Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Beginnings of the Journey

The Milky Way from Earth

In many ways, I feel like I have been saying the same things over and over for the past several years; soon, in progress, coming. When I embarked on this journey with the Black Madonna, I never anticipated that I would experience to the depth of my soul, much of what I felt was her message. With every day I entered as never before, endurance, developing the will, searing pain, abandonment, and unknowing. Each step of progress of publishing was thwarted with unbelievable and seemingly insurmountable odds in all areas of my life. I was met with health challenges, destruction of family, betrayal of career, economic loss and emotional abandonment.  And yet, with the Black Madonna as my companion, all my turmoil has lead to wisdom and an underlying peace in the midst of deep chaos and sorrow. In essence, I have learned to trust Grace since all human institutions and persons had crumbled under the strain. 

Our age is one of great transformation in the midst of a culture of supposed convenience and instant gratification. We are promised through slick publicity campaigns and celebrity blogs that the path to so called enlightenment can be obtained without any effort. Pain is the sign of disfavor, of moral failure. Apparently if we visualize properly, all of life's challenges will melt away, leaving us with material wealth and physical beauty. Both, we are told, are proof that the Spiritual World is on our side.

The Black Madonna of Czetsochowa, Poland

The Black Madonna brings a deeper message, one of the reality of earthly existence, of a beauty that transcends what we can see with our fashion magazine trained eyes. The process of bringing this message to the world has encountered all aspects of earthly trials. Through it all, the messages coming through these enigmatic Madonna's have actually sustained me. As the final edits and designs are in progress, the copyright has been solidified, the text soon to be transferred to the publisher, all happening when what little threadbare rug I had left under me was unjustly yanked away, leaving me more vulnerable than I have ever been in my entire life. My fury was not hidden, especially to the vapid souls inspired by the evil one who seem to attack almost simultaneously as I submit edits and dialogue with publishers, but I decided that the devil had had enough fun with me, and I would go forward anyways, even if it was in a spitting fit. Those who have abused me will be the better for it, since they have met resistance and have had to learn to mend their ways.

In some ways I will miss these intense years. With no earthly safety net and very little emotional support during the trials, often outright rejection from all aspects of friends, family and culture, not knowing where I would be from day to day, the one constant has been contemplating and listening to the Black Madonna. She has much to say, she has listened for so long, and for me, she is revealing a seemingly endless story of the mystery of the Cosmos as to where we have been, where we are now, and what we are to become, if only we would listen. The enlightenment she offers is not flashy, but it is constant, deep and ever so real, like a mothers deep love for her children.

The Black Madonna of Montserrat, Catalonia Spain

Here is another excerpt of the soon to be titled and published book. Watch for details on how you can order, and please pass this on to your circles. Our times are hard, but we are not alone. The transformation may be difficult, but the wisdom gained is priceless, and truly the only thing you can honestly possess in your life. Blessings on your Journey!

The Beginning of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Le Puy en Valee, France

Chapter Two: The Phenomena of the Black Madonna

When I first heard of focused study on the Black Madonna, it was part of a Master’s program in culture and spirituality at Holy Names College. Before this, I was unfamiliar with what “The Black Madonna” was in culture or art. My orientation towards the Madonna was mainly through the pink cherubic Madonnas tenderly caressing the Christ Child on Christmas cards. As a Protestant raised in an ecumenical household that recognized Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions, I had a full spectrum exposure to images of Mary. The Orthodox icons were stiff and inhuman in my estimation. The color of the Mary’s was not in my consciousness, if pressed, I assumed that the original Mary was a Palestinian Jewess, who most likely had brown skin, dark eyes and hair.

One of my classmates in the masters program was doing her thesis on the subject of The Black Madonna, from a racial cultural perspective. The author China Galland spoke to our class for one of the modules. Her book Longing for Darkness (1) was a biographical sketch of her encounters with the Black Madonna in the Americas, Europe and Asia. She brought slides of numerous Black Madonnas from all over the world, as well as small cards on which we were to reflect. I chose the Virgin of Montserrat, and dutifully followed the directions for the class exercise to “hear what the image was telling me.” The only thing I could decipher from the black image before me was, “I am what I am, stop making me into something I am not.”

Part of my masters program required a response paper to each module presented. We were to read a list of books and go on to our own research to supplement the assigned texts. What I found in my research at that time was there is very little definitive scholarship of the Black Madonnas. Much of what is written or discussed seemed to me to be projection of needs: a need to paganize Christianity, a need to assert feminist principles, a need for the goddess, a need to justify nationalism as a direct blessing from the Divine.

