Stones would cry out: Kanye praises Jesus

31 10 2019

I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” Confound me if I am wrong, but are not these prophetic words of Jesus being fulfilled before our eyes. When so many Christians have denied their love for Jesus and embraced adulterous paganism; when christian celebrities shriek with horror when someone tries to associate them with Jesus in public for the sake of the worldly glamour, stones, men you least to expect are praising Jesus, in public and at the top of their voices. A lesson for all to see. Watch notorious Kanye West, rapper and songwriter and Chicago bad boy praising Jesus





In God’s Land: Nazareth and Mount of Transfiguration

21 09 2019

20th September 2019

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, and departed for Nazareth by 7.20 am prompt. Nazareth has about 70,000 inhabitants today, but in the time of Jesus, it had just about 100 people. It is a two hour drive from the city of Jerusalem.

We took the shortest way; high way 6, because we needed to get there on time to see Nazareth and celebrate Mass is at 11 am at the Church of Annunciation.

Our mission is to visit Mary’s well; a well that ancient tradition says was frequently used by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the boy, Jesus. We also hope see the workshop of St. Joseph, and the cliff from which the people of Nazareth wanted to push Jesus down in an act that is best described as an attempted murder. After Mass we intend to visit the ancient village of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine at the insistence of his mother and finally we will end our tour with a visit to mount Tabor, the mountain where Jesus transfigured and his clothes became dazzling white, in the presence of his apostles and with apparition of Moses and Elijah. (Mark 9:3)

As you can see it’s a tight schedule for one day thus the early rising.

Nazareth

350m above sea level, Nazareth was where everything started. God took flesh in the womb of a woman, the most pure womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38). On the way, we saw the Chapel of our Lady of the freight, to commemorate Mary seeing the people of Nazareth trying to cast Jesus into the cliff. (Lk 4:29)

In the time of our Jesus, there were just about 30 families living in Nazareth. Today, Nazareth is the biggest Arab town owned by Israel. Most of the inhabitants are Muslims.

We entered Nazareth using the Via Maris (the way of the see), a high way that begins in Memphis in the delta of the Nile towards the lake of Galilee. We passed through the valley of the “seed of God” also called Jezreel, very fertile plain with abundance of agriculture. From the bus we saw rows and rows of cultivated fields. Agriculture is the highest export of Israel and a huge source of income. We passed through the land of Gideon
Finally we left the plains of Jezreel up to Nazareth.

Story of two Churches and Mary’s well

In Nazareth, there are two Churches of the annunciation. One belongs to the Greek Orthodox, who claims that the first apparition of Arc Angel Gabriel to Mary took place at the well whilst she was fetching water; she took fright and ran to her house. It was at the second apparition that she was finally calm enough to listen to the Angel and thus the orthodox built a Church near the well, and to give tourist something to see, they diverted the spring that fed the original Mary’s well to the Church, so Mary’s well is no longer flowing because this.

Pictures of Mary’s well

Mary’s well
Our guide, Oliver explains why Mary’s well is dry

Sad and unfortunately, this the only spring of fresh water in Nazareth, and they are using it up all for themselves.
We stopped to look the dry well of Mary, before proceeding to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, at least to have a look at the original water of the well.

Pictures of the Visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation

Pictures ate the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox church of the annuciation
Seated inside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Roof of the Church

The grievance between the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox goes back many century and many versions of the conflicts bear the bias of who is telling the story. Some say that the bone of contention was that the fourth crusaders sacked Byzantium, stole the true cross, crown of thorns, which led to the mutual excommunications between the two branches.

The synagogue that almost murdered Jesus

Next, we visited the 1st century synagogue where the boy Jesus and his father and mother often went to pray. It was a stone throw from Mary’s house. It was here that they wanted to throw him off the cliff after he had read the scroll. The story is told in Luke

It reads:
“Jesus returned to his hometown Nazareth, from Capernaum, and he went to the synagogue. The synagogue official gave him the scroll to read, they didn’t like his interpretation and they tried to cast him of a cliff.” Luke (4:16-29)

The Jews had a custom they called Bar mitzvah in which every boy who comes of age is given the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah to read and afterwards asked to explain or interpret the verse he had read for all in the synagogue. If he passes, he is included as one of the ten that can start a synagogue. Jesus was given the scroll and the people didn’t like how he interpreted it and wanted to kill him.

Church of the Annunciation


When we left the synagogue, we went straight the authentic Church of the Annunciation, which is next to the synagogue. According to an ancient tradition passed on by some Fathers of the Church, some relations of Jesus were still living in Nazareth in the 2nd century had preserved both the room in which the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and the house of the Holy Family. There are written testimonies of pilgrims who visited the house in Nazareth in the 4th century when it was already a place venerated by Christians, complete with an altar.

Pictures of the Church of the Annunciation

Catholic Church of the Annunciation
Introduction from Saxum
Walls surrounding the Church is covered with beautiful paintings of Mary from all corner of the world
Entrance
Different depictions of Mary inside the Church
Side view of the Church
Sculptor of Mary as a young girl over the entrance

The Catholic Church of Annunciation the biggest, most magnificent church in the Middle East. It was built over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Scientific tests on the house in Loreto matches the one here, in Nazareth, likewise the graffito written on the walls and traces of oil found on the wall dating back to the time of Jesus are identical in both places.

On the front door of the Church, there is a depiction of the major events in Jesus’ life.

Pictures of the Front door of the Church

Inscriptions at the door
Designs on the wall
Pilgrims visiting the Church
Magnificent Image of our lady at the Annunciation from Philipines
magnificent depictions at the door ” the life of Mary”
Inside the upper floor
Church of the Annunciations is the biggest church in the middle east

We recited the Salve Regina inscribed on the wall on both sides of the main door. Above the door, there is a bronze sculptor of Mary as a young girl, looking towards Calvary, Jerusalem

Then on the arcades of the Church, there are paintings of Mary from different countries of the world; Germany, Japan, Philippines and so on.
In 1964, when the Church was being built, the Pope Paul VI wondered if it was necessary to have such a big Church, in such a small town, but today Christians of Nazareth are grateful because they didn’t know that they would become a minority

The Church consists of two floors. The ground floor is at the level of the grotto of the 1st century house where Mary lived, and the upper floor of the Church has many stained glass windows and paintings of Mary donated from every country in the world.

The altar piece is a magnificent painting of heaven with all the saints and martyrs walking towards eternal happiness with Mary depicted in an amazing representation as giving birth to the Church.

Pictures of the upper floor

Preparing for Mass at the Upper floor
dome of the Church

On the ground floor is original room that Mary was in when the Angel visited her. Its white stone wall blackened with age and behind a small stair case going to an upper floor

Pictures of ground floor and grotto of Mary’s house

Loswer floor, house of Mary 1st Century
Reaching up to take a shot
Standing in front of Mary’s house
Panoramic view of Mary’s house
Shot at the circle from which Mary’s house can be seen from upper floor

Nazareth means the of spring water. It is amazing how insignificant this little town had been before the birth of Jesus, for instance, the Old Testament never mentioned Nazareth, neither does Josephus, the Jewish historian, who is reputed to record anything important to the Jews. It is marvelous that God has chooses such a lowly place to come down to meet us. This should encourage everyone one who feels left behind, that God chooses the lowly and enfeebled things of this world to confound the rich and the powerful.

We attended Mass at the upper floor of the Church of Annunciation by 11 am

Pictures of the Mass

At exactly 12 noon, the bells of the Church of the Annunciation started ringing out melodies and the scene of the annunciation was reenacted as the Franciscans gave a benediction from inside the house of Nazareth while we stood aside and watched.

Pictures of Noon Benediction

Like we said earlier, this Church is the biggest Church in the Middle East, and it therefore the envy of all. In 2002, Muslims raised money to build a big mosque directly in front of the Church of the annunciation. The intended that mosque would be bigger and over shadow her glory.

The day the foundation, the fundamentalist Muslims were gleefully shouting in unison “Today Nazareth, tomorrow the world!”
But things quickly went out of control, and riots broke out, many Christian shops were burnt and looted causing the Israeli government intervene and cancel the project, forcing the Muslim to stop the constructions and uprooted the foundation already begun.

The city of Nazareth is run by Muslim families, thus sanitation is poor, laws are not enforced, and the town is badly run. In the ottoman where here for 400 yrs and they really didn’t care about the local population, so no hospitals where built. Thanks to foreign countries that mercifully came and built and built hospitals, there might not have been any hospitals in Nazareth today.

