining together these two species into one sacrament and consuming it, we experience joy of heaven on earth and partake of the ecstatic ‘Verb’ or action of Godhead. Far from the melancholy, the way of the heart teaches us to live in accordance with our intellect in the very real here and now instead of trying to escape to some indeterminate eschatological future. This bliss and this ecstasy, open to all, brings us not only contemplatively closer to Godhead, but is a challenge and affirmation of our own divinity and active co-participation in the Creation of a redeemed Humanity.

Sacred Heart doves Chalice


An End to the Crisis of God

Jesus is gone.

Forty four days ago we all conspired to shed his blood and put him to death. Some of us conspired through betrayal, some through denial, and others through inaction, false witness, and a myriad of other ways. We denied his humanity, we desecrated his divinity, we tied him up, led him in chains, affixed him to a beam of wood, nailed him to the cross, pierced his side and turned our backs even as he cried to the heavens and released his soul unto death.

Forty days ago he returned from death and nobody who saw him recognized his face even though he had only been in the tomb for three days. Not even his closest companions recognized him. He came back and found us all drunk and stupefied, forgetful of everything he shared with us for the years that we followed him around pretending to learn eagerly at his feet and seeing our distress, stayed with us for another forty days to assuage our grief, to instruct us of the mysteries which lie beyond and then, like the putting out of a candle, his light was absorbed into heaven and once again, Jesus was gone.We were left without him.

But he left a promise.

Image


A Vigil Rite in Times of Disaster

Following the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings I, like many people around the world, was filled with a sudden sadness and loss of words (and thoughts!) about the immensity of the event. Words do not adequately lend themselves to these types of situations and, after reading all sorts of news articles on the events and reading increasingly sophistic writings about it on Facebook, I grew more sad and a little bit jaded about this event like many who are exposed on a constant level to the horrors that surround us. Each of us comes to terms with these things in different ways: some through song, some through talking and writing, others through crying, and others – such as myself – through prayer.

In the days immediately following the event, I wrote the following brief service based on my own religious tradition. It is not an official AJC ceremony by any means – I’m the only one whose prayed it before -  but I present it that it may be used, and modified, by those in my community or who are otherwise genuinely interested and wanting to contribute prayerfully in the wake of this most recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

______________________________________________________________

The Signum

 

Celebrant:          O Heavenly King, the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who are present everywhere, emanating from the supreme source and filling all things, Treasury of Endless Good and Giver of Life, come and dwell in us, cleanse us from every stain, and heal our infirmities, O Good one.

Celebrant:          Holy are You, O Creator of the Universe. Holy are You, O God, Whose Will is perfected by its own Powers. Holy are You, O God, who desires to be known and are known by your own.

 All:                         +Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One. Have mercy on us.

 Celebrant:          Holy are You, who by the Eternal Word did make all to be as it is. Holy are you, who made Nature to have an image. Holy are you, who are uncreated in Image.

 All:                         +Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One. Have mercy on us.

Celebrant:          Holy are you, more powerful than All Power. Holy are you, transcending all preeminence. Holy are you, better than all praise.

 All:                         +Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One. Have mercy on us.

 Celebrant:          Holy God, One in Three and Three in One, have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Celebrant:          God, come to my assistance.

All:                         Lord, make haste to help me.

 All bow

Celebrant:          Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

All rise

All:                         As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be unto the Æons of Æons. Amen.

Optional, invocation of the holy archangels may take place here:

Invocation of the Archangels

 

Celebrant:          Hail Raphael, Ruler of Air, Divine Physician. As the breath of the Divine moves over the face of the Deep, so do we call upon you to move over the sanctuary of our being, giving voice to our prayer and strength to our journey.

All:                         Lord of Wind and Storm, we invoke thee!

 

Celebrant:          Hail Michael, Ruler of Fire, Divine Guardian. As our spiritual ancestors travelled through the darkness by a pillar of fire, so do we call upon you as pilgrims to light our path through the wilderness of ignorance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

All:                         Lord of Flame and Prince of the Seraphim, we invoke thee!

Celebrant:          Hail Gabriel, Ruler of Water, Divine Messenger. As the Incarnation of the Logos was foretold to our Mother by your                 presence, so do we call upon you that we may truly know ourselves as children of the Divine Beloved.