What is known objectively about the phenomenon of the Black Madonnas is that they are statues, paintings, mosaics and stained glass windows in which the Virgin Mary is purposefully colored black or very dark brown. The bulk of these works of art appeared in areas where the only external racial expression was Caucasian at the time. The images rarely have an artist associated with them, and are often attributed to the handiwork of St. Luke the Apostle. With no documented artist associated with the images origins, the exact dates of creation are unknown. Many of the stories of their genesis are associated with their discoveries. Scholars do agree that the majority of the works of art date from the fifth and sixth centuries up to the fourteenth century. Most of the images have legends and history associated with them that date between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. They are scattered throughout Europe, with a great number of Black Madonnas in France. Another common theme is that many Black Madonnas are found in churches along the European pilgrim route Camino de Santiago de Compostela. In Eastern Europe there are a few Black Madonnas in Russia. The most famous image in the East is found in Czestochowa, Poland. The original Black Madonna of the Americas is the Virgin of Guadalupe, in Mexico. This Virgin is considered to be “black” because of her mestizo appearance. There are also numerous Black Madonnas in South America and the Caribbean.

Many theories abound as to why the Black Madonnas are “black.” One theory indicates that these dark images are blackened through age and candle smoke. Another theory states that the images are remnants of goddess worship of the conquered local populations. So, what was the reason there are so many Black Madonnas placed in a historically Caucasian geography during the early centuries of Christianity up to the age of the Crusades?

And so it goes, more to come!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Endurance and Grace

June 19th has been traditionally named Juneteenth, a reflection on the emancipation of slaves in the state of Texas, the last state to recognize the Emancipation Proclamation. More isolated geographically, Texas was not a battleground, and thus its slaves were not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation unless they escaped. Planters and other slaveholders had migrated into Texas from eastern states to escape the fighting, and many brought their slaves with them, increasing by the thousands the number of slaves in the state at the end of the Civil War.
By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas. As news of end of the war moved slowly, it did not reach Texas until May 1865, and the Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2. On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of slaves.

June 19th 2015 was the 150th celebration of the emancipation of all slaves throughout the United States. There are legislative efforts to make this day a national holiday, and this year it was to become a reality. But this June 19th, this Juneteenth, was a day of national reeling and horror over the slaughter of nine African American Christians in their church Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white supremacist man seeking to punish, humiliate and provoke a race war.

The last several years have been very difficult for African Americans. The repeated killing of young, unarmed African American men and women has provoked numerous protests throughout the nation. There has been some backlash against police resulting in several shootings in restaurants and patrol cars, but the killing continues quite unabated against African Americans. The massacre in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing many pastors and community leaders sent shock waves throughout the city, nation and the world.

The response by the families of the victims has been what many in the baffled media call "remarkable."


At the first Sunday after the shooting, the Pastor said in his sermon, "This is Fathers Day, and if you knew our Daddy, then our response is like his." The people of Charleston took to the streets for a unity march. They refuse to let this horror separate them and cause a race war.

Each continent and people has a special task and gift to bring the world. In the fabric of American society, each group of immigrants contributes the best of their heritage to the collective whole of our culture. As the deed of Christ was to bring the awareness that all people are equal in the eyes of the Creator, and all have forgiveness and salvation simply for the asking, our deepest Christian ideal is to recognize the Universal Human in all whom we meet. This is actually the exceptionalism that the United States of America is supposed to model for the world, that a community of free and equal beings can coexist and prosper together. 

The traditional African Americans ancestors did not come to the American shores voluntarily. They came in chains, against their wills, torn from families and communities to face brutality that they never knew existed. It is upon their labor that the United States became an economic power as a young nation. 

But the greatest gift the African Americans gave to the United States was that of endurance and Grace. They embraced Christianity and the Church flourished during slavery and after emancipation. 

The Africans have consistently been a mirror to American culture, and through their sacrifice have made us a better society. Their sacrifice furthered the concept of what it truly means to be a human being, to be full citizens. From slavery to the civil rights movement, the African Americans have pushed us to be the best we can be, to make justice for all people the cause.

The death of four little girls in Alabama, killed in their Sunday School class, forced a nation to reckon with giving full citizenship to all of it's people. Before this, few were paying attention, but the humanity of the loss allowed many who were looking away or openly resisting change, to soften.

