Landscape of the Soul

  • Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life

Based on the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Joachim Patinir

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is a subject in Christian art showing Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resting during their flight into Egypt. The Holy Family is normally shown in a landscape.

The subject did not develop until the second half of the fourteenth century, though it was an “obvious step” from depictions of the “legend of the palm tree” where they pause to eat dates and rest; palm trees are often included.[2] It was a further elaboration of the long-standing traditions of incidents that embellished the story of the Flight into Egypt, which the New Testament merely says happened, without giving any details.

The earliest known Rest is a panel in the large compartmented Grabow Altarpiece by the north German painter Meister Bertram, from about 1379,[4] and the subject was mainly found north of the Alps until 1500 or later. Most depictions are made for wealthy homes rather than churches, and the subject only rarely forms part of cycles of the Life of Christ in churches (though the Grabow Altarpiece is one exception). As landscape painting increased in popularity, it became an alternative to the original scene of the family on the road, and by the late sixteenth century perhaps overtook it in popularity.[5]

The figures are often simply resting, but sometimes more definite camping or picnicking is shown, perhaps assisted by angels. In earlier pieces the Virgin is sometimes breastfeeding, connecting to the long-standing iconography of the Virgo Lactans.[6] Joseph may be active, gathering firewood or fetching water, but in later pieces he is sometimes fast asleep, which the Virgin rarely is. In larger landscapes, other legendary incidents from the Flight may be seen in the distance.

The single New Testament account, in Matthew 2:14, merely says (of Joseph): “When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt”.[8] This account was embellished in various early New Testament apocrypha, which added various legendary incidents. Late medieval accounts continued to add detail, in particular the Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony, completed about 1374, just a few years before the time that the first artistic depiction of the Rest is found. This includes a description of Mary breastfeeding, which is found in Meister Bertram’s Grabow Altarpiece, the first known painting.[9] Ludolph also mentions the journey passing “through dark and uninhabited forests, and by very long routes past rough and deserted places to Egypt”,[10] setting the tone for the great majority of the landscape settings throughout the history of the depiction, though the trees usually clear sufficiently to allow a distant view.[11]

Hans Memling triptych, 1475–1480, Louvre

While the miraculous legends like the miracles of the palm tree, corn, and pagan statue all fell under the disapproval of the Church in the Counter-Reformation, and generally disappear from art, that the Holy Family must have broken their journey for rests was undeniable, so that the subject’s legitimacy in scriptural terms was defensible. The subject also suited Counter-Reformation drives to promote down to earth realism into New Testament subjects, and to increase the role of Saint Joseph. It thus increased in popularity as the other accretions to the story reduced.[12] One of the legends, going back to the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (perhaps 7th-century), was that at the same time as the “miracle of the palm-tree” on the third day of the journey, a spring miraculously appeared when the travellers needed water, and the Rest is often set beside a spring or stream, though this can be regarded as natural.[13]

Christ taking leave of his Mother is another subject with similar origins in late medieval meditational literature. It seems to have been taken up by Passion plays, and does not appear in art before the late 15th century, peaking in the approximate period 1500–1520, mostly in Germany.[14]

Joachim Patinir is generally recognized as the founder of the Flemish school of landscape painting that flourished in the sixteenth century.

Reindert Falkenburg’s important new book, a translation of his doctoral dissertation landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life completed in 1985 for the University of Amsterdam. Falkenburg decisively rejects the prevailing view of Patinir’s landscapes; it is, he says, an anachronism, a projection of essentially modern secular attitudes onto the past.  Falkenburg claims that these paintings were not only deeply rooted in the religious thought of Patinir’s day, but in fact ‘are directly related to late medieval devotional art‘ .

Rest on the Flight into Egypt  ‘can be regarded as visual aids for meditation on the pilgrimage of life’

There are no immediate precedents for this subject in fifteenth-century art. Rather it developed out of earlier ,Andachtshilder, or devotional im­ages, such as the Madonna of Humility, or the Madonna and Child in a hortus conclusus, an enclosed garden whose many plants svmbolize the virtues of the Madonna and the future Passion of Christ.

lt is the tradition of the hortus conclusus, furthermore. that accounts for the complex program of botanical symbols  as the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.

Patinir, however, enriches the original iconic image of the Madonna and Child with subsidiarv scenes of the Massacre of the Innocents, the Miracle of the Wheatfields, and the Fall of the Idols near Heliopolis.

The Rest on the Flight by Gerard David 

This transformation of ‘icon into narrative‘ can also be observed in pictures of the Rest on the Flight by Gerard David and Joos van Cleve, and shows the same development that Sixten Ringbom has demonstrated tbr other devotional images of the period.

The Rest on the Flight  byJoos van Cleve

The use of subordinate scenes, moreover, can be traced back through Memling to the Miraflores and St John altarpieces of Rogier van der Wevden.

In Patinir’s Rest on the Flight, such narrative scenes function as `mnemograms,’ to use Falkenhurg’s term, that aid the viewer in his meditation on this particular episode in the life of Christ.

Thus, no less than the devotional images of the previous century, the Rest on the Flight was created to satisfy the desire of the devout to see and participate imaginatively in the sacred stories and to share the pain, sorrow and joy experienced by the holy personages.

This empathic identification on the part of the viewer or the reader had been encouraged in the fourteenth century by the anonymous Meditations on the Life of Christ and Ludolphus of Saxony’s Vita Christi, and by the many spiritual treatises that were widely read well into Patinir’s time as The Imitation of Christ.

The Imitation of Christ is a Christian devotional book by Thomas à Kempis, first composed in Latin (as De Imitatione Christi) ca. 1418–1427.[ It is a handbook for spiritual life arising from the Devotio Moderna movement, of which Kempis was a member.[

In this literature, the account of the Flight to Egypt occupies a significant place. The misery and poverty of the Holy Family is described at great length, and the reader is exhorted to pity these unfortunate fugitives, to accompany them in their exile, and to assist them in any way possible.

Patinir’s landscapes represent the pilgrimage of life. This idea is developed in an extended discussion of the Charon painting , which Falkenburg sees not as a straight forward illustration of the classical myth, but as an allegory of the progress of the Christian soul through life.

The river Styx is the ‘sea of this world,’ running between Paradise and hell, It bears the ship of man’s soul that has arrived at the end of its voyage. Charon personifies Death who is about to land the soul at one of the two destinations facing him.

With references to such venerable allegories as Hercules at the Crossroads, the Pythagorean two ways of life (The bivium), and the ‘Tabula Cebetis” Falkenburg concludes that the Charon shows the two paths of life open to every man, the paths of virtue and vice, that end in either eternal bliss or eternal torment.

 

The bivium of Pythagoras, this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

“The letter” Y “represents the symbol of moral life. The question of good and evil arises before the free will of man: two roads open before him: the left, the thick branch of the “Y”, is wide and easy to access, but leads to the chasm from shame, that of the right, the thin branch, is a steep and painful path, but at the summit of which one finds repose in honor and glory. “

The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come

First Part

The entire book is presented as a dream sequence narrated by an omniscient narrator. The allegory’s protagonist, Christian, is an everyman character, and the plot centres on his journey from his hometown, the “City of Destruction” (“this world”), to the “Celestial City” (“that which is to come”: Heaven) atop Mount Zion. Christian is weighed down by a great burden—the knowledge of his sin—which he believed came from his reading “the book in his hand” (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Hell, is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance. He meets Evangelist as he is walking out in the fields, who directs him to the “Wicket Gate” for deliverance. Since Christian cannot see the “Wicket Gate” in the distance, Evangelist directs him to go to a “shining light,” which Christian thinks he sees. Christian leaves his home, his wife, and children to save himself: he cannot persuade them to accompany him. Obstinate and Pliable go after Christian to bring him back, but Christian refuses. Obstinate returns disgusted, but Pliable is persuaded to go with Christian, hoping to take advantage of the Paradise that Christian claims lies at the end of his journey. Pliable’s journey with Christian is cut short when the two of them fall into the Slough of Despond, a boggy mire-like swamp where pilgrims’ doubts, fears, temptations, lusts, shames, guilts, and sins of their present condition of being a sinner are used to sink them into the mud of the swamp. It is there in that bog where Pliable abandons Christian after getting himself out. After struggling to the other side of the slough, Christian is pulled out by Help, who has heard his cries and tells him the swamp is made out of the decadence, scum, and filth of sin, but the ground is good at the narrow Wicket Gate.  Read more here.

Second Part

The Second Part of The Pilgrim’s Progress presents the pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiana; their sons; and the maiden, Mercy. They visit the same stopping places that Christian visited, with the addition of Gaius’ Inn between the Valley of the Shadow of Death and Vanity Fair, but they take a longer time in order to accommodate marriage and childbirth for the four sons and their wives. The hero of the story is Greatheart, a servant of the Interpreter, who is the pilgrims’ guide to the Celestial City. He kills four giants called Giant Grim, Giant Maul, Giant Slay-Good, and Giant Despair and participates in the slaying of a monster called Legion that terrorizes the city of Vanity Fair. The passage of years in this second pilgrimage better allegorizes the journey of the Christian life. By using heroines, Bunyan, in the Second Part, illustrates the idea that women, as well as men, can be brave pilgrims. Read more here.

The Holy War

The Holy War Made by King Shaddai Upon Diabolus, to Regain the Metropolis of the World, Or, The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul is a 1682 novel by John Bunyan. This novel, written in the form of an allegory, tells the story of the town “Mansoul” (Man’s soul). Though this town is perfect and bears the image of Shaddai (Almighty), it is deceived to rebel and throw off his gracious rule, replacing it instead with the rule of Diabolus. Though Mansoul has rejected the Kingship of Shaddai, he sends his son Emmanuel to reclaim it.

