Saint Valentine

The world celebrated Valentines day again earlier this month. People from all over the world exchanged flowers, chocolate, teddy bears, cards, and went on dates–all in the spirit of showing their affection or love for the object of their attentions. It’s become an annual tradition that the world has become quite obsessed over. What a lot of people may not realize that there is a deep religious significance that’s firmly rooted in Valentines Day.

Saint Valentine of Terni is a third century Roman saint who is usually commemorated on February 14th. Since the latter part of the middle ages, St. Valentine has always been firmly associated with the tradition of courtly love.

As records go, there isn’t anything that’s fully reliable about St. Valentine. What is known about him is the day of his commiseration, his name, and the idea that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. The Via Flaminia is quite close to the Ponte Milvio–north of Rome. There have been several inconsistencies about the records of St. Valentine so it is uncertain whether or not there is only one Saint Valentine or what has occurred is the conflation of two saints that share the name.

Despite this, stories of St. Valentines’ miracle is passed down and is quite beloved as one of the more ‘real’ accounts of miracles. It is said that Saint Valentine was once under house arrest and watched by a Judge of Asterius. They fell into a deep discussion regarding faith–something which Valentine was quite adamant about. Valentine discussed the validity of Jesus and the judge had declared a test for Valentine to prove that Jesus was indeed real and had worked miracles.

The judge had ordered his adopted daughter to be brought to them and Valentine was ordered to cure the child of her blindness. The deal was if Valentine were to be successful in curing the child, the judge would be therefore bound in a promise to do whatever thing that Valentine would ask for. Valentine placed his hands over the child’s eyes, prayed, and the child’s vision was restored. Humbled, the judge asked what Valentine wanted. Valentine asked that the judge destroy all the idols in his home, fast for three days, and then undergo baptism.

It is said that is was this act that led to the release of so many persecuted Christians that were previously imprisoned. While Valentine and others were released, Valentine himself was once again in hot water for trying to convince Emperor Claudius Gothicus to embrace Christianity. The enraged emperor demanded that Valentine renounce his faith or be subject to a beating with clubs and subsequently beheaded. Despite this, Valentine remained true to his faith and refused to denounce his religion and beliefs. As a consequence to this, Valentine was indeed executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269.

Much later, after his canonization, Saint Valentine was to be the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages, love, plague, epilepsy, and beekeepers. Paintings, murals, and other depictions of Saint Valentine often portray him with birds, roses, or even with a crippled child.

So while much about the true facts about Saint Valentine remains a mystery, a part of him still remains alive each time February 14 rolls around. While not for the same reasons, the spirit of love remains the same.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe or Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a blessed image enshrined within the minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  Because of the image, this basilica is one of the most visited sites for Catholic pilgrimages in the world. Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a Canonical Coronation on October 12, 1895.

But, just who is Our Lady of Guadalupe other than what’s stated above? Why does she remain to be one of the most beloved miraculous stories we have? Today we tackle the story that accompanies the very famous image.

It all started on the morning of December 9, 1531 where a native Mexican peasant named Juan Diego witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the Hill of Tepeyac. She spoke to him in his native Nahuatl (Aztec) language and asked for a church to be build at that site in her honor. Juan Diego sought out the archbishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, and told him what he had witnessed.

The bishop dismissed the peasant and sent him away. On the very same day the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego once more–asking him to persist in his request. On Sunday, December 10, Juan Diego talked to the archbishop once more. The archbishop, still disbelieving, ordered Juan Diego to return to Tepeyac Hill and to ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. On that day, Juan Diego saw the Virgin Mary for a third time and he reported the task that the archbishop had given him. She told Juan Diego to return the next day as she would provide the proof he would need.

However, the next day, Juan Diego’s elderly uncle Juan Bernardino had fallen ill and it was only Juan Diego who could care for him so he did not return to hill and spent the day caring for his relative. The uncle’s condition had deteriorated overnight and Juan Diego went to Tlatelolco to find a priest to hear his uncle’s last confession and give him his last rites. He was quite ashamed at having failed to return as the Virgin Mother had bid so he avoided the hill but the Holy Mother intercepted him.

She asked where it was he was going and he mournfully told her of his uncle. She gently chastised him for not having gone to her for his worries. She asked him “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” She was then quick to assure Juan Diego that his uncle would be well and asked him to return to the top of the hill and gather flowers.

