Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Hostility: Out of Plagues to Exodus

 No one is a born story-teller. With words, in translations, there was such a long learning curve that cut into you. In words and borders and getting across time. With power and dominion. And BONDS which came from stories.

 I am this descendant of island people. People who lived in one place, mostly in rural areas for hundreds and hundreds of years. My blood is all Irish. I am reading Richard White’s book, Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. White explains in this book what a homeland means, when you burnt the peat and ate only local produce. And saved the produce. For hundreds of years, before refrigeration and before imports. He is the son of an Irish mother and a Jewish father, after exodus.

 Richard White writes about memoirs and history, about belief or disbelief, in dealing with loss, as your own world was coming to an end, in exodus. After all the lateral moves, but still the connections. Settling down, marrying outside the tribe.

 When you were born into something: what had a homeland meant as a place you burnt the peat and ate only local produce? And, living within the tribe, learning the mystery, you had to save something.

 In exodus. The movement in the stories was not so much to change the world, but only the people in it. Note the outsiders, exiled from the world of theory, living at some point with now only memories but somehow wanting to make them your own. In immigration, like Jacob’s.

 In exodus. Like Rebekah’s. Jacob’s mother, living within a tribe, learning the mystery, as an outsider. Did you feel a hostility as an outsider? The holiness, either within or not. Crime and punishment, and stolen birthright. It was the outsider in the story – Rebekah – who was involved in the stolen birthright (but a birthright from only one side of the family) which would so much involve the future. What had been the birthright from Rebekah’s family? What she had been born into? She was the brother of hoodwinking Laban, the ultimate of hoodwinkers. So what was the the inheritance from Rebekah who was from a family of hoodwinkers, which Jacob would later come to so intimately know. So was it Rebekah who wondered what could be wrong with stealing a misunderstood birthright?

 Note the future in the story, in this marriage, arranged by Abraham. Like the project of becoming a wife, there was the known and the unknown; the visible and invisible; the practical and the impractical. Speaking of choosing and of the chosen. There was a theme of “knowing” or not knowing, the birthright. One oh so very personal experience, about the right way, like in any relationship. Living in captivity, in an arrangement of the times, what had been Rebekah’s experience of the God of Isaac, before any idea about how to raise two kids? What was her personal experience of – based upon scarcity, limits, and human needs — sacrifice. When you lived under a dominant culture, like Rebekah.  From one side of the family, would there have been some lingering hostility to the special attention given to the God of Abraham, with Isaac’s post traumatic stress since the moment on Mount Moriah? Rebekah, coming from a different family, with a different concrete examples of marriage — one visible, the other invisible. And her fertility as the outsider was what needed by all the descendants of Abraham.

 Private and public lives: the inheritance of Jacob from his mother was as the outsider — after his forced immigration to just survive? Just as Richard White writes about memoirs and history, about belief or disbelief, in dealing with loss, so the stories of people to whom I was related – or maybe over what it meant to be chosen, and to live with birth right. If you had figured out what Isaac’s birthright had been, which would be passed on to Jacob.

 Stories of drought and birthright and barren women, after the flood, as outsiders in the world. Like from the emergence from the rectangle that Noah lived in for forty days. The movement in the stories: Exodus. Freedom. Numbers. Like the twenty years that Jacob had gone away — if it had been twenty years, living in a different culture with his stolen birthright? And in these stories about the book of numbers, there was always the threat of outsiders to Chosen People, if not the earth. So in stories about insiders and outsiders, as a descendant of immigrants, I was so much like Rebekah or Jacob. When the twenty years signified the years of Jacob’s fertility which had come to an end. And then the movement in the story, again, long after mother and son collaborated over this stolen birthright.

 From the emergence from the rectangle that Noah lived in for forty days, note the forty in the story. Or the twenty years that Jacob spent with Rachel’s father, living in another culture, with a climate change. Did he feel a hostility as an outsider? Would there be a loss of spiritual power learned by marrying into an outside culture? Jacob, circumcised as his father, living away from the kosher type-rules? Living as outsiders, living with birthright, which of his own sons had been circumcised? How, if circumcised, had these boys felt living in a world of public baths? Would they always feel to be outsiders? Were the twin sons of Rachel better than the sons of the other women whom Jacob fathered children with? And which of the twelve tribes of Israel was most pure, most really Jewish?

