Archive for the 'Eucharist' Category

Belief & Faith in the 1st and 21st Century

Gothic-Chalice-and-PatenThe following two addresses were presented in the Community Christian Church, Springfield, Missouri on Sunday, Aug. 9th, 2015. The first is the Offertory Address and the second is the Communion Address.

Belief & Faith in the 1st and 21st Century

My mother has been visiting this week…

So I ask the indulgence of adopting a somewhat affective approach, and recycling parts of a blog I wrote, which is in turn based upon a number of the late Marcus Borg’s observations concerning Belief and Faith [1].

Earlier this week my father, when asked to describe his understanding of Taoism replied:

“We all know right from wrong. Following the Tao is doing it.”

Belief

I “believe” our common understanding of Belief and Faith are thin, spindly-legged things. This leads to misunderstanding our sacred scriptures, and more importantly, to being misguided, and misbehaving.

Merriam-Webster online offers:

Belief [2]
: a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable
: a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone

Note that this understanding of Belief is rooted in FEELING. And I do have the impression that a big reason many people bother to go to church at all, is so they feel better about themselves. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing.

But if it becomes the primary reason, it does become a bad thing. It becomes…

self-absorbed;
self-serving.

Whereas everyone who attends this little church, for any length of time, comes to know, an important function of church, is to be…

other-absorbed;
other-serving.

These are among the central teachings of Jesus.

Faith

Almost amusingly, Merriam-Webster defines Faith as… [3]

a strong belief or trust in someone or something;
[such as the] belief in the existence of God

So in the religious context, Belief carries the connotation of affirming as true, that which one would otherwise not hold to be true.

And apparently, Faith, is really affirming as true, that which one would otherwise not hold to be true.

The Virgin Birth, is a prime example.
This is of course, based upon a mis-translation of Isaiah 7:14 [4].
As bishop Spong recently reminded us, that mis-reading has been known since at least 150 c.e.

    If nothing else, we Christians are a stubborn lot!

But far more importantly, by being mislead toward a false belief in Virgin Birth (as only one example among many) ―in expending all that energy, to belief a falsehood, as if it were factual― we become completely blind to the larger Mystery which we are supposed to be seeking!

And it happens again, and again, and again:

We simply no longer live in a three-tiered cosmos.

We live in a universe some 13.8 billion years old, more vast than we can really grasp.

So too “God.”

Effective and Affective Faith

So, is there a more useful understanding of Faith?  [5]

Faith as faith-full-ness ― is fidelity.

Borg asks that we consider the example of fidelity in marriage.
This means being faithful to the relationship with one’s spouse.

Please note: This is not being faithful to a set of logical statements concerning one’s spouse.

In the same way, fidelity to God is not about believing dogma, church traditions, or even scripture.

Fidelity to God is being faithful to one’s relationship with God.

Intentionally, mindfully enriching our sense of relationship:
with that Transcendent More,
which Christians choose to identify as God, or Father.

One aspect of this, is deliberately, consciously,
choosing to live in the presence of the divine,
throughout our daily life, as best we are able.

How do I do this?

I start by being aware of each moment as it passes.
I open ourselves to the possibility of feeling a Presence at any time.
I look for opportunities to relate to others directly, with compassion.
I help others when we may:

We shoe them.
We feed them.
We help shelter them.

Why? Because “God” is not up in heaven somewhere, and “God” is not “out there” somewhere.

Quite the opposite:

It is we, who are “in God”
We are immersed in the Sacred More all the time, as is a fish in water.
Sometimes we are aware of this.
Other times we forget.

Faith as trust.

Fundamental, foundational trust in one’s relationship with God.

This is not trust in statements, affirmations, or assertions about God. The root lies not in logical constructs, but in experiential relationship.

Thus, we may see the heart of faith,
as rooted in a personal experience of the divine.

    Sidebar:   Sensing our personal experience of the divine is one way I define Mysticism.

Faith as trust, is related to Fidelity,

because Fidelity is expressed through
our concern for others,
our relationship to others.