Juan Diego was confused–flowers in December? Yet he obediently went back to the top of Tepeyac Hill and there he found fully bloomed Castilian roses which were not native to Mexico. Juan Diego gathered the flowers in his tilma and went before the archbishop once more.

There on December 12, in the presence of the archbishop, Juan Diego opened his tilma and let the flowers fall out and to everyone’s surprise there was the image of Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted upon the tilma. With that, a church was indeed made at the Hill of Tepeyac which still stands to this very day.

There have been several attempts to study the tilma and the image. A tilma like the one Juan Diego used is a very coarse woven cloak that is used by field workers. It is thin and made of poor sacking material. It is also held together by very weak stitching so it would be rather difficult if not near impossible to imprint an image let along one as rich in color and as detailed as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Tilmas weren’t made to last and are readily available for the poor yet the tilma that bears the image of the Virgin Mother remained intact despite not being “properly” preserved for over 450 years. It is said that a closer study of photo imaging of the eyes of the Blessed Virgin show that her eyes reflect the scene of the archbishop caught in surprise.

With this, there is very little doubt why Our Lady of Guadalupe still persists to be a much beloved religious icon.

The Sacrament of Confirmation

The sacrament of Confirmation is different yet connected to the sacrament of Baptism. While the sacrament of Baptism is about a rebirth to a wholly forgiven and enriched supernatural life, the sacrament of Confirmation is of the maturity and coming of age within the faith. Confirmation is the rite in which Catholics receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Through the rite of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit provides an enriched ability to practice and witness the works of Christ in their everyday situation. Confirmation serves as a secure commitment to the Catholic faith and its doctrines.

It is said that once you undergo the rite of Confirmation, a special mark or character is placed upon your soul—a seal that can never be removed. Christ himself once declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commission us—he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. This seal of the Holy Spirit marks and signifies our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service forever, as well as the promise of his divine protection in the great eschatological trial.

In the Catholic faith, this rite is normally administered upon the youth of around the 12th grade who are poised to take on a more active, mature, and adult role in the Church. They who are going to undergo the sacrament are called “confirmands” and would need to have gone through the sacrament of Baptism to be considered a candidate for confirmation. There usually needs to a period of instruction or preparation before undergoing the sacrament in order for the confrimand to truly understand and decide if they are willing and able to undergo the rite.

For the youth that already attend Catholic schools, in the year or a few months before their Confirmation ritual, they may find their usual religious classes to be centered solely on the rite and what it means for those who practice the Catholic faith.

For any who are already baptized and who are in danger of death, even infants, may receive the rite of confirmation. Confirmation is administered by a Bishop but even priests may also perform the sacrament. The rite is done during the Mass. The presiding Bishop or priest performs a laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism which is accompanied by prayer. Anointing, in Biblical and other ancient symbolism is quite rich in its meaning. The oil that is used is a sign of abundance and joy. The oil cleanses and soothes the soul of the anointed which fully enables the recipient to fully channel the blessings of the Holy Spirit.

To be able to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, one must be in a state of grace. Confirmands must receive the sacrament of Penance in order to be cleansed for the gift of the Holy Spirit to come. Candidates for Confirmation need to seek out a spiritual sponsor, much like in baptism. A sponsor (preferably the godparents) helps to emphasize the unity of the two sacraments (Baptism and Confirmation).

Religion Quiz

  • Name two religions that proclaim the virgin birth of Jesus.
    • Christianity and Islam
  • What are the five pillars of Islam?
    • Faith
    • Prayer- prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall
    • Zakat- This word means “purification” or “growth”. The idea is to be charitable.  2 ½ percent of one’s capital is given away.
    • Fasting- Each year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown.  They abstain from food, drink, and sexual relations.
    • Pilgrimage- This is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca (the trip is known as the Hajj) – this trip is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it.
  • Why did Roman pagans consider early Christians to be cannibals?
    • They ate the body and drank the blood of Christ.
  • What religion was Mary?
    • Judaism
  • List the Ten Commandments.
    • Do not worship any other gods or make any idols, do not use the Lord’s name in vain, keep holy the Sabbath, honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie, do not covet thy neighbor’s wife, do not covet thy neighbor’s house
  • Name the religions that claim to stem from Abraham?
    • Islam, Christianity, Judaism
  • List the four noble truths.
    • Suffering is caused by attachment to worldly possessions.
    • All life is suffering.
    • Suffering can be alleviated
    • Follow the 8- fold path
  • Name the members of the Hindu trinity.
    • Vishnu, Shiva, Bramha
  • Why do Protestant Christians use only a plain cross, rather than a cross with the body of Jesus?
    • It is viewed as an icon
  • What does it mean to reach nirvana?
    • Enlightenment and being one with the universe
  • What is the Bhagavad-Gita?
    • Sacred text of Hinduism
  • List two branches of Buddhism.
    • Zen and Tibetan
  • What is the fastest growing denomination of Christianity in the world?
    • Moormons
  • What is the fastest growing religion in the world?
    • Islam
  • What religion requires its adherents to take the name of Singh and never cut their hair?
    • Sikh
  • What is a Bodhisattva?
    • Helping people reach enlightenment instead of attaining it yourself.
  • Which branch of Islam has a clergyman called an Ayatollah?
    • Shiite
  • Sikhism contains major elements of what two religions?
    • Islam and Hinduism
  • Who is the Dalai Lama?
    • Political leader and leader of one of the 4 branches of Buddhism
  • What is the largest (by population) Muslim country in the world?
    • Indonesia

