heimskringla: (magdalene)

"Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not exist."


Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code (which I'll refrain from linking) has generated a lot of interest in Mary Magdalene and alternative Christianities, for which I am ever thankful to Mr Brown; I only wish Mr Brown had the integrity to admit his work was entirely fictive. Now, then. Who was Mary Magdalene really and what was her role in the fellowship of Jesus?

The Eastern church has honoured Magdalene with the accolade "Equal to the Apostles," but is always careful to note that she did not participate in the Apostolic ministry, nor did she receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost for that purpose. The Eastern church answers the question of Magdalene's identity and role by according her high stature and honour amongst the early Christian community. In the East, she was never conflated with the harlot; indeed, Magdalene was a wealthy woman who provided for Jesus and his band of disciples.

The Western church has, owing to an unfortunate Easter sermon given by Pope Gregory "the Great," often confused Mary Magdalene with the harlot mentioned earlier in the gospels, but acknowledges that she was redeemed by Jesus.

So far, we're two for two. Despite Magdalene being the first witness to the resurrection and equal to the apostles, she's still not an apostle. She doesn't have the same authority to teach, to preach, and to baptize that the bull-headed Peter enjoys.

Ah! There is another option, and it's one Dan Brown only vaguely manages to hint at in The DaVinci Code. He focuses far too much on the idea of the Holy Grail/Holy Blood[line] myth and is unable to see Magdalene not only as Christ's earthly consort, but as his spiritual consort as well. Lets take a few moments and consider some passages from the Gospel of Philip:

[The Savior] loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. They [the disciples] said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."

Here, Jesus likens the disciples to the blind man who cannot see and Magdalene to the sighted man whose vision is only obscured because there's a dearth of light. He is, in effect, saying "This woman can see where you cannot. Her vision is not clouded by scales. I have given her light, and she flourishes." Or, "This woman can see what you cannot. She knows me as you will not."

According to Gnostic thought (or at least the Valentinian school), we can see that Magdalene was neither a harlot or merely a wealthy woman, but she was beloved of Jesus in a way that the disciples weren't, because of her capacity for spiritual insight. This is one passage from one text favoured by one Gnostic school, but I hope it will give a modicum of insight into other possibilities for Magdalene and her role in the community.

When Eve was still in Adam death did not exist. When she was separated from him death came into being. If he enters again and attains his former self, death will be no more.

The Nymphon, or the Bridal Chamber, is how the Valentinian school conceptualized this necessary reunion between Adam and Eve, not necessarily in a physical sense (though not excluding it), but moreso in a spiritual sense.

If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and unite them But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.


So, here we get more blathering about how the lack of unity between Adam and Eve was the cause of death and how they need to be reunited in order for death to stop, but the death alluded to isn't the death of the body, but rather the spirit.

So what, or where is the bridal chamber? The Gospel of Philip compares the bridal chamber to the "holy of holies" in the Temple at Jerusalem, which is the place only the high priest entered on certain days after observing certain rituals and precautions. It's the same for the bridal chamber. It may be achieved through earthly sexual union (or earthly sexual union may be the parallel of the bridal chamber which is the spiritual mirror of earthly sexual union), but it can only be achieved when the participants are spiritually ready and prepared.

How, precisely, does this tie in to Jesus and Magdalene? I posit, as have many before me, that Magdalene is Eve to Jesus' Adam, at least on a spiritual level. He a vessel of the Logos and she a vessel of Echamoth or Sophia. Only together were Magdalene and Jesus whole, and only with the Logos can Sophia create.

I've barely begun to scratch the surface of Jesus and Magdalene or Nymphon, for that matter, but there's a lot to dig in to. And hopefully, you get the point of the icon now.
heimskringla: (Default)


The above poster is a part of a new vocations campaign for the Roman Catholic Church. I like to call it "Lookin' Good 'n [not] Gettin' Laid."

In all seriousness, I think the poster, and its attendant campaign, do a lot to romanticize and glamourize the image of the priest and the institution of the priesthood more than is good or necessary. The priesthood is not a pretty, glamourous thing. A sobbing widdow crying into your shoulder is no more glamourous than a dying man coughing blood onto your surplice when you kneel beside him to hear his final confession.

There's joy to be found, certainly, in the long hours, the people whose lives you affect in ways large and small, but it's hardly a job for pretty boys. Don't do it 'cause it's cool, do it because you're driven to do it. If you're not driven to do it, you wont for very long.

And think, my sons, about those long, cold, lonely nights. Think about never knowing the joy or beauty to be found in holding a woman in your arms as she falls asleep with her head against your chest.

