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Archive for the ‘Apocalypse’ Category

The Syrian people of Maaloula tell the story of anti-Assad outsiders who tried to enlist the townspeople as agitators against the President and his government.  Both Muslim and Christian citizens rejected their invitation.

Correspondent Maria Finoshina gives a video report from the town, alleged to be the only place in the world where an entire community still speaks Aramaic as a living language (most scholars believe a form of Aramaic was the native tongue of Jesus of Nazareth).

Interviewed in the clip is Mother Pelagia Sayaf, Christian nun and schoolteacher at the town’s Monastery of St. Thekla:

“There were people who came here, they wanted to push us against the government, the President, the army… these people are receiving money and listening to orders.”

The town’s Muslim Imam reports the same:

“I remember last April, there were several men after Friday prayers, they tried to persuade Muslims to protest against the government, encouraging them to go and make trouble.”

The Imam said they had never seen most of those people before and had not seen them again since. “We are not talking about normal Muslims, but people with an extremist way of thinking…  We had a meeting with residents, and the people agreed to support the leadership [Assad].”

Mother Pelagia said “If you hear that the army enters this city and kills people, believe me – this is a mistake [a lie]… Our country before the crisis was going forward, now we are all losing ground… God bless Assad.”

In the words of another citizen interviewed:

“We used to live in peace – Muslims and Christians – of course we’re afraid people from outside the city and this country may come and destroy this unity. Assad became more than just the head of State. He’s a kind of international symbol of this fight for our life.”

My Comment: Prior to the rise of the NATO-backed and NATO financed Syrian ‘insurgency’, Assad’s secular state was one of the last governments in the Arab world under which a citizenry enjoyed peaceful coexistence of diverse religious and ethnic communities. The people know this, and they also know that the violent and random provocations of the murderous Arab mercenaries and outsiders (and the still bigger violence planned by their NATO handlers) have threatened the whole secular foundation for this peace.

In my unprofessional opinion, I think what we’re looking at in Syria is a fraudulent program of regime change.  Like Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Vietnam in 1963, El Salvador, Angola, etc., etc.  The Cold Warrior and Neocon do not understand true democracy or humanitarianism, and we see his/her unmistakeable signature in the great civilian tragedies resulting from all of the above covert actions, no less than in the more recently broken and utterly failed states of Iraq and Libya.

One can always spot the Neocon footprint in the wake of US/NATO’s self-serving efforts to effect changes in non-NATO countries: fraudulent opposition movements, phony replacement governments, ruined sovereignty, co-opted national resources, and untold civilian death .

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On my one trip to Europe (in October, 2000) I enjoyed a 5-day river cruise, Frankfort-Trier-Cologne, as a guest of my parents, who arranged the voyage as a chance to spend time with their seven grown children. Wonderful reunion, great food and beautiful sights; but I confess I spent 25% of my daylight hours ashore and alone, visiting scenes from the life of the Christian ‘Sibyl of the Rhine’ -the 12th century Benedictine visionary and polymath  Hildegard von Bingen.

Ancient well at the Disibodenberg ruins

Hildegard’s experience marks an epoch in Christian history which has held a fascination for me since I heard her story 30 years ago. And a leisurely Rhine cruise turned out to be just the opportunity I needed to reach out and touch the memory of this wonderful woman.

Her reliquary on the altar at St. Joseph's, Rudesheim

First port in our cruise itinerary, in fact, was the town of Rudesheim, with its main street oriented to the tourist trade.  This 90 minute ‘shop stop’ for the others gave me a window of time in which to climb the hill to  Eibingen convent, a late foundation of Hildegard’s which is active today and still cherishes her memory. I stopped on the way to have a look inside St. Joseph’s parish church, where her reliquary is kept.  These two points of interest left me precious little time to make it back to my ship before it debarked!

Bingen itself was not a port of call and required a side-trip by rail.  Here I found another parish  church dedicated to her memory, with a scale model of the famous  Rupertsberg monastery on display.  Hildegard drew up the plan for her new monastery and directed the building of it herself – she became abbess when she and her fellow nuns moved in after 1150, and conducted four preaching missions from this point on the Rhine, all the while writing her books, until her death in 1179.  The last vestige of Rupertsberg -a restored wine cellar below street level- was closed to the public the day I visited.

The absolute highpoint of my trip -among other sites which included the home of Nicholas de Cusa, the tomb of Albert Magnus, and the cathedrals of Trier and Cologne- was the day I jumped ship for a self-guided excursion by rail, bus, sidewalk and footpath to the hilltop ruins of the monastery at Disibodenberg.

ruins of women's quarters - Disibodenberg

“St. Disibod’s mountain” was Hildegard’s first monastic home. She spent  the first 50 years of her religious life here above the confluence of the Nahe and Glan rivers south of the Rhine. And it was here that, in 1141, she heard those mysterious and compelling words, “Speak and write what you see and hear.”

For ten years after hearing ‘the voice,’ Hildegard kept listening, and seeing, and recording her experiences.  In 1151 her obedience brought forth to the world her big, very uneven and very difficult book, Wisse die Wege or Know the Ways (in Latin often abbreviated as Scivias).