All:                         Lady of Stream and Ocean, we invoke thee!

Celebrant:          Hail Uriel, Ruler of Earth, Divine Companion. As you stand guarding the gates of paradise, so do we call upon you to lead us at our last through the portal of that undiscovered territory, from which no traveller returns.

All:                         Lady of Stone and Vale, we invoke thee!

Invitatory Prayer

Celebrant:          We gather together and are one of purpose as fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, who love the good land God has given us; who cherish the freedoms we enjoy, and who lament our innocence lost. With anger we come, and with sorrow;

with confusion and concern. O Lord, look with the eyes of your love upon our confusion and distress, grant that our vision may be made clear and that we not falter in loving one another as you had taught.

All:                         Amen.

Psalm 37, An Exhortation to Patience and Trust

Reader:               Do not fret because of the wicked;

do not be envious of wrongdoers,

for they will soon fade like the grass,

and wither like the green herb.

 

All:                         Trust in the Lord, and do good;

so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 

Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him, and he will act.

He will make your vindication shine like the light,

and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

 

Reader:                                Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;

do not fret over those who prosper in their way,

over those who carry out evil devices.

 

All:                         Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For the wicked shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

 

Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;

though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.

But the meek shall inherit the land,

and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

 

Reader                 The wicked plot against the righteous,

and gnash their teeth at them;

but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

for he sees that their day is coming.

 

All:                         The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows

to bring down the poor and needy,

to kill those who walk uprightly;

their sword shall enter their own heart,

and their bows shall be broken.

 

Better is a little that the righteous person has

than the abundance of many wicked.

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,

but the Lord upholds the righteous.

 

Reader:                                The Lord knows the days of the blameless,

and their heritage will abide forever;

they are not put to shame in evil times,

in the days of famine they have abundance.

 

All:                         But the wicked perish,

and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;

they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

 

The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,

but the righteous are generous and keep giving;

for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,

but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

 

Reader:                                Our steps are made firm by the Lord,

when he delights in our way;

though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,

for the Lord holds us by the hand.

 

All:                         I have been young, and now am old,

yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken

or their children begging bread.

They are ever giving liberally and lending,

and their children become a blessing.

 

Depart from evil, and do good;

so you shall abide forever.

For the Lord loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

 

Reader:                                The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

The righteous shall inherit the land,

and live in it forever.

 

All:                         The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,

and their tongues speak justice.

The law of their God is in their hearts;

their steps do not slip.

 

The wicked watch for the righteous,

and seek to kill them.

The Lord will not abandon them to their power,

or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.

 

Reader:                                Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,

and he will exalt you to inherit the land;

you will look on the destruction of the wicked.

 

All:                         I have seen the wicked oppressing,

and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.

Again I passed by, and they were no more;

though I sought them, they could not be found.

 

Mark the blameless, and behold the upright,

for there is posterity for the peaceable.

But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;

the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

 

Reader:                                The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;

He is their refuge in the time of trouble.

The Lord helps them and rescues them;

he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.

 

Standing Prayers

 

All stand.

Celebrant:          Glory to Thee, Our God, Glory to Thee.

All:                         Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee. O Heavenly Queen, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,

Who is everywhere present and permeates all things, the Treasury of all good things and the Giver of life: Come, and abide in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Pure One.

Celebrant:          Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: have mercy on us.

All:                         Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: have mercy on us.

Celebrant:          All Holy, All Mighty, Everlasting Trinity, have mercy on us; cleanse us from our sins, pardon all our iniquities, visit and heal us from our infirmities for Your Name’s sake.

All:                         Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison.

Christi eleison, Christi eleison, Christi eleison.

Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison.

Celebrant:           Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

All:                          As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, forever and ever. Amen.

The Lucernarium

The Celebrant pour oil in the lamp and seven members of the community come forth and place a single tear of frankincense into the oil. If alone or with less people, the tears may be divided up accordingly.

Celebrant:           O Logos who dwells on high, we praise the glory of Your majesty Whose light is the light of the luminaries, Who sends forth light from heaven over all the world of humankind

Through You we have the sun to light the day and moon and stars to light the night-time. Through you we have the Lamp to drive back shadow. You are light laudable, holy and primal light. From You does darkness and evil flee.

