About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."



Skaneatles Community House in Autumn
This Sunday we will celebrate the Biblical Thanksgiving (according to Deuteronomy 26). It shares many surprising similarities with our current American tradition.

Just like our American tradition, Biblical Thanksgiving does not have solid historical roots.
     The American Thanksgiving has flimsy historical grounding. Early European colonists did celebrate Harvest Home, but as such it took place much earlier in the season, just like it is customary in Europe. Colonists were not dressed in those black and white costumes, that was for them a dress for church and not for a joyful festival. They did not eat turkey but venison and they would hardly recognize most of our traditional thanksgiving dishes. All these aspects were designed as part of national mythology in the Victorian Era. The same is true about a Biblical Thanksgiving which also had very little historical grounding and we will touch upon it.
Just like our American tradition, Biblical Thanksgiving was created for political/ideological reasons.
    American Thanksgiving in its current form has been designed to inspire cohesive spirit in difficult and dark times of the Civil War. (Have you noticed that the media never forget to report how our soldiers also celebrate?) Many aspects of a Thanksgiving celebration betray its historical origins. The story about Pilgrims and Indians, the location of the story, depictions of ancient dresses, even traditional thanksgiving recipes and order of dishes did not correspond with historical reality, but were an idealized projection - how people in the 1860s in the Union part of the Nation visualized the early colonists and their feasts. Similarly ideological purpose can be observed in Biblical Thanksgiving and we will touch upon it. 

But regardless of all these falsifications, American Thanksgiving just like the Biblical Thanksgiving has an important underlying message.
    Most of what we tell about Thanksgiving and what we eat on Thanksgiving and what we do on Thanksgiving was cooked by national ideology. But underneath all of it is an undeniable reality of a nation of migrants - some refugees, some economic migrants, some opportunists, some idealists, but almost all of us (unless you are 100% Native American) relatively recent newcomers. And this message is also true about the Biblical Thanksgiving. It might be historical fiction, but the powerful message of the Biblical Thanksgiving was clear - it was a feast of migrants and refugees.

Join us, migrants and refugees, in Thanks Giving.


Mother Peace and Mother Prophet

This week I picked for our bulletin cover this monumental sculpture called “Mother Peace” by Mark di Suvero.
It is a 42 foot tall red steel tower with several moving parts. At the top is suspended A large “V” and beneath is attached a large swinging ram with a prominent peace sign burned-cut into it. Mark di Suvero originally installed it in 1970 in front of Alameda Courthouse after he was sent to jail for anti war protests. Local judge and conservative potentates were provoked by the peace sign and symbolism of this sculpture and had it eventually removed in 1974. Nevertheless, Mother Peace found a new home and it still gently swings in the wind prepared to crush open gates of militarism and injustice.
   I picked this sculpture because this Sunday’s lectionary reading brings to us the story of Hannah. She was a mother of a prophet Samuel but herself the eloquent prophet in her own right. She will teach us how bitter experiences of harassment and persecution can sharpen our sense of justice and teach us to stand for what is right. Interestingly in our faith tradition, this is the role often reserved for women and mothers.

(And if you want to see Mother Peace, you will find it at the Storm King Art Center located only fifty miles north of Manhattan, just about one hour drive by car. Mother Peace is only one of the masterpieces sprinkled over the beautiful setting of an informal English-style park. I believe Storm King Art Center must be the largest modern sculpture gallery in America, if not in respect to the  number of art pieces then certainly in respect to the quality of the art collection and especially in respect to the cumulative size. It is a beautiful gallery especially in autumn, but worth visiting at any season.)


For the Love of Birds

Many of you might know that English is not my native language. No matter what I do, I am bound to make mistakes, sometimes stupid, sometimes clumsy, sometimes unnecessary, often funny. Since the inception of this blog I had a great and selfless helper - Mary Birchard - who regularly checked my spelling, tried to cut up my unnecessarily long sentences, corrected my “international” prepositions and helped me especially with the tricky (tricky for me) English articles. She often joked that she would leave me two boxes one with “a-s” and the other with “the-s”. Unfortunately, she did not! Mary died suddenly yesterday and I am heart-stricken.
     But Mary left me something else and even more important than English gramar - she initiated all our family into the love of birds. I learned to look around for birds. And especially during my different exotic holidays I used to play with Mary “Can-you-name-this-bird?” game. I would take a picture of a bird, send it to Mary and within few moments she would respond with the name. Always she did it, and she was never wrong. Just a few times she would give two options, and one was always correct.