It ain't pretty. Is it still worth it?
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The traditional missal of Pius V and the Vatican II Missal of Paul VI have something in common with the Book of Common Prayer, and the Divine Liturgies of Chrysostom and James in that I find their theological expressions rather at odds with my own experience of gnosis, but if I were given a choice I'd prefer either of the Eastern Liturgies or the Tridentine Rite of Pius V to either the Pauline Missal or a BCP's communion service.

Why?

It's quite simple, really. There's a great deal of beauty to be found in the ritual of the traditional liturgies of the church; they provide a space where communion with the Divine is possible in more than just an allegorical sense. The vestments, the incense, the chant, the ornate fixtures and vessels, they create the illusion of a place inbetween Pleroma and Materia. The drama unfolds and you become a part of it. I've celebrated the Eucharist according to the Pauline Missal and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, just as I've done so according to the Tridentine Rite and (once) the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and from a sacramental perspective, the eucharistic process in the same; there's still that moment when I feel my hands enveloped by a sensation of warm breath or gentle heat, but the inner experience of grace is notably absent.

There's something lacking in a lot of modern liturgy. I don't know whether it's the added attention to political correctness (the NRSV anyone?) or the idea that these sort of things really need to catch up to "the times," but it's just not as effective at facilitating communion, which means it fails the only test that matters (e.g. does it work?).
heimskringla: (haha)


Those of you with an interest in pre-Christian Egyptian religion might notice something interesting in this Coptic icon of the Archangel Michael.
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I decided I had to share this image with you all, because well... yeah. I suspect Dan Brown at work here.

Possibly not safe for work )
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I don't really do a whole lot of religion/spirituality blogging on LJ at the moment, but for those of you who are interested in finding out what sort of stuff goes on in my head where that area is concerned click here. Read, comment, whatever, but the folks who usually read that blog don't know about the LJ, and I discuss some topics and interests here that not a lot of people who know me, or the "other me" are aware of, so keep that in mind.
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This is an excellent example of why it's so difficult to request a proper exorcism. This story first appeared on the wire three or four days ago, but I wanted to watch further developments before commenting.

In the United States and Western Europe, requesting an exorcism from a Catholic (or in this case Old Catholic and Anglican as well) priest is a touch involved.  You talk to your parish priest. He talks to the diocesan bishop. Medical and psychiatric opinions are sought to rule out things like epilepsy and schizophrenia, and only after that has been done can permission be granted and an exorcist appointed.

The Orthodox Church, unlike its Western cousin, does not have a formal rite of exorcism, at least nothing akin to that which most readers will be familiar with. The Orthodox traditionally use various prayers for deliverance, and none of them involve reenacting the crucifixion. Sadly, in some parts of the world, competent professional opinions aren't sought either due to lack of access or a lack of trust.
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Was Mary Magdalene the "Beloved Disciple" referenced in the Gospel of John? Ramon K. Jusino posits this to be the case, and it looks to be an interesting thesis none the less.

If you consider the Gospel of Philip for instance:


And the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended] by it [and expressed disapproval]. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness"


There are many instances in the apocryphal literature where Christ interacts with Mary Magdalene on what might be considered a fairly intimate level, though Gnostic texts don't tend to do too well with literal interpretation; I'd say it's highly likely Mary Magdalene was the 'Beloved Disciple.'
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After a chat with [livejournal.com profile] ebee a few days ago wherein she wanted to see what sort of vestments non-Anglican priests wear (and the answer was: the same vestments Anglican priests wear) she commented: The cross on the back of the stole goes right over your throat chakra.

Me: Wow. You're right; I never really considered that.

So I got to thinking about chakras and the way they're erm... employed in Christian ritual. Granted, most Christians would call me a complete and utter loon for talking about an Eastern concept in conjunction with Christianity, but there's a similarity to my mind.

The 'crown' chakra is generally where the baptismal waters are poured in the Roman fashion, at least by most clerics performing the rite (Eastern Christians immerse so it's a moot point).

At confirmation/chrismation (and during the consecration of a bishop according to the Roman rite) the forehead is anointed with chrism in the shape of a cross near to the 'third eye.' In the Eastern Churches, chrism is applied liberally to the forehead, hands, feet, chest, and likely some other areas I'm forgetting.

A priest's hands are anointed with chrism when he/she is given explicit authority to offer the Mass (Anglicans generally give the priest a paten with an unconsecrated host and omit the anointing).