 Chosen? Jacob with this undeserved birthright. Trying to hang on to an undeserved birthright. In words and borders and getting across time, with power and dominion, and BONDS which came from stories. With favored sons, if not real favorites. With the strangeness in this Living God of Abraham. Did Jacob think in only one dimension, with his multiple wives, about the meaning of his birthright every day? Over his different way of life, when his grandfather was still alive?

 Insider or outsider? The gestation period of forty. Darkness and light. When did Rebekah feel used over her forty weeks of gestation, living amid the strangeness of the family of Abraham with his God? The pride in fertility: like Rebekah in the story, there was the deep emotion in the story for every woman on earth, when my God is perceived to be threatened, along with the excitement when God is with us – now.

 So which of the two twin sons was most like Rebekah? And is not a mother allowed to have favorites, and bestow a birthright? In the outside world, feeling so shut out -– maybe feeling so much like Cain had?  Did you feel a hostility which grew from the pride of either outsiders or insiders?

 Inheritance. Chosen. Feel the hostility as an outsider, to the holiness — either within or not — so much like fertility. Crime and punishment, and stolen birthrights. When mothers had favorite sons, before fathers had favorites, like Joseph. With a shame in these stories. Learning the mystery, as outsiders. Feel the hostility as an outsider, learning the mystery only at home.

 Chosen? Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. There is this spatial change, in the size of things, as a child grew. In the perspective about size, in both public and private lives. So what was the change in the spiritual direction in the dénouement of the story of Rebekah, in the movement in the story of outsider, as her younger son married into her very same family? What was her shame after her son left with the stolen birthright? And did you recall why Rebekah with Isaac did not like the women that her older twin was bringing home?  So hw many years did it take Jacob to discover the meaning in the birthright?

 From living outside his tribe, somehow learning the mystery, to ever so slowly discover the shame in this story. Abraham had married his father’s—but not his mother’s —daughter. Sarah. Oh, those crazy biblical relationships. And Jacob had then married into Rebekah’s family in the same way in a largely pagan world, with nomads migrating in large numbers. In his lateral moves, in exodus. But still somehow connected, settling down, marrying outside his father’s tribe.

 Those crazy relationships. And you wanted others to have the same experience. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories, did you notice the same perceived threat of outsiders to the free worship by Israelite slaves, with a missing hope in the world, when Moses was born. Moses, the descendant of Jacob — the grandson of Levi? The perceived threat was proved true, generation after generation, leaderless, powerless in the outside world, unless somehow united in belief which came out of stories, in a passed on perspective of spatial change.

So compare the life of Moses to the life of Jacob.  After he had grown, from living outside his tribe, somehow Moses had come to learn the mystery. Children gradually learning to recognize a shame in living unquestioning lives. Like for Isaac, after what had once happened on Mount Moriah to Isaac, or after killing an Egyptian. Truth is not a property of thought which guarantees validity to my thinking, in either politics or religion. In the outside world. As proven, as, one by one, these great prophets had violated the Ten Commandments, before the Ten Commandments were placed on stone. In words. In stories about a powerless people. But since the beginning, in all of human history there were people who felt that they could annihilate other tribes. Like Abraham thought he could sacrifice his own sons. And a wife who came from the outside must have had some inner feelings about getting out. About escape. In explaining a motivation to write, to “cover” events through people, in stories about leaders, note the fear and anxiety over which human will lead us, or save us, next? Like Moses. Jut like Rebekah tried to save her one son? In stories about powerless people, Moses like Joseph somehow had come to know the Pharaoh.

 So what had Moses come to know with his time in the Egyptian world, growing up so close to the Pharaoh, in a world of power, after facing his own extinction. Until he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter, in a story about human power structure. What had ever been passed on to Moses of his own culture? Had Moses even been circumcised? And what had happened to the birth right by now?

 There is holiness which come from story-telling. In the realness of the mystery stories of people to whom I am related even in exile, like in Irish fertility, as written about in Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. Movement. The leaving, the coming back informed and engaged in the world. And the anger and blame which went towards those who left you.

 Who could, who would ever believe in Moses – like on one dark Egyptian night when so suddenly the Israelites picked up and left? Like Jacob. All of them this time, to the Promise Land. Who would ever believe so strongly in the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Who would ever so strongly believe in such a Living God?

 Truth and story-telling, with words. Feel the BONDS which came from stories. Did you ever realize how personal this all had been — maybe a lot like the act of reading is — or even worshiping can be? Power. Restlessness. Shame. The visible and the invisible. To take something so private public, in a world of power. Was that the lesson of the invisible birthright, passed on in the family? From a new inner shame over letting Jacob go? Everyone’s anger at Jacob, not so much for stealing the birthright as much leaving across the desert – this dry bowl of never ending bitter tears – with the birthright.