In the city there were three esteemed men, who, by admitting Diabolus to the city, lost their previous authority. The eyes of “Understanding”, the mayor, are hidden from the light. “Conscience”, the recorder, has become a madman, at times sinning, and at other times condemning the sin of the city. But worst of all is “Lord Willbewill,” whose desire has been completely changed from serving his true Lord, to serving Diabolus. With the fall of these three, for Mansoul to turn back to Shaddai of their own will, is impossible. Salvation can come only by the victory of Emmanuel. The entire story is a masterpiece of Christian literature, describing vividly the process of the fall, conversion, fellowship with Emmanuel, and many more intricate doctrines. Read more here

THE SAINTS’ KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST’S LOVE

This treatise is admirably adapted to warn the thoughtless—break the stony heart— convince the wavering—cherish the young inquirer—strengthen the saint in his pilgrimage, and arm him for the good fight of faith—and comfort the dejected, doubting, despairing Christian. It abounds with ardent sympathy for the broken-hearted, a cordial suited to every wounded conscience; while, at the same time, it thunders in awful judgment upon the impenitent and the hypocritical professor: wonders of grace to God belong, for all these blessings form but a small part of the unsearchable riches.  Read more here.

  • Erasmus The Manual of a Christian Knight [1501]

Desiderius Erasmus was a Catholic priest and theologian who clearly had Christ in mind when he penned it in 1501. Although it is over 500 years old, I hope you will appreciate the relevance today of these 22 rules in Erasmus’ Manual of a Christian Knight.

The mortal world a field is of battle
Which is the cause that strife doth never fail
Against man, by warring of the flesh
With the devil, that always fighteth fresh
The spirit to oppress by false envy;
The which conflict is continually
During his life, and like to lose the field.
But he be armed with weapon and shield
Such as behoveth to a christian knight,
Where God each one, by his Christ chooseth right
Sole captain, and his standard to bear.
Who knoweth it not, then this will teach him here
In his brevyer, poynarde, or manual
The love shewing of high Emanuell.
In giving us such harness of war
Erasmus is the only furbisher
Scouring the harness, cankered and adust
Which negligence had so sore fret with rust
Then champion receive as thine by right
The manual of the true christian knight.
Desiderius Erasmus

 

Read here The Manual of a Christian Knight (Enchiridion)

 

 

 

All  illustrate the kind of behavior characteristic of the sinful world; but they also exhort the viewer to mount the path of virtue as a ‘true ”homo viator”or man on a Journey irnitating Christ, in the expectation of receiving forgiveness for sins and entering the heavenly home­land.

  • Landscape with the Flight into Egyptby Bruegel

 

Landscape with the Flight into Egypt is a 1563 oil on wooden board painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, showing the biblical Flight into Egypt of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus.

The work is a naturalistic world landscape,[2] following the conventions established by Joachim Patinir. The ostensible subject, the Holy Family, are small figures in an imaginary panoramic landscape seen from an elevated viewpoint, with mountains and lowlands, water, and buildings. The subject had long been a popular one in Early Netherlandish art, and increasingly so since Patinir.[3]

Joseph is leading a donkey, bearing Mary who is holding the infant Jesus, tightly wrapped for the journey; his white head can be seen on her chest. They are descending a slope overlooking an Alpine landscape, with a wide river valley bordered by hills and mountains. The painting is dominated by tones of brown and green for the land, and the blue of the water and sky. Mary’s unusual red cloak (rather than her traditional blue) and white headgear makes her stand out against the blue of the river, while Joseph’s greyish clothes contrast with the green and brown background of wooded hills. In the background, the buildings of towns are faintly visible on each side of the river.[4]

On the tree stump to the right, a pagan statue has fallen out of its shrine as the family passed by, symbolising the triumph of Christ over paganism.[5] This was one of a number of miraculous incidents that medieval legend had added to the very brief biblical story.[6] A branch fallen against a tree creates a cross, presaging the crucifixion.[7] Two tiny salamanders, symbols of evil, can be seen below the figures (very near the bottom edge)

On the bottom left there are 3 pilgrims engaged in the difficult Journey.

  • The Flight into Egypt:  Inside Wilderness and Darkness

No doubt, since the late antiquity the theme of the Flight into Egypt had assumed a peculiar edifying value, especially in an ascetic ambit. Above the painting Fuga in Egitto by Fra Angelico (1450; St. Mark’s Convent, Florence), we can read this verse from the Psalm 55: Elongavi fugiens et mansi in solitudine; “I have gone far off flying away, and I abode in the wilderness”.

In one of his poems, the German mystic Johannes Scheffler, alias Angelus Silesius (1624-1677), will write: “If Herod is an enemy, Joseph is the reason./ God revealed him the danger in a dream, inside his soul./ If Bethlehem is the world, Egypt is solitude./ Flee away, my soul, or you will die of sorrow!” A concordance between Angelico’s painting and Silesius’ poetry is evident. Neither of them had a great opinion of this civilized world.

In Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1647; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin), that light is realized and symbolized in a fire at the virtual centre of the nocturnal scene. It is burning innocuously on a woody riverbank, in the middle of the Holy Family. The whole scene is reflected in the water. A little Christ is watching curiously the fire, not far from a group of cows, while the moon strives to illuminate heavy clouds up in the sky. In background, an impending fortress can be hardly discerned, which detail we may find in other representations of this type.

Akin to the masterpiece by the Dutch master, and a possible model for him, it is Flucht nach Ägypten by the German painter Adam Elsheimer (1609; Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Here we have the same wooded bank, a similar game of spots of light and reflections into water. The main dimension is a starred vault, with a fully shining moon. Nor even is this cosmic view lacking precise astronomic notions.

Instead, in the Flight into Egypt by the Danish artist Carl H. Bloch (1875; Hope Gallery and Museum of Fine Art, Salt Lake City), the only source of light is a lantern held by a shaded standing Joseph. It illuminates a resting Madonna, and the divine Child sleeping with his head on her breast. This latest night is deeper and darker than ever. What makes us rethink of a topical thoughtful comment to John of the Cross, in the treatise The Science of the Cross by Edith Stein, alias S.ta Teresa Benedicta a Cruce: “It is not an image insofar as one understands that to mean having a visible form. Night is invisible and formless. But still we perceive it, indeed it is nearer to us than all things and forms; it is more closely bound to our being. Just as light allows all things to step forward with their visible qualities, so night devours them and threatens to devour us also. Whatever sinks into it is not simply nothing; it continues to exist but as indeterminate, invisible, and formless as night itself, or shadowy, ghostlike, and therefore threatening… Whatever brings forth in us effects similar to those of the cosmic night is, in a figurative sense, called night” (trans. Steven Payn; Rome: Teresianum, 1998).

Exile, emigration, deportation, are historical events, which have a sorrowful connection with our theme. Not seldom, by recognizing such conditions in the others – nay, in the Other –, we may become better aware of a common lot in this world.  The moonlight in an overcast sky allows to perceive nothing but the confused shapes of Mary, Joseph and the ass. It lets us wonder though, if there was any allusion to the uncertain, then advanced century.

The alternation of woe and hope was already in the scriptural account. So, in the Gospel of Matthew: “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying: ‘Arise, take the child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word, for Herod will seek the child to kill him’. When he arose, he took the child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod” (2:13-15).

How long did they stay there? Apocryphal texts answer, one or two years. Coptic traditions, a lapse of three and a half. Muslim sources, which share a Marian devotion, put it at seven years. Either wild or urban it might have been, Egypt had to be a hospitable milieu. Life must have been not easy anyhow.

With no distinction of nationality and despite confessional divisions, an artistic collective unconscious was at work. Probably, a tale and an image as the “Return from Egypt” was then congenial to the new perspective. After all, in the European culture there had been a “Renaissance”. Better than others, artists could perceive that dialectic event as a further beginning even more than a return to the past.

Generally, the Flight into Egypt stands between the past and the future, but oriented forward. What finally prevails is a light of hope, the dawn of a new era, a progressive feeling of history. In this sense, the return from Egypt is a “return to future”.

In the footsteps of the Holy Family, maybe we are at the point. The Flight into Egypt is a crossing the space as much as the time. It is an extension of the Advent. Yet, in the existential reflection, expressions like “overcoming the past for a more effective future” are as frequent as “overcoming the past without forgetting”.

It does mean, remembrance is a good basis for any genuine progress, whereas a lack of memory or of attention may imply a risk of regression.

In the biblical tradition, the desert is a cosmic frame for a wide reminiscence, and for an individuation of the self, which renders possible its transcendence. Elongavi fugiens et mansi in solitudine, we read in the above painting by Fra Angelico. But Egypt was not only a wild or an urban dimension. It was involved in the Hebraic history, and was the seat of an ancient wisdom, what Joseph and Mary could not be indifferent to. What a kind of relation or attitude had they, with all that? If the Gospel of Thomas testifies their good reception in that foreign country, other apocryphal sources as the Pseudo-Matthew and the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy report some contrast with its pagan culture and idolatrous religion. But early the idols themselves bowed, thus falling down, before the Son of God. In particular a pre-eminent idol spoke in a fabulous way, admitting its own falsity and paying homage to the divinity of the Christ.

As it could be expected, the fall of idols became a detail in not a few old iconographic representations of the Flight into Egypt. Since the Middle Ages, another apocryphal miraculous story originated the frequent presence of palms in the iconography. That is historical instead, Egyptians will be one of the first peoples converted to the new faith, a conspicuous amount of years prior than Europe.