Catholicism and Their Need for Evolution

Catholicism and Their Need for Evolution

Catholicism is definitely one of the oldest religions in the history of the world. The Roman Catholic faith is also one of the most far-reaching faiths with more than 1.2 billion practitioners in different countries and continents. This effectively makes those in high ranking positions very influential in their regions. They see to it that the rules they impose are carried out. Sadly, some of those rules are about what their followers can and still cannot do in today’s society.
The Catholic Faith has been quite clear about the rules that govern propriety and decency. It is unfortunate that despite the evolution of what is acceptable, this religion still holds fast to its antiquated rules regarding family planning and the rights of its followers.
In a predominantly catholic 3rd world country like the Philippines, populations in its provinces are known to be quite steadfast in their religion. That often means that the teachings of the faith are strictly imposed regardless of their consequences. For example, a married Catholic couple cannot practice safe sex (use contraceptives) as it is against the teaching of the church. Things are just as bad in its thriving cities where the lower income families are known to have kids in the dozens. This is something that can be changed simply by not making affordable and readily available forms of contraception the enemy.
Other countries where sexually transmitted diseases are flagrant and reaching pandemic levels, the Catholic Church still refuses to change its stance on the use of proven forms of effective protection. Simply because of ancient texts that has been subject to interpretation every now and then. As an effect, the spread of illness continues and more of their practitioners feel abandoned by the very spiritual institution that was supposed to protect and guide them.
The societal acceptance of other genders such as transsexuals and homosexuals has caused a sort of renaissance in how people have lived their lives. Unfortunately, the catholic faith considers them to be abominations and “on a path straight for damnation”. This understandably has caused several of their believers to feel abandoned and isolated. It is ironic that this is a faith that preaches love and acceptance would outright condemn those that do not fall within the confines of what obedient followers of Christ should be.
On a more disturbing note, more and more victims of sexual abuses done by members of the clergy (and alarmingly by the sisterhood of nuns as well) have been coming out yet visible accountability by the church is not present. If anything, the reports of offending parties simply being reassigned somewhere else, free to commit the same crime have been equally on the rise as well. Accordingly, the numbers of the faithful are dwindling as the belief that if you are wronged by members of the church there is virtually nothing you can do about it. A dangerous result of this is that more crimes done will no longer be reported at all.

The Catholic Church and its practitioners are sorely in need of an evolution. Times have changed and the way things are done by this institution need to change as well. It is sad that it is this faith that seems to be most resistant to change no matter how positive the results may be. It is thankful then that the man at the very helm of this faith is currently (at least outwardly) expressing thoughts that are deemed ‘scandalous’. He understands that in order for the teachings of Catholicism to remain true to its core mission, the church needs to open its mind and tailor its message for the benefit of the whole of its crowd and not just a select few. It is capable of change as proven by the fact that we’re able to wear clothing made from two kinds of material—a passage from Leviticus 19:19. If the bible is the basis for all the teachings and establishes what rules are to be followed, why are some of the writings ignored yet others are rabidly imposed? Why is it that the message being spread is subject to selection?

These questions need answers. Followers of the Roman Catholic religion deserve to be answered. Evolution needs to occur. We’ll all be in a better place for it.

The Trinity

The interpretive key that unlocks our discussions beginning last week — our considerations of revelation — is to be found in the ‘mystery of mysteries’: the Trinity.