Specifically, we are to mindfully move through our daily life,
mindful of the possibility of encountering the divine,
in all those we meet.

It is like the old joke:

Everywhere you go, there you are.

Our daily life is the only place we “meet God” ― because this is where we are!

THEREFORE,

…if you Believe
shoe-ing others,
feeding others,
sheltering others,

…is a foundational part of taking on the teaching of Jesus,

…I would as that you present as an Offering to Serving Others,
…what money you may,
…knowing you are helping to support this little church…

…knowing you too are helping to…

…put shoes on bare feet,
…putting food in an empty stomach,

…putting a roof over someone’s head.

Communion Address

First of all, I wish to let everyone know this is an Open Communion.
Everyone is invited to take Communion with us.

Our Communion is a symbolic breaking of bread, of sharing our table with those who have little or nothing to eat. It is a symbol of this communities, continuing commitment to feed the hungry of Springfield.

This clearly embraces the heart of Jesus’ teaching.
This is one of the things that attracted me to this church.
It is one of the things that still attracts me to this church.

For me, taking Communion also affirms …

I believe there is a Mysterious More which permeates the cosmos.

I choose to identify as a Christian, because I find Jesus is the “decisive disclosure of the More,” [6].

The More in which, “we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17:28].

Thus, as a Christian, I seek some degree of theosis [7] with the Christ.

…to Put on the Mind of Christ.

…to have the breath of the Christ living in me ― and through me, into the world.

This is the function of Communion for me…

…to better enable me to adopt this orientation toward life.

…to help me keep my heart and mind disposed toward embracing a Loving Spirit.

…I benefit by this reminder, and this re-committment.

May the Christ…

…be in my ++ thoughts,

…that through my thoughts     ― the Mind of Christ may quicken within me.

…be on my ++ lips,

…that through my lips     ― His spiritual powers may be made manifest.

…be in my ++ heart…

…that through my heart     ― the Love of God may shine forth.

In this light, I’ll ask you to consider Marcus Borg’s translation of John 3:16. To better understand the word Belief, Borg asks us to simply translate it as Be-loved.

For God so Loved the world,
that God gave,
the only Be-loved, Son of God
that whosoever,
Be-loves him,
shall not perish
but experience the life,
of the age to come,
in the here and now.

[John 3:16 translation by Marcus Borg][8]

May the Lord Bless you, and Keep you.
Erik+

Footnotes:

[1] Marcus J. Borg, “Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power ― And How They Can Be Restored” (New York: HarperCollins, 2011) 116.

[2] Merriam-Webster Online does better with their “Full Definition of BELIEF”:
1:  a state or habit of mind in which trust or
confidence is placed in some person or thing;
2:  something believed; especially :  a tenet or body
of tenets held by a group;
3:  conviction of the truth of some statement or the
reality of some being or phenomenon especially when
based on examination of evidence.

[3] Again, Merriam-Webster Online does better with their “Full Definition of FAITH”:
1.a :  allegiance to duty or a person :  loyalty
1.b (1) :  fidelity to one’s promises
1.b (2) :  sincerity of intentions
2.a (1) :  belief and trust in and loyalty to God
2.a (2) :  belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
2.b (1) :  firm belief in something for which there is no proof
2.b (2) :  complete trust
3    :  something that is believed especially with strong conviction;
:  especially :  a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

[4] Isaiah 7:14 is typically taken out of context when quoted by Christians in the defense of Jesus’ virgin birth; few who read it are aware the Hebrew word used is ***Almah, which carries a range of meanings: girl; maid; maiden; young woman, and virgin. ***Almah is indeed translated as virgin in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible (from which the author of Matthew drew their reference). However, this is obviously a mistaken interpretation when read in context; read Isaiah 7:10-17 for yourself: “Isaiah Gives Ahaz the Sign of Immanuel”… 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman [Greek, the virgin] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel [God is with us]. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.” (NRSV) Basically, this passage is a prophecy that the current siege shall be lifted after the young woman gives birth, and that king Ahaz will not be defeated by these two kings, as he fears. It has nothing to do with Jesus’ virgin birth (although in the ancient literature of many cultures, accounts of virgin births are mythic/legendary elements often employed to raise the status of those to whom they are directed: Krishna (India); Horus (Egypt); Lao-Tsze (China); even Plato (Athens); as well as, Dionysus, Buddha, Zoroaster, and of course Jesus). This is not to imply that virgin births are not important, but they are not to be understood literally either.

