Sunday, December 8, 2019

What is spirituality?




Personal (*Dfurstane) Spiritual Beliefs

What is spirituality?

Spirituality is predictable and unpredictable.  Its recognition could be the result of suffering, misfortune, or failure that reveals the true nature of circumstances.  It could be based on the appreciation, success, or an accomplishment that’s beautiful, and awe inspiring.  In short, it’s the insights gained of a transcendent reality from such diverse occurrences.

The word spiritual means the active betterment of life for all people, for the most people. Spiritual is anything which brings a man or woman to a higher state of life, whether that is on the physical, the emotional-astral, the mental, or on the spiritual or soul plane. Anything which is towards the betterment of humanity is fundamentally spiritual; it is not only a religious thing. The religious path is only one path. So we have to create structures — political, economic, and social — which are fundamentally spiritual...

Spiritual Beliefs




Spiritual Beliefs

1)  Spiritual beliefs are always evolving, and like all of nature nothing remains the same.

2)  Dfurstane (Eternal Essence) is all in all, predictable and unpredictable, the existence of a mystery, and always greater than conceived. 

3)  The Timeless Spirit is the glue that holds all manifestations together.

4)  Through Dfurstane all elements, structures, and people are created.

5)  On entering the world all living and non-living things take some form, and at the end of their existence they become invisible.

6)  The consciousness and health of all living beings are determined by “chance.”

7)  Sin and free will are human constructs, but “good” and “bad” exist—different sides of the same coin.

8)  People pray by their thoughts, deeds, physical exercises, and works.

9)  Rational thinking causes growth, development, discovery, and healing.

10)  “Positive” and “negative” polarities cause cultural norms, but eternal reality is diverse in nature.

11)  Prayer only works as a regulator of “cosmic wholeness.”  It has to do with interdependence, and inter-relationships of all structures.  Believers should pray for “harmony.” Lack of “harmony” is how the world experiences disruptions of all sorts.  This reality has nothing to do with the way people are living but is due to “chance.”   

12)  Living in “harmony” with nature is the key for a successful life.   This entails having a balance life: a) helping the mind grow in understanding; b) caring for one’s physical body; c) serving society’s poor, homeless, and destitute; and d) building up the world through love and compassion.

13)  Religious literacy helps believers discover the diverse paths that are essential for spiritual growth. 

14)  Finally, believers by following a spiritual path will merge with Dfurstane.

Eternal Essence





Dfurstane (Eternal Essence) is the Way, Truth, and Light

To embrace the all in all is having an appreciation of creation’s manifestations.  The heavenly bodies - the sun, moon, and stars, known and unknown planets traversing the sky are phenomenal.  The trees, plants, oceans, rivers, streams, mountains, hills and valleys speak in their own language, while being buffeted by the wind.  So are the seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter with their distinct moods.  Sometimes it’s calm, beautiful, and glorious, while occasionally there are hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and forest fires.

But birds, reptiles, fishes, and animals of all sorts inhabit the earth living on land or in seas.  They breed, feed, and exist in a divine and unpredictable reality.  These creatures in their respective environments are provided for by nature.  People breathe fresh air, pick fruits from trees, enjoy the meats of animals, drink refreshing water, build cozy houses with wood of trees, light a fire to cook their meals, and dress in warm clothing from nature’s bounty.

This is only a part of the Eternal Essence that’s within, above, below, and around us.  To personalize this Essence is only a metaphor.  S/he is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immanent, and transcendent.  No words can adequately describe this all-encompassing Essence that’s the sum of all living and non-living things.

The Way & Paths




The Way & Paths

The way (Daoism) and paths (Buddhism) are interwoven.  In life people travel many paths to find their way to the Supreme Light.  They do so as they journey on this earthly plane and also spiritually through dreams.  Most believers have definite faith traditions whose teachings they follow e.g., Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, or Secular Ethics.  But there are those souls that endeavor to undertake new realities by tapping into their own conception to what it means to be spiritual.  When this is the case they travel in the physical and spiritual realms.

The interfaith author Karen Armstrong spoke about climbing a “spiral staircase” moving towards this Supreme Light.  But in my dreams I was traversing terrain that was like an obstacle course.  During my journeys I encountered various people in their daily activities.  My trips were taking me through foreign lands strewn with trees and waterways.  Once I was on a bicycle when a guy asked me for a lift away from my destination, but I thought it wise to continue on my path to find my home.