The loss of these nine people, and the response of their families and their congregation is the next call for our nation to model our exceptionalism as a people to the rest of the world. The purpose of forgiveness is to allow us to go forward. Christ's death and resurrection actually set the record straight. It is we who hang on, insisting on revenge, of listing our wounds and grievances, wanting punishment for transgressions.

Within the American culture, those with dark skin are marginalized, beaten, killed, and have their lives and rights given lesser status. It is easy to do this when you do not see the humanity in them, to say they are lazy thugs deserving of violence and poverty. Black Church burnings have happened as long as there have been Black Churches. Evil tries to demoralize by striking at the heart of any people's structures. 

Evil does not happen without our participation.  In my soon to be published book, I explore this in the following excerpt:

1.     "Alfred Schutze, a German Christian Community priest wrote a book on the nature of evil in the modern era. The Enigma of Evil (English edition by Floris Books, 1978,) was first written in 1969 when Europe was still reeling from the discoveries of World War II and in the throws of the Vietnam War era. The essence of his message is that when the ego and “I” forces are weak; a vacuum is created in the human soul. This vacuum is easily inhabited by malevolent spiritual beings. He likens people who perpetrate crimes such as genocide, as being possessed.  “If spiritual emptiness is not filled in a way appropriate to man through his own spiritual ego – strengthening, it is used by demons as a gateway for their assault….If the spiritual member is forced out of its harmony with soul and body, the inescapable tendency exists to draw in a spirituality from outside……………… We experienced the first terrible results of demonic possession in the deeds of concentration camps. They were not caused by a normal lapse of morality in weak individuals but must be seen in their context of the general human situation. Nothing is really gained by punishing such people for this is less a matter of morality and law than of ministry and medicine………… Paul’s words acquire distressing importance for our time: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:1) The Enigma of Evil pg. 85-86. The solution to this prevalent climate of evil is to, as Christ said, “Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41) We are to be awake and fully consciousness to have a strong ego and sense of ourselves as individuals thinking our own thoughts, using our wills to access the Christ and to choose morality even in the greatest of temptations. Only when we have such a strong ego, a sense of our own “I” which Christ gave us the capacity to have, can we freely choose to resist evil and choose morality instead.

The pastor of Emanuel AME Church said in his sermon that people expected a riot in response to the massacre. He replied, "they do not know us." 

The example set by these amazing people is the model of the next step we are to take as a nation and as a family of humanity. To meet evil with love, injustice with endurance and commitment to transformation. The sacrifice may be what it takes to make us a truly Beloved Community on earth. It is causing great reflection, it has humanized and created empathy for the humanity of those who are different than us. 

We have a long way to go, the wounds are deep, but this horror may make the culture look at the vacuum that exists in many people's souls where the adversaries lie in wait to inspire evil actions. In this case, the isolated young man who filled his soul with hate, he has been met with love and unity. Now, the culture needs to acknowledge how it creates the atmosphere where so many of it's precious members live in constant fear and endless humiliation because of the color of their skin.

This will not be an easy fix, it will not be a quick solution, but our hearts have been primed through deep searing pain to be open to the beauty and suffering of the other. 

Divinity takes many forms. Externals are just that, external. What lies behind the physical world is eternal. We are invited to joy when we recognize and honor the Christ in each person we meet.

May we honor these nine sacrifices for the betterment of our collective culture. May we learn from the courageous acts of their families, and may we all look at how we contribute to the problem no matter how insignificant, so that evil can never take hold of an isolated person again to inspire such a painful act. It is only through forgiveness and the seeking of forgiveness that we can truly be free. This may lead to the deep full emancipation of humanity, if only we let it. Without forgiveness, endless cycles of pain will happen.

Blessings on our collective journey of the heart!

To hear the inspiring sermon, go to https://youtu.be/_7T7QQ90Jtk

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Soul in the Age of Distraction

When I look for material to post on my Facebook page, it is so interesting how the search engine interprets my queries. Since June 16, 2015 was the new moon, I typed in "Black Madonna and Moon" into the search box to post some Icon celebrating the new moon. What came up was a rear view image of an 80's pop star, dressed in black with her bum cheeks hanging out of her black thong. I will spare you, the reader, the visual, as it is something all of us could lead happy fulfilling lives without ever seeing what passes for the Black Virgin and a crescent moon, but I actually found the internet event both extremely amusing and disturbing at the same time.