The teachings –or maybe just the wonder attached to her great experience- gave a wide-ranging impulse to faith among many who in her day rejoiced in hope (against hope) that God was still speaking to his  broken church. And the church was so very busted in Hildegard’s day. In 1147, the pope (Eugenius III) was living in exile in France. The pontif’s ill-conceived Crusade had just ended  in disaster. For many months he had been afraid to show his face in Rome, where Arnold of Brescia and his Roman Commune had rendered the city for the time quite immune to the pomp and pretensions of the papacy. That year Eugenius called a synod at Trier to investigate Hildegard’s writings. At Trier the pope himself read aloud to his court from the Scivias  manuscript -and he judged at the end of the proceedings that she should continue the work. Even Bernard of Clairvaux  (not a liberal) thought  she was cool. Johannes Tauler also, in a sermon  preached  200 years later, made a point with reference to  an ikon of Hildegard which still had a place of honor among the sisters he addressed.

ruins of the abbey church, Disibodenberg

The 12th century is ancient history to us; however, if we reckon from the epoch of the Resurrection (c.30 AD), we still live and toil in the last years of the same Second Millennium in which Hildegard lived and worked – and I think this makes us her eschatological children in a sense – I mean I think we are obliged to take a look and to recognize that she started something that really hasn’t ended – that God ‘who in many and various ways spoke of old through the prophets,’ has not stopped speaking.  I have more to say about things the Holy Spirit was alleged to have spoken through his daughter Hildegard … for a later post.

View from the meditation chapel, Disibodenberg

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Pete Rollins is planning a talk in Belfast in September to explain that The Apocalypse isn’t coming – it’s already happened.

Fundamentalist Christianity has long expressed a view of apocalypse as some future event that will consume the present world and replace it with a new one. Yet while this is a bloody and destructive vision, I will argue that it is inherently conservative in nature… For those who hold to such a vision are willing to imagine absolutely everything around them changing so that their present values and beliefs can remain utterly unchanged.  In contrast I will argue that a Christian apocalypse describes something much more radical, namely an event that fundamentally ruptures and re-configures our longings, hopes and desires…

This resonates with me, although I’m waiting to see where Rollins will take it.  If he has not forgotten his Greek, he will oblige us I hope with a vision of a true ‘apocalypse’ – not earth-scorching destruction but paradigm-shattering revelation.

I have made two attempts here to articulate my own growing sense that the Apocalypse is already history.  In January I first hinted at my post-apocalyptic ‘vision’ when I called out the folly of Harold (“I did the math”) Camping’s predictions of a Day of Reckoning for May 21 of this year.  But I’ve since elaborated a bit more of my view that puts us now almost a century past the end-times of a less-than-edifying ‘Protestant-Catholic’ Christian dispensation.

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I have absolutely no doubt that warnings about a day of the Lord scheduled for May 21 of this year are false.

In fact, nobody could be as sure as I am that this is a bad call unless they were themselves a ‘seer’ into such dark matters.  All right then.  It so happens I’ve had a vision.

What’s different about my vision is that it grants me not a view of the future but a hindsight of the past – in the light of which I most solemnly warn you that the end of the first Christian dispensation has already happened.

I cannot account for the fact that such old news has been vouchsafed only to me (or perhaps to a few others too cowardly to come forward).  But I know the Pope and the Archbishops were never told – not even the Synod or the NCC had a clue.  And forget about the Evangelicals and the Jews – God tells them nothing.

As to times and seasons, God knows – the past is almost as inscrutable as the future.  I claim no knowledge of specific dates, but only a kind of ballpark figure.  But what I’m seeing is not pretty and it’s as clear as rain – God very quietly and unequivocally wrote off the old Christian dispensation as ‘not good enough’ for his Son at some point during or shortly after the First World War.  Believe me.

NO, this is not about the Apocalypse called by the Jehovah’s Witnesses for the year 1914 – that was no different than this latest May 21st deal – a makeshift built on Daniel’s well-known figure of 1260.  It always comes down to these numbers in Daniel, and it’s always wrong.  It was a lucky hit for the Witnesses that a World War started that year.  For them the excitement ended Jan. 1, 1915, when it was evident God was featuring no special effects other than the destruction of Christian civilization.  Whatever, membership was up, the mistake was forgotten, they moved on.

But for God this was a big thing.  Again, I can’t pin-point the year for you, but I’m telling you what I know.  ‘The End’ of the old Christian dispensation came during one of those crazy, shifting, catastrophic years between our two secular World Wars – after a near-total failure by the Christian leadership to stand by the Gospel of Jesus in the summer of 1914.  From then on the Reformation ‘gospel’ was out on the dung heap with the Pope’s tiara as far as God was concerned.

Meanwhile God’s life goes on in temples not made with hands…  but those external, sectarian forms of Christianity we see ‘still rolling along’ are moving not by the grace of God any more but only by virtue of an original divine impetus – the same kind of motion a long train would exhibit on a very gentle but steady backwards downgrade after being decoupled from its engine.

The plan was not for Christianity to go away (clearly) but God definitely wanted a new model, a second dispensation, with an effective peace testimony and an end to the awful man-made creeds which had been mistaken for faith and only got in the way of his Son’s offer of love and salvation to all who sought him in spirit and in truth (God’s still waiting).

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