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Showing posts from March, 2010

Pagan Easter

March 29, 2010
To open the minds of Christians to a more inclusive vision, I like to cite pagan examples because they mirror Christian beliefs and practices. Pagan mystery religions had divine heroes whose lives were honored in large public ceremonies and in small private gatherings like Paul’s Christian communities, which assembled in homes for sacred meals. Christian meals commemorating Jesus’ gatherings with his disciples gradually evolved into the Mass, which has elements that apparently derived from the liturgies of mystery religions.

Mystery religions portrayed a god’s or goddess’s life in ceremonies that incited a sympathetic union of participants with the deity. They felt with Isis in her struggles over Osiris, with Aphrodite in lamenting the deceased Adonis. They hailed the resurrected one, Attis, and sympathized with Demeter in her search for Persephone.

I like to cite the story of Demeter and Persephone because this Mother-Daughter pair preceded the Christian Father-Son pair.…

The pageant at St. Ben's

God is in the tall trees;
God is in the wild boar;
God is where the storm destroys
And in the wind’s roar. Barbarians in “So Let Your Light Shine.”

They were right, of course, but they were subdued by Christians who imposed a God-image with a certain name. Today Christians are learning to embrace the larger “barbarian” awareness of divinity in all.
“So Let Your Light Shine” was an outdoor pageant performed after dark at the College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, every fall until the mid 1960s. It imagined Western civilization conquering boorish masses. What were the countries of the North?
They were the wild unconquered spaces.
They were the wild barbaric places,
Where fierce tribes
Knew not Christ,
Knew not the light.
St. Benedict brought the light of Christ. . . .
St. Benedict brought civilization
To Europe, where all was dark—
To Europe, where all was wild.
A swaggering lot of barbarians shouts, “We kill in the night, and we plunder,” and they dance to the throbbing beat of tom-toms. But “a b…

This turning world

The Transfiguration, the subject of last Sunday’s gospel reading (Luke 9:28-36), usually is used by preachers as a “proof” of Jesus’ divinity. The homilist where I attend Mass, Abbot John, refreshingly drew a different lesson:The task of discipleship is not to build tents and houses for Jesus. Jesus is not to be housed and worshipped. . . .
As spiritual writer Richard Rohr notes, if religion is not fundamentally about transformation, it is pretty useless. [The Transfiguration] only makes sense in the light of transformation.
Abbot John was talking about OUR transformation.. . . to give consent to the Spirit to transform us,
to move us toward the white light,
the gifts of the Spirit more visible;
not the gifts we want,
but the gifts that are given.
He addressed “the spiritual poverty of postmodern culture,” and I add that fundamentalist literalism is one example. It reacts to information that stretches us past our accustomed religious information and imagery in a defensive way, threatened…