O Christos, send forth Your healing light into our hearts. Restore us to the glory of the Fullness within and without. Comfort our minds, bodies and spirits, and wipe away every tear from our eyes. Blessed is the Name of Your holy glory and to You we sing a hymn of praise and glory. To the Fullness, to the Word and to Wisdom.

The Celebrant or youngest person present comes forth to light the candle.

Celebrant:          As you illumine this lamp, O Lord

All:                         So illumine our dark places

Celebrant:          The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does                 not overcome it.

O Gracious Light (Phos hilaron)

All:                         O gracious Light,

pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven,

O Lord, the Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,

and our eyes behold the vesper light,

we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,

O Son of God, O Giver of life,

and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Amen.

All:                         We give thanks unto you, O Light, in whom darkness dwells not.

The Universal Prayer

Celebrant:          Having set this vigil light, let us pray to receive and foster the Divine Light which enlightens the world, that within all of us the Sacred Flame may grow ever stronger and we all grow in love and understanding.

Silence or brief meditation as members come up to light their own candles from the lucernarium.

All:                         Amen.

 

Reader:                For our reigning Sovereign Pontiff __________, and presiding Bishop __________, and all bishops of the Apostolic Johannite Church, bishops in amity, and leaders of faith throughout the world, we pray to the Lord.

Or,

For the leaders of our respective communities of faith, wherein we find our connection to the Sacred Flame, especially __________…

All:                         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Reader:                For our President __________, our Governor __________,  and all members of local and regional government and all who give their lives in tireless service to the common good, may they be guided by the Sacred Flame and create the foundations for a holy society, free from tyranny and oppression.

All:                         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Reader:                For those who give their lives in service to the poor, the needy, the marginalized and imprisoned as well as those in need and from want, suffering ostracism and imprisonment; may they all be preserved bodily, mentally and spiritually.

All:                         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Reader:                For our church and faith communities throughout the world; especially __________,  our (mission, narthex, parish, etc.), that they be beacons of light in the sea of existence and guide people to You, in the myriad of ways you provide.

All:                         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Reader:                For our friends and family and all those suffering illness, especially __________, may you renew them bodily, mentally, and spiritually that they may remain with us presently and in future joy.

All:                         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Reader:                For those who have left this world and have gone onward to that other shore from which no one returns, especially __________,  may they be rightly guided by the lights you have set for them and may they be uplifted and encouraged by our prayers.

All:                         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Reader:                                For our own personal needs at this time…

 

All may state their petitions out loud or silently at this time.

 

All:         Lord, hear our prayer.

 

Celebrant:          O Lord, You make all things new. As these prayers are lifted up toward you, renew the world and all those for whom we have prayed that they may abide forever under the providence of your divine light. May all those, especially the victims of [name or location of tragedy] find speedy healing and protection under your wings and may the wings of Holy Wisdom brush gently at our hearts, removing from us the defilements of anger, hatred and confusion.

Closing

Celebrant:          The Lord be with you.

All:                         And also with you.

Celebrant:          The Lord bless us, and bring us to wholeness, compassion and understanding. The Lord enlighten our minds, comfort our hearts and sustain our bodies. May all those in suffering soon find healing, comfort and aid and may we all do what is meet and right in our ways as members of your body, O Lord, to commit ourselves to repair of the world.

All:                         Amen.

Optional, dismissal of the archangels.

 Dismissal of the Archangels

 

Celebrant:           Hail, mighty Raphael, Archangel of the Air, Healer and Guardian of Wind and Tempest. We thank thee for thine attendance and protection here, and before thou departest for thine airy realms, we bid Thee hail and farewell.

All:                          Hail and farewell.

Celebrant:           Hail, mighty Michael, the Defender, Lord of Fire and Prince of the Legions of Heaven. We thank thee for thine attendance and protection here, and before thou departest for thine fiery realms, we bid Thee hail and farewell.

All:                          Hail and farewell.

 

Celebrant:           Hail, mighty Gabriel, Lady of Water, Heavenly Herald, who didst bring glad tidings to Our Blessed Mother. We thank thee for thine attendance and protection here, and before thou departest for thine watery realms, we bid Thee hail and farewell.

