Tag Archives: Church

Narrator – εἰς τὴν Πόλιν on the way to “this”


My third incarnation as Bhikṣu or – in the words of everyday life – as wanderer who followed the annual trek of the birds, ended in Istanbul. In this former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire [1] I became part of the “polis” [2] – not only part of the City State with a public secular politics, but at home in the universal community of environment and people

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[3]

My Acropolis was not a temple where in the past the Greeks gave a house [4] to their Gods with all the splendour and exceptional beauty. Although I was at home everywhere, I found no lasting home in a church, mosque or temple.

Akropolis[5]

Between the many churches and mosques of Istanbul I experienced my body and “polis” – in the form of the universal living environment – as the temple of God [6].

Blauwe moskee[7]

In the poem “This we have now” by Rumi I read a reflection of my world in Istanbul:

This

That we are now

Created the body, cell by cell,

Like bees building a honeycomb.

The human body and the univers

Grow from This [8]

During my first three incarnations – first as Kṛṣṇa in Kenya, then as idol in Amsterdam and several Northern cities, and thereafter as Bhikṣu who followed the annual trek of the birds between South and North Europe – I had only seen reflections of “This” within my own living environment.

In my fourth incarnation I wanted to leave the protection of the cave [9] – in which I found shelter until now – with only reflections of the all-encompassing “This” as Plato described in his Politeia [10].

Grot[11]

Slowly at the beginning of my new incarnation I became perfectly included in the universe. In the libraries of Istanbul I read translations of the works of Rumi. Along with his poems I swirlingly began a new existence.

With the new spring – at the invitation of Carla Drift – Man Leben arrived in Istanbul. Carla, Man and I decided to start “Who are you – a survey into our existence”. Before we entered everyday life on this quest, we wrote each other’s biographies.


[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis

[3] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corne_d%27Or

[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis

[6] See also: The first letter to the Corinthians 12 – 20

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

[8] Part of the English version of the poem “This we have now” by Rumi. See also: Barks, Coleman, The Essential Rumi. New York: Castle Books, 1997, p. 262

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

[10] In English the Politeia is often translated with “State” or “Republic”. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staat_(Plato)

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

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Man Leben – on the way 3


Geschichte, mit denen man leben muβ

History, with which one must live.

You continue the brief report of your life with the arrival in Dachau after a pilgrimage of two months:

“In September 1983 I left the farm of my godmother in South Limburg. She had recommended me this pilgrimage in order to honour the wish of my aunt who had asked me after my 21st birthday to carry out the traditional Jewish remembrance of the dead for my parents, when I would be able to do so. My mother died in 1944 and was buried in Dachau. During All Souls’ Day on November 2, I hoped to visit the grave of my mother according to the Catholic habit in South Limburg.

On my journey by foot I got to know the wind [1] and the moon [2] and I started to identify the wind and the moon with the “He” and “his” in the Kaddish prayer [3]. Hereby I could say this prayer every day – for a full year – for my father, mother, aunt and Godfather.

As wanderer, but a luxurious wanderer, I arrived in Dachau at the end of October 1983; my health was still excellent and my equipment comfortably. Also with the early nightfall at the end of the afternoon I learned to life by making a small fire in a small used tin.

A day later – on a stormy day – I visited the camp. The images and impressions of these camps are well known. Sources report that the administration in the camps at Dachau recorded the intake of 206.000 prisoners and 31,951 deaths mainly caused by malnutrition, exhaustion and diseases [4]. In comparison, on the war cemeteries in Omaha Beach in Normandy, France  and in Henri Chapelle in the Ardennes, Belgium, 7000 and 8000 soldiers were buried: bottomless grief.

During my visit to the camp I noticed what my aunt could not mention and wished not to mention. I also understood why she added to her wish so explicitly: “When you are able to do so”. Later, much later, I could put into words my feeling during the visit.

Inside and outside

Stilled and turned to stone

The Wind played Her song.

