Written and posted at A Momentary Taste of Being. (Blogging at this site is going very slowly this morning, otherwise I would have posted here. My apologies.)
Recently in Other Religions Category
Recently, I had a most wonderful opportunity to have some of my ignorance dispelled. A good friend at work, a devout Muslim (who pulls out his prayer mat five time a day in his cubicle--talk about an example*) came back from Lahore, Pakistan where he had gone to get married.
On his return, he shared with us the pictures from his wedding and I was astonished. The pictures showed a family looking very much like a family in one of those Bollywood films--the clothes, the settings, the surroundings, were all rich and sumptuous. His wedding clothes were like something out of the Arabian Nights--absolutely beautiful.
When I think of third world countries, my predominant thought is of mud, rutted roads, and buses with chicken cages on top or chickens running loose with the bus itself.
Naturally in a set of wedding pictures one would not see this aspect of Lahore. But what I did see suggested the same sense of civic pride one might find in a small Southern city, or even town like Waynesville or Bucyrus, Ohio. The outdoor spaces were well-kept and lovely and the indoor spaces were decorated for a celebration.
I don't know why I'm always surprised by pictures and experiences that suggest that the third world might have some of the amenities of the twenty-first century, but it is always nice to have that kind of parochialism knocked down a notch or two.
*While the prayer mat is not only tolerated but encouraged because of our sensitivity to diversity and the training that we received, I can't help but wonder what people would make of me taking out the Rosary twice a day. I already get funny looks at the prayer book open on my desk at all times. However, I must say that I am exceptionally fortunate in the place that I work at the amazing toleration of religious observance of all sorts.
The word nama is split into two, na and ma. Na signifies negation and ma represents mine. The meaning would then be 'not mine'. The import being that the individual soul belongs entirely to the Supreme soul, which is identified as residing in the individual towards whom the namaste is directed. Indeed there is nothing that the soul can claim as its own. Namaste is thus the necessary rejection of 'I' and the associated phenomena of egotism. It is said that 'ma' in nama means death (spiritual), and when this is negated (na-ma), it signifies immortality.
The whole action of namaste unfolds itself at three levels: mental, physical, and verbal.
It starts with a mental submission. This submission is in the spirit of total surrender of the self. This is parallel to the devotion one expresses before a chosen deity, also known as bhakti. The devotee who thus venerates with complete self-surrender is believed to partake the merits or qualities of the person or deity before whom he performs this submission. There is a prescription in the ancient texts known as Agamas that the worshipper of a deity must first become divine himself, for otherwise worship as a transaction would become invalid. A transaction can only be between equals, between individuals who share some details in common. Hence by performing namaste before an individual we recognize the divine spark in him. Further by facilitating our partaking of these divine qualities, namaste makes us aware of these very characteristics residing within our own selves. Simply put, namaste intimates the following:
'The God in me greets the God in you
The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you'
In other words, it recognizes the equality of all, and pays honor to the sacredness of all.
The "namaste" is a gesture of greeting in some Indian (Hindi?) cultures and groups. I have always found the gesture to be mysteriously beautiful and gracious. I have not thoroughly understood it, although I always had in mind the couplet just before the last sentence.
I often wish that western cultures had such a gesture or such a greeting. It is far less aggressive than the handshake, and what could be better than to be able to say to another, I salute the Image of Christ you are? How much more affirming could we possibly be?
Hence, namaste, though it does not come from my culture or my background, appeals to me deeply. Those who live within the culture may see it another way, but to salute the Divine within, the Holy Spirit who dwells in all people, who shines forth from believers and nonbelievers alike, who guides us all to the same end. What could be better, more compassionate, more meaningful.
And so all of St. Blogs--I hail the Holy Spirit within each of you and offer you peace and greetings in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If I could accompany this with a bow, a gesture of respect, I would do so. So let us suffice with the Japanese Honorific, Stblogs-san.
I do not know how much this site speaks for the main body of Islamic belief, but it records what I have understood from Muslims with respect to Jesus and His mission. Needless to say, it contradicts our scripture in major ways, and yet at the same time there are some important concurrences. Which is not to imply that Christianity=Islam or vice versa--merely to say that there are some surprising points of confluence.
We Muslims believe that one day the Antichrist will come, and then Jesus will descend from the heavens and slay him, and will live among the Muslims and rule them. During those times the earth shall be filled with justice and blessing. . .
Jesus will come again, and will marry and have children, and live for 40 years among us. And soon after he dies, the Day of Judgment will come.
