The Celtic Knot and the Chinese Mystic Knot

celtic knot

I have been learning about and fascinated by the Celtic knot. I was taught how to draw it on paper by Celtic artist Mary Kleeson during my recent stay on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. She taught me that the Celtic knot is tied over and under each other and flow into one another so that it is endless. It is free flowing and has not fixed numbers of turns.

mystic knot symbol

That reminds me of the Chinese Mystic or Endless Knot which is commonly used in Feng Shui. The Chinese mystic knot is a complex knot made up of six times the infinite number. Hence it is endless and brings a happy and prosperous long life to its owner. Feng Shui masters will tie this knot to other objects such as jade or gold and place it in an auspicious Feng Shui position or corners to enhance the Feng Shui of the property. The endless knot with no ending symbolizes the harmonious flow of Chi without any interruption thus bringing good fortune and health. These Chinese mystic knots are also used as amulets and talisman for protection.

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The Tibetan Buddhist also regards the Mystic Knot as one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols. The endless flow of the knot symbolizes the Buddhist belief of births and rebirths, and of the Buddhist philosophy of no beginning and no ending.

While there is the religious significance of the Chinese Mystic or Endless knot, I have yet to discover the significance of the Celtic knot except that it is used for decorative purposes. I have seen it in the Lindisfarne Gospel and the Book of Kells. Both are illuminated manuscripts.

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Photo: Lindisfarne Gospels

I will keep researching on the significance of the Celtic knot other than being decorative and soothing to draw. I will like to know if there are any religious or cultural significance or meaning to the knot. Will value feedback or comments from anyone knowledgeable in the Celtic knot.

Triquetra Knot

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Hard carved on granite by Andrew McGavin.
The endless line of this knot suggests an eternal nature of the Trinity to the Celtic Church.

Father Hunger

The absence of a good father figure is a major area of concerns in our society. This absence has an impact on both sons and daughters. The impact is different in different gender. In the male, it is often converted into anger, aggressiveness, ambition, and workaholism. Richard Rohr has much to say about this.

Krista Tippet interviewed Richard Rohr on her website On Being on 13 April 2017. During this interview Living in Deep Time, a wide range of profound topics was touched upon.

MS. TIPPETT: You used the language of “father hunger.”

FR. ROHR: Yeah, father hunger. It’s driving so many things in our culture, even this whole corporate world of the younger male’s need to please the big daddy and get his pat on the back or his promotion.

MS. TIPPETT: I think it’s such a mystery of the human condition.

FR. ROHR: I know, I know.

MS. TIPPETT: That also, in some place you describe someone speaking to you about this father hunger and kind of in the middle of their life and realizing, calling it, saying they realized it was a chasm, a canyon, the emptiness and pain left of a relationship with the father that wasn’t there. And the mystery that we can get very old, and that can still be with us. That this is not something that you just outgrow.

FR. ROHR: No, no.

MS. TIPPETT: And it’s incredible how we can be defined by these broken relationships across a lifespan.

FR. ROHR: Yeah, I’ve had men older than me weep with me, still wanting a daddy, because they never had a father figure. It’s heartbreaking, really.

MS. TIPPETT: You say something that I just want to understand, where you say that “when positive masculine energy is not modeled from father to son, it creates a vacuum in the souls of men, and into that vacuum demons pour.” And you say among other things, they seem to lose the ability to know how to read situations and people correctly. Why is that? Obviously, that can be crippling professionally, personally, but why — what is that connection?

FR. ROHR: Here’s the answer that comes to mind now. I don’t know if it’s the best one. But young men who haven’t been validated by an older male — because we look to our same-sex parent for validation — and when dad doesn’t tell me I’m a man or a good man or acceptable son, I think your first 30 years of life are so frantic, you don’t have time to read inner emotions. Your emotional life — there’s no subtlety to it, there’s no nuance, there’s no freedom, there’s no grace, there’s no time.

I often see it in airports. In 46 years, I was on the road, and you’d see these people rushing through airports, neither looking to right or left, like a deer caught in the headlights. When you’re a deer caught in the headlights, trying to survive, I don’t think you develop an inner world. Do you understand? It’s just the whole life is externalized, and the soul is not born. And that’s why, again, suffering for so many becomes the only path because it’s the only thing strong enough to lead you into the world of grief, for example, or sadness or pain. And those tend to be the holes in the soul that awaken the inner world.

