About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."

2014/11/20

Meeting Xenia

Do you know XENIA? Have you ever heard of her? XENIA is the name for an ancient concept of “hospitality towards strangers”. She was known and respected as far as one can see. Her name was present and well established in the oldest surviving literature.
    Now, even if you knew XENIA (you heard about her from me last summer), when was the last time you heard or read about her? Hardly ever! That is because the hearts of people have been jinxed and cursed by her younger sister XENOPHOBIA. Her name means “fear of strangers”, and not just any fear, but rather visceral fear, almost hatred. XENOPHOBIA’s name is also Greek and looks archaic, but it appeared as recently as 1905. And from that moment on, XENOPHOBIA has been going from strength to strength.
    Without any doubt, there was hatred of strangers even before the name for it was coined, and hospitality to strangers is present in our world even without being called by its ancient name. Yet I am convinced that the different familiarity and frequency of use of XENIA and XENOPHOBIA is illustrative. We have, but haven’t been using, an ancient old concept and name for the hospitality towards strangers, while we have created a new technical term for the hatred of strangers. What does it say about us?
    XENOPHOBIA thrives in our society especially along US southern border and in the minds of many narrow minded politicians. But, frankly, it is a worldwide problem. This same ugly XENOPHOBIA causes countless tragedies along the south shores of Europe as refugees from Africa and Middle East try to cross the Mediterranean Sea in flimsy boats. The same XENOPHOBIA hag thrives in Australian concentration camps, one of these infamous institutions being on Christmas Island. Even New Zealand is rejecting climate refugees from Kiribati, whose home is destined to disappear under waves because of global warming. XENOPHOBIA is indeed a dangerous ugly global phenomenon. 
  I am convinced that as people of faith, it is our spiritual calling to wake up XENIA in our world again and reconstitute her as integral part of our faith and important virtue in our society - thus from this Sunday through Christmas we will pray, teach, sing and open our hearts to strangers, immigrants, exiles and refugees of all and many different kinds. This Sunday we start with those who leave their home to seek or to provide health care and healing. XENIA is an integral part of our faith identity and so much needed in our world today!

2014/11/06

Volcanic Theology

Recently I went to Hawaiʻi (Big Island) to study ancient Polynesian religion. Little did I know how alive and widespread I would find it (at least some aspects of it)!
   
Popular artistic depiction of goddess Pele.
     On my first evening on the island, in front of a grocery store, I overheard two locals deep in discussion of the ongoing volcanic eruption. They actually talked about the goddess Pele and "what She was up to." All Hawaiʻians talk about their volcano goddess: Christians (no matter whether Catholics or Protestants), Buddhists, Shinto, Jewish, even the arch-atheists (and interestingly, also professional geologists and volcanologists regardless of their religion). All talk about Pele like an old acquaintance, yet almost always with respect. It is their way to talk about their daily lives, and about the very land on which they live.
    Don’t frown or scoff at them. We do similar things right here on the US South and East Coasts. We also talk about Sandy, Katrina, Andrew... we give them names, we talk about their personalities, and these are ephemeral, albeit powerful tropical cyclones. People in Hawaiʻi live with their volcanos day in and day out and have been doing so for centuries and millennia.
   I heard Hawaiʻians as well as immigrants talking about their volcano goddess more often and with greater passion this time because of the imminent danger of a lava flow burning its way through a local town. It opened for me some interesting insights into the origins of human religiosity, but it also highlighted deep and often neglected aspects of our own Judeo-Christian faith, spirituality, and social and environmental activism. This Sunday we will again listen to Volcanic Yahwism; flowing lava will illuminate for us the nature of the Ardent (Burning) Love of our God.
A lava flow burns its way through an orchard in Pāhoa
(source: USGA, Hawaii Volcano Observatory)


2014/10/30

Healing for Our Wounded Earth

Returning from an overseas vacation, I peeked from the airplane window. We were somewhere above one of the mountain states. The sun was setting, and I saw amber and red mountain ridges with long blue shadows, the highest points already dusted with snow. It was a beautiful idyllic view, unfortunately with a sinister and surreal twist; this tranquil mountain scape was pock-marked like with smallpox. I saw something like it before, in spring 2012, in better light and having a better seat, I took a picture - the landscape around Navajo Lake.
Navajo Lake, New Mexico, in May 2012
   This is a wounded landscape. The lake itself destroyed most holy places of Navajo people (just consider the arrogance in calling the project Navajo Lake!). And the smallpox marks are fracking platforms hardly half-a-mile apart. And just like smallpox, fracking platforms are only surface blisters and scars, but the real disease lurks underneath. It is known that fracking wells occasionally leak poisons into aquifers. Among hundreds and hundreds of boreholes, a single one can pollute underground water (in the west - fossil water, nonrenewable, finite resource) for miles and miles in broad circles and often forever. Our societal carbon addiction certainly looks and feels like serious malady.
    I am so happy that our Rutgers church is taking these matters seriously. Our Trustees in their October meeting committed our church to conduct a full energy audit of our buildings. And the Session and Trustees continue discussion about the best and honest ways to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
    For us as religious people all our concerns, hopes and aspirations are rooted in our faith, our worship, theology and spirituality. This Sunday worship brings us seasonally appropriate message of Festival of Wine Harvest. Prophetic as well as Jesus’ vision of the vineyard will judge, inspire and encourage us to live justly among ourselves, in our society, with our environment, and in peace with our planet. Come this Sunday to celebrate Dionysia of social and ecojustice.