At the fall of dusk I left the camp. Outside I sang the aria from Cantata 82 “Ich habe genug” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen,
Fallet sanft und selig zu!
Welt, ich bleibe nicht mehr hier,
Hab ich doch kein Teil an dir,
Das der Seele könnte taugen.
Hier muss ich das Elend bauen,
Aber dort, dort werd ich schauen
Süßen Friede, stille Ruh.

This Cantata was written by Johann Sebastian Bach for February 2nd or “Purificatio Mariae” [5] – the purification of Maria – 40 days after Christmas. Appropriate: I sang the cleaning of and for my mother, her memory be a blessing to our world and for the hereafter [6]. For me, these two worlds of Her have always been one and the same.

The next day I came back to see if my mother’s grave was well taken care for. I had a round pebble with me: this pebble I put on her grave.

[7]

Then I walked along the Catholic Chapel, the Christian Church of Reconciliation and the Jewish Memorial. For me, none of these rooms were inviting to enter.

[8]

[9]

[10]

[11]

In Ulm, I had seen the study model for the continuum that includes the entire universe in all its simplicity and limitation. Inside and outside change continuously. At the same time this reconciliation room gives shelter, and breathable includes everything from the universe in security and responsiveness. My mother, her memory be a blessing for here and for there.

[12]

On November 2 – All Souls Day – in the afternoon I visited my mother’s grave. The stone was gone. I could understand this, otherwise there might arise a mountain of stones. At her grave, I have said the prayer of Kaddish.

Near the fall of darkness I moved on. My feelings during this departure I read many years later in the Zen koan: “Each of you have Your own light. If you want to see, then it is not possible. The darkness is dark, dark. Now, what is your/Your light? …… The answer is: the room of the universe, the road.” [13]

Country walkers are not welcome in Dachau. I moved on. Winter began. It took 10 years before I visited the grave of my father in 1993. First I lived in monasteries for several years”, you say.

The following post is about your monastery years.


[1] See post “Man Leben – op weg” van 14 oktober 2011.

[2] See post “Man Leben – op weg 2” van 17 oktober 2011.

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish

[4] Sources give different numbers. The numbers in this post come from: http://www.dachau.nl/het_kamp/historisch/index.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentation_of_Jesus_at_the_Temple

[6] See also: Wieseltier, Leon, Kaddisj. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 1999, p. 11

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dachau-015.jpg

[8] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KZ_Dachau_Todesangst-Christi-Kapelle.jpg

[9] Source image: Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16JUN2005_Munich_054.jpg

[10] Source image: http://hu.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=F%C3%A1jl:2500_-_KZ_Dachau_-_Protestant_Monument.JPG&filetimestamp=20071012014216

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16JUN2005_Munich_064.jpg

[12] Model for the continuous design by Ulrich Burandt as study during the workshop of Tomas Maldonado at the Ulm School of Design. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design

[13] Free rendering of Yunmen’s light – case 86 from the Hekiganroku. See also: Aitken, Robert, The Mind of Clover – Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. New York: North Point Press, 2000⁸. pag. 62. Remark: According to the sources the answer to this koan is: “Storeroom/kitchenstorage, gate/gateway”. In this post “Storeroom” is rendered as “the room of the Universe” referring to “Deine Seele ist die ganze Welt” or “Your soul is the whole world” – see also: Hesse Herman, Siddhartha. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag: 1989 p. 10. In Sanskrit “Gate” means amongst others “going, and the locativus for the verb to go”.

You: Man Leben – South Limburg


Die Zeit die man leben nennt [1]

Until the end of 1941 you have lived your early childhood in Amsterdam as a Dutch boy.

[2]

No existing man and place has been model for one of the main characters and places. Their names might be Allman, Everyman and Everywhere.

Just before your eighth birthday you said goodbye to your parents. After a night of staying at your aunt, you arrived by several places in between and with a new name Jacobus Hermanus Maria Leben – they called me “Man”– as Catholic boy on a farm in South Limburg.