All:                          Hail and farewell.

Celebrant:           Hail, mighty Uriel, Dark Lady of Earth, who bringest all at last unto the Nether Shore, Companion of all who offer up their lives in the defense of others. We thank thee for thine attendance and protection here, and before thou departest for thine earthy realms, we bid Thee hail and farewell.

All:                          Hail and farewell.


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


Quicumque Vult

BorromeanRings-Trinity

Whosover will be saved?
And finds it necessary to say,
“That without doubt no faith remains”
Yet himself perishes everlastingly

The faith of Our Fathers has passed away,
Striving to understand God who is not real
Yet more real than any that came before.
And still we muddle confused and bored.

What of One God abiding in Unity
Or in Triplicate or Quadruplicate;
Essential essences meaning nothing.
And us thinking we will be saved.

Nevermind the theological truths,
Be thou drunk! you haven’t tasted
The vine, the way, the truth
Finding your faith untainted.

Infinities are there, uncreated,
A dazzling spectrum of varying hues.
This is God, wholly uncreated,
The God who is reflecting you.


Dust in the Wind

 

AshCross

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks another return to the liturgical season of Lent, a period oftentimes associated with fasting, self-denial, and penance in many churches. For many post-restoration Gnostics, however, the meaning of this season shifts from one of denial and self-deprecation to an opportunity for engaging in deeper, more attentive, inner contemplation and meditation. Though the external symbols may appear the same, the penitential mood of this season has more in common with alerting us toward our true natures and our frequent inability to remember who we are and “whereto we speed[1]”, as opposed to attaching ourselves to guilt.

Scripture reminds us that we are in fact extensions of the eternal Godhead; immortal, incorrupt, made in the image of eternity[2]. Yet, due to the vast temporal distance from the initial moment of Creation, it is difficult for us to remember this truth and instead wander around in a more or less amnesiac state either bemoaning the gift that has been given us or, conversely, reveling mindlessly in temporal delights without pausing for a moment to recognize that material pleasures are fleeting and not intrinsically meaningful.

During this time of introspection, we are called to make a conscious effort toward remembering our own unique divinity and the divinity we share with the whole of Creation. Far from being a period of denial, Lent is an opportunity for radical engagement with ourselves and the world around us, an exercise to see things as the Godhead intended them to be. By saturating our experiences with meaning, we are able to rediscover the original moment of Creation as continually unfolding around us at all times, in all places and in all things.

The liturgical season of Lent is concrete marker for us to focus on what is ultimately an abstract process that each of us are going through individually in our spiritual process. By infusing this season with meaning, we encounter other markers along the way that can help us better focus our wandering minds. Ash Wednesday changes from penance and the negative religious mood of self-denial to being marked for stronger spiritual training [3]and casting off those things hindering our process and making us mentally and spiritually more capable of putting our experiences into a wider perspective as Jesus did in casting aside the temptations of using his messianic mission for worldly ends instead of offering an example for experiencing and exercising our free will[4].

Echoing my post from the previous year, the primary importance of Lent is to help us grow in our experience toward the divine in whatever form we may honor it. The goal is complete transformation and is unique to each and every one of us and there is no external litmus test for success or failure, only the intent and the rewards of being able to slowly see things as they are and receive being open to experience of our own dynamic divine nature.


[1] Excerpta ex Theodoto

[2] Wisdom 2:23

[3] Asceticism (from the Greek: ἄσκησις, áskēsis, “exercise” or “training”).

[4] Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13


A Mass of Candles (and a little Beeswax)

The Presentation of the Lord

As I noted in my entry last year, Candlemas, also known the Feast of the Presentation, is 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 birth in accordance with the Law of Moses.

The tradition of purification following childbirth was something that, unsettlingly to many in our contemporary culture, survived well into the modern era in the Catholic and Anglican practice of churching new mothers forty days after childbirth wherein a blessing is given to mothers and prayers of thanksgiving are offered for the survival of the child, which with higher infant mortality concerns was a major reason to give thanks.

brighids-flame

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Feast of Candlemas became deeply syncretized with the Irish quarter celebration of Imbolc which, even in modern Ireland, is considered to mark the beginning of Spring and is a festival fundamentally associated with the ancient goddess Bríg or Brigid, who may be fundamentally considered the same as the Christian Saint Brigid of Kildare whose feast occurs traditionally on the first of February. At this point, it’s hard to say which celebration and traditions influenced one another but in practice they have become so fused that to this day many modern Pagans celebrate it as one of their major yearly celebrations however the tradition of setting lights and keeping vigil are maintained.