2014/10/10

Parable of the Thistle Seed

A new fragment of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers discovered!
Although in this case it is almost certainly an example of Ancient Upper West Side Forgery - someone took a piece of old papyrus and wrote on it a well-known parable in contemporary dialect. Its historic value is therefor doubtful, but the cultural approximation is nevertheless interesting.
  

     The anonymous author of this forgery clearly understood that the mustard plant in the original Galilean setting was equivalent to thistles and nettles of our more northerly latitudes and as such they were indication of fields allowed to go bad. Fields overgrown with weeds were most likely repossessed farmland kept by distant landlords for speculation. Thus we should be thankful to this Ancient Upper West Side forger, because he attempted to preserve the original meaning of the parable. You (Galilean audience of family farmers) might be forced and expelled from your land and it is left to weeds by distant landlords and speculators, but take heart! You are just like those weeds, tenacious, with enormous vitality, future belongs to you!

2014/10/09

Idolatry Old and New

These are two pictures of bovine statues.
One statue measures 16 feet, the other just few inches.
Both statues are made of bronze, one weighs 71 thousand pounds, the other just several ounces.
One is just 27 years old, the other at least 32 centuries.
Both are now located in NYC, one at the “temple” of speculation, the other at the palace of education (Metropolitan Museum).
One statue is vicious, aggressive and in our face, while the other is quite docile and almost cuddly.
One is quasi-religious object depicting individualistic worship of speculative profit, the other was a part of collective and complex worship in an agrarian society.
One statue represents an impersonal system exploiting countless millions around the world, while the other was part of a religion in a small city state where any potential abuse was personal and thus limited by close proximity and small numbers.

As far as the bovine statuary and iconography goes, I have never seen among the ancient artefacts (Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Syrian, Greek and even among famous Cretan bulls) anything which would get close to vicious aggression of the Wall Street charging bull. I don’t think it is mere coincidence, I think it is an accurate symbolic representation of what any given society worships. This Sunday we will read the story of the Golden Calf. It is a marvelous opportunity to explore complex borderlines of idolatry, what we worship and what really matters in our lives.

2014/10/02

Basso Profondissimo

Fresco in the Upper Church of the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi
painted between 1297-1300 and tradionally attributed to Giotto di Bondone.
Do you know that the Earth has its own voice?
Recently I listened to a lecture by geophysicist Michael Wysession and he mentioned this very fact. When the Earth is stricken by a big earthquake, the entire planet reverberates and resonates even for months and months. The lowest sustained global frequency has a wavelength 54 minutes long. That corresponds to the surface going up for 27 minutes and then coming down for same period of time. We cannot register this with our senses; it was discovered only with the help of modern instruments. Although there is no way we can hear it, this harmonic movement represents the Earth’s fundamental tone - it is a note E twenty octaves below the middle E. The entire Earth behaves like a giant bell or an enormous singing bowl.
    You see, St. Francis was right after all when he spoke about our Sister Earth singing and praising the Lord. I always thought it was mere poetic hyperbole. Now I know that in the cosmic chorus celebrating our Creator, our sister Earth sings Basso Profondo, Profondissimo!  
    As we celebrate World Communion Sunday and St. Francis Day, we will join not only a marvelous and surprising chorus of peoples, nationalities and races but also our sisters and brothers - creatures and plants, stars and planets. It is a magnificent cosmic choir with a fairytale-like voice-span and we all are invited to lift our voices and sing.


2014/09/25

Garden Beds of Eden

This one picture nicely illustrates how I envision “Inhabiting Eden”. Shown is an old hospital bed. As a child from a medical family I grew up around beds like this; I remember them well. And this brings forth my first spiritual metaphor. In the Bible, God planted the garden of Eden and entrusted it to human hands, charging us, humans, to keep it and guard it. In the Bible, there are no transcendental, otherworldly, extraterrestrial Edens, and there are no other alternative words. This world is the only one we have, and right now it is not feeling particularly well. Because of generations of human ignorance, negligence, indifference, disobedience, selfishness and abuse, our world, our Eden, is in sad shape, it needs our attention, gentle nursing, and time to heal. Our very own well being depends on it, it is our Eden!
    And that brings forward the second spiritual metaphor in this picture. We can hardly find any better place for our own well being and healing, than nature’s garden beds. Just ask any phyto-pharmacologist. In our church you are in luck; one such expert worships with us every Sunday. Right now he is away for the next few months visiting and studying plants of the Far East, but you can still write and ask! I am almost certain he will confirm that the garden beds of Nature are the best and surprising sources of healing medicines. (Am I right Ed?) It is indeed in our own interest to allow our world and nature to heal, so that it can continue healing us.
    Come this weekend (Saturday and Sunday): our autumn guest speaker and preacher professor Tricia Tull will lead us in seeking how to faithfully and responsibly live in Eden, sharing in healing and mutual care with Nature.

I took this picture last weekend when we visited Well-Sweep Herb Farm in NW New Jersey. They grow and sell an unbelievably wide selection of kitchen and medicinal herbs - for instance 95 different varieties of thyme!