[5] Marcus J. Borg, “What is Faith?” (Memphis, TN: Lenten Homily, 2001) http://www.explorefaith.org/LentenHomily03.16.01.html

[6] Borg, “What is Faith?”

[7] “Theosis literally means to become gods by Grace. The Biblical words that are synonymous and descriptive of Theosis are: adoption, redemption, inheritance, glorification, holiness and perfection. Theosis is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, whereby through Grace one becomes a participant in the Kingdom of God. Theosis is an act of the uncreated and infinite love of God. It begins here in time and space, but it is not static or complete, and is an open-ended progression uninterrupted through all eternity.” Archimandrite George, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios, Mount Athos “Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life” (Mount Athos, Greece: 2006) page 86.

[8] Borg, “What is Faith?”

Resources:

Books:

Borg, Marcus J.:

“The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith”

“Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power ― And How They Can Be Restored”

Ehrman, Bart D.: “Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew”

James, William : “Varieties of Religious Experience, a Study in Human Nature”

Online:

Borg, Marcus J.: Lenten Homily, “What is Faith?” (Memphis, TN: 2001) http://www.explorefaith.org/LentenHomily03.16.01.html

Archimandrite George, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios, Mount Athos “Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life” (Mount Athos, Greece: 2006) http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis.aspx (http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis-english.pdf)

What does celebrating the Eucharist mean to me?

QUESTION:    Can you share your thoughts regarding the importance of “celebrating” the Eucharist. What does it mean to you? What is its spiritual significance? Is everyone invited to participate?

For myself?

I am finding the celebration of the Eucharist as an evolving process. I’m still working out my personal meaning on the finer points, and in that sense it is an internal (and esoteric) experiment. My hope is that the process evolves me spiritually. I do feel a sense of Presence when performing the ritual, so I feel certain that something very real is happening.

I really do think it involves a process of working with, and interacting with, Divine energy. Now I don’t objectively think that God needs little ol’ me to bring God into the world. I think much more likely is that we are ourselves benefited by lending in a hand; by the very process of helping out. It is not so much for God’s benefit, in other words, than for our own benefit. We gain something spiritual in the “doing” of the ritual. Most of us learn best by doing. And celebrating the Eucharist helps to better refine our connection to the Holy Spirit, both our sense of this connection, and transformationally on the spiritual-emotional level of our being.

I like to think performing this ritual is refining my spiritual self – my “energy” self or my “soul” or “spirit” – however one wishes to frame that concept. This is very much related to the transubstantiation of the bread and wine. In my view, while these do not literally become meat and blood here on earth, in the spiritual realm their nature *is* changed. (The physical transubstantiation of the bread and wine a metaphor for this higher, spiritual Truth.) So it is the spiritual counterpart to the bread and wine is what is being transmuted, transformed, transubstantiated. So too, with us.

And purely in the physical realm, I suspect it offers us a health benefit, and at times may be physically healing. The Eucharist is clearly emotionally healing to some. (I also believe all healing occurs first in the spiritual body, then in the emotional and physical bodies.)

There is a lot to be said for the power of our beliefs. As we we think, so we are. Taking-in the physical counterpart of the bread and wine into our bodies, most likely activates us on several levels of our being. On one level this helps make this experience real to our bodies. It becomes tangible. Emotionally and spiritually we become more open and more receptive. Most likely, this helps our transference of spiritual energy in the spiritual realm, and from the spiritual realm into the physical realm.

And if nothing else, I find it is a reminder to myself to be more Christ-like. And I can use all those reminders I can get!

What actually happens during the Eucharist liturgy?