The Trinity is the foremost symbol of Christianity: it designates the unity of three divine persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—as triune (that is “three in one”).

And so these 3 divine persons are one God, together and distinct.

                        – the Father is completely God;

                        – the Son is completely God;

                        – the Holy Spirit is completely God;

                        – all three persons are one God;

                        – the Trinity is one God.

The word “trinity” allows us to express the mystery of a single God in three persons.  According to the 3 great monotheistic religions of the world (that is, Judaism, Christianity and Islam), God can only be unique, for any multiplicity would indicate insufficiency or weakness.  To illustrate this, let’s remember the gods of Greek and Roman mythology: the end up being antagonists, showing weakness, vulnerability, need, etc.

As the inheritor of Israel’s monotheism, Christianity considers that a single God is nevertheless not solitary.  First and foremost, Love exists within him and he exudes it through his being and his work…creation.  And so the mystery of God is a mystery of mutual love.

The OT/Hebrew Scriptures have given us the image already of a Father (see Hosea and Isaiah), and from the very beginning of the NT/Christian Scriptures, we immediately hear the revelation of the Trinity (one single God in three persons) when the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary at the Annunciation.

This immaculate conception of the Son of the Almighty was to be the work of the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit of Love.  Thus, the whole of the Trinity was expressed at the moment of this announcement: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.  And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.” (Lk 1:35)

We are baptized in the love that unites the three divine persons: that sacrament which is dispensed…

  • in the name of the Father,
  • and of the Son,
  • and of the Holy Spirit

…is recognized by all three Christian confessions of faith (Catholic, Orthodox, & Protestant).

Unlike Jews and Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians justify making images of God because of the mystery of the Incarnation.

  • Since one of the persons of the Trinity became man, it is then possible to depict him as a human.
  • Similarly, the Holy Spirit, which manifested itself in the form of a dove, can be thus depicted.
  • Of course, difficulty remains in the depictions of the unseen Father, the divine “source”.

 

The Catechism (CCC) and the Trinity

  • Christians confess that “Jesus is Lord” (Phil 2:11).
  • We believe that Jesus is “the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).
  • We worship him as “my Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).
  • And still we say “I believe in one God.”
  • Our monotheistic religion requires belief in one God, yet we are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; not “in the names” (plural), but “in the name” (singular). For we do not believe in three Gods, but, rather, that God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC 233).
  • To believe in the Holy Trinity is not possible by the mere means of reason; this mystery transcends reason. And yet, when we accept it in faith, we discover it to be an illuminating light into God’s own life (CCC 257).
  • God’s innermost mystery is that he is the Trinity, made up by his communion of love:
    • the Father loving the Son,
    • the Son loving the Father,
    • and their love giving forth the Holy Spirit.
  • This is a three-fold unity: one God and three persons. In himself, God is the mystery of fruitful love.
  • Yes, God is love, and everything springs from his un-beginning and un-ending love.
    • The Son is eternally begotten of the Father, who is the origin of everything.
    • The Son is not created, but, rather, is “light from light, true God from true God” (CCC 242).
    • The Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from both, this third Divine Person, “one and equal” with the Father and the Son (CCC 245).
  • Because of this unity of being, the Father is entirely in the Son and entirely in the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. They are really and truly the one God.  Therefore, everything that God effects is the work of the Trinity.  The Father never acts apart from the Son and the Holy Spirit, yet each Divine Person acts in his own proper way: “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are” (CCC 258).
  • So, from the Father’s love everything originates; through the Son we receive all the Father’s grace and love (cf. Jn 1:14,18); and just as Father and Son are one in the communion of the Holy Spirit, so all who are touched by Christ’s grace are included in this communion (CCC 1997).
  • Finally, the first and last goal of all God’s work is that we should come to know and love God and thus, now and forevermore, gain entry into the blessed communion of the one and triune God (CCC 260).

 

The Baptism of Christ… and the Revealed Trinity

Luke 3:21-22

Christ’s baptism in the Jordan reveals the Trinity

Matthew 28:19

Christ tells his disciples to go and baptize the nations using what we now call a “Trinitarian” formula…

  • in the name of the Father,
  • and of the Son,
  • and of the Holy Spirit.