According to Silesius above mentioned, the character of Joseph represents the reason. Which kind of reason, who deals with angels in dreams, who listens to a heavenly music or – maybe – is able to note down and replay it, in a full moon night? Evidently, not simply a provident, but a sensitive if not prophetic one. What is confirmed by a passage from the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, chap. 18. There, an example of so called “cosmic suspension” coincides with the birth of Jesus:

(1) And he found a cave and led her there and stationed his sons to watch her, (2) while he went to a find a Hebrew midwife in the land of Bethlehem.
(3) Then, Joseph wandered, but he did not wander. (4) And I looked up to the peak of the sky and saw it standing still and I looked up into the air. With utter astonishment I saw it, even the birds of the sky were not moving. (5) And I looked at the ground and saw a bowl lying there and workers reclining. And their hands were in the bowl. (6) And chewing, they were not chewing. And picking food up, they were not picking it up. And putting food in their mouths, they were not putting it in their mouths. (7) Rather, all their faces were looking up.
(8) And I saw sheep being driven, but the sheep were standing still. (9) And the shepherd lifted up his hand to strike them, but his hand remained above them. (10) And I saw the rushing current of the river and I saw goats and their mouths resting in the water, but they were not drinking. (11) And suddenly everything was replaced by the ordinary course of events.

In the dating system, it will imply a zeroing of time, before its course can start again, with an inverted perception of the past. In the history of art, that will influence popular representations or landscapes, not only in the background of the Flight into Egypt scenes.

Even if this might have been a coincidence, we dare to say, just then a concept of sacred landscape itself was born.

Dropped out of time for an ecstatic while, an absolute space grows the space of the absolute.

And no detail gets lost though: “I Joseph was walking, and was not walking. I looked up into the sky, and saw the sky astonished. I looked up to the pole of the heavens, and saw it standing, and the birds of the air keeping still. And I looked down upon the earth, and saw a trough lying, and workpeople reclining: and their hands were in the trough. And those that were eating did not eat, and those that were rising did not carry it up, and those that were conveying anything to their mouths did not convey it; but the faces of all were looking upwards. And I saw the sheep walking, and the sheep stood still; and the shepherd raised his hand to strike them, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the current of the river, and I saw the mouths of the kids resting on the water and not drinking, and all things in a moment were driven from their course” (cf. codices Arundel 404, Hereford 0.3.9, Armenian Infancy Gospel).

The Angel and the Iconoclasts
Let us try to answer a supplementary question. How many did travel to and back from Egypt? According to apocryphal sources, influencing an early iconography, more than three. The Holy Family was not so much a nuclear one, such as in a today’s restrictive conception. However, either Salome or James the Less remain accessory characters. In not a few representations of the past, we can notice another virtual one. Also in the canonical version, he is “the angel of the Lord” who came twice into Joseph’s dreams to warn or to inform him.  Generally he represents a divine providence, assistance or consolation.

Above all, he is who turns into sense the meaning of the story; perhaps, of history itself. That is, one of his tasks should be delivering our existences from what can be an idle vacuity.

 

In contemporary iconography, such an invisible but essential character seems to have disappeared.

Searching for any exception, we can find it in two watercolours by Natalia S. Goncharova, a Russian vanguard painter not seldom inspired by the iconic religious tradition. Currently in a private collection, the former is datable to 1909-1910. Especially in the latter, which better looks a Return from the Flight into Egypt (1915; Museum of Modern Art, S. Francisco), the presence of the Angel is imminent. He accompanies our couple with child, flying above them and opening the way toward a renewed life in their old homeland, with a gesture of his hands. What might work as a good wish too, about the conclusion of this survey, as well as for any indulgent reader.

Yet there is one story more, which shows some connexion with our subject, sounding worth being reported.

It concerns the Netherlandish artist Pieter Aertsen, a religious painter. When the sacred figurative art began to be contested and destroyed by an extreme Protestant iconoclasm, he changed his residence town and converted his works into genre scene. Very strange ones, indeed, since a scrupulous spectator can discern small holy scenes dissimulated in the background.

His Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt or A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, which we have in two copies (1551; Uppsala University Art Collection and North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh) is the most ever disconcerting “Flight into Egypt”.

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than versus a certain religious confession, it looks the cryptic protest of an autonomous art, against whatever human foolishness and violence.

What, when adopted by Aertsen, might appear an expedient, became a full invention in the works of his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer. He depicted two “Flights into Egypt”. Now in the Rockox House at Antwerp, the former is more traditional.

In the latter, titled The Four Element: Earth. A Fruit and Vegetable Market with the Flight into Egypt in the Background (1560; National Gallery, London), the author develops his uncle’s lesson into a not less striking allegory.

In the composition, we have three levels: a still life, in the foreground; some figures of peasant women and men, in the middle; a country landscape, with the detail of the Holy Family on a bridge across a stream, in the rear on the left. Despite all, between nature and humankind the sacred mystery survived as a subdued link. That is an anomalous example, of what is conventionally called “inverted perspective”. If we consider it well, not a few things on earth do not happen otherwise…

This “inverted perspective” changes the traditional wisdom of man and it opens the door to the modern perpective of earthly knowledge and wisdom being cut off from his Divine Source.

Patinir, Pieter Aertsen, Brueghel were living in the same period and try to find a way to show us what was wrong in their society: Vanity of earthly knowledge

In Revelation Vanity is represented by the Whore of Babylon. On earth this woman here represents all the pride of the world, all the temptations that we are constantly confronted with in our daily lives and to which we often succumb or the woman with the venom of the earthly senses (the serpent), but nature’s love (the earth) comes to her assistance.

In Chapter 13 the beast from the sea is depraved evil come to kill all virtues in the human heart. It derives its strength from the dragon, the poison of earthly wisdom, while the beast with two horns like a lamb and speaking like a dragon is hypocritical earthly holiness in the flesh which prevents the simple soul from’praying to God (the mark on the right hand or the forehead). The number of the beast is the whole of humanity.

Babylón is interpreted as the confusion of earthly senses; the Whore is false earthly wisdom, her golden jewels hypocritical holiness and the cup fuIl of abominations the carnal appetites.

 

 

The beast with seven heads is the evil caused by earthly knowledge and wisdom and its rule on earth; its seven heads are the doctrines of earthly wisdom and the seven kings are personal vindictiveness under the guise of holiness.

  • Dulle Griet is the model of the Rebellion of modern man against his soul, a model of his Anger. How can she  find  a way to calm her anger?

She can looks in  the mirror and see herself, making more “selfies”, so  seeing more anger as the portait of vanity of Hans Memling shows us. The lady see only more vanity.  The message of Memling is in his Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation  focuses on the idea of “Memento mori,” a Latin phrase that translates to “Remember your mortality.” Memling’s triptych shockingly contrasts the beauty, luxury and vanity of the mortal earth with images of death and hell.

The scene of “Babylon, the Great Prostitute”: symbol of all abominations,  From the tapisseries of the Apocalypse of Angers;She is seen styling her long hair,which in the Middle Ages is a sign of prostitution . This prostitute has a pretty face and  she is looking in a mirror … but the mirror reflects another face, a great ugliness! This is the reality of the soul of this prostitute because the mirror is a symbol of truth and it is also the sign of the heart.She is represented sitting on a hill watered by four rivers: “These waters are peoples, crowds, nations, languages”.  She looks at herself in a mirror but the reflection that it sends back to her is that of a very ugly face (image of her soul).“On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: Babylon the great, the mother of immorality and abominations of the earth. And I saw this woman drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus … “”And the woman you saw is the great city that has kingship over the kings of the earth. »Having seen these details, we are now informed: She is the great prostitute of Babylon. Babylon means “the door of the Gods”. It is said in the Bible that Babylon was previously a golden cup in the hands of Yahweh but it fell and became the sign of pride. This woman here represents all the pride of the world, all the temptations that we are constantly confronted with in our daily lives and to which we often succumb. In the days of John, the seven hills watered by four rivers obviously refer to the city of Rome and the pride of this imperial Rome which imposes its yoke everywhere in the world.There is a sign of hope anyway in the tapestry with this angel with orange wings, the color of light and pointed towards the sky. He leads Jean by taking him by the hand … indicating that we are never alone. In the background, Hennequin of Bruges has also, once again, placed the bivium of Pythagoras, this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

“The letter” y “represents the symbol of moral life. The question of good and evil arises before the free will of man: two roads open before him: the left, the thick branch of the “y”, is wide and easy to access, but leads to the chasm from shame, that of the right, the thin branch, is a steep and painful path, but at the summit of which one finds repose in honor and glory. “

  • The woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet in Chapter 12 of Revelation:

This new vision also brings the image of a woman in the sky, a woman giving birth. Beyond all the plagues, this woman is an image of light: “wrapped in the sun, the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head”. The growing and decreasing moon is a symbol of transformation and it is precisely this transformation that is required of men.

In this picture, Hennequin from Bruges shows us both the birth and the ascension of Jesus. An angel comes to take the child from the hands of the woman to take him in the sky.

This woman is of course identified with the Virgin who gives Jesus to the world.

But evil, Satan, did not say his last word. At the feet of the woman, a dragon is about to devour his unborn child.

“He was a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads. His tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and threw them on the ground ”

Seven is a power figure, also shown by the diadems: it is all the evil power of the dragon that is  represented here. It carries with its tail a part of the light and plunges us into the darkness.

As for the woman, she fled to the desert where a place prepared by God awaits her so that she may be nourished there for 1260 days.

Seeing himself thus overwhelmed and thrown on the ground, the dragon turns first against the woman on the run.

The dragon chases the child … but Michael, leader of the heavenly militia and his angels intervene and fight him. He is overwhelmed and precipitated on the earth.

The heavens and their inhabitants may rejoice, but the dragon, called the devil or Satan, will now be able to attack the inhabitants of the earth: “Woe to the land and the sea because the devil, knowing that he has only a short time, came down towards you, animated by great anger.

Then the two wings of the great eagle are given to the woman to fly into the desert to her place of refuge” (The desert is the traditional refuge of the persecuted.)