I generally ascribe to the Liberal Catholic Church’s view that in celebrating the Eucharist -the Holy Communion of bread and wine- I am helping to open up a little window into the world, encouraging the entry of Divine energy to flow into this world. This spiritual energy – which one might name the Presence of God, or the Holy Spirit – flows into the altar, the chalice and host, into the priest, outward into those present, and continues to spread outward into the world at large. Unseen, there are present angelic beings who strive to facilitate this two-way flow, exchange, or transference, of spiritual energy. We offer our oblations of loving worship to God, and God offers us common-union with the Holy Spirit, and Divine Love.

The bread and wine are especially charged with this spiritual energy/Divine Presence/Love/Holy Spirit. Those who take this into themselves gain additional benefit by closer contact with these spiritually charged elements. This is why healing services are performed following the Eucharist portion of the liturgy, after those present are most fully “charged” with the spiritual energy of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, baptisms precede the Eucharist celebration – but ideally are part of a Mass (due to the higher state of spiritual energy) – because the process of becoming baptized prepares one’s spiritual body for more efficient, effective transmission of this spiritual energy.

What of those present in the ekklesia (the congregation)?

Each person chooses their level of involvement with the ritual. The spiritual energy/Presence flows into those *both* participating and merely present. However, I feel that when attending Holy Communion one best benefits oneself – and all others – by mentally, emotionally, and spiritually engaging in the ritual.

Those “simply present” may increase their participation in the exchange of spiritual energy by placing their awareness – attention, intention, and perception – on what is taking place during the liturgy. As a person better understands what the service is trying to convey, and how the channels are opened between the physical and spiritual realms, each person is able to lend their spiritual heart to this process, encouraging this Divine energy to enter into the alter, the chalice (wine) and host (bread), the priest, to those present – including themselves – and then outward into the world at large.

Specifically how an individual “lends their heart” to the service will vary according to their psychology. One might find visualizing the flow of energy useful, another may hear the singing of attending angels, another may feel rumbling or other sensations, and another may feel the upwelling of emotion and love increasing until it overflows and spills forth into all those present, and outward into the world. Or any combination of the above. Or perhaps through some other modality. How one specifically encourages the process, and specifically in what manner one personally engages in the experience, is far less important than one *does* participate and engage in the celebration of the Eucharist. Ideally experiencing physical, emotional, and spiritual participation.

Alternately, one may just sit there and eat a cracker after an hour or so passes. But I suspect that would be of minimal benefit – yet still of benefit – to that individual.

The Eucharist liturgy is a form of theurgy.

A kinda scary word! Citing Wikipedia: “Theurgy (from Greek θεουργία) describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself”.

[Henosis (from the Greek: ἕνωσις) means “oneness,” “union,” or “unity.” It is understood as the desire to achieve union with what one perceives as fundamental reality, or Ultimate Power (Source/God/etc). We might observe this concern is related to theosis (which is simultaneously a transformative process as well as the ultimate goal of that process itself, resulting in our common-union with the Divine/God; embodying the Divine essence within ourselves.)]

Ritualized religious-spiritual magic, in other words. And so it is. This view is perhaps colored by my attending seminary, but I do not see “magic” as automatically associated with evil. Liturgy is a structured behavior, giving structure to a worship service. In other words it is a set of ritualized actions and behaviors meant to convey specific meanings and evoke specific reactions within us, and certainly in the case of the Mass, offers oblation to God with the hope, intent of procuring favor at some level. That is engaging in the process of ritualized religious magic: theurgy.

On the other hand, magic is merely what we name a technology we do not comprehend. That may very well be the case here. We certainly do not really understand all the inner workings of the spiritual realm. In the meantime, we just do our best.

Is spiritual refinement taking place?

I do see celebrating the Eucharist liturgy as one means of helping to refine one’s in-dwelling Divine Spirit. The whole point is to make, feel, develop, and extend our connection with The Christ. Another view which I hope may be taking place, is that the ritual may begin to open my spiritual eye to better perceive the Divine Center. So in this sense it is an effort to develop my personal aptitude for mysticism. For feeling a connection to the Divine. And as I say, I do feel some connection. I find this experience is very real. I can feel it. And I do believe this is a form of spiritual refinement.