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Incarnation & the Holy Spirit

Ratzinger’s presentation focuses mainly on Mary’s “yes” to the Incarnation, consider the active role of the Trinity (and each of the Divine Persons) while you are reading the document.  Discuss the “movements”, the activities of the Trinity as you notice them throughout this article.  There are many enunciated by the author…be sure to reflect on at least one movement of each of the Divine Persons.

The first apparent activity of the Trinity is the birth of the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit allows Jesus to be born through the Virgin Mary.  This comes at the disposal of the Father’s will, and the body of the Son serves as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Already, all three divine members of the Trinity have taken some form of action.  The kingdom of Jesus, the Son, is the kingdom of God.  We see that God had asked Mary to consent to this action through the voice and appearance of an angel.  In agreeing, Mary is free from original sin and gives birth to the Son.  The Son is God embodied as a human.

Kreeft outlines several differences—without passing any judgment—between Christianity and other faith traditions. How have these distinctions positively affected your thoughts/opinions of other faith traditions?

The first big difference is the idea of Jesus being God incarnate.  This makes it easier for me to have faith because although I haven’t seen him, someone has (or at least they’ve written that they have).  Whereas Buddha said, “Look not to me, look to my dharma”, Christ says, “Come to me…I am the light of the world.”  I feel that it’s easier to believe in Christianity because you need only to follow the example of Jesus.

Kreeft’s enumerates 5-10 distinctive qualities & works of Jesus Christ.

1) Human – Christ is God incarnate.

2) Loving – Christ gave his life in order to allow us to live forever (in Heaven).

3) Incomprehensible – The idea of the trinity is difficult to understand.  How can God be three different people? It would make more sense to me if only the father of Jesus was God, and not both of them.

4) Immaculate Conception – How can the savior of mankind be born from a woman who has never had sex?  This story absolutely needs to be presented because it makes Christ seem that more amazing.

5) Forgiving – God always forgives us of our sins if we are truly sorry.

John Paul II, in Redemptor Hominis (RH), clearly asks all people to direct themselves “towards Christ our Redeemer”. In fact, John Paul II asserts that this is the only way can be fully alive. How is it that a Siena College student might go about doing just this?

The best way for anyone to direct themselves towards Christ our Redeemer would be to attend mass, and attempt to learn and follow the path of Jesus.  At every mass, we learn things that Jesus has done, and we learn how he acted in those situations.  Our best bet is to attempt to do what he would have done in any given circumstance.  The easiest way to do this is to follow our consciences, which are built in moral compasses given by God.

RH, paragraphs 23 and 24 give great attention to the Divine Trinity.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, serves as our connection to God.  God chose to create man in his image and give them a world of riches (life and the gift of choice on a vast planet).  Christ was without sin, but mankind was not able to follow in his footsteps.  Christ died on the cross in order to give mankind eternal life.  This demonstrates God’s love for his creation (mankind).  Jesus Christ is now associated with love and mercy.

In RH, there is considerable thought given to the fears of modern humanity. What do you find those fears are (according to RH)? Are they justified in your mind?  Why…or why not?  In your opinion, do the responses proposed answer the fears?

The fears described in these paragraphs refer to the things man has created and the problems we bring upon ourselves.  These fears are justified because man tends to focus on immediate consumption and the here-and-now rather than the future, and we have seen the effects some our actions have had or could potentially have.  The fear of the unknown is probably one of the largest fears mankind faces everyday; this fear is completely normal and also justified because uncertainty causes fear.  I feel that the responses to these questions tell what mankind does wrong.  Therefore, the general solutions to the problems are implied.

RH, paragraphs 59 and following, speak of politics and human rights. Is John Paul II proposing that the Church is co-responsible in these arenas? If so, why?  If not, why not?

John Paul II states that the church’s mission is at the very basis of social and international peace.  He believes that the Church is responsible for ensuring that it promotes peace and emphasizes human rights.  According to RH, peace comes from respect for man’s inalienable rights.  The Church also has a duty to educate people on these topics and promote the common good, which at times can be very difficult.

From our reading of Dolan what are your personal reflections on it and from it?

When people who at one point had everything and lose it all, I am amazed at their reactions.  The story of Michael Esswein is quite moving.  He was described as holy, intelligent, handsome, outgoing, considerate, respected by his peers, and a good soccer player.  What more could you possibly ask for?  When I read that he became paralyzed from the head down, the first thought that popped into my head was that God must have other plans for him.  It’s truly remarkable that he could maintain his faith and steadfast hope in the most extreme circumstances.  I am a pessimist.  I am working on being more optimistic, but in all honesty, if this had happened to me, my reaction would have been drastically different from his.  I would not have been able to maintain any kind of faith.  Michael’s story makes me appreciate my life and respect him that much more.