 It is the same place of “Refuge”/ Desert  when the holy Family flew to Egypt

Very beautiful image, an angel comes to lay wings in the back of the woman so that she can flee flying …

The temple of God opens in the sky, and “a grand sign” appears.
A woman is giving birth. “… the sun envelops her, the moon is under her feet and twelve stars crown hier head …”
Who is it who dawns like dawn, beautiful like the moon, shining like the sun“, sang the Beloved of the Song of Songs (6, 10).
This mysterious celestial mother is represented in a blue cloud descending to the earth. From his body emanate red rays, a sign of the sun which is his clothing. “Bless Yahweh, my soul. Yahweh, my God, you are so great. Dressed in pomp and radiance, draped in light like a cloak ... ”(Psalms, 104, 1-2.)
The light of the star is symbolic of the fire of the Spirit, of warmth and of life. In the Indian Veda tradition, the sun is the heart of the world. Under the feet of the Woman, the crescent of the moon announces a future growth. It is a sign of a transformation. The moon increases and decreases, it dies to grow again. The celestial body is the image of the buried, unconscious life, which must emerge brightly. The moon feeds on the sunlight it reflects, like divine clarity in it. In the tapestry, the twelve stars of the story adorn the golden crown.
This number is that of the completed world, of cosmic harmony. He is representative of the people of God, the tribes of Israel and the apostles. The star pierces of its light the darkness, like the spirit of the man, the matter.
Christian tradition has made the heavenly mother an image of Mary. She is the “living”, the new Eve. She gives Jesus to the world and gives birth to humanity. “Woman, this is your son. Said Christ on his cross (Gospel of John, 19, 26).

She gives birth in suffering, the image of the mind of the man who painfully transcends his material. The birth of the soul is a test.

The obstacle appears under the sign of a Dragon which threatens the Woman. He is the one who divides being, the Adversary. It drops the light by taking away a third of the stars from the sky. Its power is manifested by its seven heads and ten horns. The weavers of Angers did not represent the seven diadems which crown each head. They are signs of his power on the earth where he reigns. In the Apocalypse, the Dragon symbolizes the force of evil at work in the world. Fire red in color, the monster comes from hell. In Hebrew, the dragon, tannin, is related to tan, the jackal. “… you crushed us during the stay of jackals, covering us with the shadow of death” (Psalms, 44, 20).
In the Bible, the dragon is associated with sea monsters, the most formidable of which, Leviathan, is capable of destroying the world. Job paints a scary portrait:
Smoke comes out of his nostrils, like a cauldron boiling on the fire…
a flame comes out of his mouth…before leaps terror…. His heart is hard like rock, he is king onall the sons of  pride. »(Job, 41, 12-26.) 

Creature from the undifferentiated world of orgines , it symbolizes the disorder of chaos. In the Middle Age, the dragon is inner obstacle that man must fight against to reach the sacred.

In this struggle the Beast is the sign of a driving force that only the mastery of the spirit can overcome. The dragon is also the guardian of hidden treasures. Among the Greeks, he kept the golden fleece or the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides.
Man must face the beast, his animal part, to access the gold of his heart.

In the account of the apocalypse the Dragon seeks to devour the Messiah Child who is going to be born. He’s against the birth of the Spirit.

 The tapissery represents  the Child, kidnapped by angels who are not mentioned by Saint John. They come from the altar, sacred place where God manifests Himself.

The vision shows at the same time the birth of Christ and his ascent into heaven. It is also the image of the future of Man.

The grandiose sign of spiritual birth the real being of man, by the test of combat, and by a time of desert, where the Woman flees.

“..Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right,

for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”  Isaiah 7: 14-16.

  • The Choice: the bivium of Pythagoras, Y: this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

Man as “Whore of Babylon”                                                        The Twice Born Man,

The Rescue

The Choice: the rebellion against the soul and orTake refuge in the Soul 

The choice of the “Refugee”:

  • Landscape As an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life :

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt of the “Holy Refugees” by Joachim Patinir

 Man as “Whore of Babylon”                                                       The  Twice born Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rescue: Pilgrimage

The Choice:

Man as  Rebel against his Soul                                                   The  Twice Born  Man

The Rescue: Pilgrimage

We are not the first generation to know that we are destroying the world.  But  we could be the last that can do anything about it, not with the vanity of  earthly knowledge and so called democratic solidarity and wisdom here on earth  as this commercial of WWF wants to convince us, but with asking humbly the help of Divine Wisdom so realising in us the image of the man who painfully transcends his material ego: The birth of his soul. It is a test. It’s time to decide! 

  • Analyse details of painting: The Rest on the Flight into Egypt of the “Holy Refugees”

The flight into Egypt is a story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:1323) and in New Testament apocrypha. Soon after the visit by the Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the child to kill him. The episode is frequently shown in art, as the final episode of the Nativity of Jesus in art, and was a common component in cycles of the Life of the Virgin as well as the Life of Christ. Within the narrative tradition, iconic representation of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” developed after the 14th century.

Christian

The story was much elaborated in the “Infancy Gospels” of the New Testament apocrypha with, for example, palm trees bowing before the infant Jesus, Jesus taming dragons, the beasts of the desert paying him homage, and an encounter with the two thieves who would later be crucified alongside Jesus.[7][8] In these later tales the family was joined by Salome as Jesus’ nurse. These stories of the time in Egypt have been especially important to the Coptic Church, which is based in Egypt, and throughout Egypt there are a number of churches and shrines marking places where the family stayed. The most important of these is the church of Abu Serghis, which claims to be built on the place the family had its home.

One of the most extensive and, in Eastern Christianity, influential accounts of the Flight appears in the perhaps seventh-century Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, in which Mary, tired by the heat of the sun, rested beneath a palm tree. The infant Jesus then miraculously has the palm tree bend down to provide Mary with its fruit, and release from its roots a spring to provide her with water.[9]

Muslim

The Qur’ān does not include the tradition of the Flight into Egypt, though sūra XXIII, 50 could conceivably allude to it: “And we made the son of Maryam and his mother a sign; and we made them abide in an elevated place, full of quiet and watered with springs”. However, its account of the birth of Jesus is very similar to the account of the Flight in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew: Mary gives birth leaning against the trunk of a date-palm, which miraculously provides her with dates and a stream. It is therefore thought that one tradition owes something to the other.[10][11]

Numerous later Muslim writers on the life of Jesus did transmit stories about the Flight into Egypt. Prominent examples include Abū Isḥāḳ al-Thaʿlabī, whose ʿArāʾis al-madjālis fī ḳiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ, an account of the lives of the prophets, reports the Flight, followed by a stay in Egypt of twelve years; and al-Ṭabarī’s History of the Prophets and Kings.[12]

  • THE PALM TREE MIRACLE

Other than the ass and the human figures, the palm tree is the most common element in these images. The miracle referenced is in chapter 20 of The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew: The family stops to rest under a palm tree and Mary notices that the top of the tree is full of fruit. She wishes she could have some, but the tree is too high. Jesus then calls on the tree to bend down “and refresh my mother with thy fruit,” and it does just that. Then at the child’s further command the tree moves its roots to expose a spring of water. Some images are like the one above in simply including a palm tree to remind the viewer of the story. Others show the tree bending and the fruit being gathered either by Joseph (example) or by angels (example). Images of the spring are rare, but Cartlidge and Elliott (100) do present one 15th-century manuscript illustration that portrays the spring as an elaborate fountain and has Mary herself plucking the fruit while seated on a mound of earth.

In the 16th century artists began to lose interest in the miracle and saw this pause in the family’s journey as an occasion for using their art to express a sense of restfulness and repose. The palm became merely a part of the background, as in Corregio’s Rest on the Flight to Egypt with Saint Francis. By the 17th century this privileging of painterly interests led to works like Lorrain’s Landscape with Rest in the Flight to Egypt, where the palm has disappeared entirely and the three travelers nearly so.


The Flight into Egypt – the Holy Refugees

The Flight into Egypt – the variations

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the painting of Joachim patinir Rest on the Flight into Egypt :

From all the stories told in the painting, we present 5 stories to illustrate the “power of God “as told by the Family of love. As an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life:

 

 

 

  • Pilgrimage as a Theme for the “Refugee”

The image of life as a pilgrimage was a commonplace in the fourteenth century, when laity and clergy alike entered upon such journeys. Ludolph of Saxony in  his vita christi , like his predecessors, made use of this theme in a particularly engaging passage:

Therefore we who are pilgrims in this world—for we have no permanent city, but we seek one that is to come—if we have within ourselves in a spiritual sense the things that those pilgrims had, the Lord will be a companion on our journey.

Again, Ludolph describes the process of coming to know the will of God as a journey in which one follows Christ: “The follower of Christ cannot stray or be deceived. Through frequent meditation on his life, the heart is set aflame, comes alive, and is illuminated by divine power to imitate or acquire his virtues.”

St Ignatius of Loyola in his “autobiography” calls himself “the pilgrim”; and the Exercises themselves can be seen as an interior pilgrimage, a structured journey with times of consolation, when the way seems clear, alternating with others of desolation, where the exercitant seems to be in the wilderness.

Moments of isolation and reunion follow one another. The completion of the experience of the Exercises is intended to bring about a feeling of fulfillment, while creating the desire to make the journey again or to accompany others on their journey. It is worth noting that the Spiritual Exercises was composed at a time when, despite the increased mobility of many Europeans, ever fewer were undertaking pilgrimages.

Throughout the sixteenth century, religious and secular wars, economic difficulties, and, perhaps most of all, changing trends in the expression of religious devotion undermined the desire to embark on pilgrimages. Ignatius nevertheless successfully resurrected this metaphor in his own writings and held out to others the possibility that they might experience the transformation and growth usually associated with the pilgrimage, but this time accomplishing it in the solitary form in which he had experienced it through the graduated process of the Exercises.