On your eighth birthday you ended up in a country where a language extends as far as you can watch [3]. So many foreign armies have set foot on this country that the new regime from Germany brought no shocking change. But the manner in which one lives and who is allowed to life here, the Pruusj – or German – the Dutchman has nothing to do with. In 1942 life went on as it has done for many thousands of years.

You continue with your primary school years:

“A long journey on foot, on a bike, by train and on a carriage followed when I left my aunt. A number of nights I have lodged with different people. In between I am renamed and baptized Catholic. I still use this name. At the end of the trip just before sunset I arrived in a different world; a farm near Valkenburg [4]. I could understand no one. The farm looked like a castle surrounded with walls and buildings and everything smelled unlike anything I was used to. The farmer and his wife – who I have adopted me as their (temporarily) godfather and godmother – and the servants were kind. First I got supper, bread, and many delicacies. I was tired and I fell fast asleep in a strange bedroom. The next morning began the rhythm of the farm, Church and school: first I helped with milking of the cows, then I went to the church – a strange world – had breakfast and then to school. The pastor introduced me in the classroom. Odd looks; I could understand no one. After school I helped on the farm. Later I also played with classmates. I remained an outsider at school: I could learn far too well.

  [5]

After the period of habituation, this is the most beautiful time out of my life. Everything was stable between my eighth and twelfth year. In that time I got used to the seasons, the change of light and the rhythm of nature. I still carry the field flowers with me, the Church with the processions through the fields, and the golden yellow light from that time.

[6]

Soon I was allowed to confess like all children of my school. After some classmates did there confession, the door of the pastor opened, he opened the door of a brutal boy. The boy received several  slaps – in a farmers’ environment this did not really hurt – and he was allowed to carry on with his penance. I actually had not sinned, but I decided to invent a few small sins; my first deviation from the right path – more followed later.

At the age of 10, I unexpectedly fell in love with a girl in the village. It seemed that lightning struck, so fiercely and unexpectedly; Everything was covered in a white glow. From then on life was different with extra feelings and concerns. Nobody has ever known of my first love.

Later I never more helped so open-minded on the fields with ploughing and sowing. The smell of freshly ploughed earth only smelled of growth and bloom. After I left South Limburg, another – sad – smell was added [7].

In between in September 1944 the other regime from Germany was expelled from South Limburg without any clashes in our village. Near Aachen, in the Ardennes and in North Limburg there were fierce fights. A new regime from the West arrived with first the sensation of change and later habituation; life re-took its rhythm.

In the summer of 1946 my aunt came. With her I moved to a village near Rotterdam. I moved from an environment that is completely Catholic to an area that has a strict inner faith and guilt with a sharp “F” and hard “G”. As I look back, this move is – next to having children – the biggest change in my life “, you say.

“These changes should have been shocking for you”, I say.

“In Limburg, it came as it came, it was as it was and it went as it went; and not otherwise. Falling in love was a change. After this lightning struck, life was no longer the same, no longer carefree as before. I have had a very good time in Limburg. Around 1975, I have again lived two years on the same farm: again a good time. The shocking changes came when I moved to Holland”, you say.

The next post is about your grammar school years near Rotterdam.

– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”



[1] Translation: “The time one names life”. There exists a film with a similar title; see: http://www.tvspielfilm.de/kino/filmarchiv/film/die-zeit-die-man-leben-nennt,1318419,ApplicationMovie.html

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AmstelAmsterdamNederland.jpg

[3] In France until the time of Napoleon, the languages did not extends further than one can watch. See:  Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007

[4] No existing farm or neighbourhood in the area of Valkenburg has been model for this post.

[5] Examples of farms in South Limburg. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Houtemstgerlach.jpg

[6] Source image: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=1361079

[7] This may remind of the title of a novel by: Pavese, Cesar, La terra e la morte.