There’s a minaret and a mosque on the highest point in Nazareth. How it happened was that 23 yrs ago, a family asked if they could hire this highest point, and the owner said yes, the family lived there for a few months and then gradually built a mosque on top of the peak. The problem is that once a mosque is built, it’s impossible to remove it. That place becomes holy ground. That’s why the foundation of the one that they attempted to build over the Church of annunciation had to be removed. So they built the mosque by stealth.

After spending time in the Church of the annunciation, we walked over to another Church, called the Church of St. Joseph. It is said that the workshop in which Joseph the carpenter and the foster father of Jesus was located here. What we saw were ritual baths and what looked like a place for baptism. The workshop must have been converted into a church during the first century and hence the ritual baths.

Pictures of the Church of St Joseph

Ritual births in the Church of St. Joseph

Cana

We finally left Nazareth about 1 pm to go to Cana. We passed by the ancient Roman town of Sephoris. This town is not mentioned in bible but was very rich and close to Nazareth. Perhaps, some of Joseph’s clients lived there since it was just 3km from Nazareth and perhaps Jesus used to accompany his father there to make deliveries. Sephoris was rich Roman city, and Jesus must have seen luxurious life, huge balcony and opulence, in contrast to his cave like home in Nazareth.

Pictures on the road to Cana

Pilgrims who came to renew there marriage vows

When we entered the city of Cana, we saw that all the shops here advertise “the Wine of Cana,” the Miracle of Jesus in Cana. Archeologically, there is no certainty of the authenticity of this Cana and as it where, many other Canas have cropped up, with competing claims of being the authentic Cana of scriptures. Still, it was good to be here.

Pictures of Church of Cana

Underneath the Church at Cana

As we were at Church of Cana, a group of people came to renew their marriage vows.
Cana is about the superabundance of the grace of sacraments. We bought the wine of Cana, sweet wine

Mt. Tabor


When we left the Church of Cana, our next destination was Mount Tabor.
Tabor is on the outskirts of Cana and before we could leave Cana and get to the outskirts, we encountered lots of traffic because the Muslims were coming from the mosque and school children closing from school.

Pictures of the road to Mt. Tabor

Mt Tabor
Tabor and surrounding district
On the bus up Tabor
Church of Transfiguration at the back ground

We passed by the Bedouin town of Shibli is set at the foot of Mount Tabor. It consists of a single clan, and everyone has the same surname and they intermarry between themselves. This is not only a health hazard but a logistic nightmare for a postman who has to deliver parcels to them.

We had a quick lunch at the base of Mt. Tabor before boarding taxis that took us up to the peak of Mt Tabor. Tabor is 640m above sea level and this is where Jesus transfigured before three of his apostles, Peter James and John. Moses and Elijah appear during the transfiguration. This is also where in the Old Testament, Deborah fought and killed the Canaanites.

Church of Mt. Tabor

Nowhere in the gospel is the Tabor mentioned, yet Jesus chose this mount to display his glory to the apostles to strengthen them for his coming passion and death. The Byzantines have originally built a church at this peak. The crusaders also built a church here. They were all knocked down by the Muslims until the Franciscans came and bought the property and gave the contract to the same architect that built Shepherd fields, and many others churches

Pictures of Inside the Church of Mt. Tabor

Entering the Church of Transfiguration
A group of south African pilgrims having Mass
Painting of Moses on the Roof of the Church
Views from the hieght of Tabor
Church of transfiguration

On the left inside the church, is the Chapel of Moses with Ray of light.
Then the Chapel of Elijah, with his animals.
At the bottom of the Church, a beautiful image of Jesus transfiguration. On the longest day, the light shines in on this image and it shimmering and beautiful. The roof is made of alabaster, because the architecture wanted people to be transfigured.

It is said that every year, a batch of young drug addicts come here from Italy, working and praying to be transformed.

Why did the Lord choose to transfigure himself in a place that was so far from where he lived and required a strenuous physical effort over a long trail?” Blessed Alvaro gives the answer himself, saying “that it was probably so that we could see with our own eyes that to reach God, we also have to put in a human effort that is physical sometimes.”





In God’s Land: Lazarus’ Tomb, Mount of Temptation and Masada

8 09 2019

Bethany

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, so we can leave on time for Bethany. Bethany is in the Palestinian territory. So we had to take our passports again. As we left the great city of Jerusalem, we began descending into the rift valley towards Bethany, soon on both sides huge expanse of desert and Sand Mountains, the mere sight of which is sufficient to make you thirsty. We could see Bedouins living in tents and very primitive conditions. Soon we caught sight of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is 80km long and 400 meters, it is considered concentrated salt. What this means is that if you take a cupful of Dead Sea water and put a spoon of salt in and stir, the salt cannot dissolve, because water is already saturated.

 Sodom and Gomorrah is on South end of the Dead Sea. Along the coast of the Dead Sea, we could see Israeli Kibbutz (farming communities) with stretches of green house farms and miles and miles of date palms, a testament to the industrious people who can make even the desert fertile.

Bethany: Church of St. Lazarus

We arrived at the West bank town of al-Eizariya, and drove to the St. Lazarus Catholic Church, built on the home of Maria, Lazarus and Martha. The Lord Jesus Christ came here many times, friends of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Luke 10:38-42 Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

“Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Entering Church of St. Lazarus in Bethany

During Mass at side chapel beside the St. Lazarus Catholic Church: Bethany

After Mass we entered the main Church to view the interior

Tomb of Lazarus

The Tomb of Lazarus

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have … to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died…John 11:21

Climbing a little hill from the St. Lazarus Church is the tomb of Lazarus

And Jesus Wept

Jesus wept where when heard that his friend was dead. Jesus gave life to Lazarus to foreshadow our resurrection. We ask him to give us the love he gave to Lazarus and Mary and Martha

Masada

Fortress of Masada

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.” Matthew 23

Jesus left the Temple, and as he was going away his disciples came up to draw his attention to the Temple buildings. He said to them in reply, ‘You see all these? In truth I tell you, not a single stone here will be left on another: everything will be pulled down.’

Matthew 24:2

This prophesy of Christ was fulfilled in the year 70 AD when the city of Jerusalem was completely destroyed and The Temple burnt by the Romans

As the story goes, in 66 Ad there was a great Jewish revolt against the Roman, resulting in the destruction of the city and the temple in 70 Ad by Roman army

After the destruction of Jerusalem, some surviving Jews (about 900 men, women and children) took shelter in Masada, a fortress built by Herod. There spent two years training and arming to defeat Roman but in 72AD, the Roman army laid siege on Masada, breached the walls and entered and found that the 900 Jewish survivors all committed suicide.

“As Judaism prohibits suicide, Josephus, a Jewish historian, who recorded the incident, reported that the defenders had drawn lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man, who would be the only one to actually take his own life.

 Josephus says that Eleazar ordered his men to destroy everything except the foodstuffs to show that the defenders retained the ability to live, and so had chosen death over slavery.” (Source Wikipedia)

Today, Israel regards Masada as a symbol of courage.

From Bethany, it was a short bus ride to Masada. Below are pictures of us arriving at Masada

The Israelis have built cable cars that take tourist and visitors up the mountain fortress.

We rode a cable car to reach the fortress of Masada

Walking among the ruins of Masada

Qumran

When we left Masada, our next stop was at Qumran

Besides the Dead Sea, Qumran is best known as the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a young shepherd boy who was looking for one of his sheep that got missing. Reaching one of the caves in the hill, while calling his sheep, he threw stones to check if the cave was flooded. Surprised to hear potteries shattering, he investigated and discovered plenty of clay jars, when he opened one, he saw that they contained ancient manuscripts.

He sold of it to antique dealers and after changing hands several times they reached scholars who could accurately evaluate the age and value of the parchments. Further exploration uncovered a total of 972 texts including the oldest known existing copy of the Old Testament. The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabataen. The scrolls are believed to have belonged to the Essenes sect. St. John the Baptist was an Essene

 The Dead Sea Scrolls are 1,200 years B.C. These range from small fragments to a complete scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther and Nehemiah.

Jericho

Our next stop was in the town of Jericho. It is the oldest city in the world.

The children of Israel where praising the lord and the wall of Jericho came tumbling down… Joshua 6:2-5

Joshua, crossing River Jordan, achieved his first victory at Jericho. The children of Israel blew trumpets, and the walls came down.

Jericho is also the town of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a Sycamore Tree in other to see Jesus

Jesus said to him, “Zacchaeus’, come down for I shall stay in your house today. “

Most important is that in Jericho, Jesus was tempted by the devil . a mountain approximately 366 metres (1,201 ft) high, towering from the northwest over the town of Jericho in the West Bank .