It began raining as I was peddling towards home, but was forced to shelter under an eave at a local library from being soaked.  The rain soon ceased and I continued my journey.  But as I peddled off into the unknown I began looking for the guy whom I refused to give a ride.  Then suddenly I found myself without a bike, and walking down a pathway covered with water.  At a rustic cottage I encountered three individuals sitting at its entrance.  I asked a black woman sitting there for directions to where I was heading, and she told me it was about nine blocks away.

But as I traversed the landscape I encountered a large body of water.  Soon I was climbing a wall to make it to a schooner to take me to my destination.  It was around this time I awoke from my dream.  So my journey has to continue.  This was surely one of my spiritual dreams with lots of symbolism.

The Physical Plain

Looking back at my life I remembered when I suffered from manic depression.  My senses were heightened and often I felt as though I was in a country in tropical Africa.  I actually experienced living there, breathing the air, cognizant of the scents, African culture, and a landscape baked by the sun.  On occasion too I also felt transported to parts of China with millions of Chinese, and although I didn’t speak Mandarin there was still a natural connection with their identity.

Dealing with declining health of chronic renal failure, diabetes, and having a pacemaker I am presently experiencing suffering as a journey.  These afflictions are teaching me valuable lessons of life.  They are all leading to the Supreme Light.  Some Americans take many trips abroad to Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.  They, in their own way, are journeying towards the Light.  It might very well be that dreams, suffering, and our journeys are all apart of reincarnation (karma, samsara, moksha).

Truth & Perspectives




Truth & Perspectives

Truth is unity that expresses itself at micro and macro levels.  All things and beings are interrelated and interdependent.  This reality is fundamental to every community, society, and culture.  So people depend on labels - book, pen, car, pig, cow, food, drink, ocean, lake, river, mountain, valley, house, etc;  dimensions – line, triangle, pyramid, cube, oblong, sphere, etc; and dualism – true/false, long/short, happy/sad, hot/cold, wet/dry, tall/short, Chinese ying/yang, etc, to navigate their world.  They use their five senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch to do so.

Whoever desires that his intellect may grow up to soundness, to healthy vigor, must begin with moral discipline. Reading and study are not enough to perfect the power of thought. One thing above all is needful, and that is, the disinterestedness which is the very soul of virtue. To gain truth, which is the great object of the understanding, I must seek it disinterestedly. Here is the first and grand condition of intellectual progress. I must choose to receive the truth, no matter how it bears on myself. I must follow it, no matter where it leads, what interests it opposes, to what persecution or loss it lays me open, from what party it severs me, or to what party it allies. Without this fairness of mind, which is only another phrase for disinterested love of truth, great native powers of understanding are perverted and led astray.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Supreme Light



Supreme Light

Light is a pure reality, has no distractions, and the ultimate in fulfillment.  It symbolizes the Eternal Essence (Dfurstane) of the universe, and refers to the Oneness of God, Allah, Brahma, and Dao.  Predominant teachings of faith traditions emphasize believers ascending to this Supreme Light.

Sacred texts, saints, gurus, priests, rabbis, and imams teach how to accomplish this reality. These Holy Scriptures are based on ancient mythology, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Old and New Testaments, Koran, Vedas, Upanishads, and other canonical books.  But these all regard this Supreme Light in uniquely different ways with some common characteristics.  The monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic beliefs are geared towards believers achieving eternal life in Heaven.  Eastern faith traditions stress the role of karma – what believers sow they will reap in the afterlife.  This reality comes in the form of various stages of rebirth to achieving the Oneness of Hinduism’s Brahma, or Buddhism’s nirvana.


Hail, holy light! offspring of heaven firstborn!
Or of th' eternal co-eternal beam,
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate!

John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667; 1674), Bk III, line 1

*Dfurstane (Eternal Essence) 

– Devotees for universal rights stand tall after natural Enlightenment.   