     I attach a picture of a Pacific Golden Plover which I took on the ancient Hawaiian burial ground in Ka‘u. Golden Plover is one of Hawaiian ‘aumakua, in Greek psychopompoi. May the birds she loved so dearly accompany Mary on her journey! 


All Hallows' Eve

Days are getting ever shorter and colder, the sun, even at midday, is lower in the sky. (This Sunday is the end of Daylight Saving Time!) Tatters of cold mist hang on leafless branches of bushes and trees. There is still no snow to brighten the days and nights, the land is wet, cold, dark and brown, and nature is shutting down in preparation for her winter sleep. This is the season to remember our dead with respect and thankfulness.
    In my native land this is the season to visit family graves. People decorate graves with mums and other hardy autumn flowers, and also with bright fragile straw-like immortelles. And of course candles and oil lamps are lighted and kept shining for at least two days. In this autumn season cemeteries and kirkyards of Central Europe, which had been dark up until then, suddenly burst out with lights and look almost like another city illuminated with hundreds of flickering flames.
    Decorating graves and lighting candles are ancient customs of the Feasts of All Saints and Souls. They predate Christianity and harken back to ancient Celtic roots of my native land. Celtic people called this holiday Samhain and perhaps more than any other holy day it was a liminal season, a time when the boundary between our world and the other was thinner and could be crossed, especially from the other side. Thus besides fires and lights lit for those who had passed away, Celts used to keep an extra place at the dinner table or by the family hearth for those who departed and should they come for a visit, they were to be treated with kindness and respect.
    Only bad, guilty and disrespectful people were to be afraid of their departed ancestors and family members. All other awaited this season perhaps with some trepidation but also with excitement. These are the deepest and also more genuine and spiritual origins of our commercialized and secularized Trick-or-treating and other Halloween customs. Now think, what does it say about our culture if frightening each other and fear of ghosts (be it playful and teasing), so completely underline our modern celebrations! Does it mean that we feel guilty because of our disrespect towards our ancestors?
    Of course, many can claim that all this is shallow and foreign to the core of our Judeo-Christian faith. But surprisingly, the Hebrew Bible also knows ancestral spirits, albeit their presence is predominantly hidden, suppressed and largely neglected. On this All Saints Day we will search for the biblical healing ghosts and hear the prophetic promise of their resurrection. Come to remember and celebrate our departed and be healed.


Celebrating Reformation Herstory

“I’m rich” said Luther. “My God has given me a nun and has added three children. I don’t worry about any debts, for when my Katy has paid them there will be more.”
    Martin Luther made this comment at the family table in April, 1532. It was faithfully recorded by his friend and colleague Johann Schlaginhaufen and eventually published by Johannes Mathesius as Table Talk #1457.
    There are thousands of similar off the cuff comments and observations made in the characteristic robust and witty style of the Wittenberg Reformer. They reflect relaxed setting, intimate atmosphere, and informal, often touching conversations with family and friends.
    Table Talk (Tischreden) makes it clear, that the Reformation was so much more than just a new theological teaching or reformation of the Church. It was a radical shift in the very structure of society. For instance, we can observe the emergence of an intimate family founded in love, respect and mutual care.
    That nun which Martin spoke about was his wife Katharina von Bora. He lovingly called her “my Katy”. She escaped a monastery and eventually married “Her Doctor”. Together they ended up having six children brought into this mutually respectful, sometime bantering, but always loving relationship. She admired the somehow impractical, idealistic and folksy Doctor of theology, while he deeply respected her motherly instincts and admired her economic prowess (she took care of a household of about forty members!). But Katy was not just an effective “hausfrau”. Even while nursing babies she actively participated in the political, cultural and theological discussions which were led at least partly in Latin.
    Thus this marriage and family of a former nun and a former monk was so much more than just another family, it was an integral part of the thorough reformation and realignment of medieval times and emergence of early modern culture. If we celebrate Reformation Sunday, we must not forget Katy Luther.
           Reformation history
           is HERSTORY too!
    Come this Sunday to celebrate Reformation, one of its heroines, and its changing cultural paradigms.



