Search This Blog

Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Feast of Saint Leonidas, the Father of Origen - A Reflection

Little is known about this martyr from the early 3rd century except that he was beheaded by the Egyptian prefect Lactus in 202 CE, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.

He would not be worthy of mention except for the fact that he was the father of the great philosopher and theologian, Origen.

Origen is considered a father of the church, but he is a controversial figure. His writings were condemned during the reign of the Emperor Justinian, though he himself was not officially anathematized, all of his work was, at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 CE.

Nevertheless, Origen’s work remained influential, guiding the thinking of the Church for centuries, and continuing to influence us into the twenty-first century.

But he is not a Saint of the Church and therefore we cannot celebrate his feast day, so I have chosen to celebrate him through his father.

Origen’s doctrine of apocatastasis is likely the particular teaching which caused him to fall out of favor with the hierarchy of the Church. Though it did not happen in his own day, but three hundred years later, after Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, this doctrine began to be seen as dangerous, and heretical.

The Doctrine of apocatastasis instructs the believer in the understanding that all things emanate from God, and will return to God in the end, even the devil and his angels.

For Origen this understanding was merely the logical conclusion of the basic faith commitments that were held by all Christians in his time. We should note that these basic faith commitments are also held by most Christians today, and throughout the history of the Church, as they are succinctly set forward in the prolog to John’s Gospel.

Origen was not attempting to teach something radical or new, he was expostulating on the faith as he had received from his teacher Clement of Alexandria.

The doctrine of apocatastasis implies a theology of universal salvation and ultimately it was seen as a challenge to the authority of priests and bishops, to the Christian Emperor to the logic of the sacramental system, as delineated by Saint Augustine in the fifth century and subsequently accepted in its entirety by the Church and the whole magisterium.

Origen’s work was condemned, and he was marginalized because of the way the threat the hierarchy perceived as being axiomatic to his teaching.

It was pure unadulterated hubris on the part of the Church.

Origen followed in his father’s footsteps to a martyr’s death c. 252 – 254 CE, during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Decius. He was imprisoned and tortured and died after being released at the age of sixty-nine.

He was a philosopher and a theologian unparalleled in his day.

Given First 04.22.2020

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


A young woman weeps
Celestial Madonna
The mother of faith

A mother’s tears fall
The young woman is pregnant
Madonna alone

Madonna crying
A mother grieves in darkness
Young woman with child

A young woman wails
The Madonna becoming
The mother of hope

Mother is moaning
A young woman hides her pain
Madonna of life

Madonna of groans
The mother’s dreams crash in waves
The young woman’s fate

Young woman rising
Madonna of dust and sand
The loving mother

Mother of the wind
A young woman praying, Ru’ha
The blind Madonna

Madonna breathing
Mother whispers to her child
The young woman speaks

She is the stranger
The girl is an alien
Her child illegal

She has no recourse
No standing before the law
They are refugees

The mother and child
Our salvation is with them
In being with them

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A Homily – Mark 1:29 – 39 ©

The Gospel According to Mark – 2018.02.04

The Beginning

In Mark’s Gospel the mission of Jesus, its purpose is often treated as a mystery, not a total mystery, but an open secret.

This is evidenced by the claim that Jesus cast out devils, curing those who were afflicted by them, but forbade them from speaking about him or his works. They knew who he was, the Christ the Messiah, but he did not want them to spread the news, not then, not at that point in time.

This concern is evident throughout Mark’s Gospel. It is often treated as a matter of cosmic significance, as if keeping the secret until the exact right moment mattered in some way to Jesus’ mission, for the salvation of the world and the ultimate triumph of good or evil, of God’s victory over the Devil.

This reading is too grandiose, it is a later interpolation, placed into the narrative as a means of explaining to the audience that Jesus, who the Church taught was not only the Son of God, but was in fact God’s own self, knew everything that was about to transpire between the beginning of his mission, through the crucifixion and the subsequent resurrection, and he did not broadcast it because it was all a part of a divine plan.

Set this aside, it is fantasy.

What the gospel tells us is this, from the beginning of his mission Jesus was concerned with healing, the cure of souls, and service to his neighbors.

To be saved is to be made well, that is the literal meaning of the word salvation. There is no cosmic conflict, there is only the resolution of ordinary suffering.

Casting out demons, is alternately depicted as curing illness, and quieting dissent. Jesus taught the way, and the way was liberation, and he did not want the powerful factions in Jerusalem, in the temple or the synagogue, the power of the royal family, or the power of Rome to come down on him or his followers. The way he preached was a way of peace and perseverance, communitarianism and service. 