Mountain of temptation of Jesus

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”…Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5

Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting, after he was tempted, and the devil came to him and said, if you are the sin of God, order these stones to turn into bread, and Jesus said to him, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God

Standing by the rock on which Jesus was tempted by Satan

Standing by The rock of Temptation( The rock on which Jesus was tempted

River Jordan

Still in Jericho, our next stop was by the river Jordan where John the Baptist Babtized Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am pleased, listen to him.”….Matthew 3:17

It is also at the Mount Nebo in Jordan, that Moses ascended to heaven, and Elijah ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.

 Across the river Jordan is the border between Palestinian and Jordan with armed guards





Brett Kavanaugh’s INNOCENT! why he wept

4 10 2018

Breaking news, FBI just completed its investigations and found Brett Kavanaugh INNOCENT.

Last week, in tears, Brett Kavanaugh defended his innocence and honor and that of his family, against an accusation  so blatantly false, it rankles. Yet for that, liberal ideologues and their cronies, the fake media, steeped in lies and deception, are vilifying him. They say that he is weak and unfit for the Supreme Court.
He should have been able to keep calm, smiling, and cheering, they howl.

But they are wrong; Bretts tears showed that he is human. He isn’t the coldblooded and reptilian eyed judge they want, capable of sentencing millions of innocent unborn children to death, so that adults could have universal access to recreational sex.

Bret Kavanaugh is a kind man who weeps when women and children are violated.
He wept for the innocent men and women whose honor and good name would follow his to the refuse bin, if falsehood triumphs.

He wept for his country, once the pinnacle justice, fair play, freedom and liberty, now at rock bottom and digging.
He wept because justice can no longer be expected even for a judge.

He wept for the people charged with upholding the constitution now blinded by rage and thirst for political power.

Perhaps,  he wept at the shock of realizing how far gone some people are along the path of perfidy, as they try to rationalize an evil and fabricated liean uncorroborated sex assault allegation, rushed in at the very last minutes to derail his nomination hearing by a woman who couldnt get her story straight after 36 yrs.

The Fake news media sometimes admit that he is an upright man, but, they say, other people wont be willing to admit this and argue that he is a gang rapist. Now, how does he prove that he is not a gang rapist?

At other times, they say that he is always claiming that his conduct is clean, noble, and upright, and ask if he minds examining the matter again to see if, on the contrary, it might not be dirty, twisted, and ignoble.”

They are take polls to prove the obvious, yet cannot believe the results of their own polls because they have chosen not to believe.

The world isnt blind to the fact that the assault on Brett is an unscrupulous assault upon a basic natural right of all men to be treated with respect.

A minimum of justice demands that, even when actual wrongdoing is suspected, an investigation of sorts be carried out with caution and moderation, lest mere possibility be converted into certainty. Yet, he has been pronounced guilty till he proves himself innocent. And they proceed to carry out an autopsy of every inch of his private life.

It is clear that an unhealthy curiosity to perform last minute autopsies on a good name built over long years of hard work and selfless sacrifice for his country should be ranked under the heading of perversion.

Faced with traders in suspicion who prey on the intimacy of others, we must defend the dignity of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, because it’s to defend the dignity of every person and his right to peace. All honest men, Christians or not, agree on the need for this defense, for a common value is at stake: the legitimate right to a good name unsullied by false accusations.

Brett Kavanaugh wept because he was forced to declare all the good works he did in private, publicly. But for the rash accusation, he would have wished them remain hidden, and for the eyes of God only.

And yet, for declaring them, and not slinging a ton of mud upon himself instead, his critics immediately assume that, in addition to being a devious villain, he is also hypocritical and arrogant.

Yet the truth is out, thanks to false accusations. Now we know that Judge Brett Kavanaugh, never took advantage of any woman that he was a virgin at college , an indictment of liberal sex addicts prowling arround college campuses, and a good example to the young. Brett saw in every woman, a sister and a mother, worthy of honor and respect.

In defending Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we are defending, no less, the right to do good without publicity, to help the disadvantaged out of pure love, without feeling obliged to publicize ones efforts to serve others, much less to bare the intimacy of ones soul to the indiscreet and twisted gaze of persons who know nothing and want to know nothing of disinterested generosity, except to mock it mercilessly.

But how difficult it is to be free of this meddlesome sleuthing. The means invented by liberals to prevent this good man from being left alone have multiplied

More women are coming up with more incoherent accusations, all of them vague and shifty, puppets of their liberal sponsors.

Lets all close ranks and defend this innocent man, Brett Kavanaugh against those vilifying him, for who knows? You might be next.

Article by Chinwuba Iyizoba
Editor of Authors – choice





The snazzy young man and the old man 

9 10 2017

 A snazzy, young French man traveling by train to Paris, many years ago was sharing a compartment with on old man who looked like a pauper – simple clothes, short hair, and weather-beaten face.

The man noticed the rosary gripped in the old man’s hands, and the devotion and concentration expressed on his face.

The young man thought he would have some fun, so he said to the old man,

“I see that you still believe in that medieval bunk about praying your beads. Do you also believe in all the other myths the priests try to teach us?”

“Yes, indeed,” the old man answered, “don’t you?”

“Me? Do I believe in all that ridiculous superstition? ”

The young man laughed out loud. Then he said,

” I gave that up in college. And if you want to be smart, you should throw those beads out the window and start studying some real, scientific truth.”

The old man answered,

“I don’t understand what you mean. Maybe you could help me.”

The young whippersnapper felt he had been a little harsh, so he answered,

“Well, I could send you some articles, if you like. Do you know how to read?”

“More or less,” the old man answered.

“Good – so where should I send the material?”

The old man fumbled in his coat pocket and then handed over a card.

It bore a simple inscription: Louis [the “s” is silent] Pasteur [pass-TOUR] – Paris Institute for Scientific Research.

Louis Pasteur was the nineteenth-century giant of microbiology who proved the germ-theory of disease and invented the rabies vaccine.

His great intelligence certainly didn’t hinder his spiritual life. He is an indictment to anyone who claims to be too busy to pray. One can combine great achievement with a humble perseverance in prayer





Please join us to stop this evil: SIGN up 

23 09 2017

The workers of iniquity have come up with a new plan: an old Islamic  trick to yoke us into slavery with a bill called the NGO bill. Please watch the video description of this bill and sign the petition to stop it immediately 


Hi,

I signed a petition to House of Representatives: Federal Republic of Nigeria which says:

“HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STOP THE NGO REGULATORY BILL”

Will you sign this petition? Click here:

http://citizengo.org/en/87221-house-representatives-stop-ngo-regulatory-bill?tc=wp&tcid=40039408

Thanks!​





Watch “Rogier van der Weyden, Last Judgment” The Painting that Frightens Atheists

4 03 2017

This Painting so frightened the Atheist Peter Hitchens, that he converted to Christianity 





Helpless woman and the Doctor who Doesn’t believe in God

12 10 2016

Dr. Abraham, a well known cancer specialist, was once on his way to an important conference in another city where he was going to receive an award in the field of medical research.
He was excited about the award and so boarded a plane to the venue. However, two hours after the plane took off, it made an emergency landing at the nearest airport due to a technical problem.
Afraid that he would not make it in time to the conference, he immediately went to the reception to make enquiries. He found out that he would have to wait ten hours for the next flight to his destination! He rented a car and drove himself to the conference city which was four hours away.
Soon after he left, the weather changed and a heavy storm began.

The downpour made it difficult for him to see so he missed a turn he was supposed to take.
Driving in the heavy rain on a deserted road, feeling hungry and tired, he frantically began to look for any sign of civilization. He came across a small tattered house and knocked on the door. A beautiful lady opened the door. He explained his situation and wanted to use the lady’s telephone but she had no telephone. She however asked him to come inside and wait till the weather improved. The doctor who was hungry and exhausted accepted the offer. The lady offered him something to eat and drink.
She asked him to join her in prayers but he declined. According to him, he believed in hard work, not in prayers! Sitting at the table and sipping his tea, the doctor watched the woman pray many times beside a baby’s crib. Feeling that the woman might be in need of help, the doctor asked her what exactly she needed from God and asked if God ever listened to her prayers.
When he inquired of the child in the crib, the woman explained that her son was down with cancer. And they had been advised to see a doctor named Abraham who could cure him but she did not have enough money to afford his fees.

She said that God had not yet answered her prayers but said that God would create some way out one day.  She added that she would not allow her fears to overcome her faith!
Stunned and speechless, Dr. Abraham began to weep! He was forced to say out loud, “GOD IS GREAT” and recollected to the woman, all the sequence of bad events: malfunction on the plane, a thunderstorm and how he lost his way.  All of which had happened because God answers prayers,  wanted to give him a chance to come out of his bondage of materialistic career pursuit and give some time to a poor, helpless woman who had nothing but rich prayers!
Oh! What a God!
God may not answer your prayers YOUR WAY but he will always answer HIS way.
Behind the scenes, he will move men, the weather, events, circumstances, etc. in order to work out the best for you!
Do not stop trusting!

