Do you have a Christian love for your neighbor? We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, and how to identify who your neighbor is: the one who treats you with love and compassion. But is that what it really means? Are we just to love those who love us back? Read the rest of this entry »
January 6, a holy day in West and East, but do we both celebrate the same thing? Not at all. It’s unusual for East and West to share a holy date, but to celebrate different events (especially when both churches celebrate the events) on that date tends to lead to confusion. So, what are Epiphany and Theophany, and how do they differ? Read the rest of this entry »
If you have no idea what this photo is, don’t ask, I feel old enough. Read the rest of this entry »
Today the world, like it or not, remembers the birth of Jesus some 2000 years ago. Remembers, though not necessarily celebrates. In rememberance of the Gift given to the world of God’s son we present gift to our loved ones. When I was young (and Moses was trying to tread water in the Nile) we gave gifts we felt expressed our feelings towards the other person. These days we give gifts that advertisers tell us we should give, and if we don’t give that Helzberg diamond then we really don’t love her. Read the rest of this entry »
Okay, not the 1987 Steve Martin move (not one of his best anyway). This post is about transportation in America. Most of the world thinks that Americans have a love of the automobile because of our independent spirit, not so. Americans love the automobile because, unlike most of the other civilized nations (and many others) American mass transit sucks the big one. Read the rest of this entry »
Some Native American religions believe that as long as someone remembers you that your spirit will live on in the afterlife, and that (using ceremonies) contact with them is possible. It’s comforting for those, like Geronimo, whose names are written down in history and will be forever remembered, but for the average person? Even so, I find comfort in their concept of the afterlife where communication isn’t just possible, but also fairly easy.
Jesus confirmed with his apostles that the spirit world exists, and that they continue their involvement with this world. Luke 24:36-39 “As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” It is because of this that we know those who have passed on can, on occasion, interact with those of us in the physical world. But the method isn’t so easy as the Native American way, and (so far as Scripture teaches) must be initiated from the other side, we cannot simple call upon them.
Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, acknowledges the ability to conjure spirits from beyond (necromancy) but explicitly forbids its practice. In the New Testament the ban is not explicitly stated, an understanding of 1st C. language is needed:
Galatians 5:19-20 (RSV) “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery…”
Revelation 21:8 (RSV) “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”
Sorcery covered a wide array of acts that were believed to originate in the spiritual world, such as: fortune telling, acts of magic, and the conjuring of spirits.
There are many attestations by noted people in church history (from St. Thomas’ exploits in India to the present day) that spirits can reach out to us, but it is always the spirit that initiates contact. From these contacts it is clear that they do hear us when we pray to them (pray used as “talking to” not to be confused with worshiping prayer) or for them, and that the remembrance is felt.
I remember, when I was a child, my grandmother appearing at the foot of my bed one night – something that startled me enough that I could not get back to sleep. I learned the next morning, from my mother, that she had passed during the night. This is something I have never shared before, something that is as real to me today as it was then. I can still picture her standing there and the words she always said to me still ringing in my ears. I have never experienced anything like that since, and I doubt that I ever will again.
The appearance of spirits is not to be confused with the apparitions known as ghosts. The spirits spoken of in church history appear for a reason and, when the task is completed, return to the heavens. Ghosts, on the other hand are always thought of as haunting a particular place, and stay on indefinately. The church has no proven examples of these types of spirits, and takes no position on their existance (neither does it prohibit belief).
Occasionally you come across a series of events that require such precise timing as to question if they could happen in a random universe. Such an event happened to me last week.
I like to hike…a lot. I like to hike like Michael Jordan likes to play basketball. I do a hike of at least 6 miles every week, I’d do more but then I’d come home to find my clothes in the driveway. Last week I was on a 9 mile hike in one of my favorite areas – Ohiopyle, Pa. Ohiopyle has just about every summer outdoor activitiy there is – rafting, fishing, biking, hiking, camping, and probably a few things I can’t remember, but hiking is my main activitiy (okay, some rafting as well). On this particular hike a bunch of things came together in such a way as to enable me to help two other hikers, a timing that has to make you question if it could be anything other than a guided occurrence. Let me lay it out (this is only from my side of things, I have little idea what occurred on their end):
- I left my house at 9:10, I wanted to leave at 8:30 but woke up late so my timing was off.
- I wanted to update the music on my Jeep’s radio, so when I left I plugged in the USB drive and began the process of uploading over 1,800 songs (yes, this is part of it).
- When I got off the turnpike in Donegal I decided not to follow my navigation system, so I turned left instead of right.
- By turning left I came across a work zone and had to wait for my turn to drive through it.