Monday, December 2, 2019

Happiness with Equilibrium




Happiness with Equilibrium

Carp Diem is a Latin aphorism that calls for people to live to the fullest right now.  “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” said the Roman poet Horace.  But does life only consist of these pleasurable pursuits?  There’s an essential goal that is necessary to make people happy.  On a fall’s day people could stroll in the woods then watch a powerful life-affirming film.  They could take a trip to some exquisite place, or read a good book that warms their hearts.  Still these joys might not satisfy their thirst to be happy.  People could even breathe in the fresh air at the seaside; swim in the ocean, or bike on the beach as the sun shines brightly in the sky.  Still happiness escapes them.  Why is this so?  It’s because they are only satisfying an emotional, physical, and intellectual need.  But do they ever stop to think what is lacking?  It could very well be that with all they are doing there isn’t any balance in their life.  They might well be neglecting their spiritual growth, and their soul’s longing for fulfillment.  This benefit only comes when they are inspired by God, Allah, Brahma, or Dao.  Only then would their happiness become enlightened having attained the necessary equilibrium.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Celebrate Life




Celebrate Life

Be a success in life! Don’t let disillusion get you down.  Some people act bizarrely at bad stages in their life because they are discontented.  It’s better and more fulfilling to work at being happy.  Take time to reflect on the good things that life has to offer.  Discover the richness in the arts.  Listen to uplifting music, and enjoy reading good poetry.  Remember to see the good-hearted gifts in people, and celebrate the joys of life.  Why don’t you fill your dreams with these pleasant reminiscences, and see the joys of the world unfold before your eyes?  Katori Hall (b. 1981), a playwright and journalist wrote, “Follow your intuition, listening to your dreams, and your inner voice to guide you.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

Seek the Light




Seek the Light

The descent to the underworld is a motif about life.  Readers find these in Greek, Jewish, Slavic, Hindu, Chinese, and Japanese mythology.  These stories are the folklore of all peoples.  The descent is usually made to rescue someone who is either abducted, or rightfully dead.  It’s all done to find the answer to a question, discover a secret, or to seize some treasure.  The rallying cry that believers must heed is don’t wait for a hero rescue you.  Try to be always safe, live wisely, and do what’s right in the sight of God.  Waiting until you’re in a dark and bottomless pit isn’t the best thing to happen.  It’s wise to stay away from dark and gloomy places.  So why don’t you seek the light?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

God's Attributes



God has extraordinary attributes and with his saints there’s extreme joy.  It’s so because they are always striving for perfection.  Happiness from God is like a flame enlightening our lives.  This ideal is to be found in the working of the Holy Spirit.  This is a great gift symbolic of his transcendent glory.  God’s image is beyond all created wisdom as the Creator and Father of Lights.  He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

God’s attributes were noted by Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), a founding father of the United States, who wrote, “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”  It’s the Holy Spirit who provides this food and fire to believers.

Perfect Bliss

With God there’s perfect bliss.  Christians expect eternal rest after leaving this earthly domain.  We’ll praise him without ceasing.  Hunger and thirst will be no more, for we’ll be recipients of his precious gifts.  Believers walking in the spirit are fearless.  We’ll eventually discover the full nature of our amazing lives.  Christians will demonstrate this willingness by what they do.

Believers are known for having a steadfast spirit.  Our experiences continue to deepen when we walk as spirit-filled evangelists.  A mythologist and lecturer in Comparative Religions, Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) wrote, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were walls.”  Campbell captured the essence of our earthly journey where nothing is impossible with God.

Sight of Excellency

God’s wisdom is indescribable and known for infinite grace.  Believers walking in his footsteps often demonstrate an apostolic spirit.  It’s one of harmony revealed with the fire at Pentecost when there was a religious awakening.  Christians create trails like those envisioned by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), an essayist and poet who said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

God’s Goodness

Contemplating God is remarkable for people experience his goodness, and mercy.  This power is found in God’s boundless love.  He’s the fountain of goodness that tends the wounded before believers are able to recognize them.  As Christians it’s good to witness about God’s character, for this is a weapon used when believers fellowship with unbelievers.  God’s resurrected power was for all to see in the Risen Christ.

In our pastoral outreach let us show love for other souls.  Be industrious for that’s what God expects of us.  With the anointing of the Holy Spirit people are enlightened to walk in his ways.  Our approach to Christianity has to be Christ-o-centric.  His followers have to be obedient like true disciples.  Booker T. Washington (18561915), an African American educator wrote, “Character is power.”  Inevitably, faith-filled lives would best exemplify the character of Christians.  God’s goodness and mercy will shine through his believers in amazing ways.     