Do not stop hoping!
God is busy planning your dancing this year!
Hold on!

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This touched and still touches me. I hope it touches you too, and if it does, please share.
The amazing ways of our Heavenly Father!





Is The Lord Of The Ring Christian or Atheist by David Lord Alton  

21 12 2015
 

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Politicians often get by on precious little knowledge about the subjects that they have been asked to address. Usually they rely on knowing marginally more than their audience. This lecture is a particularly risky endeavour as I can guarantee that most people here will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Middle Earth and its origins. The younger the audience the riskier it gets.

At Christmas last I had a salutary reminder of the perilous journey on which I am about to embark. As we left the cinema, my twelve-year-old son gave me a blow by blow account of the discrepancies between the text of The Two Towers and Peter Jackson’s magnificent screen adaptation.

The Lord of the Rings, which was first published in 1954, has made Tolkien’s a household name. More than 50 million copies have been sold worldwide. Much to the chagrin of Tolkien’s many critics the public voted it Best Book of the Century in 1997 in a survey carried out by Amazon.com and then again in a survey carried out by Waterstone’s and Channel 4.

As a teenager I had read The Hobbit but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I bought The Lord of the Rings. I was 23 and had just contested my first General Election in an inner city area of Liverpool.

On the back of a three-day-week and a struggle with the trades unions Edward Heath had gone to the country asking the question “Who runs the country?” The uncertain result of an almost balanced Parliament failed to answer the question and it would only be another eight months before another General Election would be staged. It was over those weeks that I read The Lord of the Rings.

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It had been a difficult time for me personally. Elected as a student I had served for two years on Liverpool City Council representing an area where half the homes had no inside sanitation, running hot water, or bathrooms. Half the streets were still lit by gas lighting and the massive slum clearance programme meant that day by day many desperate people came to me with acute social and housing needs.

I had just survived an attempt to expel me from my then political party for bringing to light corrupt attempts by a colleague who was trying to rig housing grant applications. I had also received a letter from the then leader of my party telling me to desist from attacking my Socialist opponent, the sitting member. I had exposed his parliamentary record and his failure, over 30 years, to speak or campaign in the House of Commons about the appalling hardships of his constituents.

I had run up against the Establishment. The MP was a friend of my leader and I was told to lay off or lose financial support and the leader’s endorsement. I had accepted the second option.

The Lord of the Rings was therefore a very welcome distraction from all of this.

Much later I read The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s short stories, my favourite of which is “Leaf by Niggle.”

I also came to Tolkien as someone who as a child, and again as a student wrestling with his faith, had been captivated by C.S.Lewis.

As an eleven-year-old, the lady who ran our public lending library pointed me at The Narnian Chronicles and encouraged me to read them. Later I was devoured The Cosmic Trilogy—and still believe that the third book, That Hideous Strength,—has a powerful and prophetic message for our times. Lewis’ Christian apologetics, especially Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, helped me to deepen and articulate my Christian faith.

Lewis’ friendship with Tolkien and with Owen Barfield and the other Inklings, is the sort of camaraderie out of which creative genius can flow. It also underlines how friendship on the journey of understanding helps us all “to go deeper and to go higher” as Lewis memorably puts it.

As the Inklings gathered at Oxford’s Eagle And Child (the “Bird and Baby”) or in Lewis’s rooms to read aloud their latest writings were they simply embarked on a literary or, in the case of Tolkien a philological endeavour, or was there something else at work here?

I want to divide my talk into four themes:

1. Allegory or more?
2. The Christian Narrative
3. The Political Narrative; and
4. What it means for us now

 

Allegory of More?

According to the Collins English dictionary, allegory is where “the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolise a deeper moral or spiritual meaning”. Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm by George Orwell, or Lewis’ The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe are good examples of both political and religious allegory. Tolkien did not actually much care for The Narnian Chronicles for this very reason.

Tolkien generally spurned allegory as an art form—he even professed to hating it—so it seems unlikely that his works were intentionally and fundamentally allegorical.

Indeed, in his Foreword to The Lord of the Rings instead of allegory he said

“I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that may confuse “applicability” with “allegory”; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”

In his letters he is less emphatic, admitting that,

“…any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language.” (And, of course, the more “life” a story has the more readily will it be susceptible of allegorical interpretations: while the better a deliberate allegory is made the more nearly will it be acceptable just as a story.).”

If we were simply to read The Lord of the Rings as an allegory we would be missing its point. Just as Jesus used parables to take us to a deeper truth, so Tolkien weaves his stories to take us ever deeper. It is like peeling off the snake’s skin as stories are revealed within his stories: each one challenging us, sensitising us, inviting us. And what is it he wants us to discover?

Humphrey Carpenter’s collection of Tolkien’s letters (Allen & Unwin 1981) gives us Tolkien’s own answer:

“Of course, Allegory and Story converge, meeting somewhere in Truth.”

In 1925, G.K. Chesterton had published The Everlasting Man—which was to have a direct effect on C.S.Lewis’s conversion. In a chapter entitled “The Escape from Paganism” Chesterton takes us directly to the Truth:

“Nothing short of the extreme and strong and startling doctrine of the divinity of Christ will give that particular effect that can truly stir the popular sense like a trumpet; the idea of the king Himself serving in the ranks like a common soldier. By making that figure merely human we make that story much less human. We take away the point of the story which actually pierces humanity; the point of the story which was quite literally the point of a spear.”

Chesterton adds that faith:

“…is not a process but a story….The life of man is a story; an adventure story; and in our vision the same is true even of the story of God.

The Catholic faith is…a story and in that sense one of a hundred stories; only it is a true story. It is a philosophy and in that sense one of a hundred philosophies; only it is a philosophy that is like life.”

Tolkien echoes this in his remark (ibid.):

“So the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life; and the only intelligible story is an allegory…. the better and more consistent an allegory is the more easily it can be read ‘just as a story’.”

Of the New Testament he says that “The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essences of fairy stories.” This is different from all the others because it has “entered history” Unlike the other stories “there is no tale ever told that men would rather find true…to reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath” (Lecture at St. Andrew’s University, 1937).

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Perhaps prefiguring the way in which Tolkien will tackle his epic tale, Chesterton observes that “Every story does truly begin with creation and end with a last judgement.” All the elements, from the genesis and “the great music” of The Silmarillion to the awesome climax at Mount Doom, take us from alpha of creation to the omega of judgement. This is a story that exists for itself.

Tolkien tell us that:

The Lord of The Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision”. Elsewhere he states “I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories), and in fact a Roman Catholic” (ibid.). In 1958 he wrote that The Lord of the Rings is “a tale, which is built on or out of certain ‘religious’ ideas, but is not an allegory of them.”

So this is more than allegory, much much more; and what were those “certain ‘religious’ ideas” that inspired Tolkien?

The Christian Narrative

I will turn in a moment to the thematic concepts that Tolkien develops in his work. Before doing so let me register some of the obvious parallels that can be drawn with particular characters and events, while recalling Tolkien’s words that “The Incarnation of God is an infinitely greater thing than anything I would dare to write”.

In the lady Galadriel the reader can be allowed to hear an echo of the Virgin Mary “Our Lady, upon which all my own small perceptions of beauty, both in majesty and simplicity is founded” (letter to Fr. Robert Murray SJ); Galadriel’s grand-daughter, Arwen, also has a Marian role, saving both Frodo’s life and soul as she utters the words “What grace is given me, let it pass to him. Let him be spared.”

Galadriel bestows upon the Fellowship seven mystical gifts, which are surely analogous to the seven sacraments, and as such are real signs of grace, and not mere symbols (and hence this is a specifically Catholic feature of the book).

Gandalf or Aragorn (and even possibly Frodo) may be seen as Christ-like: with Aragorn the king entering his kingdom, the return of whom everyone is expecting; the apparent “resurrection” of Gandalf when he dies on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum after the fight with the Balrog; or Boromir’s surrender of his life for his friends in order to save his companions (made all the more remarkable because of his earlier attempt to seize the ring by force and by his subsequent repentance); or Frodo’s willingness both to serve and to carry his burden. Or, in the provision of lembas, can we not see the Eucharist. Before the Fellowship depart from Lorien they have a final supper where the mystical elvish bread lembas is shared, and they all drink from a common cup. Given Tolkien’s remark that “I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again” some comparison with the Last Supper is inevitable. And it would be strange if Tolkien’s tryst with the saving bread was not somewhere replicated in his great saga.

Beyond these individual instances are far deeper stories with the story.