The creative process of articulating one's heart when it comes to understanding the Human Divine relationship is one of constant conversation, constant revelation. The Angelic world is always poised into action for those who bother to make connection. It never ceases to amaze me how when I am questioning something, the information comes to me in the most unusual and unexpected ways. I find books in discard piles of libraries or garage sales, playing on the internet leads to unknown treasures, even Amazon.com seems to know I am searching and suggests unusual gems for me to read. I also stumble into situations where I can glean learning's and see endless correlations.

I am in a new place, moved away from all that was familiar because the familiar was so filled with pain over loss of every kind imaginable, it seemed a new environment was the only way to heal my broken heart. As I crave the sacrament of Communion, I of course set on a exploratory journey to find a new community where I could listen to the hymns of my childhood and receive nourishment from the Table as well as a welcoming community. Church attendance is down, so all communities are on the charm offense, offering genuine caring and warmth to any new face. As providence would have it, I started attending a church called "Grace" where the congregation was busy raising funds to construct a copy of the Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral in the courtyard of the church. I am not a fan of the power point presentation church services of modern communities. This church has an organ and a pastor who loves the old hymns. I sing to my hearts content, without the aid of slides prompting every stanza.

After the service, members come to welcome me and invite me to be part of their many small group studies and activities. The one I can attend is studying the Acts of the Apostles. In these last few months, when I was not editing my first Black Madonna book, which I hope to have published in the next few months, I have been studying the early Church, specifically how the Balkans and the Black Madonna fit into this picture. The Apostle Paul traveled throughout the Balkans in his mission journeys, specifically to Macedonia. St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, is responsible for many of the Black Madonnas discoveries in Palestine. She is said to have brought them from Jerusalem to Constantinople, and from there many were given as royal gifts and religious donations throughout the Roman Empire of the day. 

Many of the Black Madonnas discovered by St. Helena are reported to be painted or carved by the Evangelist Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was a direct Apostle of Paul's and a contemporary of many of the original twelve Apostles of Christ. What sets Paul apart, as well as Luke, is that they witnessed the Risen Christ, and the Christ in the Etheric Life realm. Another contemporary and first Apostle of Paul is Dionysius the Areopagite. He was baptized by Paul, and was one of the first Church Fathers to write down treatises on how to access the Divine. One of his more interesting philosophies is "Divine Darkness."

Divine Darkness says Dionysius, is how we truly access Christ and the spiritual world. He writes that when we are devoid of distractions, we can most purely experience the full magnificence and mystery of the Divine. The Knights Templar were influenced by Dionysius when they spent their first nine years in Jerusalem, studying with the Syrian Monks. The Syrian Christians came from the original communities established by Paul and carried the message of Divine Darkness in their approach to Christ. The Knights Templar brought back this knowledge and mystery to the art and architecture of the Cathedral and Mystery School at Chartres. The Templars also brought and placed Black Madonnas in many cathedrals and shrines in Europe along the Camino de Compostela de Santiago, on which Chartres resides. In the Middle Ages, pilgrims would come to Chartres and enter the crypt, where there was a well associated with a Dark Virgin. They would spend the whole night singing and praying, and at dawn would ascend to the main cathedral, one filled with light. Many would walk the Labyrinth as part of the ascent into the multicolored light coming from the stained glass windows. 

This week at the study, we read Acts 10. In this chapter, we learn that a Roman soldier had a vision telling him to go to Peter and convert. We also hear about Paul's dream showing him all food was good to eat, even the non Kosher options, and we hear a treatise that Christ came for all peoples, the beginning message of universal love for all of God's children, not just select groups. The following discussion revolved around how we receive guidance from God. Do we have prophetic dreams and visions, dramatic conversions, flames on heads and speaking in tongues, or do we actually miss the constant messaging from the Divine because modern life is so distracting?

One group member commented that her husband was a retired minister who missed the ministry greatly, but that he had never felt closer to God than he was feeling though his garden. One of my Facebook chat groups is arguing over whether a self proclaimed person is actually a prophet reincarnated to give us wisdom. I responded that we search for wonders, but miss the miracles that surround us every moment of every day. Our beating hearts, the orbiting planets in the endless background of stars, emerging plant life from tiny seeds, the sounds of the night creatures that create a symphony of rhythm. We do not need glitter dust flashing lisghts from prophets descending on clouds, we have the miracle of life on this beautiful planet that sustains us, lovingly set into motion by our creator. One woman remarked that so much distracts us in modern life, we overlook the supernatural wonders that surround us on a daily basis.