Friday, November 8, 2019

A Good Life




A Good Life

When people talk about being comfortable do they mean being in Comfort Inns, having improved home efficiency, using a hybrid bike shopper, and being served by others?  Or do they wish to retire financially comfortable having at their disposal an adjustable chair, and a water furnace geo-thermal unit?  These might be part of your plan of having a good life when you’re able to watch multiple TV channels via satellite or cable.  But are you really satisfied with such comfort?  You might say add my favorite drinks of wine, beer, and liquor.  Aren’t you sure that you would still be lacking what’s essential for a healthy lifestyle?  Your friends might advise you to do an exercise program, and try to be healthy.  But it’s essential you take a good look at your spiritual life.  For behind all comforts care should be taken in your spiritual growth.  You must remember that God, Brahman, Allah, or Dao is the provider of every comfort.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Native Americans




Native Americans

The first Americans have the distinction of being a people of diversity.  They consisted of more than 500 tribes ranging from the Arctic Circle across the Great Plains to the Eastern Seaboard and known as the Lakota, Cherokee, Navajo, Haida, and other groups.  In the Northeast alone, there were dozens of tribes originating from three main mother groups – Algonquian, Iroquoian, or Siouan.  Around 12,000 to 20,000 years ago Indians came to the Western Hemisphere after having crossed the Bering Strait ice bridge that linked Asia to the Americas.  So, Native Americans are indigenous to the Americas.

The Indians displayed vibrant languages, cultural forms, and their political empowerment varied between tribes.  Some tribes boasted a sophisticated clan system with unique spiritual traditions, music, songs and chants.  Not all adopted to the horse as a primary tool of hunting, but they fished - catching salmon, trout, and sturgeon; farmed - raising indigenous plants, roots, berries, and nuts; hunted – catching deer, elk, bison, antelope, moose, and even caribou; inventing agricultural methods with flourishing crops of corn (maize), beans, and squash.

Tribal architecture flourished.  They made ceramics from clay tempered with sand, potted ceremonial objects, rugs, jewelry, bead works, and baskets of all sorts.  Their trading networks were spread across the whole American continent, and their sovereign authority was invested in cultural and linguistic patterns.

The American Dream

In their own way the Native Americans were living the American dream.  Marco Rubio (b. 1971), a senator from Florida said, “The American Dream is a term that is often used but also often misunderstood.  It isn’t really about becoming rich and famous.  It is about things much simpler and more fundamental than that.”  Early Indian tribes exemplified what the American dream was all about by having a diverse culture blessed with simplicity.  Billy Graham (19182018), an evangelical Christian evangelist wrote, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”  Our first Americans exemplified this legacy and faith while living off the land.

Joe Baca (b. 1947), a U.S. representative in California said, “Native Americans are the original inhabitants of the land that now constitutes the United States.  They have helped developed the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and separation of powers that form the foundation of the United States government.”   These first Americans were instrumental in proposing fundamental ways of governing by how they were living.

A Legacy Impacted

European diseases – small pox, measles and influenza devastated many Native American communities.  These natives became victims of brutal massacres, murder, and rape that dampened the American spirit.  Native Indians though continued to have rights, and the American government had no authority on Indian land without an act of Congress.  The 19th century witnessed the impounding of Indians to reservations.  Philipp Meyer (b. 1974), an American fiction writer wrote, “When you start to look at the native American history, you realize that very far from being peaceful, morally superior people, Native Americans were not that different from the Europeans.”  Meyer must have been thinking about the atrocities and broken promises committed by America on the American Indians.  Alberto Gonzales (b. 1955), an attorney general of the United States wrote, “I will be the first to admit I am not perfect and I make mistakes.”  The Europeans who settled America were imperfect men and women, and although some critics felt their actions against the American Indians were motivated by power, greed, and religious zeal they surely committed big mistakes.  Despite these atrocities the American Indian culture still exists, and adds to the spiritual richness of the nation.             

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Earthly Paradise





People are on an earthly journey.  They hope that eventually they will be in paradise.  There they will discover immortality, perfect beauty, and the truth about life.  Many believers see this place as heaven.  In anticipation of this reality they talk about experiencing heaven on earth.  Some refer to this place as the original Garden of Eden that once existed in the Middle East.  This garden described in the Book of Genesis was destroyed by the Fall of Man.

The Earthly Paradise (1868–1870) is a four-volume collection of narrative poems written by William Morris.  Its prologue described the flight of a band of Norse sailors in the Middle Ages from the Black Death, and their search for this glorious place.  But isn’t heaven more than an earthly paradise? Whatever it truly is people are unable to comprehend.    

