Tag Archives: Christianity

Prague Postcard: Jan Hus Memorial


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Prague is an amazing city. Mostly, look at the two photos. What follows is a newbie’s expression of a few things he’s just learned while here in Prague.

Apparently, the Jan Hus Memorial, pictured above and below, is famous for more than just its namesake. Built in 1915, the memorial counts as a work of Art Nouveau sculpture.

The funny thing about the above angle: The reformer Hus (1369-1415) appears to be looking at the Church of Our Lady before Týn, which is the church he wrestled away from the Roman Catholic Church, and some time after Hus’s death (burned at the stake), Rome wrestled back from his followers, the Hussites.

Between the two spires, you can see a lower cross, and beneath that, what looks like a gold light or plate. It’s an image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. It wasn’t always there. Just underneath that image, there’s an empty space that used to hold a golden cup, symbolizing Hus’s and the Hussite’s belief that the layperson can receive the wine at Holy Communion, not just the bread, which at the time was the practice. When Rome regained control of the church, Catholic authorities had the golden cup melted and pressed into the image of the Virgin and baby Jesus. (I’m only repeating what I’ve heard on a Rick Steves audio guide or briefly read online—just quick postcard here! I’m probably missing nuances.)

One thing I didn’t know about Jan Hus is his impact on the Czech language: he was a professor who added the diacritical marks—like ý and š—that allow Czech to be written so the letters can represent Czech sounds that differ from sounds in the Latin alphabet.

Soon, I’ll be back in the States. Here’s Hus with a bird on his head:

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When the neighborhood Anglican Church starts another Baptist Bible study


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When the neighborhood Anglican Church starts another Baptist Bible study. 

 

 
Photos from Pixabay.com

Stumbled Upon: 2012 and 2014 EWTN Interviews With Bestselling Author Dean Koontz


I’ve only read one novel by Dean Koontz, titled Lightning, a fun read I picked up years ago. But Koontz’s reputation in the publishing business is hard to miss because he sells millions of copies of his books, which inevitably wind up on the bestseller lists. While searching for something completely different, I stumbled upon these EWTN interviews, one from 2012 and another from 2014, in which Koontz talks about his life, his work, good versus evil, and the Roman Catholic influence in his books. It’s really interesting to hear how he appropriates his Catholic faith in his writing—and to note how he doesn’t.

Heads up—the 2012 video, above, is entirely devoted to Koontz, while the 2014 video, below, includes an interview with him as part of a one-hour news program, so you’ll have to fast-forward or scroll ahead to see him in the latter.

Also see Dean Koontz’s 5 Favorite Books.

A Snaphot of Christianized Nationalism in the U.S., 1916


While there’s no precise analogy between our time and 1916, this newspaper clipping certainly holds some eerily familiar echoes:

From The Devils Lake World and Inter-Ocean, a newspaper in Devils Lake, N.D., June 29, 1916: nationalism It seems strange to sing patriotic songs in a sanctuary built for worshiping God.

But the issue then as now is not so much replacing one thing for another as conflating two unlike things.

Christianity’s Hell: Born in paganism, raised in Judaism


Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Nortre Dame, writes in The Daily Beast:

“Chronologically speaking, hell didn’t always feature in conceptual maps of the afterlife. In the Hebrew Bible there are frequent references to Sheol, a place of shadows located physically beneath us. This is where everyone goes when they die, because people are buried in the ground. Upon occasion, Sheol opens its jaws and swallows people—a phenomenon we probably know as earthquakes, but which can in part explain why death is described as swallowing people up. Without a doubt, Sheol is a generally dismal place where people are separated from God, but it isn’t reserved for the especially wicked.

“In Judaism, the idea of post-mortem judgment, reward, and punishment seems to have gathered strength in the second century BCE. During this period Israel was again a conquered land, ruled by a succession of oppressive Greek empires. Along with high taxation and cultural colonialism, Alexander the Great and his successors brought the ideas of post-mortem punishment in the underworld to the Holy Land. There were many other potential religious groups envisioning post-mortem destruction, but the Greeks appear to have been the most influential. Think Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill, Tantalus being cursed with eternal thirst, and Prometheus having his liver eaten on a daily basis. For beleaguered and oppressed Jews, the idea that the injustices levied on them in the present would be rectified in the afterlife held a lot of appeal. And that kind of justice involved punishing their tormentors as well as rewarding the righteous.”

Read Moss’s entire article here.

Also see Emil Brunner on fear, The Judgment, and the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, October 2014


Updated to correct the photo and add another.

Photo taken inside Saint Peter's Basilica, October 2014. Photography by Colin Foote Burch for the Public Work blog, https://liturgical.wordpress.com.

Photo of the side of the altar area, inside Saint Peter's Basilica, October 2014. Photography by Colin Foote Burch for the Public Work blog, https://liturgical.wordpress.com. Travel. Italy. Vatican City. Rome.

The other war on Christmas


When I was a kid, my friends and I would occasionally hear adults talk about the pagan origins of Christmas trees. In our Christian homes, churches, and schools, such talk was not merely chat. It was actionable language. Within those overheard snippets was an implicit threat: possibly an end to the Christmas tree at home, and by extension,  possibly an end to all those great things kids love about Christmas.

The anti-Christmas tree mentality never took root in my home or many other homes (although if memory serves, there were rumors some classmates’ parents had forbidden having a tree).

And I think I know why, at least in a broader sense: holiness movements and purity movements and other moralistic movements seem concerned with things the members should not-be and things they should not-do. Rarely is there a concrete, image-based sense of what is being substituted for the not-ness. (By image, here I mean anything that appeals to the perceptions of the five senses.)

The calling in those holiness, purity, and otherwise moralistic movements seems to be to achieve something more or less invisible and essentially unmodeled. Even the word “holiness,” an abstract concept, is hard to experience. But as the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum.

So people remain under control of the images and symbols to which they attach (on varying levels, within community as much as within an individual) significance and meaning.

In most areas of life, abstract ideas cannot drive culture out of a community.

Culture is embodied in things and in relationships.

Indeed, a family Christmas tree, with its handed-down ornaments, can be both an embodiment of the holiday and a symbol for the way a particular family joins together at the same time, year after year.

To change the culture, create new, concrete images with subversive intent, and find ways to embody whatever you might be teaching or communicating.