These are just some thoughts peripheral to the discussion being carried on at Disputations regarding the article on the conduct of Cardinal McCarrick at a recent meeting. It is always good to know, as well as we can, the contours of the land.
from A Sermon for Rosh Hoshashana By Rabbi David Stern
Emunah comes to say: if we have not taken the leap of action, then our faith is incomplete. Emunah brings us the Hebrew and English word amen. When we say “Amen” at the end of a prayer, we are affirming our trust in the vision the prayer holds forth, and committing ourselves to making it happen. When we say “Amen” to a prayer for peace, we commit ourselves to working for peace. When we say “Amen” to a prayer of gratitude, we commit ourselves to living with a sense of gratitude that will exceed our sometimes nagging needs. A Jewish “Amen” comes from emunah – and so it means more than “so may it be.” It means, “So may I be.” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught: “Amen does not refer to the contents of the pronouncement, but to the person.”
Find the entire, wonderful sermon here. And first I must say that I mean no disrespect by using this excerpt here. But Rabbi Stern teaches us something important, something that has profound implications if we consider it in light of the Holy Father's reported last word. "Amen" is an obligation, a commitment of person to action. If our Holy Father's last word were Amen, it was not so much a resignation, as an enlistement. As with St. Thérèse, I have no doubt that the Holy Father will spend his heaven doing good on Earth. And so an amen implies.
How to argue with heretics and how not to--with reference to my last post and to recent debacle in the Episcopal Church this synopsis of the On the Prescription of Heretics just packed a wallop.
This book is about how Christians think about heresy and respond to the arguments of heretics. Tertullian is concerned at the way Christians are disputing with heretics and pagans, and the effect this is having on believers. He feels that it is never possible to convict a heretic from the scriptures, because they simply deny the authority of whichever bit of scripture they are quoted, and shift their ground every moment. At the same time the spectacle of the dispute seems to put their opinions on the same level as that of the scriptures. In general, how do we recognise and deal with heretics - people who pretend to be Christians but actually accept no authority but their own opinions?
A New Site of Great Interest
For those not particularly bothered by the adoration of God in other cultures this wonderful resource.
I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I've been knocking from the inside!
sufi mystic - jelaluddin rumi - 13th century
O love, O pure deep love, be here, be now. Be all; worlds dissolve into your stainless endless radiance, Frail living leaves burn with you brighter than cold stars; Make me your servant, your breath, your core.
sufi mystic - jelaluddin rumi - 13th century
Not everyone's cup of tea, but wonderful reflections and prayers from around the world.
Another splendid passage:
Thich Nhat Hahn
"Happiness Is Not an Individual Matter"
This does not mean that you have to hide your anger. You have to let the other person know that you are angry and that you suffer. This is very important. When you get angry with someone, please don't pretend that you are not angry. Don't pretend that you don't suffer. If the other person is dear to you, then you have to confess that you are angry, and that you suffer. Tell him or her in a calm way.
In true love, there is no pride. You cannot pretend that you don't suffer. You cannot pretend that you are not angry. This kind of denial is based on pride. "Angry? Me? Why should I be angry? I'm okay." But, in fact, you are not oaky. You are in hell. Anger is burning you up, and you must tell your partner, your son, your daughter. Our tendency is to say, "I don't need you to be happy! I can be on my own!" This is a betrayal of our initial vow to share everything.
Even though Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist, he once again touches gently upon some central Christian themes here. The commentary that follows has little to do with the actual passage, which I find true and meaningful, but with meanings that come from its title and its ramifications in the emotional life of the individual.
The beatific vision does not occur in utter isolation from all other human beings. Nor can we truly be happy on Earth so long as one who is near and dear to us is suffering. We can rejoice in God, but like Mother Theresa, we will work to alleviate the unhappiness. And as we grow in our Christian vocation, more and more of humanity becomes near and dear to us, until, separated from all, we become All and every person is valuable to us.
This is why the matter of hoping for the salvation of all is such a major issue to many of us. The thought of even a single soul not sharing the beatific vision is actually painful. As much as part of us lusts for vengeance and proper treatment of those who have done wrong, as much as part of us longs for justice, another part, perhaps much smaller, longs for mercy. We recognize what wretched people we all are and we pine for the blessing of God's grace and mercy. We hope for this grace for ourselves and as our hearts become more like the Sacred Heart, we long for this same mercy to be received by all souls.
Part of us knows that there are a great many hardened, hurt souls who might possibly refuse this grace and mercy, continually offered, continually showered down upon all. Part of us knows that Pride makes us want to "make it" on our own. But still we hope that grace is ultimately irresistable. Certainly God will not force Himself on any, but perhaps the flow of grace will draw people into it, however unwillingly. I think of the miser in Fraçois Mauriac's marvelous novel Tangle of Vipers and the way that grace eventually works its way upon him.
And I do hope because happiness is not achieved in isolation. Although I suppose if I were the only person in heaven with God, I would be happy in some way but I cannot imagine it. Again, St. Thérèse spoke lightly (but meaningfully) what means more and more to me as time goes on, "I want to spend my heaven doing good on Earth." I begin to know God's hunger for all to return to Him, for there not to be a single soul lost and alone.