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ethics for the New Milennium




The Dalai Lama’s Ethics for the New Millennium is rather compelling to read.  This book’s central theme is based on the virtues of compassion, love, patience, forgiveness, and humility among others.  He traces his life’s journey from Tibet to his home-in-exile India, travels, lectures, and observations about life.  The Dalai Lama keeps reminding readers that although he is the spiritual leader of Tibet he is still a human being like all of us.

He discusses what it means to be like children, adolescents, adults, professionals, and senior citizens.  Often the Dalai Lama encourages us to live up to our responsibility of being decent human beings.  It is for us to have disciplined lives, to love our neighbors, help the poor and underprivileged, and strive for the betterment of humanity.  That’s why it is best to practice restrain by working on doing no harm to others.

There are many things people could do to propagate peace in their lives.  They ought to live in harmony with their families, neighbors, community, nation, and the world.  According to the Dalai Lama people don’t have to be religious to do such things.  A great deal of what we do should come from our heart.  This is so because he believes that our basic goal in life is to be happy.  This same happiness people should want for all others, including their family, neighbors, and even their enemies.

Concerning world peace the Dalai Lama wasn’t happy about those who work in building arms of mass destruction.  He thinks that this is a waste of resources that could be spent more wisely.  Yet he was hopeful that the major powers of the world cut back on their arsenals and find peace.  This he realizes isn’t exactly easy because many professionals make their living through the military industrial complex.  But he was hopeful that some international organizations like UNESCO could be more effective.  Although the Dalai Lama realizes that members of the public don’t have a voice in this organization.

The Dalai Lama is for supporting efforts for the existence of a clean environment.  He reminisced about what it was like growing up in Tibet amidst an abundance of wildlife - animals, birds, and other species.  He deplores the deforestation of lands, pollution, and the hazards caused by the use of chemicals.  He therefore hopes that all these problems would be solved by people playing their rightful part in society.  And Dalai Lama believes that everyone – people of all classes, rich and poor, professionals, politicians, scientists, and entrepreneurs should live compassionately by upholding the virtues in building sustainable communities, nations, and the world.     
   
     

Thursday, October 31, 2019

My Spiritual Journey




The Dalai Lama’s My Spiritual Journey presents this Buddhist’s life with extraordinary love, compassion and foresight.  It’s amazing to understand how at age two as a child he was discovered through established traditional norms to be the spiritual leader of Tibet.  Raised in a monastery under a regent the 14th Dalai Lama assumed his responsibility at the age of sixteen when the Chinese first invaded his ancestral home.

After failed negotiations with the People’s Republic of China the Dalai Lama escaped via the Himalayas Mountains to India.  While in Indian Territory with some eighty thousand refugees they re-established Tibet as a refugee nation under the auspices of the Indian government.  From their external home in Dharamsala the Dalai Lama persevered in an ongoing campaign with the Chinese officials for Tibet to be returned to Tibetans as an independent country.

All these negotiations failed although the Dalai Lama spelled out a Five-Point Peace Plan and had even agreed to drop its demands of an independence homeland to that of having a truly authentic and autonomous state.  But the People’s Republic of China viewed the Tibet-in-exile government with suspicion, and thought that their sole intention was to gain independence for Tibet.

Since the 1950’s to the early 2000’s Chinese brutality has continued with thousands of Tibetans losing their lives, wounded, and imprisoned.  Many Tibetans have continued to flee Tibet to neighboring countries, and died as they attempted to make their way via the Himalayas Mountains.  And China has relocated many more Han Chinese to the Tibetan region where they have now outnumbered Tibetans whose culture, language, and ecological means of living have been decimated.
But Tenzin Gyasto, Tibet’s spiritual leader has continued his campaign for their homeland.  As head of their government-in-exile he has received multiple awards and honorary degrees, including the Congressional Gold Medal and Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his message of peace, nonviolence, interreligious understanding and compassion.        

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Eucharist




In Johannes H. Emminghaus’s book entitled The Eucharist: Essence, Form, Celebration, its celebration starts out as an ordinary meal which was enjoyed in the early Jewish culture.  This custom was meant to call to mind the Passover that was from the days of the Exodus when the Israelites were liberated from Egypt.  This story is clear as Pharaohs charioteers were pursuing them, God paved a way through the Red sea where the waters enveloped their pursuers who were attempting to intercept them.