Western ecclesial practice for this day maintains the tradition of blessing bees-wax candles to be used in church and by members of the community throughout the year. According to some traditions, the candles used by the faithful put to flight the assaults of evil spirits or faeries and have the additional advantage of warding away the harmful effects of storms. The emphasis on beeswax is something that deeply interests me in light of the current ecological disaster facing many beekeepers with the current die-offs as well as being someone who grew up in an agricultural community where bees are essential to daily life. The connection between liminal (cross-between) times, prophesy, and enlightment and the bee is something I find fascinating, in particular as a modern Gnostic.

tholos

Throughout the ancient Levant, the bee was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld. Tomb decorations, in particular the Mycenean tholos tombs, were even shaped like bee-hives, likely in reference to the ancient goddess Potnia whose name simply means, “mistress”. Her title and epithets were also inherited by classical and Mycenean Greek and applied to many goddesses, including Kore in her role in the Arcadian mysteries of Eleusis.

The bee was also connected in many of these cultures with the gift of prophesy, elements of which are also apparent 1 Samuel 14:24-30:

“He [Jonathan] extended the staff that was in his hand, and dipped the tip of it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes brightened. Then one of the soldiers said, “Your father strictly charged the troops with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food this day.’ And so the troops are faint.” Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land; see how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if today the troops had eaten freely of the spoil taken from their enemies; for now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great.”

The Biblical connection between honey and prophesy continues in the account of the prophet John the Baptist who was said to wear clothing of camel hair and feed on locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4, Mark 1:6) as well in the Apocalypse of John (Rev. 10:9-10)

Although the Romantic notion of a connection between a supposed Jesus Dynasty flourishing in France such as those popularized in the fictional books Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the The DaVinci Code, has been definitively disproven, golden bees (or cicadas!) as a symbol of royalty were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I, founder in 457 of the Merovingian dynasty and father of Clovis and were resurrected in usage by Emperor Napoleon of France in his coat of arms. Interestingly, as Father Donato+ points out in his speculative essay:

“[A] few days before his imperial coronation, Napoleon met with the Roman Pontiff in secret. This was the social and political backdrop of Dr. Fabré-Palaprat’s discovery of the Lévitikon in Paris that same year. The secretive meeting between Napoleon and the pope took place in Paris, but not as a State visit. During their private talks, the pope reportedly pressed Napoleon to sign a document in which Louis XIV “disavowed the articles of the declaration of the clergy in 1682, which was drawn up by Bishop Jacques Bénigne Bossuet as the foundation of the liberties of the Gallican Church… The pope was asking that Napoleon sign a document repudiating the authority of the French Monarch to his extraordinary authority over the established Catholic Church in France, which was claimed – and never relinquished legally – by Louis’ successors. Here, it is important to recall that after Louis XIV, his nephew, Philippe d’Orleans, served as regent for Louis XV. This Philippe is the Duke of Orleans who was appointed Grand-Master of the Order of the Temple, and reformer of its statutes. In name alone, but still by intention, this made Philippe and his successors the Johannite Patriarchs – privy to the secrets and the succession of St. John and everything that entailed. With a renewed monarchy, such as the one Napoleon was about to create, all of these prerogatives would eventually fall into the imperial lap. And the pope knew it.”

Although speculative, for Johannites this connection between the bee and its relevance to the mysteries of John may prove something fun to think about.

symbolique

This Saturday Holy Paraclete Community will be celebrating the Vespers service of the Apostolic Johannite Church, a central part of the ceremony being the lighting of the lucernarium. Traditionally, it would be during the vespers service that the candles would be blessed however, in absence of a priest; I plan on distributing candles to the community out of symbolic solidarity.