So while the claims that the chakras are employed in Christianity (of the orthodox variety, anyhow) is tenuous, I found it at least a little interesting to note where people were anointed during various rituals.
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It was one of the first few Masses I presided at after my ordination to the priesthood. The congregation was forming into a queue to receive communion, and as the line started to dwindle a young child practically ran up to me, despite her parents best efforts to keep her in her seat.

I felt a tug on the hem of my chasuble, and then her little voice, "Papa T, Papa T, my Jesus?"
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I've met my share of loony protestants and loonier Catholics, but this just takes the loony cake. I mean, I have a hard enough with this guy claiming to be the "Vicar of Christ." Hell... I nearly choked on my Cocoa Puffs (and they're a rare enough pleasure that I'd rather enjoy them, thanks).
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According to this BBC News article, John-Paul II's health has taken a turn for the worse; it's entirely possible he'll die within the next 24 hours. John-Paul is probably one of the most beloved Popes in history, amongt Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

His death will herald the beginning of one of the most distinctive electoral processes in the world and will have, perhaps, more impact upon the world as a whole than the death of any other individual.

I'll certainly grieve when he passes, despite not knowing him personally. His deeds speak for themselves.
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[livejournal.com profile] chronarchy's recent ruminations on going through ADF's clergy program got me thinking a bit, about what it was like for me back in 2001 when I began the entire process of becoming an Old Catholic Priest.

I was sitting outside one evening, feet hanging off the dock at my parent's beach condo. And I heard a little voice in my head saying "You're going to be a priest."

I didn't think anything of it at the time. I chalked it up to subconcious desire and a lack of sleep.

A few months later, I heard that same voice, "You're going to be a priest."
I responded, this time, "Fuck no, I'm not going to do that. I have absolutely no intention of doing that."

I stopped hearing the voice for a while. Things weren't going too well for me in the interim. In fact, life got pretty bad, between home and what social life I had.

I heard the voice again. "Be a priest."

"Why me?" I asked. "I'm not particularly virtuous. I'm not particularly pious, and I don't want to give up the possibility of ever having a romantic relationship again. You find a way to solve that last problem, and I'll entertain  the thought."

Some time later, an Old Catholic congregation moved into a vacant building not half a block away from my house. I started attending services and discussing the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood with the pastor.

That voice didn't stop until I took vows to Holy Orders and the bishop laid hands on my head, 2.5 years later.

For me, that's what it was like to have a priestly vocation. I didn't necessarily want it like a lot of people do, but I couldn't ignore it.
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On April 12, 2005, it will be one year to the day that I officially began the process of leaving the priesthood. I figured leaving behind one of the most significant events of my life, to date, would be easy; it hasn't been. I'm still rather too attached to Christianity for my own good, I think.

I can still feel that strange, distinctly warm tingle in my palms; the sensation has been there since my ordination, and it's incomparable to any other sensation I've experienced. I can hear a voice in my head sometimes, telling me to go back... put on the cassock, take up the rosary, say Mass once more, and everything will be back to normal. That would be great, if it could go back to the way it was; if that were something I could stomach going back to... the bickering, the infighting, the self-aggrandizing bishops... but then there are the members of my old congregation who tell me how much they wish I would come back. I think about it; being a parish priest was a pleasant occupation... then I remember what I was like for those last two months before I made the decision to leave... severely depressed, nearly catatonic at the altar... lacking the motivation to make sick calls or to take communion to shutins.

Then there was the ASL professor who decided that one of my dear friends nearly dying and coughing up blood on me wasn't an excuse to miss her lecture... despite the fresh bloodstains on the front of my clerical shirt.

When I asked her "What kind of priest do you think I'd be if I left a dying man alone and refused him Viaticum because I had to get to an ASL lecture?"

Her response: "A priest who could sign."
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It has always been my custom to try and answer my reader's questions about traditional Christian theology, which I've mentioned in other posts (though I'm not sure if that one made it to my livejournal or not, because the syndication is funky). It works like this: someone comments or e-mails me a question, and I put that useless Licentiate in Divinity to work for a few minutes to come up with an answer.

Onward...

Q: Why do priests wear black dresses? -- Alan, from Texas.

A: That "black dress" is called a cassock or soutane. The cassock was originally a long black tunic, which had varying lengths throughout various time periods. Its present form evolved gradually, and until the 2nd Vatican Council it was the normative form of dress for priests throughout the world, and indeed a few priests from traditional societies still use the cassock as their daily habit. However, the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops conference has supressed the use of the cassock outside of church property because it is seen as too antiquarian.

