Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Calling of the Disciples (told mostly in verbs)

Behold! -- Heard -- Followed
Seek? -- Come -- Stay
Heard -- Found -- Brought

Follow! -- Found -- Come!
Behold! -- Know? -- Saw
Believe? -- See -- Heaven

The Monk Chronicles: John 1: 35-51

Hmm. I must not say the word blasted in front of Brother Michael again. He looked absolutely aghast when I said it, and looked rather green when he realized I was associating it with our dear Abbot. I wonder if infernal would suit the Abbot more? I really prefer blasted, but infernal will do just as well for now. I might have to move to something stronger if that infernal man keeps refusing to acknowledge my hard work on these reports for him, though. He received my last one in complete silence again, only to laugh at me when I finished! He laughed at me! I wanted to reach across that desk and strangle him right then and there! He said that my studies are “superficial at best” and “tedious at worst”! I spent a good long hour and a half on that report last week, and he had the nerve to call them superficial and tedious! That infernal man… urg!

I will spend two hours on it this week, and see what he says then. I will show him one way or another. In fact, I may have to spend longer than two hours, for that infernal man has assigned even more than he did last week! To the end of the chapter, he says. It shouldn’t be a strain on my time, he says. Pah! As if I needed a further encumbrance on my time! As it is, I rarely get midday meal or dinner because of other small mishaps that always seem to happen when I am around. And I always see that infernal man skulking around right after I am assigned my penance, smirking his little smile. I swear he is up to something, I just need proof about what.

The assigned reading for this week is John chapter one verses thirty-five through verse fifty-one. I see why that infernal man assigned such a lengthy section, although that does not mean I have to like it. This whole passage is about Jesus’ first disciples, and tells us a little of their first interaction with Jesus. The disciples that are discussed are Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. There is another one that was with Andrew when John says that Jesus is the Lamb of God, but his name is not given. Brother Franz and Brother Handel have been arguing over who this mysterious character is for years now, Brother Franz says that it is Judas, and Brother Handel thinks that it is Thomas. They both agree that the reason the person’s name is not mentioned is that it was shameful, Judas because he becomes the betrayer, and Thomas because he doubts later, which makes no sense to me. I disagree with both of them, but I have no wish to get involved in that argument, they would make me do a year’s worth of penance simply for suggesting that either of them were wrong. I think it’s the author of the book, because people writing about themselves usually don’t put their name in their own work. Its simple, but those two Brother never see anything as simple.

Dang it. Brother Franz happened to be walking by during that little discourse of mine. Now I have to clean out the stables instead of eating dinner. And he added that if I was late for vespers because of it, he would add another penance to it. Brother Franz is quickly becoming my least favorite monk in this entire Abby. And there goes that infernal man again! I swear he instigates it every time I get in trouble!

Calm. I must learn calm. If I am calm in front of that blasted man, then maybe he will start to leave me be. And there I go using blasted again. Back to the Bible, maybe it will help me solve my language problem. There is a clear application here, we are to drop everything to follow Jesus as soon as we feel his calling. But then when do we know that he is indeed calling us to action? And then what path do we follow? Elder Brother Georg says that our conscience will lead us in the right path, because our baptism has conferred upon us the Holy Spirit, and that it is our earthly guide. But then how do we interpret what we feel? Should we just adopt the attitude of Jesus? Or is that not enough? Again, I have all these questions, and that infernal man won’t answer them, he just tells me to find the answers myself. I always tell him I don’t know where to look, but he says that looking is half the fun. As if I have time to look with all the penances he is somehow tricking me into earning! I barely have enough time to eat and get the required amount of sleep! Brother Fedor in the kitchens doesn’t even bother telling me what to do anymore, he just hands me a knife or a spoon and points. He also grunts while he works, like a pig. Sometimes I think maybe that’s why they assigned him to the kitchens, who better would know how to cook food than someone who resembles it?