Read here: The Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony and Its Influence on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola

Forms of Prayer:

Not only did Ludolph’s reliance on concrete images drawn from the familiar world make his lengthy and scholarly narrative accessible to Ignatius, but it also suggested the broad range of forms that meditation or reflection might take. By providing the concrete image of the castle (among scores of others) along with an explanation of its significance, Ludolph created a focus for meditation similar to the foci on the life of Jesus that occur repeatedly in the Spiritual Exercises.

Throughout the Exercises the exercitant is called upon to use recollection both to come to terms with his or her own shortcomings and to call to mind images and associations that clarify and concretize an understanding of God.

As we have seen, memory is renewed by recollection, intelligence by wisdom, and willingness through love. Metaphor and symbols assembled by Ludolph also take readers a step further and enable them to grasp other relationships. After narrating the story of Christ walking on the Sea Galilee towards a boat carrying the disciples, Ludolph offers this interpretation:

That mystic boat is the Church, or whatever faithful soul that is pounded and tossed by the waves of persecution and temptation, now among heretics, now among tyrants, and now among false brothers, while it seeks to reach its heavenly homeland. The contrary wind is a blast from the evil spirits.

The 5 Stories told  In the painting of Joachim patinir Rest on the Flight into Egypt :

  • First story: The City of Idols

In Pseudo-Matthew (ch. 22-24) when the family arrives in Egypt in a city called Sotinen all the idols in the land fall to the ground and shatter, whereupon that city’s governor and people are so impressed that they come to believe “in the Lord God through Jesus Christ.” There are similar accounts of this incident in The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior (¶10-11), the Speculum Ecclesiae (837) and the Golden Legend (#10), and we see it illustrated from time to time in the art (example).

 

 

The family’s arrival in Sotinen is actually the subject of the oldest known image taken from the story, a segment of the mosaics on the triumphal arch in Santa Maria Maggiore.  There are also a few images of apocryphal episodes during the family’s sojourn in Egypt. These are based on The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas. See Cartlidge and Elliott, 106-116.

Near the Virgin we see a clolapsed statue of a Idol , above the ball we can two little feet on it..

  • Second story: The Miraculous Wheat Field 
    Among these is the story of the miraculous field of wheat, which sprang up instantly to a height sufficient to hide the Holy Family from Herod’s pursuing troops.

  • Third story: The Massacre of the Innocents

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

Matthew 2:13-18 (Gospel for the feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs, December 28)

The story of the killing of the baby boys from Bethlehem, which is found in the Gospel of Matthew, is a dark reversal of the joy of the birth of Jesus.  Probably for this reason, our contemporary celebrations for Christmas ignore it.  We do not want to think about the dark side of anything and certainly NOT at Christmas, which we are told from every side, is about Joy, Love, Peace!  This view, that Darkness has no place during the “holidays” has become so prevalent in our time that the majority of people no longer even remember this event.   But it was not always so.

From sometime in the fifth century the Church has celebrated a special feast in honor of these boys.  The feast of the Holy Innocents was once an important day within the octave of Christmas, with its own special prayers, and with some special events.  And it was a frequent subject in art from the early middle ages till the dawn of the 20th century.

 

 

Massacre of the Innocents (Bruegel)

Having compared the figure dressed in black at the centre of the Massacre of the Innocents in Vienna to portraits Duke of Alba,  critics concluded that there is a peculiar and compelling likeness between the two. Consequently, they concluded that Bruegel placed a recognisable portrait of Alba in the Massacre to draw analogies between the biblical Herod’s hubris, who ordered the execution of all the babies in Bethlehem following the birth of Christ, and the Habsburg dynasties’ similarly pitiless efforts to retain a Catholic grip on the Low Countries.

Furthermore, although the original Massacre has suffered extensive overpainting done between 1604 and ’21, these are unlikely to have altered the appearance of the horseback figure because this campaign was targeted at disguising the bodies of the murdered babies.

In our time the secular celebration of Christmas, which begins to wind down immediately after Christmas Day and is definitely over by January 1, is a week of vacation, of partying and shopping for bargains.

Instead, the Church turns our attention in the days after Christmas to teaching us something else, that Christmas is not a happy fairy tale, although there is a happy ending in the Resurrection.  During the octave of Christmas (the time between Christmas Day and the feast of Mary, Mother of God on January 1) the Church reminds us that faith in the Child born in Bethlehem has consequences.   She invites us to consider some of those martyrs who have surrendered their lives in devotion to Christ. 

On December 26th the Church celebrates the feast of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, killed shortly after the Pentecost, while the Church was still a small group of disciples in Jerusalem.   On the 27th we celebrate the feast day of the Evangelist John, who survived martyrdom to die of old age.  On December 29th we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Becket, murdered in his own cathedral because of a dispute with King Henry II over the proper roles of Church and State.  And on December 28th the Church celebrates the feast of the very first martyrs, the baby boys of Bethlehem, killed at the order of Herod the Great in his attempt to kill a potential rival: The Massacre of the Innocents

The Holy Innocents – Nearly Forgotten Baby Martyrs

 

 

 

Golden Legend – History of the Holy Innocents

Here followeth the History of the Innocents:

  • The Innocents be called innocents for three reasons.

First, by cause and reason of life, and by reason of pain, and by reason of innocence.

 By reason of life they be said innocents because they had an innocent life. They grieved nobody, neither God, by inobedience, nor their neighbours by untruth, nor by conceiving of any sin, and therefore it is said in the psalter:

The innocents and righteous have joined them to me.

The innocents by their life and righteousness in the faith, by reason of pain, for they suffered death innocently and wrongly, whereof David saith:

They have shed the blood of innocents by reason of innocency.

That they had, because that in this martyrdom they were baptized and made clean of the original sin, of which innocence is said in the psalter:

Keep thou innocency of baptism and see equity of good works.

  • Holy church maketh feast of the Innocents which were put to death because of our Lord Jesu Christ. For Herod Ascalonita for to find and put to death our Lord which was born in Bethlehem, he did do slay all the children in Bethlehem and there about, from the age of two years and under unto one day, unto the sum of one hundred and forty-four thousand children. For to understand which Herod it was that so cruelly did do put so many children to death, it is to wit that there were three Herods, and all three were cruel tyrants, and were in their time of great fame and much renowned for their great malice.

The first was Herod Ascalonita: he reigned in Jerusalem when our Lord was born.

The second was Herod Antipas, to whom Pilate sent Jesu Christ in the time of his passion, and he did do smite off Saint John Baptist‘s head.

The third was Herod Agrippa, which did do smite off Saint James’s head, said in Galicia, and set Saint Peter in prison.

  • But now let us come to this first Herod that did do slay the innocent children. His father was named Antipater as history scholastic saith, and was king of Idumea and paynim; he took a wife which was niece to the king of Arabia, on whom he had three sons and a daughter, of whom that one was named Herod Ascalonita. This Herod served so well to Julian the emperor of Rome that he gave to him the realm of Jerusalem. Then lost the Jews kings of their lineage, and then was showed the prophecy of the birth of our Lord.

  • This Herod Ascalonita had six sons, Antipater, Alexander, Aristobulus, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip. Of these children, Herod sent Alexander and Aristobulus to school to Rome, and Alexander became a wise and subtle advocate. And when they were come from school again they began to enter into words against Herod their father, to whom he would leave his realm after him, wherefore their father was angry with them, and put tofore them Antipater their brother for to come to the realm. Upon that, incontinent they treated of the death of their father, wherefore their father enchased them away, and they went again to Rome and complained of their father to the emperor.
  • Anon after this came the three kings in to Jerusalem, and demanded where the king of Jews was, that was new born. Herod when he heard this, he had great dread lest any were born of the true lineage of the kings of the Jews, and that he were the very true heir, and of whom he might be chased out of the realm. And when he had demanded of the three kings how they had had knowledge of the new king, they answered by a star being in the air, which was not naturally fixed in the heaven as the others were. Then he prayed them that they would return to him after that they had worshipped and seen this new king, that he might go after and worship the child. This said he fraudulently, for he thought to slay him.

  • After that the three kings were gone without bringing him any tidings, he thought that anon he would do slay all the children newly born in Bethlehem and thereabouts, among whom he thought to slay Jesu Christ. But his thought was empeshed and let, for the emperor sent to him a citation that he should come to Rome for to answer to the accusation that Aristobulus and Alexander, his two sons, had made against him, and therefore he durst not put then the children to death, to the end that he should not be accused of so cruel a deed with his other trespasses; so he was in going to Rome and abiding there, and in coming, more than half a year, and in that while Jesus was borne into Egypt. When Herod came to Rome the emperor ordained that his sons should do him honour and obey him, and he should leave his realm after his death where it best pleased him.

Upon this, when he was come again, and felt himself confirmed of the realm, he was more hardy to slay the children than he had tofore thought. Then he sent into Bethlehem and did do slay all the children that were of the age of two years, because it was passed more than a year that the three kings had told him tidings of the king of Jews new-born. But wherefore then did he do slay the children that were but one night old? Hereto Saint Austin saith that Herod doubted that Jesus, to whom the stars served, might make himself some younger than he was. After this came upon Herod a right vengeance, for like as he dissevered many mothers from their children, in like wise was he dissevered from his children. It happed that he had suspicion upon his two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus; for one of his servants said to him that Alexander had promised to him great gifts if he would give to his father to drink poison or venom, and the barber said to the king that he had promised him a great thing if, when he made the king‘s beard, he would cut his throat, and for this cause Herod did do slay them both, and ordained in his testament that Antipater, his son, should be king after him. Upon this Antipater, his son, had great desire to come to the realm, and was accused that he had made ready venom for to empoison his father, for a maid, a servant, afterward showed the same venom to the king, wherefore he did do put his son Antipater in prison.

