The Heart of the Black Madonna

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Beloved Community

The Wedding at Cana, African Christian Art

In the Christian calendar, we are in the season of Epiphany. There are many meanings for this word, one is "revealing." In the Lectionary readings for this period, it is a time of learning about the true nature of Christ and his ministry. This past Sunday, communities around the world read the story of the Wedding at Cana, where Christ performed his first public miracle. John 2:1-12 The story can at first glimpse seem a bit odd, mainly because Jesus is rather cross with his mother and the miracle is one of ensuring wedding guests of a great last course at the feast.

Fresco of the Wedding at Cana, Church of the Annunciation in Jerusalem, Israel

The symbolism of this act is quite vast. A hidden aspect lies in the group of people involved and the location of the wedding. Up to this time, both globally and especially with the Hebrews, the mysteries of the Spiritual world were only revealed to the Initiates of the community. This meant that there was a class structure in terms of religious participation and understanding when it came to relationship between the Divine and the human. While the Jews were considered the chosen people, the priests and Pharisees were what one could considered the ultimate chosen people as they disseminated the information and context of Divinity to the lesser members of culture.

John August Swanson, Wedding Feast

There were strict rules of engagement in the days of Christ's ministry on earth. One could only marry, and ultimately love and care for members of one's own tribe. To care for anyone outside of one's tribe simply did not happen. Purity of blood was the goal, and mixing blood was strictly forbidden. Cana was a community of people who had mixed blood, meaning, they came from many different tribes and traditions of the day. It is significant that Christ revealed himself to people of mixed blood, mixed tribal origins who were marrying outside of their tribes, as his first miracle.

For me it was very interesting that this was the reading at Church services on the weekend celebrating the life and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There are many things to glean from the writings, sermons and actions of Dr. King. Obviously, his inspiration was to confront the injustices of racism in the United States. But what is racism exactly? According to the dictionary, racism is: "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." In simplistic terms, racism is only loving and caring for members of one's own tribe. In spiritual terms, racism is putting the value of materialism, (that there is only the physical on earth and to believe and accept only the material as real,) onto human beings. Materialism separates people and puts value on them in terms of their gender, their economic status, their race and nationality. Racism became the norm as humanity started the age of global conquest, and colonization.

In the landmark study 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann, the rise of global materialism is quite well documented. What struck me was that all the environmental destruction and human trafficking commenced in order to satisfy the desire for luxury. Slavery ensued to create the labor force for precious metal extraction in the Americas so that Europeans could have spices, silk and porcelain and the Chinese could have tobacco and silver. Last time I checked, none of these items is necessary for life, but entire empires, economies, trade routes and untold human suffering ensued to satisfy the desire for luxury.

When a person or people deem worth on material possessions, it all makes sense. When a person sees beyond the material to what is really valuable, luxury takes on a new meaning.

Dr. King is often remembered for his "I have a dream" speech. Often, the attention this speech is given is criticized. For some, especially African Americans, the speech sanitizes Dr. King's message, makes the healing of racism seem simple and pleasant. I take the "I have a dream" speech in the broader context of King's legacy. It is of note that when Dr. King started to involve his message of racial harmony into the realms of economics and war, he was assassinated

In the last years of his life, Dr. King's sermons and lectures took on a deeply, profoundly counter materialistic tone. He made the connection between an economy that invests in war and a culture that condons racism. In a speech at a convention on New Politics in 1967, Dr. King spoke on the "Three Evils of Society"

In this little known speech, King outlines how war, poverty and racism are all intertwined. I would argue that all of these stains on culture King so eloquently presented are the result of materialism. He says as much, linking war, materialism and militarism as the great moral failures of modern culture.

When Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, her response is known as the Magnificat. Found in Luke 1:46-53

My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,  
and the rich he has sent away empty.

At this time in history, in the Roman Empire, wealth and status were valued. One could argue that the Roman Empire was quite a materialistic, as well as militaristic culture, always seeking new lands for resources, power and slaves. With the announcement of the impending birth of the Christ Child, Mary announces that by this act of coming to Earth, Divinity was essentially shattering earthly power structures.By unifying with humanity, Divinity was proclaiming that from this day forward, all people were equal in the eyes of the Divine. In the moments after his death on the cross, we are told in Matthew 27:51 that "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split into two" The veil in the Temple was the boundary between Divinity and the masses, at this moment, the tearing of the veil showed that now humanity, all of humanity regardless of earthly status had full access to Divinity. At the beginning and ending of his Incarnation on earth, and by his first miracle, we are shown that all earthly separation, between humans and Divinity, as well as humans with one another is no longer in line with the will of God. We are all equal in the eyes of Divinity.

I have always seen acts of violence and war as humans trying to force the hand of God. We need stuff, or someone or group of people is committing acts that need to stop, God seems to not be listening, so we take actions into our own hands, saying that God is on our side. Racism is the ultimate act of willful blindness to the Divine in our fellow human being because of externals. 

The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation,  popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning. The ideal of the Beloved Community has captured the imagination of people all over the world. Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. An all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood will replace racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict. Ultimately, the Beloved Community is the ultimate goal of Christianity, to see the Divine in each person we meet, and treat them accordingly. The Beloved Community is the complete counter to racism in all it's forms. For more information please see

In his first reveal on earth, Christ presided over an event that celebrated love beyond the tribe, love and union between different backgrounds. It is quite profound that his first miracle was performed in the prototype of the Beloved Community, of recognizing the unity of all peoples, that what is on the inside is more real and more valuable than externals. For me, the connection is not lost that the Christian Lectionary had us all read about the Wedding at Cana during Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations. Of course, this correlation was not "planned" but it happened and that is how Spirit works, if one is awake then the connections are endless.

In many ways we have evolved since Dr. King, and in many ways it seems as if nothing has changed or we are regressing. The adversarial spiritual powers do not want humanity to get along. We are at a time of great transition, of the reappearance of the Christ in the Etheric realm, there is a great spiritual quickening happening on earth. One of my teachers remarked when asked why there are so many people on earth at this particular point in history, "I do not know for sure, but obviously something very important is happening and many souls want to be here for this event."

If we are to be worthy vessels to contain the Christ, we have much to overcome and confront. While evil powers want us to be separate, to hate and kill, Christ invites in another way. Dr. King confronted the three evils of society with love, endurance and the imagination that we could see one another beyond our externals. His dream is not a sanitary one, it is actually quite messy, but ultimately it is the invitation of Christ. We are to see one another as members of a Beloved Community, where our common ancestor is our Divine creator. When we can see Divinity in all of humanity and act accordingly, then we will truly be free at last.

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