13 September 2008

More of the Agony of the Church by Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic

India was the cradle of the teaching of the Incarnation. The supreme God, Brahma (roughly equivalent to the deity Hwang-Cheon-Sang-Je {皇天上帝 [Heavenly Divine Supreme Emperor]} {Huang-Tian-Shang-Di in Mandarin} in Chinese and Korean mythology), had already been incarnated in many persons since the dawn of history. But the highest incarnation of Him was still to come. Well, Jesus Christ was this highest incarnation of Brahma in human shape.

The cultivated polytheists did not like the idea of a monotonous theology of one solitary God. They liked rather a divine company upon Olympus. Well, Christianity with its Trinity-teaching presented to them a limited polytheism. God was not physically one, as in Judaism, nor many, as in Hellenism. He was a Trinitarian Plurality in Unity. He was not a grim hermit, but He had the riches of an eternal life.

The intellectual Greeks and Hellenists climbed to the idea of one God and of Logos, the Mediator between God and the world, through whom God created whatever He created, and who may be incarnated for the salvation of the fallen, suffering creation. Well, Jesus Christ could include in His person this wonderful doctrine of Neoplatonism.

The mountainous Asia under Caucasus and Ararat, plunged into the mystery of Mithras, which was born out of the Zoroastrian dualistic religion of light and darkness, of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Well now, Christ, the friend of humanity, revealed Himself as the God of light struggling against Satan, the enemy of humanity.

Rome, politically ruling the world, was longing for a sacred King, for a Prince of Peace, who should come from the East and bring to the people some higher and truer happiness than that deceiving chimera of political bigness. Well, Christ should be this universal, sacred King, this Prince of Peace, and Messenger of a durable happiness. It is not true that Christ had His prophets among the people of Israel only. His prophets existed in every race and every religion and philosophy of old. That is the reason why the whole world could claim Christ, and how He can be preached to everybody and accepted by everybody. Behold, He was at home everywhere!

11 September 2008

More on Prayer Beads

Bahá'ís recite the phrase "Alláhu Abhá", a form of the Greatest Name, 95 times per day, sometimes using prayer beads. Baha'i prayer beads often are made from wood, stone, glass beads or pearls.

There are two main types of Baha'i prayer beads. One consists of 95 beads, often with the first 19 distinguished by size, color or some other means, and will often have five additional beads that are strung below. The other main type has 19 beads strung with the addition of five beads below. This counts Alláhu Abhá 95 times (19*5).

Prayer beads, or Japa Malas, are also used in many forms of Mahayana Buddhism, often with a lesser number of beads (usually a divisor of 108). In Pure Land Buddhism, for instance, 27 bead malas are common. In China such malas are named "Shu-Zhu" (数珠); in Japan, "Juzu". These shorter malas are sometimes called 'prostration rosaries', because they are easier to hold when enumerating repeated prostrations. In Tibetan Buddhism malas are also 108 beads: one mala counts as 100 mantras, and the 8 extra are meant to be dedicated to all sentient beings (the practice as a whole is dedicated at its end as well). because they are . In Tibetan Buddhism, often larger malas are used of for example 111 beads: when counting, they calculate one mala as 100 mantras, and the 11 additional beads are taken as extra to compensate for errors.

The Orthodox Christian Desert Fathers (third to fifth century) used knotted ropes to count prayers, typically the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"). The invention is attributed to St Anthony or his associate St Pachomius in the fourth century.

Roman Catholics and some Anglicans use the Rosary as prayer beads. The Rosary (its name comes from the Latin "rosarium," meaning "rose garden"), is an important and traditional devotion of the Roman Catholic Church, combining prayer and meditation in sequences (called "decades") of an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be to the Father, as well as a number of other prayers (such as the Apostle's Creed and the Hail Holy Queen) at the beginning and end. Traditionally a complete Rosary involved the completion of fifteen decades, but John Paul II added an additional five. Roman Catholics also use prayer beads to pray chaplets.