Let Us Go Out

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lamplight - Collected Parts

The way was lit by lanterns
Some blaring like a beacon
Others cloaked and hooded 
Lanterns burning in the heart
A light from age to age, aglow
Against the curtain of time
In the wild dark of space
In our country, in our homes

A compass reveals the way
A floating needle pointing true
The poles of the floating world
Listen, the abyss in not empty
It is full of dreams, and sleepers
Eyes half closed, and falling
Hushed, empty, and silent
Cold hands easing the descent

The way was told in whispers
We could not cry for it aloud
It was always just before our feet
By the side of the road right now
We stood in the eternal moment
A lantern on a pole before us
Raised up, and hanging on a tree
So bright its light was blinding

Falling reveals the way
The embrace of gravity
As certain as anything
In the tortured world
Step outside of the dome
Into the slow, elongation
Of time, untethered and
Drifting in the vacuum   

The way, we stepped into it
Burning with the heat of stars
Alight with the purity of love
We had no thought of tomorrow
We did not bargain for the future
We set our hopes on the present
We trusted in each other
We worked, slept and it was good

Flashback to yesterday, wayward
The story of salvation, unread
Forgotten, names and reflections
We were lost in s tale of freedom
Adrift in the night, rocking
Cradled in the trough of the wave
Asleep beneath the velvet curtain
Dreaming of the liquid world

The way is light and peace
Bursting through illusions
A shower of stars, burning
Passing through the dome
Lanterns in the silvered sky
Thought reshapes the world
Free from the hand of gravity
Without mass, without weight

For the drowning, the way is life
A taught line through the swells
Leading those dancing in the sea
Chasing the human moment
Reach for it, love’s fragile object
Glimmering beyond the typhoon
Above Charybdis’ maw
And the hunger of the Scylla

In the way, we walked as angels
Messengers of the sacred heart
A crown of fire before us  
A company of friendship
There was light, there was heat
Clear water filling deep pools
Clean water from the spring
Above the shifting sands

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 23.35 - 43 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.11.20

Christ the King

The Cross of the King

The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

  One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

Justice, Goodness, and Salvation

A person cannot expect a reward in this life, for having lived a good life. One person may experience a long life, surrounded by family and friends, admired by their community, living out their days in peace, and abundance. While another person may be reviled by their community, abandoned by their friends, framed for criminal offences, and executed for crimes they did not commit.

There is no divine plan in what happens to us here in this life. God, the creator of the universe, God has made each of us free, and all of creation is free from coercion. The divine plan does not touch us in this world, it only promises to deliver us to another world when this one is done with us.

That is the way of things.

Believe in that promise. The things we enjoy, and the things we suffer here, they are temporary. We have no choice but to endure the things that come our way, or enjoy them, such as the case might be.

They are ephemeral.

A person may live their entire life outside of the bounds of good society and wisdom may still come to them at the end. Listen to the voice of wisdom when you hear it. Wisdom is wisdom regardless of the voice that speaks it. Truth is truth, and lies are lies. Attenuate yourself to the differences.

Do not make the mistake of believing that God saves one of the criminals who died next to Jesus, and condemned the other. Both men were are children of God, and beloved by the creator. A person is not saved because of their ability to recognize the divinity in Jesus, we are saved because God loves us and made us to be saved. The divine plan encompasses everyone.

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Christ the King

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 13:22 - 30 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.08.21

The First and the Last

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’



When Jesus encourages us to try our best to enter through the narrow door, he is encouraging us to live the best life we can, the best life we are able to live.

The narrow door is the way of justice and mercy, of compassion, of love, of forgiveness, and salvation.

Jesus understands the human condition, he knows that almost everybody wants to live this way, but few can live this way completely. He also knows that the world is a better place, in direct proportion to the efforts that each of us make, to live out our lives according to this way.

Our individual and collective well-being depends on our willingness to forgive those who injure us, to accept forgiveness from those whom we hurt, to be loving, compassionate, merciful, and just.
Jesus is not the master who locks the door, God is not the judge who tells God’s servants that he does not know them, does not know where they come from. God knows what is in the heart of every person, God knows, God, loves, and God forgives.

If the gatekeeper seeks to lock out any one of God’s children; God, creator of the universe, God the parent of all, they do so not because they are on the narrow path, but because they are on the other path, the same path as most of the rest of us.

The broad path is nevertheless a path, it is the way of most of us who are sinners, it is a way we share with the patriarchs; with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with the prophets, all of whom were sinners like ourselves, though nonetheless the objects of God’s love.

Every person is the object of God’s love, whether they are on the narrow path, or the broad path, whether they are trying to hold the gate closed, or keep it open, they are all welcome to God’s table, because God is love, and God is patient, and God is kind.