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of God


In the previous post we have looked at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this, you and I have looked at the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986. At the end of the film we have seen how the father has sacrificed everything he owns and binds him in this life, to God. He has made this sacrifice to save the world, in order that everything remains as it was before the threat of war and to be freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. This sacrifice of the father is as well an unintentional sacrifice of his family and his relatives.

The son brings three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He is constantly giving water to the dead tree and therefore he brings the tree – the tree of life – back to life. By the third sacrifice he remains silent throughout the film.

The son asks to his father – and to God – why his father should keep his word. The son does not need any words for his sacrifice; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes words.

Rightly the son asks at the end of the film: “In the beginning was the word. Why Father? ”

This question brings us to the first sentence in John’s Gospel in the New Testament [1]. Later in our Odyssey, we will try to give answers to this unavoidable question of the son.

In this post we will look further at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. We look at the painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent. This painting depicts Jesus in the form of the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God is described in the first chapter of John’s Gospel in the New Testament: “The next day St. John sees Jesus approaching. St. John says: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”[2]

[3]

In me I hear the Agnus Dei from Mass in B – minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Dona Nobis Pacem. [4]

“It seems that the last weeks of our Odyssey we are travelling according parts of the liturgy of Holy Mass from the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago we started with the Kyrie: the word “church” probably originates from Kyrie[5]. Inside the churches, we continued with the Credo in the form of light and hope. The reflection and the sermon followed within two meditation rooms. And now we arrive at the sacrifice by watching the movie “Offret” and at the Agnus Dei [6] as the Lamb of God, “I say.

[7]

“I could never say the Credo – or I believe – with conviction. It is not possible for me to believe in the Christian theology”, you say.

“You’re not alone and I feel this doubt with you. Also Thomas one of the disciples of Jesus, cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the resurrection of Jesus as salvation and resurrection of all people or believers. Caravaggio’s painting shows that. This doubt of Thomas is not taken away by feeling the wound. Probably, faith and doubt go hand in hand for many Christians”, I say.

[8]

“I believe that every day the sun rises as resurrection and I believe in my next breath. But I cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God as salvation of the universe”, you say.

“People have also questioned the next rising of the sun and the next breath. Hereof many rituals are known for establishing and perpetuating this confidence. People know a lot of uncertainties about the past, the present and the future. Christian theology tries to overcome these uncertainties (“in doubt” or “doubt” in Latin) by faith, rituals – including offerings – and hope. A deeply religious Christian once said: “The last thing I want to lose is my faith.” For me, this sentence includes even a trace of doubt. A rock-solid belief never fades. By rituals people try to establish and maintain trust and hope. The Christian faith says: “And they that know your name, will put their trust in you.” [9]  The painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck nicely show this: the Father, the Son as the Lamb of God and the Holy Spirit as trinity”, I say.

“The Bible includes the Book of Job that is about a rock-solid faith [10]. I also think of the Japanese poet Rӯokan. Once at night everything was stolen from his simple hut:

“The thief leaves behind,

the ever changeful Moon

at the firmament.” [11]

The moon [12] points to the firm belief of Rӯokan”, you say.

“The faith of people in the past often seems more certain, because we see their past as well established. But maybe their rock-solid faith does also know uncertainties in their lives. If we look with their eyes, do we see a different world, other uncertainties, different expectations, a different religion? I do not know”, I say.

“Me neither. Shall we continue with the Dove as the Holy Spirit in the next post?”, you say.


[1] St. John 1:1 from the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

[2] St. John 1:29 and 1:36 from the New Testament.

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamb_of_God

[4] Translation: Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

[5] The source of the word “Church” probably is Greek: “Kūrios” meaning “Lord, Master”. Source: Ayto, John, Word Origins, the hidden History of English Words from A to Z. London: A &C Black, 2008. Maybe the word Church originates via the German word “Kirche” from the compound of Indo-European words “kr” (karoti, kurute) meaning “make, do, perform”, and “ish” depending on the “sh” sound either “sacrifice” or “ruler”, or “ich – I ” in Sanskrit.