Building and maintaining the spiritual edifice of the Eucharist.

Then there is the idea of thought-energy-forms. Many people have poured sincere intention into this form of ritual for nearly 2,000 years. That in and of itself builds up spiritual energy. By reproducing the ritual we too connect with that, feed from it, and feed back into it for others in the future. In a very rough way, one might think of this as a type of spiritual battery. I suspect this too is taking place. Seen through this lens we are reaching far back into the ancient roots of our spiritual tradition, deriving real benefit from their service, and we are simultaneously passing forward this continuing spiritual tradition – and effective energy – for future generations.

Is everyone invited to participate in the Eucharist celebration?

In my tradition, yes. Anyone who is sincerely wishing to participate so as to experience a closeness with Christ/Holy Spirit/God is welcomed. It is deemed improper for us as humans to determine which other humans are worthy of taking part in the ritual. (This includes the spirits of any deceased, who may wish to be present.)

In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church officially only permits Roman Catholics (in good standing) to participate in the Eucharist. That said, how strictly this is enforced varies. I recall attending several Roman Catholic Masses in high school, and I took the Eucharist each time. It really seemed like the whole point, and even then I appreciated that aspect of their liturgy. However, I still knew I was really not supposed to be there and that really weakened the experience for me.

Each denomination will have their own rules and individual parish observances on this point. I’m sure there is a great deal of variation, both inter- and intra-denominationally.

I suspect one of the reasons my denomination invites any sincerely seeking person to take part in the Eucharist, is we view this as one of the most powerful, spiritually charged rituals one may celebrate. If we are in fact correct in our assumption that performing the Eucharist celebration opens a positive, beneficial channel between this world and the spiritual realm, isn’t that one of the very best places for a person seeking God to experience a meaningful connection, a “common-union” (Holy Communion) with the Divine? Where better to find affinity with God? Where better to kindle one’s Divine Spark? Why deny someone seeking God’s Presence such an opportunity?

So for all these reasons I celebrate the Eucharist.

Father Erik

Follow-Up Answers to the Holy Supper vs. Sacrifice

Question #1: With regard to the post “Particulars of the Ekklesia Epignostika Church” one paragraph states the Ekklesia Epignostika Church’s (EEC) positions as:

One of the alternative teachings we espouse is the Holy Supper instead of the Sacrifice….The altar is not a place of human sacrifice, thank you very much. Blood atonement is NOT one of our doctrines. Yes, Yeshua gave his life rather than resist arrest and risk his family and students’ persecution and deaths, but he did not give it as a human sacrifice to a blood-desiring Heavenly Father bent on some kind of weird “divine justice” or “payment” for everyone’s sins.

“Doesn’t this sound a bit exaggerated, harsh and confusing? Can you elaborate more on its meaning? Thank you.”

Answer #1: On the Holy Supper

Yes, that is a confusing statement when contained in such a small package. And it comes across as even somewhat polemic. I’m not surprised that it prompts a follow-up. Let’s see if I can unpack that a bit….

To begin with, the concept of original sin and the required death of God’s Son to “pay” for these sins is a strongly dualistic belief. My understanding is this is one of the holdovers we inherited from the early Christian Gnostic movement (and/or we may inherent this strong dualism from Zoroastrianism). So too with the self-abasement and whipping the hide off one’s back, for that matter. In what we now call the ancient Gnostic movement self-hate is normal. Everything of the earth is evil. We are supposed to be spirits, but we have been trapped here on earth. Trapped by an evil god, in fact (often depicted as the G-d of the Hebrew bible – speak of being polemic!). Therefore, anything and everything which has to do with the earth is corrupt and evil.

This is the background which sets up viewing the Garden of Eden story as resulting in Original Sin, from what became the orthodox Christian perspective, at least.

But I feel this is a mistake. When reading a text I think it is important to at least consider the perspective of those who wrote it. In this case we turn to the early Hebrew people, and ask what might they have thought of this story? We cannot be certain of course. But we can ask modern Jews how they interpret the story of creation and the “fall” of man.