In the Old Testament God explained how they must celebrate the remembrance of the Passover.  Every Jewish household had to slaughter a lamb and prepare it in a special way.  They had to eat it when dressed just like when they were about to leave Egypt.  The doorposts of their homes were to be sprinkled with the animals blood, so that Gods judgment would pass over them, and they would be saved.  This rite was to be celebrated on every anniversary of their deliverance.  But over time changes were made because it had become too worldly.  It was therefore determined to have the Passover in a more suitable manner as a meal, giving praise, and thanksgiving to God for their deliverance.

The New Testament Eucharist 

Emminghaus showed in the New Testament the Eucharist was instituted as a memorial by Jesus Christ with his disciples, before he sacrificed his life on the cross at Calvary.  Christs salvation was to follow the customary Jewish tradition.  These meals however came to be abused, for although they were communal, guests like at Corinth overdid it with debauchery.  Thus the Eucharist later celebrated at the end of a meal failed to measure up to the divine standards of the sacrament.

It was later proposed that the Eucharist should stand by itself.  Since partaking of the elements of bread and wine were rather brief, this celebration evolved into the formulation of a Mass with the Liturgical Word, hymns, and the offering of the bread of life (Christs flesh, and wine) his blood.  Early in Christian history the Mass was formulated by Justin Martyr, the Greek Hippolytus, and passed down almost verbatim to the contemporary church.

The early churches were built to reflect the nature of the Mass.  Since Jerusalem was the focal point the congregation a priest faced the East.  The priest who presided at these ceremonies had their backs turned to the worshipers, but eventually this changed because of the layout of some churches.  Now a priest faces every direction - East, West, North, and South.  Altars have shifted to central locations within parishes with the seating arrangements in concentric circles around them. 

The Middle Ages

Through the Middle Ages the liturgical season of Holy Week and Eastertide were especially popular, because they gave scope for the imagination.  The people celebrated Palm Sundays procession with singing, the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, the veneration of the cross on Holy Friday, and the unveiling of the cross.  The acclamations, reproaches, the Pascal Vigil, with the impressive lighting of the new fire, and the carrying of the “Light of Christ” into the dark church were greeted with joy.  The intense emotion, the blessing of the Easter candle, the baptismal water, and Easter day with its dramatic elements developed into Easter plays with the apostles, holy women coming to the tomb, and so forth were some highlights

But Emminghaus wrote that the liturgy by the end of the Middle Ages and on the eve of the Council of Trent (15451563) was deficient for it failed to grasp its real nature.  There were abuses and one-sided popular piety, a decadent condition of the church as a whole, the great schism, selfish political interests, and social upheavals.  Gods word in the scripture was not being preached, rituals were hindering it, and this was not helping the congregation’s spiritual life.  These doctrinal controversies of the Reformation led to a new Roman Missal of Pope Pius V the Latin Rite being restored, greater centralization, and a return to “the primitive rule of prayer.”  Between 1570, and the year of Pope Pius Vs calendar reform, 1914, one hundred and eleven new feast days were added.  There were increased feasts for Doctors of the Church, and some thirty of these by 1959.

The 20th Century Liturgy

Since the 20th century the liturgy was restored to a more profound theological grasp of its characteristics.  It was realized that it was a communal, salvific celebration of Gods people of the new covenant when the body was gathered in Jesus name with each member playing a distinct role.  This long break through was finally achieved at the Second Vatican Council that adapted new conditions of reforms. 

Before and around 1800 desires for liturgical reforms went back to the time of the Enlightenment.  With these changes came better and more frequent sermons, and led to the methodical catechists in the church and school.  It saw the use of the vernacular language, encouraged the faithful to take a “rational” part in the celebration, enriched the liturgy at the parish level, and reformed the administration of the sacraments.  These changes promoted the continuing education of the clergy through study, and pastoral conferences.  And people were now able to receive the Eucharist more frequently.  The age for first communion was lowered, and there was more active participation of the community in public worship.          

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Prophet Muhammad




Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong is a rather compelling biography.  Prophet Muhammad (C. 570–632 CE) was born in Mecca and preached “surrender” (Arabic word for islam) to God.  He experienced conflicts in his ancestral home with the city ruled by Quraysh.  So he migrated to Medina whereas Muslims he dwelt with warring tribes.  There he recognized the “People of the Book” – Jews and Christians, and were supported by Bedouins.  Muhammad taught his adherents to imitate the way he “spoke, ate, loved, washed, and worshiped.”
While living in Medina he made alliances, and married daughters of chieftains from different tribes.  These women meant a lot to him, and he received revelations concerning their rights that are verses in the Qur’an.  But these proclamations caused animosity among some of his male followers.  
Muhammad however stuck by these divine messages, and the community adhered to his teachings.
As a leader of the Muslims, Muhammad led raids and pilgrimages to Mecca.  Eventually he succeeded with his Medinese followers in bringing peace as they reached the Kabah.  Despite his successful return to Mecca where he gained more converts he decided to live in Medina.  When Muhammad died he was succeeded by caliphs.  Islam later ended up being splintered into sects viz., Sufi, Sunni, and Shi’ah.      