- My upload of the songs was taking longer than I thought, so I slowed down so that it would have more time to complete the upload (and I wouldn’t have to wait in the trailhead parking lot).
- When I got to the lot the upload was still running (argh!) so I had to sit for 18 minutes for the upload to finish.
- After the upload finished I loaded my daypack and my waterbottle, grabbed my hiking staff and headed off. I was trying out two new trail apps and had them running simultaneously on my cellphone. Because of this my hiking went slower than it normally would as I would periodically stop to check out both apps to see if they were faithfully tracking me.
- I also stopped along the way to take pictures to see if they posted to the apps properly. Along with these were the normal stops for drinks and breaks to rest and enjoy the views.
- At one point one of the apps was far off from where I should be, so I stopped for 5-8 minutes to check it out, see what was going on, and compare it to the other app. Since my phone battery was starting to run low (GPS apps use a lot of power) and the one app was already wrong, I turned that app off to save battery, then continued on.
- At one point I had to make a decision on whether to follow a different trail further up the hill, or my original trail as it turned back down to Ohiopyle. I decided to go up the hill to Sugarloaf Knob.
- When I reached the parking lot at Sugarloaf Knob I stopped for a quick lunch.
- After lunch I decided to take the shortcut in front of the knob instead of the trail that goes around the knob, meeting up with the shortcut trail on the other side of the knob. I took the shortcut.
- At the other side of the shortcut I started the trek down the hill into Ohiopyle (patience, we’re almost there).
- Going down the hill you cross a service road, on the other side of the road the park had done some clearing of trees. It’s a normal process, but it made it hard to identify my trail from fake trails made by bikers. It took a few minutes to find the real trail and continue on my way.
- After a half mile I came across a junction with another trail. I stopped to take a drink, at that point I heard the other hikers coming down the side trail. When they saw me they called out for some help, they were lost. They had talked with someone else when they first realized they were lost and he sent them down the trail that intersected with mine, with the instructions to turn left at the junction and follow the trail down to their car. He was wrong. Had they followed the advice they would have ended up on the trail I had just used to come down the hill, and would have been back up at Sugarloaf, or on one of the side trails that came off of that trail.
- I told them to follow me and I would take them to the trail that would take them back to their car. They walked with me for about 2 miles when I sent them off on their trail, and I continued on mine to where I was parked.
Consider everything that had to come together, along walking speeds, to assure that the three of us would meet at just the right time and place. Even a minute later and I would have been out of their sight. A few minutes earlier and they would have turned left, they might have met up with me, or they might have ended up at the clearing and who knows where they would have gone from there, with all the fake trails (I say fake trails because they do not appear on any maps, with no idea where they lead).
Could all of this happen by sheer coincidence, or were we guided so that we would meet?
This is the last of the introductory teachings on the Eastern understanding of the Afterlife. More will come as time passes, but this has provided the basic knowledge on what we believe.
Much of our understanding of the passage from our death to the afterlife is derived from the teachings of the Early Christian Fathers who claim they were received in visions or from study of the teachings in the Old and New Testaments, such as that of Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis.
Birth, in the Eastern Church, is a Trinitarian event. Man provides the sperm, woman the egg, and God the Immortal Soul. From the time of conception all three are present in the woman’s womb. For this reason abortion is not permitted in the Eastern Church for it is not just a life that is being rejected, but the gift of the Immortal Soul from God.
If a life ends before Baptism can be performed the soul still goes through the process as Christians, they will just have a harder time of it without the benefit of Baptism and Confession. All must repent of unconfessed sins at their personal judgement. More on that later.
We are all sinners, it’s in our nature and nothing can be done to change it. God realized this and provided for us a way to reach Him regardless of what we have done…repentance. We show our repentance though Baptism and confession of our sins, either here or in the afterlife. Jesus’ purpose on earth was not to create Christianity, it was to teach us how to live, how to love God, and how to love and treat each other. It is by going against these teachings that we sin; it is by realizing that we have sinned, that we regret it wholeheartedly, and that we ask God to forgive us, that our sins are erradicated, now and forever.
At some point in time we will die, die to this world. Our lungs will cease to breath, our heart will cease to pump, our cells will cease their reproductive processes, eventually to decay into their base components, returning to the matter from which our parents created us…all but our eternal soul. Our soul cannot perish in this world for it is not of this world. It contains no matter, no atoms, no mesons, no quarks. It was created by God and implanted into our mortal bodies. It cannot die because it is the energy of life itself, not belonging to this universe, or to any universe. It was created outside of space and time, and it is to there that it must return.
It is that process of returning whence it originated that we will cover in the next installment.
As always, please feel free to ask questions.