The nature of good and evil

Perhaps the most obvious of these is the struggle between good and evil. This never-ending struggle is clearly defined by Tolkien’s faith. In 1956 in a letter to Amy Ronald he wrote:

“I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect “history” to be anything but a long defeat—though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.”

As the ring bearer struggles towards his destiny many die before the evil forces of Sauron are at last subdued; and even then Saruman remains at large in the Shire.

Frodo’s self-sacrifice and willingness to take on seemingly impossible odds reflects a central tenet of Christian belief. The constant presence of Sauron that is felt throughout the book also reminds us of the constant threat of evil in our own lives. Frodo and Gandalf both understand that if they use the ring to overcome the Dark Lord then they too will become enslaved by evil. For the Christian the use of evil to overcome evil is a frequent temptation.

The general weakness of humanity (which can be taken to cover not only mankind, but all creatures in The Lord of the Rings) reminds us that humanity is fundamentally good, but that those who fall turn to evil. All that is evil was once good—Elrond says, “Nothing was evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.” We can see the concept of the fallen human in the orcs—which were themselves once men and elves—as well as the concept of temptation, which causes someone to fall.

In The Hobbit the travellers are warned as they enter Mirkwood, don’t drink the water and don’t stray from the path. How like all of us, the descendants of Adam, who when urged not to eat at the forbidden tree or not to stray from Him who is the Way we so often follow our own path.

The temptation of the Serpent is reflected in Boromir’s temptation by the Ring, as well as in Gollum’s. In Gollum we also see the idea of a conscience—he fights with himself, and with his conscience while he is being tempted. The theologian Colin Gunton was of the opinion that the way in which the Ring tempts people to use its power is analogous to Jesus’ temptation by the devil.

Other aspects of evil are also recur in the book. The destructive nature of evil is there in the Scouring of the Shire, and in the way in which Saruman’s troops destroy the trees and the timeless quality of Shire life, something especially abhorrent to Tolkien. The orcs themselves are cannibals, and are hideous – showing how evil corrupts. The dark and barren lands of Mordor are the very face of evil.

Connected with this is the self-destructive nature of evil.

After Gollum falls to the power of the Ring, he is consumed by its power, and he becomes weakened to such an extent that he can no longer resist it. Even getting close to evil has a subverting effect: take Bilbo’s reluctance to give up the Ring, and its disappearance from the mantle piece and reappearance in his pocket. Or, despite his epic and heroic journey into darkness, Frodo ultimately fails to throw the ring into the furnace. Here is the powerful mixture of the intoxicating allure of the forbidden with our human weakness and frailty.

In this part of the narrative we are also reminded of the Christian virtue of mercy. Sam would have gladly disposed of Gollum whom he sees as a threat to Frodo. Gandalf commends Frodo for showing mercy and invokes the belief in providence, that even Gollum may one day have his moment. As the ring is committed to the depths that providence comes to pass.

Tolkien’s narrative also dwells on unlikely victories over seemingly intractable and daunting odds such as at Helm’s Deep. Even when evil appears to be triumphing – such as when Saruman gloats over what he considers to be the foolhardiness of Aragorn’s troops as they march towards Mordor, he is defeated by them.

Evil also brings with it desolation and barrenness.

Contrast the destruction of Isengard, and the brutality of the orcs, with the simple homely life of the Shire—so resonant of Chesterton’s Merrie England. Contrast the creativity of Iluvatar, the One, and his first creations, the Ainur, the Holy Ones, with Melkor, “the greatest of the Ainur” who, like Lucifer, falls as he succumbs to the sin of pride and seeks to subvert both men and elves (The Silmarillion).

Tolkien presents another side to evil too—the fact that inherent in evil is the desire to dominate, rule and have power over others.

There are other images in the book, which, while not being specifically Christian, are certainly images of good, or of bad. One fundamental image that Tolkien repeatedly uses is that of dark and light. Compare and contrast, for example, The Shire and Mordor (“where the shadows lie”)—The Shire which contains so much of the England Tolkien loved, and Mordor, the dark and sinister land where Sauron and Mount Doom are to be found, and which contains so much of the England that Tolkien hated. Compare also the man-eating trolls and orcs with the elves—the disfigured (fallen) creatures and the beautiful and immortal elves, who eat the lembas, the mystical bread—the bread of angels which nourishes and heals. Lembas “had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone, and did not mingle it with other goods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure.” This allusion reminds us of the manna that fed the people of Israel and of saints such as Theresa Neumann who survived by eating nothing other than the holy Eucharist.

Even in his use of names Tolkien’s sign posts take us to places and people that seem good or badGaladriel, Aragorn, Frodo and Arwen are beautiful-sounding names, whereas Wormtongue, the Balrog, Mordor and Mount Doom are unlikely to be forces for good.

Tolkien is too good a storyteller to reveal the end of the story too soon. Just like John Bunyan’s Christian the pilgrim must steer his way through good and evil and although learning as he travels that evil is powerful, that it is not all-powerful, and it cannot but fail in the end.

Death and Immortality

There are of course many other ways in which the Christian message is voiced inThe Lord of the Rings; another is in the depiction of mortality and immortality.

In 1958, in a letter to Rhona Beare, Tolkien wrote:

“I might say that if the tale is ‘about’ anything it is not as seems widely supposed about ‘power.’ …It is mainly concerned with Death and Immortality.”

One of the great temptations of today—represented in the battles over euthanasia, genetics and the immortality craved for through genetics and cloning—is the powerful temptation (shared by some of the men and elves of Tolkien’s realm) to artificially manipulate our allotted span of life and to usurp the role of the Creator. The Ring Rhyme that opens each volume of The Lord of the Rings reminds us of the order of Creation and that we cannot cheat our maker:

“Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die…”

The Benedictine monk who told his audience that the purpose of Catholic schools was to prepare its charges to meet death was not overstating the obvious. Each of us is “doomed to die”. Because our relationship with the Creator has been fractured, this becomes for many an event to fear rather than the Christian moment of reconciliation. The Silmarillion puts it like this:

“Death is their fate, the gift of Iluvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought evil out of good and fear out of hope.”

The purpose of the quest is to ensure the triumph of good over evil and hope over fear.

It would be too simple to say that in The Lord of the Rings men are mortal and that elves are immortal—since elves can either die in action or of grief, and they “pass to the West”, to a sort of Utopia across the seas, so perhaps it is not quite true to say that they are immortal (in any event it seems to be a bone of contention among Tolkien fans so I am doubtless straying into dangerous waters).

Tolkien’s decision not to invent an eternal destiny for the elves or orcs or dwarves helps him avoid creating a new theology. Men do have a destiny beyond the grave (and there is no reason to suspect that this is not a similar destiny to that which Christians believe comes after death). Tolkien does not put the elves on a par with God. Here, surely, are the angelic hosts, the cherubim and seraphim, who make up the heavenly order and whose history sometimes meets our own. Lothlorien is their domain: and here “no blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen…On the land of Lorien there was no stain.”

Mortality is not shown as being undesirable in comparison with immortality—whereas mortal men are “doomed to die”, elves are “doomed not to die”, not, at any rate, until the earth itself ends. In the Silmarillion, we are told that each passing year is more sorrowful for the elves, and that men, being themselves mortal, have the “gift of freedom”, which is itself a gift of God.

The men of Numenor illustrate an interesting aspect of the divide between mortality and immortality. They begin to become jealous of the elves and their immortality, but they are told that their mortality was divinely ordained, and that they should accept what they have been given. They do not heed this warning, and try to achieve immortality, but all they can succeed in doing in preserving the flesh of those who have died, and they become more and more fearful of death, and build tombs where “the thought of death was enshrined in the darkness”. And while they were still alive, they turned to decadent ways, “desiring ever more goods and riches”—a cautionary tale if ever there was one. Here are the living dead who have eaten the forbidden fruit. Think also of Gollum whose endless and pathetic wanderings through countless ages are at last ended in his death.

Surely, as Joseph Pearce says in his book “Tolkien, Man and Myth”, the author was encouraging us in the Christian belief that death “is not the extinction of life, but the fullness of life”; and none of us can ultimately cheat it. The story seems to me to be about escape from death through death, and this is the heart of the Christian narrative.

I was recently in Hanoi.

In a large mausoleum in the centre of the city they keep the mummified remains of the communist leader Ho Chi Minh. His embalmed body attracts many secular pilgrims. It reminded me of the glass coffin in Red Square which houses the earthly remains of the equally dead Lenin. These coffins are a parody of Christianity.

The whole point of Christianity is that the tomb is empty, there is no body within. The secular religion of Marxism—and, indeed, all the stories contained in the other competing ideologies—offers no hope beyond the grave. Tolkien’s hope was in the resurrection of every man and woman.