And so an important part of every initiation rite was grief work, letting men get in touch with their unfinished hurt and begin to talk about it with other men. That’s when the floodgates opened, and all of this success that they shined with externally they finally could admit was all a charade. Everything changed after that.

The transcript of the interview here

Deep Time

Krista Tippet interviewed Richard Rohr on her website On Being on 13 April 2017. During this interview Living in Deep Time, a wide range of profound topics was touched upon.

I like Richard Rohr’s concept of deep time

MS. TIPPETT: A phrase that you use a lot that I’d like you to just flesh out is an aspect of this progression towards meaning, towards spiritual fullness, is “living in deep time.” Just say what you’re saying there.

FR. ROHR: OK, well, let me say, first of all, I’m not sure what I mean by that. [laughs] But a phrase was used in medieval Catholic spirituality was “the eternal now.” “When time comes to its fullness,” is the biblical phrase. I’m sure you’ve been told that in the Greek, in the New Testament, there’s two words for time. Chronos is chronological time, time as duration, one moment after another, and that’s what most of us think of as time.

But there was another word in Greek, kairos. And kairos was deep time. It was when you have those moments where you say, “Oh my god, this is it. I get it,” or, “This is as perfect as it can be,” or, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” or, “This moment is summing up the last five years of my life,” things like that where time comes to a fullness, and the dots connect, when we can learn how to more easily go back to those kind of moments or to live in that kind of space.

Now, I think that’s what the tradition means by the word “contemplation,” that to be a contemplative is to learn to trust deep time and to learn how to rest there and not be wrapped up in chronological time. Because what you’ve learned, especially by my age, is that all of it passes away. The things that you’re so impassioned about when you’re 22 or 42 don’t even mean anything anymore, and yet, you got so angry about it or so invested in it.

So already, the desert fathers and mothers discovered this word “contemplation” because I believe they found the word that most believers use, the word “prayer,” to be so trivialized, so cheapened by misuse. Prayer was sort of a functional thing you did to make announcements to God or tell God things, which God already knew, of course. And they created another word to give us access to this deep time, and that word that kept recurring throughout the 2,000-year history of Christianity was the contemplative mind. It’s a different form of consciousness. It’s a different form of time.

Let me add one thing. We used to, in Latin, use this phrase sub specie aeternitatis, and the old professors used to say, “Sub specie aeternitatis.” And what it means — “in the light of eternity.” In the light of eternity, this thing that you’re so worried about right now — is it really going to mean anything on your deathbed? [laughs] And for some reason, that had the power to relativize the things that a young man would get so impassioned about, positively or negatively. And those were various ways of directing us toward deep time.

I agree on the concept of kairos and Chronos time. Kairos time is when God breaks into our universe in the here and now, or when our minds discovered a new concept or an ‘aha’ moment. I like it so much that I have named my ministry Kairos Spiritual Formation. I like how Richard Rohr links up kairos to deep time to contemplation and to ‘when time comes to its fullness’.

The transcript of the interview here

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How many times did Jesus cleansed the Temple?

jesus-cleanses-the-temple

The context to this is that certain areas of the temple had been made into commercial areas defiling the sanctity of the sacred place.

Jewish law required that every man should pay a tribute to the service of the sanctuary of “half a shekel” (Exodus 30:11–16), a Jewish coin. Judea at that time was under Roman rule and the currency used was the Roman coin. Hence it was common for the pilgrims to buy the Jewish half shekel from the money changers at the temple grounds using their Roman coins. There were no fixed currency exchange rate controls and with thousands of pilgrim, the money changers were doing a lucrative business. This would be especially hard on the poor.

The Law also required two doves or pigeons to be offered in sacrifice (Leviticus 14:22; Luke 2:24). Again it is easier to buy the doves or pigeons at the temple than to bring them from home. Other may want to sacrifice sheep or cattle. Again the pilgrims are at the mercy of the merchants selling these animals.

These money changers and merchants may be charging such exorbitant prices as religious observance is a lucrative business. All the pilgrims were affected.  The poorer pilgrims may not be able to worship at the temple as they were unable to pay. Jesus was so upset that He overturned the tables of the money-changers, condemning them for having turned God’s house of prayer into “a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).

Jesus cleansed the temple twice.

The first time occurred just after Jesus turned water into wine at Cana. From Galilee Jesus must have travelled to Capernaum and eventually to Jerusalem for the Passover. This cleansing of the temple is described in John 2:11–12. The Synoptic Gospels do not record the temple cleansing mentioned in John 2, only recording the second one that occurred during Passion Week.