[6] “The Agnus Dei is part of the Mass in the Catholic church and seems to be introduced for the first time during a Mass by Pope Sergius I (687-701 AD).  Agnus Dei means Lamb of God and literally refers to Christ in his role as the perfect sacrifice that reconciles the sins of mankind in the Christian theology. The prayer dates from the time of the ancient Jewish sacramental sacrifices. The Agnus Dei is sung during Mass when the priest breaks the Holy Bread and unification takes place, the priest drops a piece of the wafer in the chalice – filled with wine and water as blood of Christ.
The sacrifice of a lamb and the blood of the lamb are often used metaphors in the religions of the Middle East. It refers to the ancient Jewish custom to liberate people from their sins by a sacrifice. In the Protestant churches in the Revelation the phrase “washed in the blood of the lamb” is used to designate the deliverance of the original sin supposed by the churches. On our Odyssey, we already have encountered the cattle-sacrifice in the myth and Trito cattle cycle.
In art, Agnus Dei, the figure of a lamb bearing a cross, symbolizing Jesus as the Lamb of God. This metaphor is often used in Christian art, where the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent is famous.
Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnus_Dei

[7] Source image: http://www.bertsgeschiedenissite.nl/middeleeuwen/eeuw15/jan_van_eyck.htm

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio.jpg

[9] Source: Psalm 9:10: “God, the protector of the believers”.

[10] Also Job despairs when he and his wife feel the big setbacks directly in their bodies. Job asks God why he deserves these setbacks, his faith is unconditional. In a storm God replies: “Where were you when I separated the sky and the earth and created the universe!”. Hereafter Job recognizes his ignorance, he calls for teaching and confesses that he has directly God in his omnipotence. Job does penance in dust and ashes. After a cattle sacrifice, God’s wrath disappears and prosperity returns for Job.

When Job would have recognized all setbacks as part of himself, may Job have answered God that he is present in the separation of air and earth? May he have the courage to say that his appearance in the separation of air and earth is adapted to the circumstances?  That he always remains one during and after the separation of air and earth and during and after all the crackle that follows?

[11] Source: Stevens, John, Three Zen Masters, Ikkyū, Hakuin, Rӯokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993. Page 131.

[12] Rӯokan is a Japanese Zen Buddhist. Zen Buddhism starts in China by a merger of Taoism and Buddhism. Taoism knows Tao as a keyword meaning “road or course of life”, but this word is probably derived from the ancient Chinese word for “Moon”. Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993 Page: 35.

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Church 2


In our search for the church [1] as “object in the middle” we make a trip of 5 miles. You and I begin in the – more than one thousand years old – Aachen Cathedral in Germany and continue in time through the village church in Wahlwiller in the Netherlands to the newly built church in the abbey Benedictusberg in Mamelis near Lemiers. At the same time this trip leads us back in time from the contemporary city of Aachen, by the village community of 50 years past to the monastic life of many centuries ago.

On this trip we travel through time as the main characters in the book “The once and future King” by Terence White. Kay and The Wart move forward in time and Merlin returns in time.” You say.

“If Merlin would follow our Odyssey back in time, than he has to accomplish an impossible task in the transition from Two to One. He must group an infinite number of fragments together to restore the complete oneness. Maybe Merlin has a chance.” I say.

“That’s impossible. A fractures bowl is beyond repair. I do not know what we may expect on our Odyssey. The transition to Zero is an impossible change in its own. Let’s first see the Cathedral.” You say.

We look at the light in the dome. As I look at the arches, I realize that Charlemagne fought violently with the Moors. But in this house of God that emerged from the palace church of Charlemagne, the shape and the colour of the arches are very similar to the arches in the mosque in Cordoba.

We look at the altar. A group of Germans enters behind us and starts to sing:

“Plorate, Filii Israel. Plorate, omnes Virgines, et Filiam Jephte unigenitiam in Carmine doloris lamentamini.[2][3][4]  

“Jephte makes a terrible sacrifice for his victory. His daughter keeps him to his promise to God by which she completely accepts her own fate.” You say.