Resurrection, Salvation, Repentance, Self-Sacrifice, Free Will and Humility.

Resurrection is one of the underlying currents in The Lord of the Rings—Gandalf dies and then comes back again even stronger as Gandalf the White.

Another of the currents is the idea of salvation. The very future of Middle Earth is at stake, and the Fellowship wins salvation for Middle Earth, although not without cost, including self-sacrifice. How potent are the words of Jesus as we think of Boromir or Gandalf that “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends”.

Repentance should also be considered here; it is clear that the Christian notion of repentance does exist in Middle Earth. Boromir is rewarded for his repentance by dying a hero’s death by an orc’s arrow, and being given a hero’s funeral. All of the fallen characters are given a chance to repent, although most of them, unlike Boromir, do not—such as Wormtongue, Gollum and Saruman.

Tolkien shows the sin of pride very clearly; indeed it is the Ring itself, which portrays the sin of pride. As Pearce says in an interview, “The possessor of the Ring is possessed by his possession and, in consequence, is dispossessed of his soul”. Gollum is clearly proud of the ring, and is obsessed with it, and as such is debased and corrupted. Pearce also says that Frodo’s fight to resist the powers of the Ring “is akin to the Carrying of the Cross, the supreme act of selflessness”.

Providence and free will are also main tenets of Christianity. Catholic teaching on free will has always rejected pre-deterministic Calvinism, where no one has any influence over their destiny. The free men of the Middle Earth and the hobbits of the Shire are greatly in evidence in The Lord of the Rings.

Each of us has a destiny and we are free to embrace it or to reject it.

Cardinal John Henry Newman put it well when he said that there is some unique task assigned to each of us that has not been assigned to any other. Elrond tells Frodo that it is his destiny to be a ring bearer; but this is no pleasurable occupation. Throughout the quest Frodo’s strength in increasingly sapped by the burden he carries and which he seeks to be rid of. His stumbling approach to Mordor, under the Eye of Sauron, are like the faltering steps of Christ weighed down by his Cross as he repeatedly falls on the path to Golgotha; and like Christ Frodo is tempted by despair.

Indeed, Frodo does succumb. His free will, hitherto so strong in resisting the powers of the Ring, gives way to the power of the Ring, and he cannot bring himself to throw it down into the fires of Mount Doom. Despite all his inner strength Frodo gradually succumbs to a dark fascination with the ring and he loses his free spirit and free will the closer he comes in proximity to Mount Doom – a point made by Stratford Caldecott in his essay Over the Chasm of Fire: Christian Heroism in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

Enter, stage left, Samwise Gamgee.

Sam is central to a religious understanding of The Lord of the Rings. Sam is Frodo’s loyal and humble companion. Sam is like Barnabas, the encourager, who quietly encouraged Paul in his epic journeys.

Tolkien said that he had modelled Sam on the private soldiers he encountered when he served as a second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme in 1916: “My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 War, and recognised as so far superior to myself.”

Sam’s humility turns him into the greatest hero in the book. Although he is only Frodo’s gardener, it is he who saves Frodo and ultimately the Shire. Of course, Mary Magdalene in her first resurrection encounter with the Lord mistakes Him, too, thinking that he also is only a gardener. So often we miss what is important about the people we meet, what matters most.

Like Simon of Cyrene, Sam shares the Master’s burden. He realises Christ’s promise that those who take up the burden and follow Him will find the burden lightened. Sam’s burden is lightened as he is transfigured.

Stratford Caldecott quotes Tolkien as saying that the plot is concerned with ‘the ennoblement (or sanctification) of the humble’—and the meek Sam certainly inherits the earth. It is, at bottom, a Christian myth, in which ‘the first will be last and the last will be first’. Sam is a ‘humble man’, close to the earth, without pretension. For him to leave the Shire, out of love for his Master, involves a great sacrifice. It is fidelity to that sacrifice, and to his relationship with Frodo, that remains that guiding star throughout.

The plans of the Wise and the fate of Middle Earth, however, are never Sam’s concern. He only knows he has to play his part in helping Frodo, however hopeless the task may seem. At a crucial moment in Mordor he must carry the Ringbearer, and even the Ring itself. He moves from immature innocence to mature innocence: and finally, in his own world (that is, in Tolkien’s inner world of the Shire), this ‘gardener’ becomes a ‘king’ or at least a Mayor. The fact is that Frodo could not have fulfilled his task without the continuing presence of Sam, and he relies utterly on him; yet Sam remains humble always and faithful to his master.

There is also something here of a Catholic love of order, of tradition and a longing for restoration of that which has been lost. There are glimpses in the shire folk of the Catholic recusants—bravely clinging on to their persecuted faith and longing for its restoration.

During the 16 years he was compiling his trilogy Tolkien stayed regularly at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire—the heart of “the sacred county” and home of the recusant Shireburn family. He worked in one of the guesthouses and in one of the classrooms, writing and drawing. One of his sons, Michael, taught classics at the Jesuit school and another, John trained there to become a Catholic priest. Although Tolkien draws on many influences—not least those of his childhood Worcestershire and the Midlands—a walk along Shire Lane and a detour to Woodlands where Michael planted a copse in his father’s memory, are well repaid. Look to the distance where Pendle Hill, associated with the occult and witch trials, dominates the landscape. At Mass in St. Peter’s Church Tolkien would have encountered the descendants of the never wavering recusants who still toil the land and live with simplicity and humility.

Justice, the Suffering Servant, Fellowship, Authority and Healing

It is apparent that the Christian idea of justice is at the heart of Tolkien’s book, and that everyone gets what they deserve in the end. For instance, Saruman starts off as Saruman the White, but following his fall, ends up as Saruman of Many Colours. The order of “rank” in the wizard hierarchy holds white as the highest, followed by grey and then brown. Conversely, after his fight with the Balrog, Gandalf, initially Gandalf the Grey, becomes Gandalf the White. Justice is done.

Another compelling image is that of the Suffering Servant, who bears much and gives himself so that others may live. Frodo clearly is representative of this, and he does pay for this with his life in the end. Frodo has a metaphorical cross to bear, and yet he does it willingly and humbly. Although he is only one small hobbit, he nevertheless overthrows the powerful and mighty Saruman, with his amassed forces—which chimes in with the Christian idea of the large and powerful being overcome by the seemingly small and insignificant and weak. There are echoes here of The Magnificat, but it also resonates with the teachings of St.Francis—the humble, little man of Assisi, with the life of the little flower, St.Therese of Lisieux, who taught that to become greater we must become smaller—and with the works of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Fellowship itself is also part of Catholic culture. The Fellowship and their allies hold together as responsible individuals banding together in free communities. Contrast this with the homogenous orcs and uruk-hai, which are almost ant-like in their lack of individuality and in their collective nature, so much so that they appear not to differ from each other even by sex or age.

In the Shire and other lands where the “good” live, there is a social hierarchy, and, some might argue, even a sort of papacy in the wizard Gandalf—after all, he acts as leader to the free and faithful people, and he even crowns kings, as did popes of old. Tolkien himself said of the papacy: “I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims…for me the Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. “Feed my sheep” was his last charge to St.Peter.”

Like Gandalf, Aragorn also points us towards Christian ministry.

Aragorn has Christ-like qualities; he has a kingdom to come into, a bride to wed. One image that is very powerful is that of the “Hands of the Healer”—in the Houses of Healing, Aragorn, the King, has the ability to heal people by touching them with his hands. Another King had the touch that healed Jairus daughter, the centurion’s servant, the lepers, the blind man and the sick who were lowered through the roof at Capaernum. Every Christian’s journey towards perfection is a struggle to become ever more Christ like.

As we endeavour to read Tolkien’s runes and riddles we stumble across other clues to the deeper meaning of the story.

For instance, the day on which the Ring is finally destroyed in Mount Doom happens to be 25th March. Tom Shippey, in his book The Road to Middle Earth, says that in “Anglo-Saxon belief, and in European popular tradition both before and after that, March 25th is the date of the Crucifixion”, and it is also the date of the Annunciation. Days to recall beginnings and endings.

Arguments against The Lord of the Rings representing Christianity

A non-Christian reading of The Lord of the Rings often points to the rather violent and occasionally gory nature of the story, with the numerous battle scenes. The vivid and gratuitously bloodthirsty orc-slaying by Legolas and Gimli might offend a pacifist but as part of a just war against the invasion and devastation of Middle Earth by the evil forces of Sauron they provoke us to ask legitimate questions about the licit use of force; and, indeed, the nature of warfare. These are highly relevant questions in the days of precision attacks by cruise missiles, aerial bombardment of cities, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Tolkien never leaves us in any doubt that the elves, men and especially hobbits are not by their nature warlike creatures—the idyllic surroundings of Hobbiton and the Shire are not the breeding grounds of warriors (which contrasts so markedly with the hellish orc pit where Saruman creates his troops). It is Sauron who initiates the violence and what follows is self-defence against tyranny.