The second cleansing of the temple occurred just after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This second cleansing is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not in John.

There are differences in the two cleansings. In the first cleansing, temple officials confronted Jesus immediately (John 2:18). The chief priests and scribes confronted Him the following day in the second cleansing (Matthew 21:17–23). Jesus made a whip of cords with which to drive out the money-changers in the first cleansing, but there is no mention of a whip in the second.

The two cleansing happened nearly three years apart. This indicated that there had been no change in the mindsets and religiosity of the Jews in the three years of Jesus’ ministry. No wonder, Jesus wept before His entry into Jerusalem. He cursed the fit tree as symbolic of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.

Reflection points

  1. What much do you charge when you offer your services to God’s people to help them to worship God?
  2. When do you consider your charges exorbitant?
  3. How do we avoid the commercialization of our churches?

A Son’s Ode to His Father

Dad.2016

(1927-2017)

 

You walked with youthful steps,

resounding to a hopeful future,

supporting me as I learn to walk,

looking up I see a giant of the land.

 

You struggle uphill in halting steps,

against prejudice and bigotry,

discouraged but never beaten,

bettering yourself inch by inch.

 

You took a tumble in your steps,

when you reached too far,

fell, broken but not cowed,

to start afresh once again.

 

You took exile in your steps,

to walk in strange countries,

for work not available at home,

to feed and clothe your family.

 

You walk slowly in halting steps,

time and age finally took its toll,

reached the undiscovered country,

standing tall on a chariot of fire.

 

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Solomon and the Two Prostitutes

Solomon the Wise

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

After Solomon became king of Israel, he went to Gibeon to make a sacrifice to God. There the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: “Ask what I should give you” (1 Kings 3:4-5). In response to God’s offer, Solomon asked God to grant him “an understanding mind to govern your people” (1 Kings 3:9). After this vision, Solomon was confronted with the case of the two prostitutes, a case which served to illustrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to him. The story of the two prostitutes is found in 2 Kings 3:16-28:

16 Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also…

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Recommended books on the Jesus Prayer

Some Recommended Books about the Jesus Prayer

 A Monk of the Eastern Church. 1987. The Jesus Prayer. Crestwood, NY: St Valdimir’s Press.
1978. Trans. Helen Bacovcin. The Way of a Pilgrim &  the Pilgrim Continues his Way. New York, NY: Image Books
Metropolitan Anthony. 1966. Living Prayer. Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, p. 84-88
Chumley, Norris J. 2011. Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. New York, NY: HarperCollins
Trans. E.Kadloubovsky and G.E.H.Palmer. 1951. Writings from the Philokalia on the prayer of the heart. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
Elder Paisios. 2007. Spiritual counsel volume one: With pain and love for contemporary man. Thessalonika, Greece: Holy Monastery, p. 196-202.

Scorgie, Glen G., Simon Chan, Gordon T. Smith and James D. Smith III, eds. 2011. Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p.541
Talbot, John Michael. 2005. The way of the Mystics: Ancient wisdom for experiencing God today. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 185-102

Movie Review Logan

 

Logan

Movie Review Logan (2017)

[warning! This review contains spoilers]

Hugh Jackman set a new record of playing the Wolverine in 9 movies. This the record for a single actor to play a single role for so long. Alas, it seems the record is going to stop here. But then in Hollywood, one can never say ‘ never again’. Still, I still wish Hugh Jackman is shorter and hairier because that is how I still visualise the Wolverine.

The movie takes place in 2029. Due to the transigen virus created by Dr Zander Rice, mutants are sterile and are unable to have offsprings. Mutant kind is slowly dying off. The rest are old like Professor Charles Xavier and James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine. Charles has Alzheimer’s and Logan is slowly dying of adamantium poisoning. With the eventual extinct of mutants, Rice started creating clones of certain mutants for their eventual use as the ultimate soldiers. All these clones are children. As expected, Rice created Laura/X23 a clone of Logan with adamantium claws on her hands. She also has a claw that extends out from her foot. What is not explained in the movie is how a clone of a male, Logan, is female! When Rice succeeded in cloning an adult Logan/X24, he decided that he no longer needed the children and decided to kill them. The children learnt of this and escaped, going to a place in North Dakota called Eden which they have read from a comic book. Yes, the children are reading The Uncanny X-Men. From there, they will cross the border into Canada where they will be safe. Rice had a paramilitary force called Reavers and mutant Caliban (with the gift of tracking mutants) at his command. Charles and Logan decided to bring young Laura to North Dakota.