“In that time, women keep men in their promises [5]. Will Jephte and his daughter rise from the death by following the promise to God by which they accept their doom? ” I ask.

“I do not know. Let us hope so. I hope that all people will resurrect who accept their fate. The light in the church gives hope.” You say.

The sun breaks through. The light in the dome shines around the altar and creates a golden glow. The cathedral shows itself in its full glory. “The light gives hope.” I say.

[6]

We continue our trip to Wahwiller by the road past the University Hospital, the Hochschule for Technology and the border post at Vaals. After a few kilometres, we see on our right side the Abbey Benedictusberg, our third destination today. A few moments later we leave the main road and enter the village Wahlwiller. We have come to admire the paintings by Aad de Haas [7] in the St. Cunibertus Church. The colours inside and the Stations of the Cross in this church are exceptional. In 1947 the paintings are far too daring for the Catholic Church. After more than thirty years, the paintings of the Stations of the Cross did return in church again.

[8]

We enter the church and again a golden glow. “People show the light of their surroundings. The main altar in the Storkyrkan on Gamla Stan in Stockholm consists of silver on dark ebony. This renders the bright spring light in the Nordic countries.” You say.

[9]

“In South Limburg the light is much softer, therefore this golden glow. The fifteenth station representing the resurrection – in addition to the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross – is beautiful. This painting should actually be directed towards the East and be positioned behind the altar. ” I say.

[10][11]

“The image of the Easter resurrection matches text: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”[12]. Considering the resurrection, I also think about a resurrection from a tabernacle. Probably a tabernacle is mainly empty to give room for the resurrection. Above the Ark the area for Yahweh is also empty.” You say.

“Heaven and earth surpassing; only in the void, the sun rays may shine so beautifully in this church.” I say.

We return in the direction of Lemiers. At the beginning of the driveway to the abbey Benedictusberg, you read that we may join the prayer services. First we examine the photographs of the abbey church [13].

“It looks like the inside of a sanctuary. This absolute beauty of dimensions and the layout of space does not need any further images.” You say.

“Very contemporary and also completely timeless. Modern and also the very first church. It seems like time has no grip on this area. What a beautiful light from above.” I say.

[14]

“Let’s attend the Vespers [15].” You say.

“Very well.” I say.

The following post continues on meditation centers as “object in the middle”.


[1] The source of the word “Church” probably is Greek “Kūrios” meaning “Lord, Master”. Source: Ayto, John, Word Origins, the hidden History of English Words from A to Z. London: A &C Black, 2008. Maybe the word Church originates via the German word “Kirche” from the compound of Indo-European words “kr” (karoti, kurute) meaning “make, do, perform”, and “ish” depending on the “sh”sound either “sacrifice” or “ruler”, or “ich – I ” in Sanskrit.

[2] Source: Oratorio by Carissimi, Giacomo (1605-1674), Jephte

[3] “Weep, Children of Israel. Weep, all young women, for the only daughter of Jephte weep with mournful songs.”

[4] See also: Old Testament, Judges chapter 11.

[5] See also: McGrath, Kevin, STRῙ women in Epic Mahâbhârata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009

[6] Source image: http://www.elfduizend.nl/reizen-Aken.php

[7] See: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aad_de_Haas

[8] Source image: http://www.vvvzuidlimburg.nl/beleefzuidlimburg/abc/vermelding.aspx?id=5471

[9] Source image: http://www.tripadvisor.com

[10] Source image: http://www.deroerom.nl/pagina/344/pasen

[11] Complete overview of the Stations of the Cross in the Church in Wahlwiller: http://home.kpn.nl/dreumpie/w/index_copy(1).htm

[12] See also: New Testament, St. John 12: 24

[13] Architecture: Dom Hans van der Laan. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_van_der_Laan_(architect)

[14] http://www.kerkgebouwen-in-limburg.nl/view.jsp?content=2044

[15] Evening prayer at the end of the afternoon.