 There was the personal transformations in the movement in the story, reduplicating Truth, in the dénouement of the story. In the shame of Rebekah, over the lost power at home? The innocent in the story was in Esau, who is lost sight of for twenty years. How did Rebekah ever reconcile with Esau over what she had done to him, with her collaborations? Rebekah who had not liked the women that Esau brought home, which resulted in a favoritism toward Jacob. Or was it about the gods of the women who Esau brought home?

 Chosen, for the next generation. Note the outsiders in the story. Note the fertility of all the barren women of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 Truth and reconciliation: shame could not be inherited — neither Rebekah’s shame, nor Abraham’s shame, nor the shame of the twelve tribes of Israel could be passed on; nor could the transformation from guilt. There was such emotion which come from collisions of public and private lives, in dealing with life and death and goodness, when you lived under a dominant culture. So was it the genes from Rebekah that allowed Moses, that had allowed Jacob, to sense the hostility either at home or in Egypt, over who was really chosen? Sensing the frozen hostility as an outsider, in the wrongful detention, and asking the others: “Are you ever gonna go?”

Note the movement in the “Let my people go”story.   The  movement in the story is in the power passed on in stories in the long learning curve – visible and invisible – about “where are you taking us?” About who really chose whom.  With a vision of prayer and a better life.  A people set apart, with the first idea of an afterlife. In a Promise Land. For a place to freely pray. And to somehow, with a spiritual dimension, with a bond, to just survive.


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How The Irish Catholics Evolved



 In 1155, to curb ” ecclesiastical” corruption, authorization was given to King Henry II to invade Ireland, in the form of a Papal bull from Pope Adrian IV. Henry I had died in 1135. The deed was done in 1169, upon authority based a lot on the remnants of a forged Roman imperial decree. As the English began their rule in Ireland.

 It had been out of the history of the times of Constantine the Great which had determined the place of the Church of Rome in western religion. It is the history of Henry VIII that left the Irish under a dominant culture. In his campaign against Catholicism, Henry VIII seized church lands, raided monasteries, and in the process, Henry’s henchmen disturbed and destroyed the burial places of the monarchs who preceded him. Henry VIII likely contributed to the destruction of the tomb of his namesake Henry I.  

 Modern historians attempt to determine whether Christian sources exaggerated the scope of the Diocletianic persecution of Christians during the times just before Constantine.  It is written of the persecutors, Galerius and Diocletian were avid, while Constantius had been unenthusiastic. Constantius was the father of Constantine the Great. Later edicts for persecution, including the calls for universal sacrifice, were not applied in Constantius’ domain. In 303, it was Diocletian who had rescinded the legal rights of Christians, demanding compliance with traditional Roman religion.

 Roman imperial decrees, not unlike papal bulls.  The emperor in those days was concerned with the spiritual life of his people.  Constantine the Great was the son of Flavius Valerius Julius Constantius (later known as Constantius Chlorus) and and woman later canonized by the Church of Rome as Saint Helena from a common law marriage. After divorcing Helena some time before 289 (if he never married her, why the divorce?), Flavius Valerius Julius Constantius (later known as Constantius Chlorus) married Flavia Maximiana Theodora (known as Theodora) in order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, per the analysis. Theodora and Constantius had six children: Constantius Chlorus carried in the Tetrarchy (which lasted until 313) the title adopted from antiquity of Caessar, as an officer in the Roman army, and as part of the Emperor Aurelian’s imperial bodyguard.

 A prominent member of the court of Diocletian, Constantine had fought for Diocletian and Galerius in Asia. By late 305, he had become a tribune of the first order. Having been schooled in the East under some Christian influence, Constantine, on taking the imperial office in 306, restored full legal equality and returned confiscated property to Christians. Internecine conflict had eliminated most of the claimants to Roman power leaving colleague and rival Constantine the Great and Licinius I. Like the Church of Rome itself, Constantine was still largely untried, with questions about his legitimacy, from Helena’s cohabitation, recognized in fact but not in law, with his father. Constantine gave his favorite half-sister Flavia Julia Constantia (one of six chilren of Theodora and Constantius) in marriage to his co-emperor, Licinius.