Hah! Brother Franz walked right by me and didn’t even notice my commentary about Brother Fedor. I get distracted too easily from this, I must concentrate. I am further confused by the interaction of Jesus and Nathanael. Why does Nathanael respond the way he does when Jesus says that he is a true Israelite? And why does Jesus say that Nathanael is a true Israelite when all he did was see him under the fig tree before Philip calls him? I actually might have an answer for this one, Brother Jodai was a Jew before he converted and he says that he would recite the shem’a underneath fig trees at the middle of the day because it was cooler under the trees. So maybe Nathanael was reciting the shem’a for his midday prayers before partaking of his midday meal, after which Philip found him? I don’t know for sure, but the idea is one that would bear further study. Lets see that infernal man stare at me coldly with this idea! But why then does Nathanael immediately know that Jesus is the Son of God? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that he is a prophet, told things by God that no man would know? Or does he say it because he was already influenced by what Philip said to him? That is a more logical answer, but who’s to say that the Holy Scriptures are logical? Ah, there walks my infernal nemesis again. I will show him this week, I will. I have lots of questions this time to befuddle him, and even a scrap or two of answers that should impress him. Its all too easy. Now I go to clean the horse stables. I wish I could sneak some dung into that infernally blasted man’s food…

Brother Henrich,
24 of September
This Year of our Lord 1507

Author's Note: This is a more edited version than what I read, it should flow a little better. I'm still trying to perfect the character's voice and make a more creative connection to the Bible. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John 1:35-51

All of these have to do with Nathanael. He's always intrigued me as a Biblical character and I think that there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to him.

Here is the first, with references from verses 48, 47, and 41 - in that order:
How do you know me?
We have found the Messiah.
Come and you will see.

And based solely upon verse 47:
A true Israelite
Jesus said. In Nathanael
There is nothing false.

And along similar lines:
Nothing false, He said.
What is a true Israelite?
He's a child of God.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Monk Chronicles: John 1:19-34

Urg. It irks me that that blasted man is making me do this after first staring me down when I attempted to present my first report to him. My “simple” little examination of the Gospel of John has now turned into this nightmare of a punishment, all because those cold blue eyes refused to blink while I stumbled and mumbled an explanation of the first eighteen verses of the first chapter. That blasted man is now requiring me to carefully record all of my thoughts concerning the book, and to make my weekly reports to him, and to do all of my weekly chores as well! And, to add insult to grievous injury, the man threatened to have me clean out the stables for a month if I didn’t do my study this time! I did it last week, I swear it! Its just that man… ooh, he makes me so mad!

But I must not let such emotions concern me so. Brother Franz saw my ink splatters and scolded me for being messy and for letting my emotion show too much in my handwriting. Its only a little shaky, and still perfectly legible, but he is right. I must not allow such a base passion like unrighteous anger to take over me so. Therefore, on my lesson I will concentrate.

That blasted man has assigned to me this week the almost impossible task of studying all of chapter one, verses nineteen through thirty-four. Now how am I supposed to find time to study all of that in a mere week? I barely have enough time to get the required six hours of sleep as it is. Brother Franz just rebuked me again, he heard me call the Abbot “blasted man” for the first time. I must learn to not recite what I am writing. Now I have to go scrub the dishes without supper for penance. O, why did I ever want to be a monk?

Because of the length of this passage, I have separated the verses into two groupings, the first being verses nineteen through twenty-eight, and the second verses twenty-nine through thirty-four. If you read carefully these Scriptures, you can see a clear separation, for the beginning of verse twenty-nine reads, “The next day…” This clearly indicates a span of time that passes, therefore I see it as a convenient separation point for the verses.

Verses nineteen through twenty-eight seem to be wholly concerned with John the Baptist and the answers he gives to some who have been sent to question him. Although it does not say who has sent these messengers, the reader is led to assume someone very involved with the temple and spiritual matters, because one of the questioners (in verse twenty-four) is a Pharisee. The second grouping of verses seems to talk about Jesus’ first encounter with John, and then John’s odd testimony concerning what he saw concerning Jesus. I say odd because although John says that he saw Jesus earlier, there is no indication of how he saw Jesus. Was it in a dream or was it in person? Or, as indicated in Mark and Matthew, is John the one that baptizes Jesus? I have all these questions, but that blasted man told me that answers would only come with “meditation on the word of God.” Dash it all, its in studying the Word that all of these questions are generated! There goes my nemesis, smirking at me as he walks past. That blasted man takes pleasure in my torment, I swear it. Now if only I could figure out why he targets me so specifically.

