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."

2013/11/29

Medieval Faith Comics


For Advent and Christmas this year we will use this famous early renaissance painting from Holland.
It is a gorgeous piece of art, but it also provides a theological/legendary education in a form of a Medieval Faith Comics (a story and a dialogue in a picture). In place of modern text-bubbles we have here inscribed scrolls (also called banderoles or phylacteries). 

The angels on the roof are setting the scene. They sing Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people, good will!
The kneeling midwife is identified as Azel (more commonly known as Zebel) and she says in utter  amazement, A virgin bore a son!
The standing midwife is named Salome and she says, I will not believe unless I probe. And as a consequence of her disbelief, Salome’s hand withers and she suffers a terrible fiery pain in it. She publicly repents and is being advised by the white angel, Touch the boy and be healed!
 
Of course you cannot find this story of two midwives in the New Testament. The oldest version of this story is preserved in the Gospel of James. This ancient Gospel, as old as some parts of the Bible, is miraculous, mysterious, and mythical in the most exaggerated manner. And exactly as such it can help us fully understand and appreciate the true nature, origins and meaning of the Biblical Christmas stories. These old Biblical as well as extrabiblical stories bring up important spiritual, theological and philosophical themes in the form of thrilling and entertaining narratives.
 
On the first Sunday in Advent we will look at how Mary herself was born and we will try to discern more about our human relationship to nature and one another.

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And by the way, the hem of Mary’s cloak is also inscribed with a Latin text: SALVE REGIN[A MATER MISERICOR]DIE V[I]TA DVLCEDO ET SPES NOSTRA SALVE AD TE CL[AMAMV]S EXVLES FILII EVE AD TE SVSPIRAMUS GEMENTES ET FLENTES IN HAC LACR[IMARVM VALLE]. It is a famous Marian hymn and prayer: Hail, (holy) Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail Sweetness, Life, and our Hope! To thee we cry, banished children of Eve, to thee we sigh, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
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And for those who are interested in the legendary story of two midwives, here it is from the Protoevangelium of James. This link leads to the Greek text and below are chapters 19+20 in a dynamic equivalent translation:

    And at that time a woman was coming down from the mountains and she says, "Man, where are you going?" And I said, "I am seeking a Hebrew midwife." And she said, "Are you from Israel?" And I said, "Yes." Then, she said, "In that cave, who is giving birth?" And I said, "My fiancĂ©." "So she is not your wife?" She asked. And I said, "She is Mary, she was raised in the temple and given to me by lot to be my wife. But she is not my wife, and the child she expects she got from the Holy Spirit." And she is like, “Sure!” And Joseph said, "Come and check it up yourself."
    So the midwife went with him. And they stood near the cave and a dark cloud of bright light hovered over the cave. And the midwife said, "My soul glorifies this day. With my own eyes I have seen today something unbelievable: Salvation was born to Israel." And immediately, the cloud lifted up from the cave and it was filled with so bright a light that their eyes could not bear it. But after a moment, as that light subsided they could make out an infant and walking all on his own, and he took the breast of his mother, Mary. And the midwife exclaimed, "This is my great day, for I have seen what no one has seen before!"
    And the midwife came out from the cave and met Salome and said to her, "Salome, let me tell you about this new miracle. A virgin gave birth, as incredible as it sounds!" And Salome said, "As the Lord my God lives, unless I use my finger and probe it, I will not believe that a virgin has given birth."
    And the midwife went in and said, "Mary, now lie down, for you are the source of not a small controversy." Then Salome inserted her finger in her lap. And exclaimed in panic, "Woe to me, Why did I commit such a wrong? Why didn’t I believe? I tested the living God. And now my hand is consumed by a flame and is being torn away from my body." And she dropped to her knees before the Lord, crying, "God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, do not made me into an warning example to the children of Israel, but let me serve again the poor. For you know, Lord, that I have served in your name and received my wage only from you."
    And suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in front of her, saying, "Salome, the Lord of all has heard your prayer. Raise your hand, touch the child, lift him up and he will be your salvation and joy." And Salome went to the child and lifted him up, saying, "I worship him because he has been born a great king of Israel." And at that very moment Salome was healed and left the cave guiltless. But a voice came saying, "Salome, Salome, do not speak about miracles you have witnessed until the child comes to Jerusalem."

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