When Augustus, the emperor of Rome, heard say that Herod ruled thus his children, he then said: I had liefer be the swine or hog of Herod than his son, for he which is strange in his living spareth his swine, and he put to death his sons.

Herod when he was seventy years old he fell in a grievous malady by right vengeance of God, for a strong fever took him within and without; he had his flesh hot and dry chauffed, his feet swelled and became of a pale colour. The plants of his feet under began to rot, in such wise that vermin issued out, and a stench issued so great out of his breath and of his members without forth, that no persons might suffer it. On that other side he had great grief and annoy of the anger that he had for his sons. When the masters and physicians saw that he might not be helped by any medicine, then they said that this malady was a vengeance of God, and for as much as he heard say that the Jews were glad of his malady and sickness, therefore he did do assemble the most noble of the Jews out of the good towns, and did do put them in prison and said to Salome, his sister, and to Alexander her husband:

I know well that the Jews shall be glad of my death, but if ye will do my counsel and obey to me I shall mowe have great plaint and wailing of many that shall beweep my death, in this wise that I shall show you. Anon as I shall be dead, do ye to be slain all the noble Jews that be in prison, and thus shall be no house of the Jews, but they shall, against their will, beweep my death.

And he had a custom to eat an apple last after meat. On a time he demanded a knife for to pare the apple, and one delivered him a knife, and shortly he took it, as all despaired, and would have slain himself, but anon Aciabus, his neighbour, caught his hand and cried loud, that it was supposed that the king had died. Antipater his son, which was in prison, had heard the cry and weened his father had been dead. He was glad, and promised to the keepers of the prison great gifts for to let him out. When Herod knew this by his servant, he travailed the more grievously because his son was more glad of his death than of his sickness, and anon did do slay him, and ordained in his testament, Archelaus to be king after him, and he lived but five days after and died in great misery of annoy.

Salome, his sister, did not his commandment of the Jews that were in prison, but let them go out. And Archelaus became king after Herod his father, which as to strangers in the battle he was fortunate and happy, but as to his own people he was right unhappy.

Then I return again; after that, Joseph was gone with our Lord into Egypt and was there seven years, unto the death of Herod. And after the prophecy of Isaiah, at the entering of our Lord into Egypt, the idols fell down, for like as at departing of the children out of Egypt, in every house the oldest son of the Egyptians lay one dead, in like wise at the coming of our Lord lay down the idols in the temples.

Cassiodorus saith in the History tripartite, in Hermopolin of Thebaid there was a tree called Persidis, which is medicinal for all sicknesses, for if the leaf or rind of that tree be bound to the neck of the sick person, it healeth him anon, and as the Blessed Virgin Mary fled with her son, that tree bowed down and worshipped Jesu Christ. Also Macrobius saith in a chronicle that, a young son of Herod was nourished at that time, and he was slain among the other children. And then was fulfilled the prophecy saying:

The voice is heard in Rama of great weeping and wailing, that the sorrowful mothers wept for the death of their children, and might not be comforted, because they were not alive.

– Fourth Story: The Parable of the Tares:

The Parable of the Tares (also known as the Parable of the Weeds, Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, or the Parable of the Weeds in the Grain) is a parable of Jesus which appears in Matthew 13:24-13:30. The parable relates how servants eager to pull up the tares were warned that in so doing they would root out the wheat as well and were told to let both grow together until the harvest. According to the interpretation supplied in Matthew 13:36-13:43, the parable’s meaning is that the “sons of the evil one” (the tares or weeds) will be separated from the “sons of the kingdom” (the wheat) at “the end of the age” (the harvest) by angels. This is usually taken to refer to the separation of the unsaved sinners from the saved believers during the Last Judgment. A shorter, compressed version of the parable is found without any interpretation in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas.

The parable in the Gospel of Matthew goes as follows:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then the tares appeared also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in thy field? from where did the tares come out from?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

— Matthew 13:24-30, Holy Bible: King James Version

Analysis

The word translated “tares” in the King James Version is ζιζάνια (zizania), plural of ζιζάνιον (zizanion). This word is thought to mean darnel (Lolium temulentum),[2][3] a ryegrass which looks much like wheat in its early stages of growth.[4] Roman law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy,[4][5] suggesting that the scenario presented here is realistic.[6] Many translations use “weeds” instead of “tares”.

A similar metaphor is wheat and chaff, replacing (growing) tares by (waste) chaff, and in other places in the Bible “wicked ones” are likened to chaff.

The word “zizanie” in French designates a discord and a disagreement between people or in a group.semer la zizanie” = to sow discord.
Example: Everything was going well until Bertrand came to sow discord.
Synonyms: scramble, discord, division, clash, disagreement, misunderstanding

An eschatological interpretation[6] is provided by Jesus in Matthew 13:36-13:43:

Then Jesus sent the multitudes away, and went into the house. His disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the darnel weeds of the field.” He answered them, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the children of the Kingdom; and the darnel weeds are the children of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. As therefore the darnel weeds are gathered up and burned with fire; so will it be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and those who do iniquity, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

— Matthew 13:36-43, World English Bible

Although Jesus has distinguished between people who are part of the Kingdom of Heaven and those who are not, this difference may not always be readily apparent, as the parable of the Leaven indicates.[6] However, the final judgment will be the “ultimate turning-point when the period of the secret growth of God’s kingdom alongside the continued activity of the evil one will be brought to an end, and the new age which was inaugurated in principle in Jesus’ earthly ministry will be gloriously consummated.”[6]

St. Augustine pointed out that the invisible distinction between “wheat” and “tares” also runs through the Church:

O you Christians, whose lives are good, you sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! The harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes. … I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.[7]

Some Christians understood “the children of the evil one” and “the children of the kingdom” to be something else than humans. Origen for instance offered such an interpretation. He also argued that Jesus’s interpretation of the parable needs an interpretation of its own, pointing to the phrase with which Jesus followed his exposition of the parable, namely, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”, which occurs after biblical passages with a hidden meaning (see Luke 14:34-14:35 and Mark 4:2-4:9). Here is an abridged version of Origen’s commentary on Jesus’s interpretation of the parable:

Good things in the human soul and wholesome words about anything have been sown by God the Word and are children of the kingdom. But while men are asleep who do not act according to the command of Jesus, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation”, (Matthew 26:41) the devil sows evil opinions over natural conceptions. In the whole world the Son of man sowed the good seed, but the wicked one tares—evil words. At the end of things there will be a harvest, in order that the angels may gather up and give over to fire the bad opinions that have grown upon the soul. Then those who become conscious that they have received the seeds of the evil one in themselves shall wail and be angry against themselves; for this is the gnashing of teeth. (Acts 7:54) Then shall the righteous shine, no longer differently, but all “as one sun”. (Matthew 13:43) Daniel, knowing that the righteous differ in glory, said, “And the intelligent shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and from among the multitudes of the righteous as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3) The Apostle says the same thing: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory: so also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:41-15:42) I think, then, that at the beginning of blessedness the difference connected with the light takes place. Perhaps the saying, “Let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16), can be written on the table of the heart in a threefold way; so that now the light of the disciples of Jesus shines before the rest of men, and after death before the resurrection, and after the resurrection until “all attain to a full-grown man” (Ephesians 4:13), and all become one sun.[8]

The parable seems to have been interpreted in a similar way by Athenagoras who stated that “false opinions are an aftergrowth from another sowing”[9], and by St. Gregory Nazianzen who exhorted those who were going to be baptized: “Only be not ignorant of the measure of grace; only let not the enemy, while you sleep, maliciously sow tares.”[10] Moreover, St. Gregory of Nyssa relates how his sister St. Macrina cited the parable as a scriptural support for her idea that God gave humans a passionate nature for a good purpose and that passions become vices when we fail to use our reason properly. In her opinion, the “impulses of the soul, each one of which, if only they are cultured for good, necessarily puts forth the fruit of virtue within us”, are the good seed, among which “the bad seed of the error of judgment as to the true Beauty” has been scattered. From the bad seed, “the growth of delusion” springs up by which the true Beauty “has been thrown into the shade.” Due to this, “the seed of anger does not steel us to be brave, but only arms us to fight with our own people; and the power of loving deserts its intellectual objects and becomes completely mad for the immoderate enjoyment of pleasures of sense; and so in like manner our other affections put forth the worse instead of the better growths.” But “the wise Husbandman” leaves the growth of the “error as to Beauty” to remain among his seed, “so as to secure our not being altogether stripped of better hopes” by our passions having been rooted out along with it. For “if love is taken from us, how shall we be united to God? If anger is to be extinguished, what arms shall we possess against the adversary? Therefore the Husbandman leaves those bastard seeds within us, not for them always to overwhelm the more precious crop, but in order that the land itself (for so, in his allegory, he calls the heart) by its native inherent power, which is that of reasoning, may wither up the one growth and may render the other fruitful and abundant: but if that is not done, then he commissions the fire to mark the distinction in the crops.”[11] Finally, Theophylact of Ohrid believed that the parable has a double meaning, writing that the field “is the world, or, each one’s soul”, that the “good seed is good people, or, good thoughts”, and that the tares are heretics, or, bad thoughts.[12]

The Parable of the Tares has often been cited in support of various degrees of religious toleration. Once the wheat is identified with orthodox believers and the tares with heretics, the command Let both grow together until the harvest becomes a call for toleration.