Baking Bread

Yeast is a miraculous substance.
I still remember helping my grannie and my mom making Challah bread. (Of course we do not call it that! Challah is a Jewish name borrowed together with the recipe from my Slavic ancestors.)
     I especially love mixing and kneading the leavened dough. After the first mixing it is left to rest in a warn place under a clean cloth for an hour or so. It will double in size, then it must be kneaded down by hands, almost back to its original volume. Then it is left to rest and it rises again. After a little bit of kneading it can be plaited into a bread or made into different forms and shapes, perhaps with diverse fillings to make colace/kolache (“koláče” - this is in fact most likely the phonetic origin of the word Challah).
      Of course I love the golden baked results, but I have been even more fascinated, if you want enchanted, by the process of preparing the leavened dough. Every dough behaves slightly differently. Sometimes it rises fast, sometimes slow, sometimes kneading is easy and sometimes it can be real work, occasionally it plays some tricks - it all depends on the exact batch of flour, the precise temperature, outside weather, air humidity, the origin of the yeast, the experience and attitude of the baker, and yes, some would say his or her “aura”. It is as close to magic as you can get in everyday life - rounding the dough to make it into a nice smooth lump, later dimpling it gently with a finger to test how well it has risen, and then kneading it while it breathes and gently groans...
      I am not at all surprised that yeast has been associated in the Bible and our faith tradition with supra natural powers. These powers are always viewed with awe, sometimes with distrust and often with wonder. The same or similar kind of yeast can completely spoil and rot the food or it can transform it into something new and surprising - fermenting fruits are turned into wine, inert indigestible flour is turned into golden crusted bread.
      Come to celebrate World Communion Sunday and the vision of God’s kingdom of abundance for everyone. It is made possible by the smallest life-form mentioned in the Bible, humble and also glorious, tiny and very powerful yeast.


Henry's Revelation

We are happy to announce another great discovery of The Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers. Our purchasing agent managed to obtain, and yes, to rescue this surprising manuscript from the well known UWS antiquity dealer who traffics his stuff just outside of our building. Soaking wet, almost disintegrating under piles of old books and magazines was this pearl of Manhattanite apocalyptic prophecy:
A revelation, which I, Henry Rutgers, saw on the eve of the new century. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to me in the likeness of my recently departed General George in a white uniform and his head touching the clouds, and he took me by the hand up and up very high and showed me the things which will transpire in and around my Manhattan home in due time.
    I saw my farm, but it did not look like my farm. It was made up of streets with high buildings some seemed to be as high as two and even three floors and there were many Chinese storefronts all around. On the streets I saw horseless coaches with noxious tails. Yea, in my vision people traveled underground in rumbling tubes and in the sky in loud-sounding tubes with metal wings. In those days, I was told, firewood will be in short supply and Pennsylvania anthracite will all but run out. People will be forced to dig for sand and bake it into oil to get warm, they will even overthrow the foundation of the earth and crack the shale to get foul-smelling wind out off the ground as a miserable substitute for firewood. They will poison their water and shake the earth where it never shook before. Age-old ice in the far far north will melt. Animals will get upset, many will depart, some of them for good. Even some trees and plants will walk away to the north.
    Be very concerned in those days, but do not give up, all these trials and tribulations must take place. At times it will look like all the world will end in the cataclysmic poisonous abyss of utter corruption, but don’t lose heart. For those who will persevere and preserve their souls from pollution, and their hands clean of foul smelling oil, they will live to see a new world. The Lord will come and will harness wind-horses in offshore farms and tether sun by its beams to almost every roof. And there will be no more chimneys and smoke stacks and tailpipes belching noisome fumes, all of them will disappear, and before too long birds and butterflies will return.

A note from the editor: 
No doubt, this is just another part of “The Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers”, our spoof religious writing. This time it indirectly illustrates the background, composition and original purpose of biblical apocalyptic literature.
     It fills me with sadness that apocalypses, which were originally intended and written as encouragement and sparks of hope in desperate times, became abused by some religious manipulators to imprison people through religious dread and fear.
     This Sunday we will try to liberate the Revelation of John from their hands and to bring to us its original glorious message of social and environmental healing.