Another objection is raised against interpreting the text as a Christian narrative because of the existence and use of magic.

If magic were used to harness and use the supernatural in the natural world, and uses malevolent forces, it would certainly fail to meet the test of Christian orthodoxy. Only the forces of evil use black magic in a bad or harmful way. By contrast, Gandalf’s power comes from the One who sent him to Middle Earth

There have also been complaints that The Lord of the Rings is really a masculine work— some have even gone as far as to say that it is sexist or racist: with the BNP declaring The Lord of the Rings essential reading. The accusation of sexism seems to me to be a surfeit of political correctness, hankering for androgyny.

The role of women such as Galadriel, Eowyn and Arwen are by no means irrelevant. Look at the character of Luthien in The Silmarillion—the daughter of the Elf King, who follows her lover Beren on his dangerous voyage, and, indeed, rescues him using her elvish powers—hardly the passive woman. Indeed, the role of women proves to be crucial.

In any event, Tolkien was, among other things, celebrating the deep kindred of male fellowship. Cardinal Basil Hume once said, “we need to reclaim the idea of friendship—friendship for its own sake.” The Lord of the Rings does that. The breaking of the fellowship perhaps also recalls the saddening consequences of the fracturing of friendship and community. St. Thomas More mourned the consequences of the Reformation, not because he was opposed to renewal and reform (quite the reverse) but because it broke “the unity of life”. Tolkien’s writing celebrates this unity and reflects on the weakened condition of Middle Earth when the old alliances and unity are broken.

Even if the modern curse of sexism could be proven it could hardly be seen as being evidence that The Lord of the Rings is not a Christian work. As for racism, Tolkien does indeed celebrate the “northern” heritage, but the bad news for the BNP is that Tolkien detested Hitler and his Nazism and the Aryanism he promulgated. As the fantasy writer Ursula LeGuin aptly remarked: “No ideologues are going to be happy with Tolkien unless they manage it by misreading him.”

Once again, it is Tolkien himself who tells us what he was trying to achieve:

“I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like “religion”, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism”.

Joseph Pearce, whose own conversion to Catholicism came when he read G.K.Chesterton while he was in a prison cell serving a sentence for inciting racial hatred, views he subsequently renounced, believes that Tolkien’s sub-creation was a religious world:

“In the eternal sense with which Tolkien is principally concerned it is a Christian world created by the Christian God who has not, as yet, revealed himself in the Incarnation and Resurrection.”

The Political Narrative in The Lord of the Rings and Some Lessons For Today

I want to also say a word about the political narrative that is also concealed in this story.

Although Tolkien denied that Mordor was directly analogous with the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany we can once again take him at his word—the word applicability rather than allegory—and consider the world in which he was writing and, indeed the world in which we live now.

How could we do other than apply the narrative to the sombre and chilling surroundings of Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen, to the gulags and concentration camps, to the war machines that had pummelled European civilisation into the ground? Tolkien hated tyranny and he looked to the Free Peoples of the West—men, dwarves, hobbits and elves—to confront it.

The evil brews of Mengele’s false science and today’s eugenics, genetic manipulation, human cloning and the rest are all worthy of Sauron. But the narrative is more penetrating than this. It is also an account of lost innocence and a cry against rapacious modernity and materialism. It reflects the sensitive understanding of a man who knew that although there were moments when nations had to defend their liberties, war itself could be cruel, brutalising and corrupting.

Even as victory is being celebrated the realisation dawns that life will never be the same again in the Shire. Sauron has been conquered but Saruman remains. Isn’t Tolkien reminding us that victories are short lived and that in every generation new Vikings will be at the gate?

After the Scouring of the Shire by Saruman’s forces, the Shire undergoes a startling transformation. Gone are the cosy hobbit-holes, and the pubs and parties, as well as the freedom that the hobbits enjoyed. In its place are the grim, faceless, concrete blocks so beloved of the centralised State. Stark buildings are erected, pubs are taken away, and “rules” appear which the hobbits have to abide by.

Politically Tolkien was of a piece with Chesterton. The latter had been an old fashioned Gladstonian Liberal who had become disenchanted with its Edwardian heirs, particularly as they slipped into a creed of social eugenics. Attacks on Catholic schools, the corruption of government, brought to a head by the Marconi scandal, and the lack of radicalism in combating state socialism by encouraging a fair and just spread in the ownership of property, all contributed to Chesterton’s refashioning of his political outlook. Influenced also by ground-breaking Catholic encyclicals, such as Rerun Novarum and Quadragesimo anno—with their calls for Catholic political action, social justice, and for workers to be given a share in the rewards of their endeavours—Chesterton’s Distributism was a creed that was immensely attractive to Tolkien.

He would also have been familiar with the writings of Jacques Maritain, the French Catholic philosopher, whose political interpretation of Natural Law was so influential in the 1930s. Maritain, the proponent of personalism said that the challenge for post-war Europe would be to create “a truly human life.” If barbarism were to be avoided, society had to recognise the centrality of the human person, not the old forms of ‘anarchic individualism’ or the collectivism of Fascism or Communism. Maritain wrote that it should be “the age of the people, and of the man of common humanity—citizen and co-inheritor of the civilised community—cognisant of the dignity of the human person in himself—builder of a more human world directed towards an historic ideal of human brotherhood”. He wrote that “man must be recognised as a person, “as a unity of spiritual nature…made for a spiritual end.” In Christianity And Democracy he asserted that the pagan empire was seeking “to liquidate Christianity and democracy at the same stroke…freedom’s chances coincide with those of the evangelical message…The Christian spirit is threatened today in its very existence by implacable enemies, fanatics of race and blood, of pride, domination and hate”. Is this not also the message of The Lord of the Rings?

In many respects Tolkien was also the first Green and would doubtless have been a member of today’s Countryside Alliance. He had an especial hatred of the deformation of our natural environment and the assault on our ecology. His love of the trees, and the wondrous creation of the endangered Ent, is a clarion call against the decimation of our countryside. The bulldozers and chainsaws hack down the forests and woodlands, the aircraft spray their defoliants, the factory ships ruthlessly deplete fish stocks, and the prospectors extract minerals while destroying flora, fauna and anything else that stands in the way of the bottom line. We have the effrontery to call this progress. Imagine a forest where half the trees are dead or dying; or lakes that as so badly polluted that fish can no longer survive; or great buildings that have all survived pillage, sackings and war, but are now crumbling away from the effects of air pollution. Imagine all this and worse. It is not Tolkien’s grisly world of fantasy but the reality of modern Europe.

Imagine a country that allows a baby with a disability to be killed as it is being born; where 600 unborn are clinically eliminated daily or a million human embryos have been destroyed or experimented upon; or where human embryos may be created so that they can be plundered, disembowelled, discarded and destroyed, and you have an accurate picture of contemporary Britain—which defeated Sauron but failed to see the Saruman in its midst. Who needs Orcs in this culture of death?

Schumacher, another of the heirs of these political ideas, the author of Small Is Beautiful, and a convert to Catholicism, would have recognised in the Shire the elements of a society where the personal, the community, the small scale and the sustainable stand in defiance of globalisation. Small is certainly beautiful in the realm of the hobbits. He would certainly have approved of the municipalism of Sam Gangee who becomes the directly elected mayor of the Shire and turfs out those who have wreaked such havoc. Subsidiarity—a word familiar to the readers of Catholic social encyclicals, the principles of “the common good” and the Disraelian belief that “centralisation is the death blow of democracy” all form the basis for good governance in the restored Shire.

Long gone are our once lampooned but secretly rather respected knights of the shires MPs—men who had often returned from the battlefields of two wars with an idealistic and patriotic determination to defend the rule of law and to uphold our liberties and cherished freedoms. In their place is a new breed of compliant politicians, drowning in the detritus of spin, and creating a remote elite detached from both the shires and the urban areas. Political Correctness rather than Political Courage are its hallmarks.

Cynicism with our institutions and with our political leaders is creating the circumstances in which many new forms of evil can enter in. The nihilism that simply sets out to destroy and deride is taking its toll. Thoreau once said, in a phrase that the Ents would have approved of, “if you cut down all the trees there will be nowhere left for the birds to sing.” If we go on cutting down our institutions—parliament, the church, the royal family, the judiciary, and public figures—we will be left with a barren landscape with nowhere left for the birds to sing.