 In the times before Constantine the Great, the Roman Empire was on the edge of extinction, with the Empire split into three competing states, as the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression. The Crisis of the Third Century, before Constantine’s rule, had  resulted in such profound changes in the Empire’s institutions, society, economic life and, eventually, religion. 

 Henry VIII upset the burial places of his namesake, putting the Irish under a dominant culture. As the son of William the Conqueror, Henry I had reigned for nearly 30 years, from 1106 to 1135. Although he crowned himself king of England in 1100, Henry’s reign was disputed by his older brother Robert, who had been away fighting the Ottoman Turks in the Crusades. Initially able to buy Robert off, Henry later came into conflict with Robert again that was resolved in 1106 as Henry’s army captured Robert in battle, imprisoning him for life. Henry spent much of his time away from England, often frequenting Normandy. In order to rule in his absence, he created a bureaucracy that would efficiently govern and run the affairs of state, the most important duty of which was to collect taxes. Following the death of his son, he was left with only one legitimate heir, his daughter Maud. When Henry died in 1135, his daughter Maud’s rule was rejected by the English nobility and in the succession crisis, of people of low birth, civil war ensued through 1141.

 And so in 1155, Laudabiliter, to curb ” ecclesiastical” corruption (had this corruption been the result of the civil war?). Authorization was given to King Henry II to invade Ireland, in the form of this Papal bull allegedly by Constantine’s power, from Pope Adrian IV. The deed was done in 1169. The authority was based a lot on the remnants of a forged Roman imperial decree, allegedly dating back to Constantine the Great. As the English began their rule in Ireland, long before the Protestant Ascendancy.

 After all, Saint Patrick was a Brit from the Scottish Highlands born about 380 A.D. – not long after Constantine the Great – kidnapped at a young age, taken prisoner in 403 AD and held in captivity in Ireland, for six years. Learning a new language. An escape as a stow-away, after a 3-day journey, he was back to Britain. Then returning to this land years later as a priest. And with his knowledge of the language, changing the landscape where actually there were no snakes, if there ever had been? So you had cause to trust both British leaders and leaders in Rome.

 Island people, increasingly entangled in worldly matters, over the conflict of public and private lives: after almost four centuries, following the declaration of the independence of the Church of England from papal supremacy and rejection of the authority of Rome, a new basis for the English monarch’s legitimate claim to the rule of Ireland was found in the Crown of Ireland Act 1542. Like some updated version of Great Vowel Shift in the pronunciation of the English language in England after 1350, after the writing of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Protestant minority remained socially, politically, and economically dominant through the officially established religion or the established church. Among the Canterbury pilgrims, many began to question the authority of the established Church, perhaps following Henry VIII’s lead. Within the framework of pilgrims on a pilgrimage, written during a turbulent time in English history, with the Catholic Church in the midst of the schism that kingdoms regularly went through over the issue of inheritance, how did the pardoner,in the Canterbury Tales, view his own work? Or a king?

 There was the perceived threat to the English by the rest of the world, over the issue of Supremacy. In the world of Protestant Reformation, the Irish people were the lamb. Europe’s Catholic monarchs and the Papacy remained committed in considering Ireland a feudal fief of the Papacy, to be granted to any Catholic sovereign who managed to secure the island Kingdom from the control of its Protestant monarchs.

 And so the stories of the Spanish Armada. The discovery of the New World. The Inquisition, which never really ended. And still the Ottoman Turks in the east. Over the course of the next two centuries, the Papacy and Europe’s Catholic rulers continued to recognize Ireland as a Kingdom in its own right, while asserting the Protestant monarchy as illegitimate. Catholic Europe simultaneously would incite Catholic rebels in the island, as a means of recovering Ireland from Protestant to a Catholic sovereignty.

 The papal bull.  The last Catholic inspired invasion of England ended in failure during the Jacobite rebellion. In 1755, the Holy See recognized British sovereignty over Ireland.  Subsequent treaties with Catholic sovereigns, following British global victories during the remainder of the 18th century, ended future Catholic sovereign incitements. Until the Irish Rebellion of 1798 with Wolfe Tone. Massacres of captured rebels after almost every British victory in the rising, some on a large scale as at Carlow, New Ross, Ballinamuck and Killala, were noted. And from that point on, the native population was directed –inwardly — to their very own quest for independence. And so the celebration of this inward feast, in the wearing of the green.

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Holy Smoke, 137 Dead in Massacre After Papal Election

 Born in what is now Portugal in what was part of the Holy Roman Empire, Pope Damascus succeeded to the papacy amidst factional violence in 366 AD.