Origins

What is Judaism?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Judaism as “the profession or practice of the Jewish religion; the religious system or polity of the Jew” (“Judaism”). Based on this definition, Judaism is a religion. Judaism is not a religion; it is more than that. Judaism is the combination of a religion, a culture, and a race. The history of Judaism dates back to the creation of the world and of mankind, and has shaped the Judaism into what it is today.
The history of Judaism began in the biblical book of Genesis. Abraham, who is considered the father of Judaism, created a covenant with God. God promised Abraham heirs who would be circumcised as a sign of the everlasting covenant (Neusner 594). From that point on, Abraham did God’s work on Earth. The next major event in the history of Judaism took place in Egypt. Because of a famine, the Hebrew people migrated to Egypt, where they were enslaved. God is said to have saved the Hebrew people from the Egyptians by enveloping Egypt with multiple plagues that targeted only the Egyptians (“The History of Judaism”). The Hebrew people were very grateful for the work of this divine figure, and they began to praise him. The faith in this divine figure came to be called Judaism, and evolved into a religion.

In order to classify Judaism as a religion, the reader must understand what a religion is. Religion can be defined as both “a particular system of faith and worship” and as “action or conduct indicating a belief in reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this” (“Religion”). Judaism contains all of the required elements of a religion.

Although there are many separate groups within Judaism, a number of basic beliefs and principles stand as common ground. The first and most important basic belief of all the groups within Judaism is that there is only one God, which classifies Judaism as monotheistic (Harrison 25). God created the Heavens, the Earth, and the inhabitants of the Earth in his image; so, we are all equal in God’s eyes. The second belief, which closely relates to the latter idea, is that because God created the Earth and all of its inhabitants, he is the father. The Jewish faith sees the people of the world as one big family because we are all God’s children. A third piece of common ground in Judaism is that for the most part, all Jewish people partake in the same festivals and celebrations; a number of common prayers are shared as well (Harrison 26). A very important, shared principle among the people who practice Judaism is that God forgives those people who are truly sorry for whatever they have done. Finally, every group within Judaism reads the Torah, which is a set of laws and guidelines showing people how they should live.
Each of the beliefs and principles that the Jewish people share are based on the idea that there is one god, who they can talk to whenever they want. The Jewish people pray to God to show him respect and give him praise at places called synagogues. The belief in a divine, ruling power and the fact that the Jewish people praise a higher being qualify Judaism as a religion, but Judaism is multifaceted in that it is more than just a religion. There are many cultural, fraternal, and philanthropic institutions that are associated with Judaism, and therefore, are considered part of the Jewish community. The members of these institutions don’t necessarily worship at the synagogues or believe what people of the Jewish faith believe, but they are still considered Jews (Harrison 33).

For many years, the word “Jew” has been used to describe both the people that practice Judaism and those people that are affiliated with Judaism in some other way. Because of how tightly-knit the Jewish communities are, it is easy to see why people would assume that “Jew” is a race. Technically, Jews are not a race of people. A person’s race is based on genetics, not on their actions or their faith (Rich 3). In the case of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, in1987, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Jews are a race of people. This was meant to protect them from racial discrimination.

Judaism is a blend of a religion, a culture, and a race of people. Judaism began because of God’s actions in saving the Hebrew people. The Hebrew people praised him out of gratitude. Over the years, this new faith attracted millions of followers and grew to into more of a way of life than just a religion.

Thank you to our partner Albany Organics for sponsoring this post.  It means a lot to have your support.

Works Referenced

  • Anonymous. “The History of Judaism.” Religion Facts. 8 February 2007
    <http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/history.htm
  • Harrison, Bernard. “Judaism.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and
    Social Science 256 (1948): 25-35
  • Neusner, Jacob. Religious Foundations of Western Civilization. Tennessee: Abingdon
    Press 2006
  • “Religion.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989
  • Rich, Tracey R. “What is Judaism?” JewFAQ. 9 February 2008
    http://www.jewfaq.org/judaism.htm
  • Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb. No. 85-2156. Supreme Ct. of the US. May 1987

Baptism

Robin Scroggs and Kent I. Groff’s article, “Baptism in Mark: Dying and Rising with Christ” (1973), asserts that when a person is baptized, he is stripped of his garments and baptized into death.  But, only Jesus actually dies.  The substitution of Jesus for the initiate is symbolized by the loss of the linen.  Scroggs and Groff back this claim with numerous references to the Old Testament.  Scroggs and Groff’s purpose is to describe the nature of baptism and explain the symbolism of dying and rising with Christ.