Anyway, I was assigned to study applications of the holy Word to the general assembly here in the monastery. What I see in the first section of particular use is the questioners focus on John. I say this is useful because the analogy could be made that we are like them, in that we study the nature of spiritual matters looking for tailored answers that will fit nicely with the questions we have presented to the Word in our minds. Thus, we focus so much on finding supports for our theories that we bypass the true answers that will lead us to the path of salvation. These questioners were so focused on putting John into their view of what needed to happen before the Christ came that they did not question the alternative that he was the precursor to the Christ, as he himself indicates in verse twenty-seven. Although the text does not say, I am curious to know what further questions were asked of John, as the questioners most likely would not let John’s statement stand without being examined.

I am still not sure what to make of the second portion of verses, verses twenty-eight through thirty-four. No practical application needs to be pulled from these, as I already did it up there, but that blasted man is likely to question me about these verses if I don’t mention them in my report and describe how they are crucial to the Christian faith. I am sure that John’s revelation of Jesus as the Son of God is an important step in the opening of Jesus’ ministry, I just want to know who John is talking to when he is saying these words. Is he by himself? There is no indication that anyone is with him, but then why does it matter that he speaks such words if there are no witnesses? I wonder if the same questioners from the day before are there, and if that is who he is speaking to, because it says in verse thirty-five that he is with his disciples the next day and calls Jesus the Lamb of God then. But the text does not indicate who, if anyone, was with John during this revelation, so it must just be another matter that is beyond human knowledge until we join with God in the heavens above.

That blasted man just walked by again, still smiling his little smirk. Well, I will show him with my report this time! “Not prepared”, he called me last time. Well we will see who gets the last laugh this time. I will show him I am not slacking in this penance, just like I have not slacked in any other penance given to me. If I get caught, then I deserve the punishment. My only wish is that he had not been the one to catch me this time. There goes the bell for vespers, now I’m late again.

Brother Henrich,
17 of September
This Year of our Lord 1507

Author's note: There should be more to come, and although the character may rant about the length of passages, this author feels no stress at the lengths currently being assigned.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Testify and Kyrie Eleison

These are two pieces, separate and apart from each other:

I must testify
To love and the truth I've seen
In the Son of God.

John 1:34
I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.

Criste eleison,
Take away all of our sins.
Oh, Lord have mercy.

John 1: 29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!..."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Word was God/The Word was with God

I have always been fascinated with illuminated manuscripts, especially those of the medieval time period. I had originally planned on creating this piece as a replica of that style of illumination. But as I read about the mystery of who Jesus is and where he came from, I realized the abstract quality of the description. John writes in a way that helps us to see that Jesus is so much greater than our comprehension. So I made the words and images flow back and forth between understanding and mystery. The whole of the text is there, whether in word or image, from John 1:1-9.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Word

In the beginning
-Timeless adage, here again-
The Word was with God.

In Him was the light
-Though we were blinded to it-
Light, the life of man.

The Word became flesh
-There's no sin in temptation-
And dwelt among us.

We saw His glory,
-Saw yes, but misunderstood-
Full of grace and truth.

A "T" in the Maze

Perched precariously on the see-saw of eternity,
I am suspended by another choice.
Two fellows stand at either end,
Arms stretched out to receive me.
A step towards one is a familiarly slippery path,
Worn to smoothness from repeated choice.
A stop towards the other is harder,
But cleaner and, somehow, truer.
I dare not tarry here much longer,
For then a slip would be unavoidable
And choice would disappear.
The smooth path is a slide,
As wide as it is steep.
The rough path is a balance-beam,
But redemption lies in the struggle.
I am perched precariously on the see-saw of eternity,
Torn with the struggle of another choice.

Based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17.