The short answer to this is that the world is a good thing.

It is a positive creation. As are we. The earth and everything in it has been created by G-d and is fundamentally good. (The opposite of the ancient Gnostic position that everything is evil.) Furthermore, most modern Jews, and presumably their Hebrew ancestors, do not see any “Original Sin” taking place in this story. And it is a story in the Hebrew bible -not the Christian New Testament- so I give their interpretation a lot of weight.

They say what took place was a mistake. A “missing of the mark” (the meaning of the word from which “sin” is translated). An error. But nothing like the majority Christian understanding of original sin, which is much closer to the ancient Gnostic understanding; this is *not* the Jewish understanding.

Therefore the entire foundation of the idea that God killed his Son to erase our original sin is a mistaken belief. At least if one sides with the Jewish perspective of their Hebrew bible. And, as I said, I am among those who do. So if you look at the story of the crucifixion through this lens, instead of the lens of Original Sin, the meaning behind the statements may begin to make more sense.

Bearing in mind that I cannot speak for the bishops of the EEC because I may misrepresent their intended position, I will only speak of my own understanding of this position. My impression of the reason the EEC differentiates between a Holy Supper and a Holy Sacrifice, is that we prefer to celebrate the ideals of peace and love and the search for transcendent understanding (the way we interpret the term “Gnostic” — the search for spiritual apprehension of the Divine; and very much *NOT* an understanding that the world and G-d are evil). We do *not* celebrate the murder of Jesus. We do *not* believe he had to be slaughtered as a replacement for Temple sacrifice.

This will be one of the major differences between the orthodox Roman Catholic Church’s view of Original Sin and the way the church I am a member of looks at it. And a pretty fundamental difference at that!

One might even observe, this is why I feel it is so important to examine one’s cornerstone beliefs. And the meaning of “Original Sin” is one such example. If you get that wrong, then a bunch of other understandings are going to be misguided. This is what I think has happened in many Christian churches.

Question #2: The post “Particulars of the Ekklesia Epignostika Church” stated that your church believed “in Jesus his Son who came and brought the world salvation!”  What kind of salvation was this?

Answer #2

This is a great question. I cannot say I have a 100% understanding on this point. Coming to an understanding of this question is at the core of my entire spiritual search! But I will share my thoughts, such as they are. As for the church bishops, they’d have to speak to their views. I suspect it is close to the Liberal Catholic Church’s view in that they leave this interpretation up to the individual. And off hand I cannot recall their individual opinions on this point.

Speaking for myself, if the historical scholars are right, and if the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus are accurate (that’s a touchy problem, given the various revisions of biblical text over the centuries, we cannot really be certain of most of Jesus’ sayings are in fact his), then I have a problem because I do not subscribe to apocalyptic teachings. I believe these are best understood in their own historical narrative, not ours some 2,000 years later. So all the groups that point to Revelation as a foretelling of things to come, and the end of the world, I just can’t buy into that.

(The Book of Revelation, perhaps would have been better understood had it been entitled, “Revelation: A Book of Hope!” Because Revelation is really about providing hope to carry us through these hard times, and offer us assurance that following each series of tragic events, ultimately the Kingdom of Heaven/New Jerusalem will come to pass here on earth.)

So I personally hope Jesus was *not* just one of many apocalyptic prophets. If he was, he was wrong, and therefore not the Son of G-d as this is classically understood. Due to this uncertainty as to the nature of Jesus, my favourite Gospel is Mark. In it no one ever really understands who Jesus is, or what his life was all about! Turning to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, we find there are several “endings” to this book (quoting from: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2016&version=NRSVCE), the shortest of which is simply:

8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Shorter Ending of Mark adds:

And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterwards Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

The Longer Ending of Mark adds quite a bit of material:

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

9 Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Jesus Commissions the Disciples

14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The Ascension of Jesus

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Footnotes:

Mark 16:8 Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9–20. In most authorities verses 9–20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.