 On the death of Pope Liberius on September 24, 366, the Roman Catholic Church was highly divided. The lingering dispute had been over the doctrine of Arianism. During the previous papacy, Emperor Constantius II had banished Pope Liberius, installing antipope Felix II as his successor, because of the emperor’s view in support of Arianism. Damascus had followed Liberius into exile. When Pope Felix II died, Pope Liberius was re-installed as pope.

 (It is of note that Pope Liberius remains the earliest pope never yet canonized by the Church of Rome.)

 Himself the son of Laurentia and Antonius, a priest at the Church of San Lorenzo in Rome –when priests could marry– Damascus faced off against a rival who was elected Pope Ursinus at the same time, across town.   The former supporters of Pope Liberiius, both deacons and laity, had backed Ursinus. As  the Christian congregation of Rome grew in size, the acclamation of a new bishop of Rome was fraught with division.  

 Conclaves, as a place of concentration. Ghetto-like. The Ark of the Covenant and the elections of popes: when the movement of time was like the movement to a new place, with the love for an institution, like the Ark of the Covenant, transporting God from one generation to the next. When a generation itself was like the founding a new town. In the way of formation.

 Ursinus and Damascus were elected simultaneously, in this atmosphere of rioting, as violence and bloodshed followed. At the Church of San Lorenzo at Lucina, the son of a priest at the Church of San Lorenzo in Rome was elected pope. So at the time of the two rival conclaves, one group mainly of clergy supported Ursinus, while another group of upper-class partisans previously loyal to antipope Felix II supported the election of Damasus, at different locations in the city of Rome. In the beginning of October 366, the dissension climaxed with a riot as both sides clashed in the streets which led to a three-day massacre, with the rare intervention of Emperor Valentinian. Damasus prevailed, but only with the support of the city prefect.

 This other Pope Ursinus ruled for several months as the same time that Pope Damascus did, with certain class hostility. Could you feel the real post traumatic stress in the story, before reaching the acceptance level, long before Elizabeth Kubler-Ross met Judy Herman? Once he was securely consecrated Bishop of Rome, his men pursued Ursinus and his supporter who were driven to the outskirts of Rome where 137 were massacred in the Basilica of Sicininus. All of this happened in the early days of the Holy Roman Empire, less than thirty years after the death of Constantine the Great. In the ever changing church, with the theme of living under a dominant power.

 Church historians such as Rufinus and St. Jerome (biased as the secretary for Pope Damascus) championed Damasus. From Edward Gibbons’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:  “The enemies of Damascus styled him Auriscalpius Matronarum, the ladies’ear-scratched.”

 Note the disbelief in this story of blood shed, over themes of legitimacy, after the persecution of the Christians. At a synod in 378, Ursinus was condemned and Damasus exonerated and declared the true pope. The former antipope continued to plot for the next few years against Damasus, attempting unsuccessfully to revive his claim as pope on Damasus’s death.

 Damasus did face accusations of murder and adultery (despite having not been married in in his early years as pope). Later accused of murder before a perfect, Damascus was rescued from the charges by the personal interventions of the emperor. It is written that the neutrality of these claims has come into question, with some suggesting that the accusations were motivated by the schismatic conflict with the supporters of Arianism though the reputation of the Church of Rome did suffer from the events surrounding his election.

 As a post scripts, the theological dispute now known as Arianism was about the nature of Jesus in relation to the trinity. A priest in Alexandria Egypt named Arius disputed the concept that Jesus was “of one essence” with the Father. The controversy within the church over the two natures in one person of Jesus spread throughout the Christian world. At the time, Alexandria was considered the second-most important seat of Christianity next to Rome. At first, Bishop Alexander seemed unsure of what to do about the question that Arius was raising which had been left unsettled two generations previously. Today virtually all positive writings on the theology of Arius have been suppressed or destroyed. It is interesting that these latter day follower of Jesus worried about things that neither the Apostles like Mark who spread the faith in Egypt or Peter who spread the faith to Rome ever did — over who came first, Jesus or the Father.

 It is significant that Constantine the Great was baptized only on his deathbed by the Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedi. Constantine’s successors were all sympathizers to Arianism until Theodosius I who through imperial decree, persecution, and the calling of an ecumenical council in 381 AD effectively wiped out Arianism once and for all among the non-Germanic peoples of the Roman Empire.


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