Paul Mallia’s article, “Baptized into Death and Life” (1965), claims that in baptism, we experience new life in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He continues by arguing that it is then our mission to follow God in order to be saved.  Mallia’s purpose in writing this article is to explain the concept of dying and then arising to new life through immersion in the waters of baptism.

Philip Hyatt’s article, “The Origin and Meaning of Christian Baptism” (1960), argues that immersion into the water at baptism creates a mystical union with Christ, in which we share in his death and resurrection. He states that baptism must be a voluntary action, wherein the initiate is an active participant. Hyatt’s purpose is to explain the origin and the meaning of baptism in the Christian faith.

The 3 Monotheistic Religions

Mysticism – desire to experience the presence of God

Judaism

The Torah contains many stories of mystical experiences, from visitations by angels to prophetic dreams and visions. The Talmud considers the existence of the soul and when it becomes attached to the body. Jewish tradition tells that the souls of all Jews were in existence at the time of the Giving of the Torah and were present at the time and agreed to the Covenant.

In the middle ages, many of these mystical teachings were committed to writing in books like the Zohar. Many of these writings were asserted to be secret ancient writings or compilations of secret ancient writings.

The mystical school of thought came to be known as Kabbalah, from the Hebrew root Qof-Beit-Lamed, meaning “to receive, to accept.” The word is usually translated as “tradition.”

Christianity

The attainment of the quest to see God is realized in death

God said to Moses “No one shall see me and live.”

God is both transcendent and immanent

Christian doctrine generally maintains that God dwells in all Christians and that they can experience God directly through belief in Jesus, Christian mysticism aspires to apprehend spiritual truths inaccessible through intellectual means, typically by emulation of Christ

Two major themes of Christian mysticism are (1) a complete identification with, or imitation of Christ, to achieve a unity of the human spirit with the spirit of God; and (2) the perfect vision of God, in which the mystic seeks to experience God “as he is,” and no more “through a glass, darkly.”

Christ is the sole end of Christian mysticism. Whereas all Christians have Christ, call on Christ, and can (or should) know Christ, the goal for the Christian mystic is to become Christ—to become as fully permeated with God as Christ is, thus becoming like him, fully human, and by the grace of God, also fully divine. In Christian teaching this doctrine is known by various names—theosis, divinization, deification, and transforming union.

Islam

Muhammad said “worship God as if you see him” mandated by Sufis
Sufism, the religious philosophy of Islam, is described in the oldest extant definition as the apprehension of divine realities and Mohammedan mystics are fond of calling themselves Ahl al-Haqq, ‘the followers of the Real. Al-Haqq is the term generally used by Sufis when they refer to God.

Renaissance means “rebirth”. The Renaissance was a revival of ancient culture and classical learning. There was a sudden interest in math, science, religion, and the arts. The Reformation was a movement in the Holy Roman Empire that began with Martin Luther in 1517. The Renaissance convinced people to question everything about their lives, including their religion and faith. Martin Luther questioned the practices of the Catholic Church and did not agree with many of the practices. Martin Luther then compiled a list of 95 Theses criticizing the church and the pope, and posted them on the door of the Wittenberg Church. This led to a new denomination under Christianity, the Lutherans.

Zionism is the Jewish nationalist movement that was founded in 1897, and created the State of Israel in 1948. Political Zionism, formed by Herzel, said that Jews should all move to one area and make that their national home (a Jewish state). This stream stressed the political task of gaining recognition for the Jews as a political entity. Cultural Zionism stressed Zion as a spiritual center, to unite all parts of the Jewish people. This stream emphasized Jewish language, culture, and literature. Socialist Zionism wanted the Jewish state to be a Socialist society and economy. This stream stressed creating a Jewish state where the economy was based on public ownership of the means of production.

Inter-religious dialogue is dialogue between different religions. The goal is to have the other person understand what you are saying. Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between the different branches of a particular religion. Fundamentalism refers to the literal interpretation of a doctrine or holy book. The problem with fundamentalism is that other religions may not understand the reasoning behind a certain belief or practice. Inter-religious dialogue tends to scramble the actual meaning of things.