P.S. If that was meant as a mocking question, you are so going to hell. >:)

Q: I've read that abortion is grounds for automatic excommunication in the Catholic Church. Why is that? -- Alex

A: It might be beneficial to discuss the types of excommunication prior to answering this question, so I hope you will forgive me if I become a bit pedantic. Historically, there have been two forms of excommunication a jure (by law) and ab homine (by man). The first form of excommunication is set down in the code of canon law and is essentially automatic. Abortion is an offence which incurs a jure excommunication, both for the woman receiving the abortion and the physician performing it, along with anyone else who had a hand in helping someone obtain an abortion.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 2270 states:
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person&emdash;among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

Simply put, abortion is seen as a very grave offense and as previously mentioned incurs the penalty of excommunication automatically. In essence the Church views abortion as murder.

I cannot say that I can agree with this line of reasoning, but there you have it. My own experience counseling women who have had abortions has led me to believe that the penalty of excommunication is unduly harsh. The Old Catholic Church, of which I was formerly a part, took a similarly harsh stance on abortion.

Q: Why can't women be priests? --Anonymous

A: Since the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States (or ECUSA) began ordaining women to the priesthood in the 1970's this has been a rather hot topic in ecclesiastical circles. The usual logic used in barring women from being priests is simply that the Church lacks the divine mandate to ordain a woman as a priest. A priest is a vicar of the bishop and the bishops are successors to the Apostles. Christ chose only men to be his apostles, so it is thusly impossible for a woman to become a priest.

The Christian Church is an episcopally ordered body, and the consensus of the Church is generally necessary to change a doctrine such as that relating to an all male priesthood. If an ecumenical council were to be called today and they were to decide that there was nothing barring a woman from becoming a priest, then that would be the end of the matter.

Further, a priest is seen as an icon of Christ, and a female in the role of a priest nullifies that overt symbolism.

In the Old Catholic Church, some jurisdictions permit women to become priests while others do not. And as always, whether or not I agree with the above opinion is another matter entirely.

Q: Why do people say Anglican Orders are invalid?

A: According to a bull issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1896, the liturgy used for the ordination of priests and bishops lacks the proper form. Secondly, according to the papal bull, the sacramental intent of the Anglican bishops was so abhorrently flawed that it rendered their sacraments invalid.

For a sacrament to be invalid, there are several things necessary:

1) It must have a form recognized by the church as valid.
2) Its manner of administration must be that which is recognized as valid by the church.
3) The intent of the cleric performing the sacrament must be in line with the intent of the church in performing that sacrament.

From a Catholic perspective (in this case either Roman Catholic or Old Catholic) the Anglican ordinal omits the annointing of the priests hands with chrism and the implicit bestowal of the authority to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, so whatever it is that Anglicans are doing when they attempt to ordain a priest, it's not working very well.

A more important issue is that of intent. Even if the form and manner are flawed, according to the doctrine of ekonomia it is entirely possible that the Holy Spirit will make up for any deficiencies in the sacrament. The intent of the Church when it ordains a priest is to ordain a priest to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass. As the Anglican churches are reformed, or protestant, bodies, they generally reject the notion of the Mass as a literal sacrifice. So again, it's unclear exactly what an Anglican is trying to do when they celebrate the Mass, but they're not doing it very well.

So, are Anglicans actually receiving sacraments? That's a slightly more difficult question to answer. The vast majority of the sacraments, aside from baptism, require that a priest or bishop be the celebrant, as only they may licitly invoke the authority of the church to bless and consecrate. If the Anglican ordinal was flawed, and the intent of the Anglican churches in ordaining priests is still similarly flawed, then it would be nearly impossible for the Anglican church to actually have priests or the other six sacraments of the church.

In essence, the Anglican churches are just like every other protestant body in the world in their lack of a valid sacramental priesthood and their lack of authority to administer the sacraments.

Again, as I am canonically retired, I don't particularly care. I'm making good on my offer to answer questions.

Tune in next time for another installment.

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Not that anyone has mentioned being confused by any specific terminology I've used to date, but for those who aren't in the know...

An antimension is a special cloth with an ikon of the Crucifixion and Entombment of Christ on it, and is usually host to ikons of the four evangelists and the Theotokos as well. It contains a specially sewn pouch with the relic of a saint on it and is placed on the altar by the priest or bishop (whomever is celebrating Mass) during the Offeratory when the congregation is filling the offering plates with filthy lucre, children are bringing the bread and wine to the altar, etc.

Translated from greek it means "before the table." Its liturgical function is roughly analogous to the Corporal common in Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, but unlike the corporal the antimension is essentially a portable altar.

Pictures are behind the cut, and for the curious I happen to have a bit of St. Anthony of Padua in my antimension.

Read more... )

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