For me personally, the morning of Candlemas will be spent in contemplative meditation and participation in Teo Bishop’s Solitary Druid Fellowship’s February Cross Quarter liturgy. Though not pagan myself (in spite of what P. Sufenas Virius Lupus may say), the emphasis on ecological awareness and integration as well as spiritual enlightenment and transformation found in modern druidry appeals to me very much and, in honor of the Brigid’s might not be a bad opportunity to help focus on the Sacred Flame within all people and all paths.

artOfStonehenge_PD204

 

note: in the original post, I had erroneously called Imbolc and Irish ‘cross-quarter’ celebration. As PSVL notes in the comments: “Imbolc is not a cross-quarter day for the Irish, it’s a quarter-day. The whole notion that Imbolc, Beltaine, Lugnasad, and Samain are “cross-quarter days” comes from Wicca, not from Irish tradition. This is the first day of Spring for the Irish, just as Beltaine is the first of Summer, Lugnasad the first of Autumn, and Samain the first of Winter.”


To Pneuma Hagion

Thursday morning while scrolling around on Facebook, I noticed that the acclaimed author and witch Sorita D’Este had posted an interesting competition offering participants the opportunity to win a signed copy of The Cosmic Shekinah that she had co-authored with David Rankine.

The terms of the contest were to write a short poem, no more than nine lines long, containing all of the following words: wisdom, dove, goddess & tree. The contributor who had the most ‘likes’ by the midnight the next night would be the winner. The competition was pretty intense with over a dozen participants and some really great devotional poems, however by midnight Greenwich time, the competition had closed and I had the most ‘likes’ and so was declared the winner.

Once again, I want to extend a special thanks to those who ‘liked’ my poem as well as the inspiration I gained from reading the poetry submitted by other participants. In particular, I would like to thank Sorita D’Este for coming up with this contest in the first place and for The Cosmic Shekinah which I’m sure will help me in my studies and personal devotions.

Without any further ado, for my readers here who may not be on Facebook or who haven’t heard about my participation in the contest, here is my poem:

 

To Pneuma Hagion

Holy Mother from above,
Divinely radiant, heavenly dove;
Who in wisdom doth abide,
Draw us closer, by and by.
Where at the root of that sacred tree;
Sublime pillar of divinity;
We may hear our Mother speaking,
Goddess, whose knowledge we are seeking.

 

'Eve and the Tree of Knowledge' by Cristina Acosta, Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf; antique ceramic mosaic tile with 24k gold glazes; on vintage wood.

‘Eve and the Tree of Knowledge’ by Cristina Acosta, Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf; antique ceramic mosaic tile with 24k gold glazes; on vintage wood.


Reflection on Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost which happened yesterday, marks the end of the Paschal cycle and the half of the liturgical calendar dedicated to the Christ and the beginning of the year of the Church in Western Church calendar. Amongst some contemporary Gnostics, however, Pentecost also marks the beginning of the half of the year dedicated to the Sophia – Holy Wisdom. In archetypal language, one could view the two halves of the year as being indicative of the masculine and feminine or supernal and immanent aspects of Godhead.

In classical Gnosticism, the Sophia was held to be the syzygy of Jesus Christ (i.e. the Bride of Christ), and Holy Spirit of the Trinity and in the Nag Hammadi texts she is considered to be lowest Aeon, or anthropic expression of the emanation of the light of God. Following the Feast of the Ascension, that takes place roughly a week prior to Pentecost commemorating the Light of the Christ being withdrawn back up into the Pleroma (Fullness), it at Pentecost that we are reminded of God’s continuing eminence in the world through the activity of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus before his ascension:

“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do. If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:11-17)

After the ascension and at Pentecost, as promised, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in a magnificent display:

 “And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

In the Greek text, the name used to indicate the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, literally “advocate” as one would have during a legal trial, hardly a comforting image as one would imagine and definitely a presage of things to come in the early centuries of the Christian movement. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends blazing fire and inspiring (inspiriting?!) the apostles to continue the works which Christ had commanded as part of the Great Commission.

How this relates to the Sophia is that we are assured through attention to Holy Wisdom we are able to overcome the difficulties of our transitory life and can be rest assured that God continually abides in us as we continue to follow the precepts not only given by Christ through scripture, but through continual abiding in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Far from being a onetime affair limited to an historical point in time, Pentecost is a continual event marking the continuity of Gods covenant with all humanity and us with one another so long as we remember that most holy commandment: “love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:14).


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