Tolkien’s writing is both religious and political. Beneath the fantasy is a manifesto for radical change and an attack on the modern world. He knows that only the coming of the Kingdom will bring true victory, and that “history is one long defeat”—but with glimpses of the final victory which we can help achieve by our own actions. The Lord of the Rings is a call to engagement, a call to action. Life in a private hobbit hole may be a very happy private existence but even that can be threatened by events outside our private world. It is then that Gandalf comes to summons us into engagement, both spiritually and politically.

Conclusion

The Lord of the Rings then is a story with many stories concealed within it. Tolkien’s subtlety is that he lays a trail of clues for his readers. It is up to us whether we choose to “go higher and to go deeper.” Beloved by the travellers of the New Age and grandees of Celtic revivalism, by the churched and unchurched, and by the most extraordinary cross-section of society, The Lord of The Rings has the power to be evangelical if only the reader scratches beneath the surface. When fantasy becomes Christian fact the reader is faced with the same stark choices as Frodo and Gandalf: to collaborate, to conform, or to contradict.

The final clue in this epic journey is the word Tolkien invented to describe what he saw as a good quality in a fairy-storyand that word was eucatastrophe, being the notion that there is a “sudden joyous ‘turn’” in the story, where everything is going well, “giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy”, whilst not denying the “existence of dyscatastropheof sorrow and failure”. It also reminds us that catastrophe can be reversed. Hatred and fear need not win; violence need not have its day; destruction doesn’t have to triumph. Eucatastrophe is the hosanna for the Prince of Peace, the King of Joy, the Lord of Life—who enters the stable on the back of a donkey and departs for his Kingdom on the back of another.

Tolkien thought that a story containing eucatastrophe was a story at its highest function and the Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of human history.

ENDS


Copyright, David Alton

David Alton is an Independent Crossbench member of the House of Lords. He is Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and a trustee of the Catholic Central Library.





Paris Attack: Welcoming Refugees Is A Test Our Values

16 11 2015

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Syrian Boy Recounts ISIS Torture

I was kept there for ten days. For the first two days, we were forced to stand upright. I was blindfolded and my hands were tied with plastic cord. I still have the scars.

I was terrified. More than 100 of us were kept in a room in the school.  After two days I was taken out of the room to be interrogated. I hadn’t eaten anything or drunk any water, and I was extremely weak. They hung me up from the ceiling by my wrists, with my feet off the ground, and then I was beaten. They wanted us to speak, to confess to something.

Most people only last an hour before they pass out. If you were hung up like that for more than two hours, you’d die. I passed out. I passed out from the severe pain of hanging like that, and from the beating. They took me down and threw cold water on my face to wake me up. Then they took turns stubbing out their cigarettes on me. Here, I have these scars….12-year Old Syrian Boy recounts his suffering in the hands of ISIS

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While the West and Russia trades accusations, and play political chess games in Syria, ISIS and other armed jihadist spread terror filling social media with videos of beheadings.  Recent Russian bombing, especially around the northern city of Aleppo, has enabled ISIS to advance into villages previously held by the more moderate groups. Ordinary Syrians are fleeing their homeland, hundreds of thousands are crossing perilous seas in dingy boats to Europe, to a grudging welcome by few Europeans countries who have not yet put up the barbed wires.

ref3With recent ISIS shooting in Paris, even the “grudging welcome” may soon turn to “barb- wired rejection.”   Reactionary mainstream media are already whipping up sentiments; “Today’s refugee is tomorrow’s terrorist “scoffed a CNN anchor yesterday. Politicians are also chipping in,” Stop the insanity of welcoming refugee,” screamed former republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney

Times of trial test our deepest values. As winter draws closer, if the West shuts her doors in the face of tired, cold and hungry women and children fleeing terror; then they would be much worse than the ISIS they fear.  For ISIS kill in cold blood by the “hundreds”, they would be killing by the “tens of hundreds” in truly cold blood.

400

–Chinwuba Iyizoba





Tears In Paris: What Religion Has To Do With It

14 11 2015

epa05023917 French police officers take cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant 'Le Petit Cambodge' earlier tonight in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. At least 60 people have been killed in a series of attacks in the French capital Paris, with a hostage-taking also reported at a concert hall. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

Once again the world is reeling. Gunmen and bombers attacked restaurants, a concert hall and a sports stadium at locations across Paris on Friday, killing at least 129 people. Terrorists raked several cafe terraces with machine-gun fire before entering a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall. Toon, a 22 year-old messenger who lives near the Bataclan, was going into the concert hall with two friends at around 10.30 p.m. when he saw three young men dressed in black and armed with machine guns. He stayed outside. Inside the hall, eye witness said that one of the gunmen began firing into the crowd. “People were falling like dominoes

Some 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, the official said, including an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium, where president of France, Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a friendly soccer international.

The match continued until the end, but panic broke out in the crowd as rumors of the attack spread, and spectators were held in the stadium and assembled spontaneously on the pitch.

Police helicopters circled the stadium as Hollande was rushed back to the interior ministry to deal with the situation.

In central Paris, shooting erupted in mid-evening outside a Cambodian restaurant in the capital’s 10th district.

A French supporter reacts after invading the pitch of the Stade de France stadium at the end of the international friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Hundreds of people spilled onto the field of the Stade de France stadium after explosions were heard nearby. French President Francois Hollande says he is closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency after several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Eighteen people were killed when a gunman opened fire on Friday night diners sitting at outdoor terraces in the popular Charonne area nearby in the 11th district.

The prosecutor mentioned five locations in close proximity where shootings took place around the same time.
What did the French do to attract the evil eye? Well, France is a member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. the Islamic State militant group, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, said in Twitter messages that the group carried them out.

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“The State of the caliphate hit the house of the cross,” one tweet said.

In January, satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, was also targeted in France in another deadly attack by Islamist gunmen.

Ever since the world trade center bombing of september 11, 2001, atheists have been pointing accusing fingers on all religion as the chief cause of terrorism. This is foolish because all religions are not the same. Christians rarely blow things up, and hinduism don’t either. Those who do in islam, according to some people are not even true muslims. Thus “false” not ” real”  religion is the cause of terrorism. Simply put, the islamic state is the father of  all that is false in religion and is responsible for terrorisms across the globe. It is time the world unite and do away with them.





Infinite Monkey Theory disproved. Real Monkeys Can’t Type!

16 09 2015

Real monkey

Richard Dawkin’s Monkey at work

The Infinite Monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Evolutionary biologist, and the world most famous Atheist, Richard Dawkins employs the typing monkey concept in his book The Blind Watchmaker to demonstrate the ability of natural selection to produce biological complexity out of random mutations. ( His intention was to prove that  the Universe is a product of chance rather than God)

In 2003, lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth MediaLab Arts course used a £2,000 grant from the Arts Council to study the literary output of real monkeys. They left a computer keyboard in the enclosure of six Celebes Crested Macaques in Paignton Zoo in Devon in England for a month, with a radio link to broadcast the results on a website.

Not only did the monkeys produce nothing but five total pages largely consisting of the letter S, the lead male began by bashing the keyboard with a stone, and the monkeys continued by urinating and defecating on it.

Mike Phillips, director of the university’s Institute of Digital Arts and Technology (i-DAT), said that the artist-funded project was primarily performance art, and they had learned “an awful lot” from it. He concluded that monkeys “are not random generators. They’re more complex than that. … They were quite interested in the screen. Source Wikipidia





Is It Right to Do Evil to Achieve Good? The Story of Hiroshima by JOHN HERSEY

9 08 2015

This is a story that everyone must read. The story of Hiroshima bomb by John Hersey. That story is built round the experiences of six people who were in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped, each of whom, by some strange chance, escaped, not unscathed, but at least with life. One, a Roman Catholic missionary priest, was a German; the other five were Japanese: a Red Cross hospital doctor, another doctor with a private practice, an office girl, a Protestant clergyman, and a tailor’s widow. For some time after the bomb had fallen, none of them knew exactly what had happened: they hardly realised that their old familiar life had ended, that they had been chosen by chance, or destiny, or—as two of them at any rate would have put it—by God, to be helpless small-part actors in an unparalleled tragedy. Bit by bit came the awakening to the magnitude of the calamity that had removed, in a flash, nearly all their accustomed world. Hersey’s vivid yet matter-of-fact story tells what the bomb did to each of these six people, through the hours and the days that followed its impact on their lives. It is written soberly, with no attempt whatever to “pile on the agony”—the presentation at times is almost cold in its economy of words. To six ordinary men and women, at the time and afterwards, it seemed —like this.

http://www.amazon.com/Hiroshima-John-Hersey/dp/0679721037








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