 

I favour the shortest ending. All the others I think are much more likely to have been added to over the centuries because people just couldn’t stand the uncertain ending of the women running away in fear and never telling anyone. However, this missing the main point of this Gospel! It *is* all about trying to work out an understanding of who Jesus was! What was his nature? (And struggling with one’s uncertainty in the face of such questions.)

In line with this questioning search for Jesus’ nature, there is what has been called the “Messianic Secret.” Jesus kept telling people *not* to proclaim who he was. Was this because he knew no one tells things faster than what they have been told not to tell? Or might it be because he knew that people expected a warring messiah? And he did *not* wish to start a revolt. Therefore, he told people not to speak of him so they would be safe. The Romans killed rebels. Ultimately, this is why the Romans killed Jesus (*not* the Jews – the Romans).

And this ties in with the theme of Jesus turning himself in quietly so as not to get his friends and family murdered alongside himself, and is why the EEC honours this form of Jesus’ sacrifice through the aforementioned Holy Supper. This is an *alternate* understanding -which I favour- to Jesus turning himself in so that he could be slaughtered on our behalf; as a substitute to ritual Temple sacrifice; as a blood sacrifice to G-d. As I indicated above, I just don’t believe that G-d has to murder himself to save us from original sin (which didn’t happen in the first place).

My own view of what kind of salvation Jesus offers us is much more mystical.

This is always hard to pin down in words. Or is for me at any rate. I personally think Jesus was speaking of breathing life into the Divine spark we each have within us. One of the sayings which I take to heart is found in the Gospel of John (which is an admittedly poetic Gospel and is meant to be taken allegorically) where Jesus says he is in the Father, and the Father is in him. He then says he is in us/we in him. Could he be clearer? (Apparently so! heheh.) To me this says Jesus found a unity with the Divine, and that we too are part of that Unity.

John 14:20 NRSV: On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Theosis

So I subscribe to an understanding closer to that offered by the Eastern Orthodox Church’s belief in theosis. This belief is still a vibrant aspect of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it is just not a form of Christianity we are greatly exposed to in the West. And certainly it is greatly removed from Protestantism as a whole, because it tends toward a mystic interpretation (as does the Eastern Orthodox as a whole), whereas Protestantism is founded upon more literal interpretations of the written texts of the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

[This difference may especially be expected to be felt quite sharply by those who are coming from a largely Pentecostal Church perspective. In such cases, we are pretty much residing at opposite ends of the Christian continuum in many ways. Although I suspect we agree that the Holy Spirit is the active agent in our spiritual lives as well as in the world. A view we share with all “Charismatic Christians” in general, regardless of their exoteric/outer affiliation within the wider Church of Christ. In this wider sense of the word, I too am a “Charismatic Christian.” (Otherwise, I really see little point in being Christian. But that’s just me.) One way to imagine this difference is to see that on the outer sphere of being Christian we have very different understandings of what that means. When we traverse the outer surface of this sphere we seem very different from one another much of the time. But as we turn inward and look toward the center of that sphere, our differences become less and less as we move toward that central point. This center is the point which I have -following others- called the Divine Center, and in the heart of that center lives the Holy Ghost; the Shakinah; the Presence of G-d; Brahma; the Tao; call it what you will. Thus enters a theme of plurality of religions and one way to better appreciate each as a unique means of “finding God.”]

As I re-read my answer, the Book of James comes to mind. Nowhere does James speak of salvation through the death of Jesus, nor of God demanding the blood of Jesus. Instead, James (presumed to be the brother of Jesus, who should know Jesus pretty well!) encourages his readers to do good works. The second chapter of James reads (quoting v. 14-17, but this theme continues through to the end of the chapter, concluding with verse 26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.”):

James (Ch. 2): 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

So for me, the salvation Jesus brought us is found in his example and his loving encouragement that we too find a way to allow that Divine Breath of Life to live though us, and to become vehicles for that in-dwelling Spirit (Shakinah/Holy Ghost) to live in/through/with us.