Always bear in mind the teaching of Jesus, the last will be first, and the first will last. Think nothing of your place in society, of office or of power, unless you are thinking of how to use those things for the benefit of others.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Comic Books and Theology – Questions from The Suicide Squad

Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

Comic Books and Theology – Questions from The Suicide Squad

My friend the Reverend Shawn Moore asked the following question after his viewing of the DC Comics movie The Suicide Squad:
Is bad behavior the same as being evil? A group of misfits, who actually do wrong are freed from their bondage to stop an evil force! In the end the bad guys stop evil. Is it possible to be bad and still answer a higher call to boldly hinder evil from happening?”
My response:

Doing harm to others, wrong action, these are not the same as doing evil. Just as the realities of pain and suffering are not in and of themselves evil.

Our philosophical and theological traditions (in the Western world) have overwhelmingly preferred an opposite view, normatively attributing the existence of pain and suffering to the reality of evil; pain and suffering, as well as aging, disease, or the corruption of the body in general, are all the result of the reality of evil in the world.

In this world-view it has been the common practice to view the suffering of "bad" people as evidence of divine justice, or even to take the view that the presence of suffering in the life of an individual is objective evidence of their guilt.

People who hold this type of world view, are also likely to hold a view that "good" people suffer; either because they are being tested (like Job), or because they are subject to unjust attacks by demonic forces. Corresponding to this, is the notion that events such as natural disasters, which cause great harm and suffering, are also caused by demonic forces who are simply trying to wreak havoc in the world. Many of these contortions in thought stem from a theological desire to defend God, the creator of the universe, from charges that the existence of pain and suffering, of "evil" provide justification for claims that God is not good, not loving, or lacking the power to prevent evil, which if conceded too, would hint at the notion that god is not God.

The conflation of pain, suffering, and evil is a theological error we need to avoid.

The only real evil in the world is "moral" evil. "Moral" evil requires an actor, the actor must understand that their actions are evil, they must desire it, and they must engage in those actions of their own free will.

This is a subject Pope John Paul II addressed in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth). Most people who do harm to others do it unwittingly, many others do harmful things because they believe they are serving some higher good, most of the remaining bad actors do bad things because they feel they are "owed" something, or they are justified in what they do in some other way. Most of the harm that occurs in the world, occurs like that. These motivations are not truly evil, the actions that stem from them happen accidentally, or they happen due to ignorance and confusion. By saying this I am not trying to excuse anything, ignorance and confusion can be quite harmful, and avoidable, we need to protect ourselves from the ignorant, the confused, from accidents, but they are not categorically evil, they need to be met with understanding, forgiveness and the opportunity for redemption..

Evil requires knowledge, intention and action; just as does the good.

Because God made human beings free, we are never defined by the sum of our actions, neither are we defined by our most recent actions, we are always and at every moment capable of changing our fundamental stance toward right and wrong.

A person in the habit of doing good things is always capable of doing something depraved, and vice versa, just as a person who has led a life of depravity may still be the recipient of grace, convert, and be saved.

The sinner is not sin itself; even in the act of sinning.

To conclude, if the Suicide Squad opts to do good, for the sake of the good, knowing that it is good, and desiring the good, then they are good, but only in that moment.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

On Jesus and Mithra, Part Two (Pages 3 - 5)

In the ancient Persian form Mithraism; Mithra is demi-god. He is viewed as the incarnated scion of Ahura-Mahzda, and Ahura-Mahzda is believed to be the source of all goodness, creator of the Universe, God of light, and source of life. Some scholars believe that in its original form; Mithraism was strictly monotheistic (perhaps the first truly monotheistic belief system), naming Ahura-Mahzda as the only deity. However, it is evident that if Mithraism was originally monotheistic, at some point in its evolution the belief system became dualistic. Another deity was set up as a counterpart to Ahura-Mahzda; forming a pantheon of sorts. This secondary deity was given the name Angra-Mainyu (whose name has given us the term anger). Angra-Mainyu was believed to be the “uncreated” source of evil in the world, whose agency was in diametric opposition to the light and life of Ahura-Mahzda, and that the drama of our lives on Earth was a reflection of the struggle between these two cosmic powers. This clearly defined dualism would be of great relevance to both Judaism and Christianity in the centuries to come.

In the later form of Mithraism, the Mithraism of the Roman Empire; the demi-god Mithra is again depicted to be in the same relationship to the high God. In this cultural context, the high God is given the name Sol Invictus, and is iconographically represented as the sun.

In both the ancient Persian form of Mithraism and the Roman form of Mithraism, the demi-god Mithra is seen as being sent to Earth by the deity responsible for the creation of the universe; in the former tradition Ahura-Mahzda, in the latter tradition Sol Invictus. In the Roman form of Mithraism the purpose of sending Mithra to Earth is for him to slay the “Primal Bull.” Upon slaying the bull, Mithra and Sol Invictus feast together from its flesh. This feast has the effect that afterwards Mithra and Sol become con-joined. They have dined together, they are now “as one.” They are joined together as one being with coextensive attributes each sharing the title Invictus, meaning unconquered. In Roman Mithraism this meal was considered to be the effective means of salvation for all human beings, and that by participating in a recreation of the sacred meal, through the rites of initiation the individual would become one with Mithra, therefore one with Sol Invictus, and thereby gaining a place in the heavenly paradise of the afterlife.