Preaching on the parable, St. John Chrysostom declared that “it is not right to put a heretic to death, since an implacable war would be brought into the world” which would lead to the death of many saints. Furthermore, he suggested that the phrase Lest ye root up the wheat with them can mean “that of the very tares it is likely that many may change and become wheat.” However, he also asserted that God does not forbid depriving heretics of their freedom of speech, and “breaking up their assemblies and confederacies”.[13]

In his “Letter to Bishop Roger of Chalons”, Bishop Wazo of Liege (c. 985-1048 AD) relied on the parable[14] to argue that “the church should let dissent grow with orthodoxy until the Lord comes to separate and judge them”.[15]

Opponents of toleration, such as Thomas Aquinas and the inquisitors, but also John Calvin and Theodore Beza, found several ways to harmonize killing of heretics with the parable. Some argued that a number of tares can be carefully uprooted without harming the wheat. What is more, the tares could be identified with moral offenders within the church, not heretics, or alternatively the prohibition of pulling up the tares could be applied only to the clergy, not to the magistrates. As a millennialist, Thomas Müntzer could call for rooting up the tares, claiming that the time of harvest had come.[16]

Martin Luther preached a sermon on the parable in which he affirmed that only God can separate false from true believers and noted that killing heretics or unbelievers ends any opportunity they may have for salvation:

From this observe what raging and furious people we have been these many years, in that we desired to force others to believe; the Turks with the sword, heretics with fire, the Jews with death, and thus outroot the tares by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God’s Word alone must do. But by murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them and we bring thus, with one stroke a double murder upon ourselves, as far as it lies in our power, namely, in that we murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions, and wish to merit something special in heaven.

He concluded that “although the tares hinder the wheat, yet they make it the more beautiful to behold”.[17] Several years later, however, Luther emphasized that the magistrates should eliminate heretics: “The magistrate bears the sword with the command to cut off offense. … Now the most dangerous and atrocious offense is false teaching and an incorrect church service.”[16]

Roger Williams, a Baptist theologian and founder of Rhode Island, used this parable to support government toleration of all of the “weeds” (heretics) in the world, because civil persecution often inadvertently hurts the “wheat” (believers) too. Instead, Williams believed it was God’s duty to judge in the end, not man’s. This parable lent further support to Williams’ Biblical philosophy of a wall of separation between church and state as described in his 1644 book, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution.[18]

John Milton, in Areopagitica (1644), calling for freedom of speech and condemning Parliament’s attempt to license printing, referred to this parable and the Parable of Drawing in the Net, both found in Matthew 13:[19]

[I]t is not possible for man to sever the wheat from the tares, the good fish from the other fry; that must be the Angels’ ministry at the end of mortal things.

Vandana Shiva On the Real Cause of World Hunger:

“…food production must once again be an issue of sustainability, taking care of the earth and the human right to food must be an inalienable right.” – Dr. Vandana Shiva Trained as a physicist, Vandana Shiva is an organic farmer, social activist and renowned environmentalist. She warns that global hunger is a product of “intensive chemical farming” which turns biodiverse land into monocultures that are too costly for farmers to sustain and produces too little nutritional crops for local consumption. In this 2009 interview, Vandana Shiva talks about third world countries like her native India where agricultural communities are surrounded by fertile farmland and highly favorable growing conditions yet struggle with high rates of childhood hunger. Much of the food grown by indigenous farmers are exported to richer countries.

Fifth Story: the Nursing Madonna

The Nursing Madonna, Virgo Lactans, or Madonna Lactans, is an iconography of the Madonna and Child in which the Virgin Mary is shown breastfeeding the infant Jesus.

The depiction is mentioned by Pope Gregory the Great, and a mosaic depiction probably of the 12th century is on the facade of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, though few other examples survive from before the late Middle Ages. It continued to be found in Orthodox icons (as Galaktotrophousa in Greek, Mlekopitatelnitsa in Russian), especially in Russia.[1]

 

 

 

Usage of the depiction seems to have revived with the Cistercian Order in the 12th century, as part of the general upsurge in Marian theology and devotion. Milk was seen as “processed blood”, and the milk of the Virgin to some extent paralleled the role of the Blood of Christ.[2]

In the Middle Ages, the middle and upper classes usually contracted breastfeeding out to wetnurses, and the depiction of the Nursing Madonna was linked with the Madonna of Humility, a depiction that showed the Virgin in more ordinary clothes than the royal robes shown, for instance, in images of the Coronation of the Virgin, and often seated on the ground.

Madonna of humility by Domenico di Bartolo,

Humility was a virtue extolled by Saint Francis of Assisi, and this style of image was associated with Franciscan piety, although it was not the creation of the Franciscans since the artist first associated with the image, Simone Martini, had ties with the Dominicans and may have created the image for them.[3] The word humility derives from the Latin humus, meaning earth or ground.

The appearance of many such depictions in Tuscany in the early 14th century was something of a visual revolution for the theology of the time, compared to the Queen of Heaven depictions; they were also popular in Iberia. After the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, clerical writers discouraged nudity in religious subjects, and the use of the Madonna Lactans iconography began to fade away.[3]

Another type of depiction, also deprecated after Trent, showed Mary baring her breast in a traditional gesture of female supplication to Christ when asking for mercy for sinners in Deesis or Last Judgement scenes. A good example is the fresco at S. Agostino in San Gimignano, by Benozzo Gozzoli, painted to celebrate the end of the plague

The nursing Virgin survived into the Baroque some depictions of the Holy Family, by El Greco for example,[4] and narrative scenes such as the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, for example by Orazio Gentileschi (versions in Birmingham and Vienna).

-Lactatio Bernardi:

Bernard receiving milk from the breast of the Virgin Mary. The scene is a legend which allegedly took place at Speyer Cathedral in 1146.

A variant, known as the Lactation of St Bernard (Lactatio Bernardi in Latin, or simply Lactatio) is based on a miracle or vision concerning St Bernard of Clairvaux where the Virgin sprinkled milk on his lips (in some versions he is awake, praying before an image of the Madonna, in others asleep).[5] In art he usually kneels before a Madonna Lactans, and as Jesus takes a break from feeding, the Virgin squeezes her breast and he is hit with a squirt of milk, often shown travelling an impressive distance. The milk was variously said to have given him wisdom, shown that the Virgin was his mother (and that of mankind generally), or cured an eye infection.

 

  • Meaning of Jesus Infancy

Note: COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE by Hildegard of Bingen

In the beginning was the Word( Logos) , and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1-1

“For we are the image of God, Hildegard tells us, and if we wish to see God we need look no further than our souls and bodies, ourselves and our neighbors.”

Few of us have been blinded by the reverberating light of Christ or seen the shimmering form of Lady Wisdom spinning her cosmic wheel. But then, we do not need to: For we are the image of God, Hildegard tells us, and if we wish to see God we need look no further than our souls and bodies, ourselves and our neighbors. “God willed that his Word should create all things, as he had foreordained before the ages. And why is it called a Word? Because with a resounding voice it awakened all creatures and called them to itself.” In the same way, human beings, formed in the Creator’s likeness, are inescapably creative, for we work with our hands and command with our voices. “What was made in the Word was life”: Like our Creator, we too live by the works that we create. By our making, we reveal ourselves to ourselves, and, what is more, we reveal God to one another. God’s rational word echoes in our speech, his praise resounds in our songs, and his creativity is declared in our creations.

The living Light that made us is the singing Word that took our flesh; he made us because we were eternally his and he wished to be revealed as ours. We are his mirrors, his marvels, his fellow workers, and the work of his hands.Read HILDEGARD’S COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE

  • Blessed Virgin Mary – Mystical Commentary

by Sheik Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi

To advance along the ascending way, one enters solitude and seclusion – not necessarily in a literal sense, but even while remaining within the context of family and social responsibility. These communal responsibilities are the sacred temple of human existence. However, solitude alone will not be sufficiënt.

One must remain oriented toward the mystic east, the direction of prayer. One must learn to gaze at the perpetual dawn of Divine Wisdom. This implies full participation in the science of prayer, as expressed within an authentic sacred tradition.

After entering that “solitary room facing east”, which is inwardness and simplicity of mind and heart, one can contemplate Divine Beauty manifest through the transparent creation – the universe in its pristine nature, untouched by conventional conceptuality but illumined instead by prophetic revelation.

Gradually, one’s being becomes more peaceful, harmonious, integrated. Divine Light begins to manifest directly.

Within this ineffable brightness, the conventional structures of society and our own habitual forms of perception are no longer visible. Within this dimension of sheer radiance, both waking visions and mystical dreams occur.

 

These subtle experiences are indications of progress along the evolutionary way, the steep path spoken of by Allah Most High in His Holy Quran. They can be accurately interpreted by a sheikh, or spiritual guide, who has received empowerment from a previous guide in the unbroken lineage of the Prophet Muhammad to carry on this sacred task of dream interpretation.

 

 

The combined inspiration and intention of disciple and guide, murid and murshid, sparks the alchemical process which is called inward.  Read more here

  • The birth of Jesus in man

Faouzi Skali in his book Jesus and the Sufi Traditon explains in the 10 chapter,The birth of Jesus in man:

The soul of the mystic, Rûmi teaches us, is similar to Mary: “If your soul is pure enough and full of love enough, it becomes like Mary: it begets the Messiah”.

And al-Halláj also evokes this idea: “Our consciences are one Virgin where only the Spirit of Truth can penetrate

In this context, Jesus then symbolizes the cutting edge of the Spirit present in the human soul: “Our body is like Mary: each of us has a Jesus in him, but as long as the pains of childbirth do not appear in us, our Jesus is not born” ( Rumi, The Book of the Inside, V).

