The Heart of the Black Madonna

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Peace be With You

I love to listen on Sunday mornings to Classical KUSC, the public classical music station in Southern California, the  weekly series is called Soul Music. What I found most interesting today, this American Fourth of July Weekend, was that all the music selected for the day was around the theme of Peace. The first selection was The Eternal Dove by Randall Thompson. I was moved to tears by  Lord Make me an Instrument of Thy Peace, sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I am not sure why the host focused so much on the theme of Peace, but as one looks out upon the Earth right now, it seems like a good idea, and interesting that so much music pleads for it.

Why is it that peace eludes us? Everyone seems to want it, but I often wonder what would we do without conflict and violence, because so much of human activity involves either or both, committing, recovering from or avoiding. It absolutely confounds me how a nation can execute a war in no time flat, but peace takes years. We are told, well we can't just pull out, why you just went in pretty quickly why can you not leave?

 We have been told repeatedly, that peace comes through strength. For military purposes this means, the peace is held by threat of violence. What kind of morality is that, to keep people peaceful and behaving towards one another by threat of death? But how do you face evil, or the threat of evil, what do you do when someone or some group threatens your life or the life of those you love? Violence is very efficient in the short term, but it only postpones the inevitable. 

The Ideal of the Knights Templar was to create a culture that could be a vessel for the Christ. They wanted to create a civilization that modeled the highest potential for a truly Christian Community. The three key values that are the hallmark of Christian ideals are : Freedom, Equality and Fraternity, which I like to call Community. 

How can we have a culture, a community of free and equal beings? How can we be individuals who act freely within a culture? Through compassion, through moral imagination and action, through love. 

At Bible study this week, we had a lively conversation about fundamentalists, in this case Christian. I told the story of how I was staffing an information booth at a Farmers Market next to a man with a megaphone standing on an orange crate. He was screaming into the megaphone ( I guess he forgot the machine would magnify his voice) that everyone who passed him was worthless and was going to burn in hell for all of eternity. I was in genuine awe at how such recruitment tactics would work, why would anyone find peace and comfort in being told they were worthless? We concluded that one of the reasons people like this sort of thing is that order creates a sense of stability. Being told what to do, where to go and how to act is easier than taking full responsibility in freedom for your own welfare.

Old Testament ways of being are based on an age of Wisdom, of great guidance. I was always amazed at the Israelites, following a pillar of fire in the Desert for 40 years, gathering manna each day that simply appeared over night on the desert floor, seeing the Red Sea parted, I certainly would have been impressed! But those days are obviously over, and now we must think for our selves, we must choose love and peace consciously. We must create our own manna, and be the pillars of fire wandering in the wilderness. We are leaving the age of Wisdom for the age of Love, and the Knights Templar knew this, and wanted to create the opportunity for people to choose Love in freedom.

We often hear how we can not control others, the only thing we can do is control our selves. Peace starts with me, they say, and go off an meditate. This is a good practice, but can be tempting to loose  focus into self absorption. How can we promote peace amongst a world of free and equal beings? 

By seeing the Christ in all of creation.

If you love the Christ, how can you harm another who has him in their hearts, how can you harm creation that contains him? Christ's deed permeates all of creation, not just specific groups or geographical locations.

The Architecture of Eastern Orthodox Churches, specifically Russian ones are a lovely reminder of this universal love of Christ. They are called "Cupolas" and are literally the symbol of an overturned Communion Chalice that pours the salvific love of Christ over humanity. 

There is no discrimination in whom can receive this love, it is there for all. 

In St Issac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg Russia, there is a Dove in the pinnacle of the Dome of the church.

The Imagery, the Dove then the Queen of Heaven (to the right of the picture here, but it is over the main Altar in the Cathedral) with a rainbow over her, then the Virgin Mary is below, then the main Altar has an image of Christ Victorious.

 Like most things in Russia, it is too big to fit into one picture, but the image has always stayed with me, that the Dove, symbol of Peace and the Holy Spirit being poured onto Humanity through the Victorious Christ...........

The Black Madonnas were placed all over Europe by the Knights Templar, during an age of immense violence and conflict, clashes of culture and the rise of materialism and mechanistic thinking. The Templars knew the age of Wisdom was coming to an end, and the age of Love was beginning, one of their methods to create a culture that could contain the Christ was through a fine appreciation and promotion of beauty, for beauty is an inspiration for love. If a culture could be inspired to participate in conscious love through beauty, then let the art and appreciation for divine beauty in nature be our methods of creating peace.

Peace does not have to elude us, it is in our grasp if only we allow love to transform us into seeing the Christ in all of creation. By kindness, we can truly be instruments of the Peace of God that passes all understanding.

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