As I indicated earlier in my reference to Ulansey’s work; Persian Mithraism did not depict Mithra as the “bull-slayer.” The narrative from Persia is as follows: Mithra does not kill the primal-bull, rather Mithra and the bull are sent to Earth by Ahura-Mahzda, where they are assailed by the “evil-one.” Angra-Mainyu slays Mithra and the bull together, in an act of violence. Angra-Mainyu attempts to utterly destroy Mithra and the bull, but his efforts are frustrated by Ahura-Mazda. Through the power of the god of light, stalks of wheat, and the grape vine spring from the carcass of the bull. All manner of good things, and creatures flow from the bull to fill, and populate creation, and to be used by human. Ahura-Mahzda trasforms the violence of Angra-Mainyu into a new creation. New life springs from the bull, Mithra is restored, and returns to Ahura-Mahzda in heaven.

In my view there is no significant discrepancy between these two forms of the myth. In both versions Mithra is sent to Earth by a God of greater authority than himself. In both versions the bull is slain and its death is productive; both of new life, and of all good things on the Earth. In the Roman version the slaying of the bull is an explicit sacrifice. In the Persian version the intentionality of the sacrifice is implicit. The Roman version is not etiological, it does not address the origins of life on Earth, the Persian version is. The Roman version it is primarily a teleological myth having to do with human destiny, salvation, and the life of the immortal soul. The Persian version balances these two concerns. In the Persian account Mithra and the Bull are sent to Earth by the creator deity; their death is a vehicle by which the drama of life on Earth begins, making it a myth of origins. Their death, while being the result of violence perpetrated by the “evil-one” does not serve the interest of Angra-Mainyu, but does serve the interest of Ahura-Mahzda. Mithra of course does not die, because his soul is immortal and he returns to heaven. From the body of the bull comes an abundance of life, demonstrating that Ahura-Mahzda is greater, not only having the power to create goodness sui generous (in itself), but also having the power to bring good out of evil; making the fruit of the labor of Angra-Mainyu effectively nothing. This made Mithraism in Persia ostensibly dualistic, holding that Angra-Mainyu would eventually be overcome by Ahura-Mahzda; overcome in totality. This profound hope is apparent within the structure of myth itself. In both the Roman and the Persian versions of the death of the primal bull is emblematic of life; it is the creation of life itself, and also it is life restored. The principal actor in both versions of the narrative is God, the creator figured as either Ahura-Mahzda or Sol Invictus; respectively. Whether it is Mithra who kills the bull, or Angra-Mainyu; it does not matter. The slaying of the bull serves the purpose of the principal actor, Ahura-Mahzda/Sol Invictus, God of life, God of light, God of good.

And so I reiterate the assertion; what is significant and most consistent in the worship of Mithra from c. 700 BCE through c. 400 CE, from Rome to Persia, is the belief in the immortality of the soul, and the notion of personal salvation. In Mithraism, this theology underwent a profound development that it would have a lasting and significant impact on other faith traditions.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Homily - The Gospel of Luke 3:1 - 6

The Gospel of the Day – 2015.12.06 (Sunday)

The Historical Witness?

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness:

Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.


The understanding of history is a great tool. The Christian tradition has always attempted to root itself in historical realities; with greater and lesser degrees of success.

The study of our tradition gave birth to modern historical criticism; without which, as a culture, we would have no understanding of the uses and limitations of history whatsoever, and that took eighteen hundred years to develop.

Our stories, our narrative about the life and mission, the arrest and killing of Jesus are a part of the testimony of our faith. It helps us to locate in time the singular moment when our cultural commitment to the teachings of Jesus took place.

We remember the rule of Tiberius, heir to Augustus, and the Herod’s, and Pontius Pilate.

We recall the role that Pilate played in the killing of Jesus, we shout it out at every hour of every day in all parts of the world; that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried. This story is told unceasingly and without end.

It is long since time that we, as heirs to the ministry and teaching of Jesus, forgive Pilate for the role he played in that political murder.

John the Baptist taught us to repent, and be forgiven, but Jesus taught us to simply forgive.

Jesus forgave those who killed him he asked God to forgive them when he was up on the cross.

It is time we do the same.

The promise of Isaiah, which John echoed in the wilderness cannot be received unless we do this.

God is the author of our salvation, but we are the agents. It is incumbent on us to proceed with the healing, if the human race is to be healed.

The Second Sunday of Advent