Friday, October 25, 2019

American Culture




American Culture

What a joy it is to hold a culture in high esteem.  American popular culture though has some drawbacks.  Carl Bernstein (b. 1944), an investigative journalist of the Washington Post wrote, “The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism.”  People find these shortcomings in the sensationalism, tabloids, pop music, and erroneous displays in some forms of art.

All however isn’t lost.  But it takes acceptance of a religious faith, for cultural peddlers to live according to what’s right in pursuing stories that uplift us.  Strange as it may seem people in the media’s audience buy into what is presented to them.  Even religious believers fall victims to ubiquitous displays of cultural distortions.  Some might say, “Everyone is watching salacious material, so why can’t I?  It gives me pleasure.”  People must realize they are falling victims to such presentations. 

Cultural Appreciation

Cultural appreciation goes way back to the Egyptians, Greeks, Italian Renaissance, and Reformation.  In the West Europeans are loved for their classical tradition.  Masters like Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart are held in high esteem.  People feel empowered by fast automobiles, airplanes, nuclear power, and technological advancements.  In the pop music Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Billy Joel, the Beatles, and Supremes were icons in the society.  And music of different genres, e.g., rock ‘n’ roll, country & western, Christian, and jazz are alive and well. 

Billy Joel (b. 1949), a pianist and singer-songwriter said, “I think music itself is healing.  It’s an explosive expression of humanity.  It’s something we are all touched by.  No matter what culture we are from, everyone loves music.”  Music appeals to people in unique ways.  Some might disagree with the quality of some genres.  What’s known is that with hymns God’s exalted.  Many have been converted by hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “Bread of Life, Hope of the World,” “Holy God, You Raise Up Prophets,” “Song of the Body of Christ,” and “We Shall Overcome.”

The American Dream

Most immigrants land on our shores with hopes of achieving the American dream.  When people reflect on this dream they think of worldly and material benefits.  This might mean acquiring their own home, finding a good job, having a loving family, a station wagon, or, sports car, and living in the suburbs.  This dream is somewhat different to every immigrant.

Some might see living a religious life as a top priority.  Walt Disney (19011966), an entrepreneur and film producer wrote, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  Undoubtedly, since for the major religions loving, and serving their fellowmen are important it’s wise to embrace such values.  These attributes are essential in shaping the American dream.

Moral Standards

To improve American popular culture people have to live up to higher moral standards.  H. L. Mencken (18801956), a journalist and satirist said, “I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie.  I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave.  And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.”  People ought to consider Mencken’s perspective as empowering.  It’s wise to know the reasons for doing what we do rather than being ignorant.  American immigrants and non-immigrants alike ought to pursue a good education for it’s a liberating force.  Knowledge is beneficial in building up the American culture.          

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Spirituality



What is spirituality?

Spirituality is predictable and unpredictable.  Its recognition could be the result of suffering, misfortune, or failure that reveals the true nature of circumstances.  It could be based on the appreciation, success, or an accomplishment that’s beautiful and awe inspiring.  In short, it is the insights gained of a transcendent reality from such diverse occurrences.

Erwin K. Thomas, Interfaith Author

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Interfaith Alternative



In the Interfaith Alternative by Steven Greenebaum I rather like the recognition given to the commonalities of the major religions.  But how will this church handle differences in religious beliefs?  I have read about these problems, and watched documentaries addressing such issues.  And there are some unique beliefs to try and integrate in such a church. 

This book focuses on compassion, love, and respect for all faith traditions.  This approach is understandable, but the author’s treatise doesn’t show exactly how the teachings of this new church will be accomplished.  For example, “Is this church Trinitarian, mono, or poly-theistic?”  “What is its belief about sin and salvation?”  “Will they have baptisms?”  “Will they celebrate certain religious and secular holidays? “What is the church’s teaching on the sexual orientation?  These are some questions not discussed in the text.