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Church


In the previous post you and I have met the role of the house as “object in the middle”. The role of the home has changed over the years from the environment where we live to a habitation. This habitation in the form of a house is seen by our ancestors as a safe haven and as a reference point from where the world is experienced. Recently, people started to identify with their home: they give shape to the house and the house expresses who they are. Our society demands of us more and more that we have a nationality and a permanent home and residence. Without these assets, people are not treated as full citizens.

Now you and I are looking into the role of the house of God as “object in the middle”.  The first sacred places, we have already seen. We have encountered sacred stones on our Odyssey. We remember the stone circles as places for ceremonies which we no longer know.

[1]

We also know the golden calf as an image of a (demi-) god [2]. We have read in the Old Testament about Yahweh who is present between the tips of angel wings above the lost Ark of the Covenant,.

Probably the hunter-gatherers have already given shelter to Gods. We have read about rituals performed by the hunter-gatherers to unite the hunters with their prey as redemption for killing of the prey, and to maintain the unique bond between prey and hunter for both their survival. The rituals may be performed at specific times and places. These sites may be seen as a precursor to the house of God. The many caves with paintings of hunting scenes are a next step towards a house of God. Probably, these paintings also had a religious background.

Many nomadic peoples have travelled around with their herds. They may also have known fixed holy sites. And probably they have seen sacred sites of established residents. Have they identified themselves with the gods of the established residents and the hunter-gatherers? Probably not, but maybe they have adopted some elements of the faith of other people. As nomads, they will have carried their sacred objects on the travels with their herds. In their tents special places are reserved for shrines. One example is the Ark of the Covenant that the Jews carried around on the travels and place in a tent during stages. Even in the temple in Jerusalem, the ark is placed with poles on both sides as a reminder and a preparation for a new travel.

The form of Islamic mosques reminds you and me of temporary stays – large tents and outposts to indicate the entrance point – in a desert. These mosques are transferred in imposing houses of Allah with courts and outbuildings around. An example is the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul.

[3]

Farmers with fixed fields are moving into permanent habitations. Also the gods receive their private habitations. The recognition of the house of Gods does not happen overnight. When we visit the oldest stave church at Urnes in Norway, the guide explains that the woodwork of the church is decorated with dragon motifs on the outside to keep the many evil spirits outside. This is necessary in the long dark winters. The Vikings have to leave their swords outside next to the door. Inside the church has only a few small lights from above. In that light a wooden crucifix is seen from which redemption and access to the afterlife may come. The priests at that time do try to change the image of Valhalla – the hall where the honorary fallen soldiers during battle continue eating, drinking and fighting to the end of time – into a longing for deliverance from sin and a Christian view of the afterlife. The blue paint color – lapis lazuli – on the wooden crucifix from around the 12th century AD comes from Afghanistan according to the guide.

During the explanation of the guide I think of Jalāl al-Dīn – also known as Rumi, who is born around the same time in Vaksh in Balkh Province in Afghanistan. Probably Rumi transcends the “object in the middle” in his contact with Allah: “My thoughts are in the heart of Allah, the heart of Allah will be sick without the thoughts of me [4]”. Later on our Odyssey more about this.

When we leave this church, you say: “Those light openings under the roof remind me of a saying by Oscar Wild:” We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars “.

[5]

“Do you remember the first rays of the sun at 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day of spring? [6]” I ask.

“Whenever I visit a church.” You answer.

The next message continues on churches as “object in the middle”.


[1] Source of image: Marieke Grijpink

[2] See the previous post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1” on 5th of May 2011

[3] Source image: http://www.islamleer.nl/islaam/biografie/geleerdenoverigen/758-kanuni-sultan-suleyman-i

[4] See: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[5] Source image: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/urnes-stave-church

[6] See the last post on “Two” on 25th of April 2011