I marvel that a copy of the Labyrinth of Chartres will be gracing this church of Grace, that we are studying the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke, who knew Dionysius who in turn influenced the Knights Templar, patrons of the Cathedral that celebrated the mysteries of darkness and light. I also grieve a culture that thinks Black Madonna and Moon is a pop star with her bum hanging out, thinking that is some sort of artistic message to enlighten the rest of us. Her very smooth airbrushed bum is a distraction from the marvels of creation, of true human creativity and deep soulful love that fills every crevice of the universe. Why is it that the bare bottoms and cleavage of popular personalities, we even call them "celebrities" and "stars," capture our attention, but we miss the dawn and the song of the birds? 

The Black Madonna's have existed for almost 2000 years, the pop star thankfully is only preserved on the internet, which by all accounts may not record events for the next two millennia. But nature and the cosmos will record the essence of love for all of eternity, written in the stars. Now that is what I call a true distraction from the tedium and pain of life. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Love in the Time of Ebola and ISIS

And I would add Ferguson. It is interesting the stark difference between what we see in the media and what I experience when I go on my morning walk in the canyons of Orange County California. I will not be here much longer, but I am trying to soak up the beauty of this unique expression of Nature in the midst of historic drought.

The dictum “As above, so below,” has it’s origins in the ancient Christian conceptualization of the meaning of Earthly existence. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven is another way of understanding this concept. The physical world is the Spirit manifest. When God said, “Let there be,” then what ever was spoken on the agenda for that time became a reality.

The great caveat in creation was giving Humans total and complete freedom. Freedom to the extent of completely denying the existence of the Spirit that permeates every molecule of matter. Freedom to choose to do disastrous things, freedom to choose life over death. Along with our freedom there comes evil, from which we are to encounter and transform.

We are told in the realm of virtual reality is that we must be in a constant state of helpless fear that the “other” will kill us either through violence or disease. We must avoid one another, isolate ourselves, arm ourselves and above all kill the other before they kill us, especially if they are bad, then it is almost a duty.

In the beginning of the most recent incursion of violence in the middle east, it was astonishing to me the passive acceptance of brute force as the only solution to the crisis. One person said to me, “there is no other option, this is a time where we humans just have to get this out of our system.”

What is the proper response to grave evil? How do we encounter real fear? Dr. Cornel West in a recent interview quoted Civil Rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois questions: How does Integrity face oppression? What does Honesty do in the face of deception? What does Decency do in the face of insult? And how does Virtue meet brute force?

West answers in the voice of Black Prophetic Fire, “ So, in the face of terror, in the face of trauma, in the face of stigma, 400 years of Black people wrestling with all three, what do we produce? This caravan of Love, this love train- love of justice, love of the poor, love of working people.”

In response to the horrors that Christians are experiencing in the middle east, there was an ecumenical prayer vigil in Orange County California. I had heard of plans for this event at a Byzantine Catholic Church in Anaheim. The woman who sat next to me at the after service luncheon was remarking how the terrorists must be stopped. I expressed my desire that we as a community of Christians try to find a new solution to dealing with evil since violence only prolongs the problem. She told me I was talking to the wrong person, that bombing was the only solution, and then talked about how much she loved coming to this church and asking how she could help with the upcoming Christmas craft fair.

Several weeks ago I attended a lecture regarding the state of Christians in the Ukraine. This was another eye opening experience as to how deeply people of faith are suffering in another distant land. While our local pundits proclaim oppression because mall greeters say “happy holidays” in stead of “Merry Christmas,”  groups of Priests from different denominations stood in solidarity with the protesters in Kiev, having prayer vigils and joint Mass in the midst of all the street violence, and shielding their parishioners from the brute force of the police. 

There were many tales of pastors in Crimea being kidnapped, tortured and killed. In response to this, the Clergy in the Ukraine are claiming a centuries old cannon law that forbids Christians to engage in war. If the priest knows that a parishioner participated in warfare, the fighter would be excommunicated. The soldier had to do 11 years of penance to be readmitted to the Church. The Greek Orthodox priest from San Diego who led the discussion said over and over, “War is brokenness, War is against God, we are not to participate, if we do, we are broken.” I would not call Orthodox Christian Cannon Law liberal by any stretch of the imagination, it truly astounded me that this was law dating from the first centuries of Christianity. The priest went on to say, “The just war thing, that is a Western invention, that goes against the spirit of the Word of God.”  Brave words from a man serving the military and  weapons manufacturing communities of San Diego, California. (This area is where Top Gun was filmed, if that gives you any indication of the environment.)