Greenebaum’s approach seems similar to those of the Unitarian Universalists and Baha’i because the Interfaith Alternative tent consists of other religions.  But when someone reads this book there’s no mention of a doctrine.  Simply stating that different faith traditions would share their beliefs with members of their congregation isn’t quite clear.  Since early Christendom Christian denominations have undertaken ecumenical ventures with some success.  But an interfaith undertaking will do much more in embracing a multiplicity of religions

Monday, October 21, 2019

Wake Up





Sam Harris’s Waking Up is a thoughtful account about how to tap into one’s consciousness.  The author who is a neuroscientist discussed the right and left brain dichotomy.  Our right brain functions quite differently from the left, but still they are complimentary.

Harris discussed many topics that have to do with the brain, thinking, and feeling.  Some of these are reflections of the mind, hallucinations, near death experiences, and the role of drugs.  And the author made trips to the Far East to have experiences from gurus.  But he ended up not being impressed with some of their meditational practices.

As a scientist the author evaluated a variety of practices while attempting to explore consciousness.  For him people didn’t have to be religious to reap these benefits.  But Harris’s own approach to meditation had to be subjected to scientific scrutiny.  That is why as an atheist he didn’t think much about the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that based many of their beliefs on faith.

Harris’s book will shake up what believers think about their religion.  And although the writer found benefits in meditation, still he exposes some of the Far Eastern gurus that were nothing more than charlatans.  So Waking Up isn’t a book that is promoting any religious belief, but its contents are geared to those who wish to reap the benefits of meditation without a religion.  So this guide to spirituality without religion should be read by believers and non-believers alike, who wish to tap into consciousness by submerging “I” in their thinking, and showing compassion towards others.    

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Alcoholism




Alcoholism

 “I am more afraid of alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy.”
 Stonewall Jackson (1824–1863), Confederate General of the American Civil War   

 “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”
 Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), English writer and lexicographer  

“Alcohol has caused numerous problems in the lives of people.  Some however were able to have their addiction treated, while others were unable to do so.  Writers have described the impact of alcohol abuse on the American economy.  A brand of liquor was even named after the renowned Indian chief Oglala Sioux, but several states banned this alcoholic drink.
Erwin K. Thomas, Interfaith author

“Higher Power was the result of a personal experience: a friend of mine who went through the process of addiction and recovery.  It’s a very tough thing - very easy to become addicted and very, very hard to become a recovering addict.”
Tom Scholz (b. 1947), rock musician and engineer      


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Acts of Love




Acts of Love

Acts of love bring us joy.  While performing such acts people are blessed by God’s grace.  These gifts become apparent when we love others.  God’s love that flows from heaven sustains souls, and causes the unification with the Holy Spirit. For the good news of the Gospel is that with faith people will find security.  Tullian Tchividjian (b. 1972), a professor of Theology and pastor said, “Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better.  If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.”  What great news this is for those who have fallen short of God’s promises! 

Sowing

People must love their neighbors as themselves by sharing warmth and tenderness in their relationships.  It’s Christ’s love that makes hope blossom, but such a revelation has to be nurtured. By doing good deeds people come to know divine beauty.  This wondrous love is beyond comparison because it’s found deep within our hearts.  It’s revealed through Christ’s promises.  An author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh (19062001) wrote, “For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”  How wonderful God’s security is in believers’ lives!  Billy Graham (b. 1918), an evangelical preacher said, “God proved His love on the Cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”

People must always put love into practice while serving mankind.  This calls for having humble hearts and a positive outlook.  Such care must be meaningful and authentic.  This is often demonstrated in the Eucharistic celebration of the supper of the Lamb when Christ is adored.  And all are welcomed at his feast.  Through participation believers put into practice their faith.  Martin Luther King, Jr. (19291968), a Baptist minister and civil rights leader said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”  People’s failure to sow love, and making themselves heard are surely the sort of tragedy to which King was alluding.

Service

Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), a South African retired Anglican bishop wrote, “You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”  Such love is universal.  At the sublime level it’s one of connection.  People promote this truth when they come forward to do their part in the communities where they live.  This service is created, recreated, nurtured, and blossoms into amazing realities.  It’s holy and expresses the eternal blessings of our Creator. 

Love is a true gift for all living souls.  Albert Camus (19131960), a French author and philosopher captured this best when he said, “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.  This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”  Cycles of creative forces keep moving us forward to tap into a newer and better world.  This is through the recognition of the Holy Spirit working in our midst.