There is a scene where Charles, Logan and Laura were in a hotel. The television was showing the movie 1953 Shane. In the movie, Shane tells young Joey just before he rides off, fatally wounded.

“A man has to be what he is, Joey. You can’t break the mould. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. Joey, there’s no living with, with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother and tell her, tell her everything’s alright, and there aren’t any more guns in the valley.”

The question being asked is do people change? What does it take for a person to act contrarily to who they are? Charles with his telepathic power was acknowledged to be the most powerful mutant alive. All his life, he devoted his life to peace and nurture of life. With Alzheimer’s Disease, he became prone to seizures. In one of these seizures in Westchester where his school was, he killed 600 persons and his X-Men! Logan had to confine Charles to a steel container and continually sedate him. In a lucid moment, Charles realises what he has done. His greatest gift and asset has become a weapon of mass destruction! For Charles, a man of peace, taking all these lives must have been an abyss from which there is no return. All the good he has done and stood for wiped away by an involuntary act by his powerful mind. There did not seem to be any redemption for Charles as he was killed by an act of senseless violence when the clone Logan/X24 stabbed him to death.

Logan, in the Marvel Universe, was a berserker. He was more beast than man and that was why he was chosen for the Weapon X program. With his unbreakable adamantium skeleton, his feral rages and incredible healing power, he is the perfect weapon. Logan has always been searching for the goodness in his humanity. Yet, every time when he almost grasps this goodness, he was dragged into another orgy of violence and gory death. Logan said, “Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long”. Logan is now old. The adamantium in his bones is poisoning and killing him. He is weak. In one scene, one of his claws did not extend and when he pulled it out, a gust of pus followed. He was reluctant to help or even acknowledge Laura/X-23 as his daughter. Unlike earlier movies, Logan never tried to seek redemption in what he does. He seemed to accept that he is a broken man that cannot be fixed. Redemption for him is to die. In the final battle, he took on the Reavers and his own younger clone X-24 leading to his own death. Impaled on a piece of wood, his healing power unable to cope and as he felt life slipping away, he sighed his last words: “So, this is what it feels like.”

This is a powerful but disturbing movie about the death of two most beloved characters in the Marvel Extended Universe. In a way, they are both sides of the same coin. Professor Charles Xavier stood for peace, order, tolerance and logic. Logan was the opposite with his feral rage, anger and violence. To Logan killing is “what he does best and he is the best at what he does”. Yet at the end of their long life, they seem to have switched places. Charles became the killer while Logan is the saviour. This is disturbing because we do not know how our lives will end. Will a lifetime of good works be destroyed by a single violent act? Will Alzheimer’s change the ‘brand’ in our brain as referred to by Alan Ladd in Shane, making us someone else? Is death the final act of redemption? This is the most provoking movie in the Wolverine and X-Men series. The others are mainly CG and violence with hardly a storyline. May this be the start of more thought-provoking movies from Marvel.

The Wolverine is dead on both the big screen and the comic books. May he rest in peace and never come back.

Slavery and the Dignity of Human Beings

The Hebrew Bible does not recognize slaves to be objects that can be bought and sold, but as persons capable of making choices and entitled to live their lives in freedom and liberty. If some Hebrew slaves were denied their rights as individuals, it was because some people in Israelite society failed to live by the ideals given to them by the God who redeemed them from their own slavery in Egypt.”

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

Joseph-Being-Sold-Into-Slavery - Alexander Maximilian Seitz (1811-1888)

Image: Joseph Being Sold Into Slavery

Painter: Alexander Maximilian Seitz (1811-1888)

The origin of slavery has been lost in antiquity. The institution of slavery existed in the ancient Near East and it was practiced for millennia in many countries of the world. Most free societies today recognize that slavery is morally wrong. Although different forms of slavery can be found in some societies, slavery has been condemned as a violation of human rights and human dignity. However, societies that buy and sell human beings still exist in the twenty-first century. In an article dealing with slavery in the 21st century, Andrew Cockburn said that there are millions of people in slavery today.

Cockburn wrote that there are “27 million men, women, and children in the world who are enslaved—physically confined or restrained and forced to work, or controlled through violence, or in some way treated as property.” According to Cockburn…

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