I took my father to the Prayer Vigil in Orange County. My name should be Popov, but the Ellis Island immigration agents in 1914 told my grandfather his name was too long. Popov means Priest, and my father told me his father always said “We are Priests, we come from Priests.” Evan Georgieff Popov came to this country to avoid fighting in World War 1. So, the descendants of Balkan Priests sat down in a beautiful modern Greek Orthodox church, flanked with choirs from three different congregations. The roster was impressive. Clergy from Syrian, Armenian, Greek, Russian, Coptic, and numerous Roman Catholic Churches processed down the middle aisle together. The sat in a very large semi circle in front of the ornate gold leafed mosaic altar of a 20 foot Virgin Mary with the Christ Child over her heart. Each and every denomination had a part in the lengthy service, from music, to readings, blessings and prayers. I thought, if it was not for ISIS, this gathering of congregations which have been split for nearly 1000 years would not be here together now.

The most profound aspect of the Vigil commenced with the sermon given by the home church Orthodox priest. The Homily began with the retelling of the numerous horrific tragedies perpetrated against Christians all over the Middle East and Africa. The theme of the sermon came from the New Testament Scripture found in First Corinthians.

“Brethren, it seems to me that God has put us Apostles on display, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels and to men. We are the fools for Christ. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated; we are homeless. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. But thanks be to God who has given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 4: 9 – 13, 15:57

The Priest said in a thunderous almost accusatory voice, “What do we do in the face of such cruel violent persecution? We are Christians, we endure! And not only do we endure, we pray for those who persecute us! We pray that their hearts be changed, of course they are committing such terrible acts, they do not know Christ! Let us pray that they can come to know the Christ!”

The Vigil then went on with a community prayer, where we all read in unison a prayer for the members of the terrorist groups that are slaughtering and oppressing our Brothers and Sisters. 

"Help us to repay their evil with goodness that we might not be overcome by evil but conquer evil with good. Deliver us from anger and the desire for vengeance. So we pray for all those who fight in the name of the Islamic State: enlighten their minds and hearts... forgive them...."

We then took a collection to help the families that have escaped the terror.

I had found my home, the home for my troubled and weary heart, I had found the answer to the questions I had been asking for so long, what should be do in the face of this terrible tragedy, what can we do that is different? Instead of praying for victory in war and bombing, we were praying for the ultimate victory of love over hate. Instead of fearing our neighbor, we came together. As Christ said to his Father in Gethsemane, “Let them be one, as You and I are one.” For that moment in time, in deep loving response to the terror and suffering of those we had never met, we prayed for transformation, and we affirmed that our response to oppression, deception, insult and brute force as Christians is LOVE. Our job as we were told in Corinthians is to ENDURE, and our method is by coming together in community to support one another with what ever gifts and talents we have to give. 

It may have taken us 2000 years to get it right, but now we were behaving as Christ behaved. He forgave his oppressors, and here we were in the middle of tract houses and conservative populations praying for just that. The purpose of evil is to invite people to transform themselves for the better, to resist the evil and become better for it. I saw that in the service, and I see this happening the world over when people respond in loving kindness to unspeakable horror.

It is clear that the adversarial powers do not want us to come together, because that is where we find the Christ in action. The constant negativity and fear streaming through the airways and internet is spiritually significant, inspired by the evil one to chase us away from one another, so we can not experience and manifest the Christ. 

 The Angels and the Trinity know what we are capable of, which is why we have been given such a tremendous gift in our lives. They know we are capable of great deeds, of transformation, of endurance, of choosing life over death, and love over hate.

In the midst of the canyons in the early dawn hours I walk, the land burnt from past fires and parched from drought. I do see life, flowers blooming, lizards, birds and rabbits going about their business. In the death, there is life. In the great horror of our current age, there is hope and there is triumph in the face of the greatest evil ever known. All because of the goodness that ordinary every day people are capable of expressing in the face of immense challenges.

The Black Madonna speaks of endurance, this is one of the reasons they are Black and they are somber. They have been placed along the way of the stars to show us that our lives on earth are an initiation to something greater. The artists of old knew what was about to happen, and channeled love from above to companion us on our journey. We are told we will be given the treasures of darkness. We can endure, because we love. This is how we can find triumph and consolation in the age of Ebola, ISIS and Ferguson.