Psalms 82:6 (which Jesus quoted) reads: “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you”

And one aspect of doing this may be experienced through participating in the Eucharist celebration. I really do believe/feel that is one way to bring us into contact with something Divine. I like to think this results in the Holy Spirit becoming more active in our life, and body, and I hope our soul and spirit.

This is quite clearly another point where my belief is quite different than that of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is one of many reasons I personally could never be a RCC priest (nor would they have me! it is fair to observe). I have never felt that the ideas of original sin, and the blood sacrifice of Jesus made any sense. Why would God Almighty set up the world that way?

It makes more sense to me that we are in a fundamentally good creation, are part of this good creation, and that we are here to learn to grow into beings becoming more resonate with the Divine. I don’t see salvation as something Jesus does “to” us. And it is something more than a philosophical view with which we agree/”believe.” It is our responsibility to follow Jesus’ example, finding a means of letting more and more of the Divine Spirit of the Christ to live in us each day. And there are many ways of doing this. Some days being “closer to the mark” than others.

Such are my thoughts.
Father Erik

A Mystic Interpretation of the Eucharist

I thought I’d take a breath in my 12,000+ word “answer” (beginning with “On Becoming An Old Catholic Priest”) to share my impressions of the Eucharist (aka Holy Communion – the Blood and Body of Christ).

I share the Old Catholic Church position (as well as Methodist and others) that the Eucharist offering of wine and bread is *not* *literally* transubstantiated into the literal blood and flesh of Christ. The wine has never tasted like salty blood to me. And the bread remains bread. I’ve eaten a lot of meat in my day, and the bread does not become meat.

But that is a very limited earthly interpretation, and NOT what I think is important.

A Divine Mystery

A far better question is what may be happening in the spiritual realm, and in what way might Spirit be interacting with our physical realm? Herein is where I believe we may apprehend what it truly important!

For those who may not know, when celebrating the Eucharist, the priest will bless the wine and bread, and in so doing act as a conduit for the spiritual energy of the Divine to flow into the wine and bread. It is this in-flowing of Spirit which “transubstantiates” the wine and bread. Not in the physical realm of the profane, but in the spiritual realm of the sacred.

One way I’ve heard this described is to imagine that each and every molecule and atom in the physical universe has a spiritual counterpart. As the Spirit flows in-and-through the wine and bread (our symbolic offering to the Divine) the “higher” (spiritual) state of the offering is changed. I also believe that we too have a “higher” spiritual counterpart – we too are spiritually effected by taking part in this process. That is the realm in which the transubstantiation takes place.

Creating an Axis Mundi

At the same time, the in-flowing of the Spirit in-and-through our offering continues to flow outward, in-and-through those present (and more fully in those who eat and drink of the spiritual Blood and spiritual Flesh), and then continuing outward into the world at large. We are essentially opening a spiritual door providing a point of entry for the Spirit into this physical world. I find this a quite beautiful image; that by celebrating the Eucharist we are better enabling the entry of Spirit into the world; that each time we celebrate the Eucharist we benefit the entire world, even if only a little bit each time.

Why Does God Need Us?!

Some might say this is kinda nuts! If God wanted more Spirit to enter into the world, why not simply Breathe more Life into it directly? Why are “weak little us” needed to act a conduits?

Well, I really don’t know for sure. I think that is just the way it is. I liken it to the view that angels stand ready and willing to help us. However, we first need ask for their assistance! For whatever reason, this appears to be one of the Divine Laws under which we operate in the physical world. I don’t know why this is so. But it is my apprehension that it is so!

The reason this is the way it is, may be because we need to first indicate our desire to participate. We have free will. Therefore, we are required to utilize our Directed Intention; to engage our Will, intentionally, mindfully. I believe it is our willing participation in the Divine Mystery that God “needs” from us.

Or it may be that by doing so we learn and grow spiritually. We must become active agents to benefit most fully from God’s grace. Perhaps we simply learn best by doing.

So the next time you participate in the Eucharist, I suggest you consider this as both an opportunity to breathe-in the in-dwelling Divine Spirit, renewing your spirit, as well as an opportunity to add your own little extra “oomph!” to help make this a more beautiful, loving, peaceful world.