This essential quest is comparable to suffering of Mary who led her under the palm tree (Koran XIX, 22-26): “ I said:” 0 my heart, seek the universal Mirror, go towards the Sea, because you will not reach your goal by the only river! ”

In this quest, Your servant finally arrived at the place of Your home as the pains of childbirth led Mary towards the palm tree “(RÛMi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

Just as the Breath of the Holy Spirit, breathed into Mary, made him conceive the Holy Spirit, as so when the Word of God (kalám al-haqq) enters someone’s heart and the divine Inspiration purifies and fills his heart (see Matthew V, 8 or Jesus in the Sermon of the Mountain exclaims: “Blessed are pure hearts, for they will see God! “) and his soul, his nature becomes such that then is produced in him a spiritual child (walad ma’nawî) having the breath of Jesus who raises the dead.

Human beings,” it says in Walad-Nama ( French translation, Master and disciple, of Sultan Valad and Kitab al-Ma’ârif  the Skills of Soul Rapture), must be born twice: once from their mother, another from their own body and their own existence. The body is like an egg: the essence of man must become in this egg a bird, thanks to the warmth of Love; then it will escape its body and fly into the eternal world of the soul, beyond space.

And Sultan Walad adds: “If the bird of faith (imán) is not born in Man during its existence, this earthly life is then comparable to a miscarriage.

The soul, in the prison of the body, is ankylosed like the embryo in the maternal womb, and it awaits its deliverance. This will happen when the “germ” has matured, thanks to a descent into oneself, to a painful awareness: “The pain will arise from this look thrown inside oneself, and this suffering makes pass to beyond the veil. As long as the mothers do not take birth pains, the child does not have the possibility of being born (. Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 2516 sq.) (…) My mother, that is to say my nature [my body], by his agony pains, gives birth to the Spirit … If the pains during the coming of the child are painful for the pregnant woman, on the other hand, for the embryo, it is the opening of his prison ”(Ibid., 3555 sq)

Union with God, explains Rûmi, manifests itself when the divine Qualities come to cover the attributes of His servant:

God’s call, whether veiled or not, grants what he gave to Maryam. 0 you who are corrupted by death inside your body, return from nonexistence to the Voice of the Friend! In truth, this Voice comes from God, although it comes from the servant of God! God said to the saint: “I am your tongue and your eyes, I am your senses, I am your contentment and your wrath. Go, for you are the one of whom God said: ‘By Me he hears and by Me he sees!’ You are the divine Consciousness, how should it be said that you have this divine Consciousness? Since you have become, by your wondering, ‘He who belongs to God’.

I am yours because ‘God will belong to him. Sometimes, I tell you: ‘It’s you!’, Sometimes, ‘It’s me!’ Whatever I say, I am the Sun illuminating all things. “(Mathnawî, I, 1934 sq).

Once the illusion of duality has been transcended, all that remains in the soul is the divine Presence: the soul then finds in the depths of its being the divine effigy.

It has become the place of theophany. This is what Rumi calls the spiritual resurrection: “The universal Soul came into contact with the partial soul and the latter received from her a pearl and put it in her womb. Thanks to this touch of her breast, the individual soul became pregnant, like Mary, with a Messiah ravishing the heart. Not the Messiah who travels on land and at sea, but the Messiah who is beyond the limitations of space! Also, when the soul has been fertilized by the Soul of the soul, then the world is fertilized by such a soul “( Ibid., II, 1184 sq.).

This birth of the spiritual Child occurs out of time, and therefore it occurs in each man who receives him with all his being through this “Be!” that Marie receives during the Annunciation: “From your body, like Maryam, give birth to an Issa without a father! You have to be born twice, once from your mother, another time from yourself. So beget yourself again! If the outpouring of the Holy Spirit dispenses again his help, others will in turn do what Christ himself did: the Father pronounces the Word in the universal Soul, and when the Son is born, each soul becomes Mary (Ibid., III, 3773.)

So Jesus can declare: “O son of Israel, I tell you the truth, no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and earth unless he is born twice! By the Will of God, I am of those who were born twice: my first birth was according to nature, and the second according to the Spirit in the Sky of Knowledge!  » (Sha’ranî, Tabaqat, II, 26; Sohrawardî, ‘Awarif, I, 1)

The second birth corresponds to what we also gain in Sufism as the “opening (fath) of the eye of the heart“: “When Your Eye became an eye for my heart, my blind heart drowned in vision ; I saw that You were the universal Mirror for all eternity and I saw in Your Eyes my own image. I said, “Finally, I found myself in His Eyes, I found the Way of Light!” (Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)

This opening is the promise made by God to all those who conclude a pact with the spiritual master, pole of his time, like the apostles with Jesus or the Companions when they pledged allegiance to Muhammad:God was satisfied with believers when they swore an oath to you under the Tree, He knew perfectly the content of their hearts, He brought down on them deep peace (sakina), He rewarded them with a prompt opening ( fath) and by an abundant booty  which they seized ”(Coran XLVIII, 18-19).(The abundant loot indicates Divine Knowledge (mari’fa)

  • Jesus – The Paradigm of a Pilgrim in God

Jesus, the physical embodiment of the divine Breath

For Ibn ʿArabī, Jesus is an exceptional being. As the Andalusian author relates, Jesus was his first master and was decisive in his entry into the way of Sufism. This personal relationship, similar to a first love, encouraged him to hope that he would be a witness to the day of Jesus’s coming, and perhaps this motivated him to live his final years in Damascus, the place of his descent.

Jesus follows a path from God, and returns to God, without ever having been away from God; his descent into this world is followed by his ascent to the second Heaven (the one of Mercury), waiting to descend again to the great mosque of Damascus, before making the final ascent to Paradise. His vertical movement combines with a horizontal movement – that is, he travels ceaselessly [his ceaseless travelling] across the world as a wanderer with no place to rest his head. This constant travel is a manifestation of the constant activity of God and reveals the nature of all reality. Every creature is a word that comes from God and is destined to return to Him. In addition, Jesus, by means of his preaching centred on asceticism and the reminder of death, and through his alchemical spiritual and health-giving activity, he helps human beings on their path of return to the Creator.Read more…

  • Viriditas: the greening power of the Divine (or Divine Healing Power of Green)

Viriditas is one of the most recognizable contributions of Hildegard of Bingen.

For Hildegard, viriditas encapsulated the divine force of nature, the depth and breadth of which is reflected in the various translations. These words within the word are laden with meaning; with lively, powerful connotations that capture the essence Hildegard had conceptualized so long ago.

The origin of Viriditas,” Viridity” may be the union of two Latin words: Green and Truth. (Latin viridis (source of Spanish, Italian verde), related to virere “be green, and Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) “faith, faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant,” from Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho, from Proto-Germanic treuwaz “having or characterized by good faith,” from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.also *dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,

But like most Latin words, Viriditas does not easily translate into convenient, straightforward English. While being difficult to translate may be frustrating to some, there is beauty in this complexity.

The Basic Definition and Origin

The definition is both literal, as in “green”, “greenness”, and “growth”, yet also metaphorical, as in “vigor”, “verdure”, “freshness” and “vitality.” For Hildegard, the spiritual aspects were just as essential as the physical meaning. In much of her work, viriditas was “the greening power of God.” It was in everything, including humans.

This “greenness” was an expression of heaven, the creative power of life, which can be witnessed in the gardens, forests, and farmland all around us. And like those lands, she saw viriditas as something to be cultivated in both our bodies and our souls.

What is it? Hildegard says it is God’s   freshness that we receive as spiritual and physical life‐forces. This is vivid imagery  that probably came to her simply as she looked around the countryside. The  Rhine valley is lush and green and as we know today, a wonderful place,  flourishing in fruit and vineyards. This greening power mysteriously is inherent in  animals and fishes and birds, in all plants and flowers and trees, in all the  beautiful things of this world.

Human flesh is green she says and our blood  possesses this special greening power. The “life force of the body” (the soul) was  green. Whenever sex was involved—she said there was a particular brightness in  the green. This greening power was at the heart of salvation and the reality of the  Word was verdant life.    This greenness connects us all together as humanity  and shines forth giving us common purpose. It is the  strength within us that manifests as a strong and  healthy life. This greenness originates in the four  elements: earth and fire, water and air. It is sustained  by the four qualities: by dry and moist, by cold and hot;  not only the body—but greenness of soul as well.

Hildegard contrasts greening power or wetness with  the sin of drying up (one of her visions.) A dried‐up  person or a dried‐up culture loses the ability to create.  Hildegard saw this as a grave sin and a tragedy. It also  describes how she felt about herself during those years  when she was refusing to write down her visions and  voices. Her awakening did not occur until she embraced  her own viriditas. From then on Hildegard was  constantly creating.

This is in contrast to greening— dry straw, hay or chaff  representing dried up Christians  who are scattered and cut  down by the just Divinity of the  Trinity. 

 

 

 

 

 

‘O most honored Greening Force, You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.

You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.

You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”
–  Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae

Hildegard gives an interesting image about greenness  stating that it drenches all things in this world and then  gives the tree as an example. The function of the tree’s sap [its life blood that we know as its essential oil] falls to the soul in the human  body. Its powers or abilities enable us to unfold or develop form just as it does in  the tree. In other words, the tree’s essential oil gives life and nourishment— moistness to humans. She goes on to make comparisons between the tree’s  branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruit with  various stages within human life.    For Hildegard, viriditas is that natural driving   force, the life force that is always directed  toward healing and wholeness. Love, too, is the  breath of the same vital green power that  sustains all life’s greenness. She sees the Holy  Spirit as that power that gives human beings  the green and open space where they are  capable of responding to the Word and joining  in all of creation. The Spirit purifies the world,  scours away all guilt, and heals all wounds and  sadness.    So, green is not a mere color for Hildegard—it is  an attitude and purposeful intent. It is the  permanent inflowing and outflowing of  viriditas. Ultimately—we are talking about  physical health from the inexhaustible fountain  of life’s living light. It is the very joy of being  alive.

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