Eastern Christians use loops of knotted wool (or occasionally of beads), called chotki or komboschinia to pray the Jesus Prayer. Although among the Orthodox, their use is mainly restricted to monks and bishops, being less common among laity or secular clergy. Among Russian Old Believers, a prayer rope made of leather, called lestovka, is more common, although this type is no longer commonly used now by the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "The rosary is conferred upon the Greek Orthodox monk as a part of his investiture with the mandyas or full monastic habit, as the second step in the monastic life, and is called his 'spiritual sword'."

The earliest use of prayer beads can be traced to Hinduism, where they are called Japa Mala. Japa is the repeating of the name of a deity or a mantra. Mala (Sanskrit:माला; mālā) means 'garland' or 'wreath'.

Japa mala are used for repetition of a mantra, for other forms of sadhana (spiritual exercise), and as an aid to meditation. The most common mala have 108 beads. The most common materials used for making the beads are Rudraksha seeds (used by Shaivites) and Tulsi stem (used by Vaishnavites).

In Islam, prayer beads are referred to as Misbaha or Tasbih, and contain 99 beads, corresponding to the 99 Names of Allah. Sometimes only 33 beads are used, in which case one would cycle through them 3 times to equal 99. Use of the misbaha to count prayers and recitations is an evolution of Muhammad's practice of using the fingers of his right hand to keep track. While in pretty wide use today, some adherents of Wahhabism shun them as an intolerable innovation, preferring to stick to the exact method believed to have been used by Muhammad. Their use as a religious item has somewhat diminished over the years, and many use them nowadays strictly as worry beads and as status symbols.

They are most commonly made of wooden beads, but also of olive seeds, ivory, amber, pearls or plastic.

Sikhs use a Mala with 108 beads. They also use prayer string made of wool with 99 knots rather than beads.

10 September 2008

Christianity popular in Tang Dynasty

Latest research on a tombstone dating back to the ninth century showed Christianity had most probably been popular among Tang Dynasty (618-907) civilians, Chinese archaeologists said.

The incomplete damaged eight-surface tombstone, unearthed in Luoyang City, central Henan Province, in 2006, had scriptures of the Jingjiao, or Nestorian Church, and pictures of crosses, according to Luo Zhao, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences religious researcher.

"To be exact, the Christian text was a China-proper ontological thesis about the Christian theology written by a prelate who had been long living in China in the late eighth century."

Luo said it was the first time to discover such tombstones engraved with Jingjiao scriptures. Tombstones engraved with Buddhist texts were common in the Tang Dynasty.

The significance of the finding is believed by Chinese archaeologists to be nothing less than that of the Jingjiao stone tablet unearthed in 1623 in the Tang capital Xi'an. The tablet, engraved in 781, revealed for the first time the spreading of the religion in half a century after it came to China via the Silk Road, a trade route linking China with Asian and European nations.

"Who would imagine that Chinese Christians had already engraved the lections onto the tombstones in funeral rituals to bless the soul of the dead? " asked Lin Wushu, a Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University professor who has devoted himself to the Jingjiao studies.

Apart from the religious activities of the An family, the tombstone also revealed such important information as the churches and groups of believers at that time, according to the academic.

01 September 2008

The Agony of the Church by Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic

"If you ask what saintliness ought to mean, Christianity has not to argue but to show you the saintliness in the flesh. Christ the saintly Lord, St Paul and St John, Polycarp and Leo, Patrick and Francis, Sergius and Zosim, St Theresa and hundreds of other saints. And if somebody thinks still that a few thousands of Christian saints are not a sufficient argument to show that saintliness is practicable, then the Church has still not to give her ideal up and to take as her ideal thousands of great and small Napoleons and Bismarcks, and Goethes and Spencers, or Medics and Cromwells or Kaisers and Kings--no, in the latter case it would be much nicer for the Church to point out the saintly men outside of Christian walls, like St Hermes and St Pythagoras, or St Krishna and St Buddha, or St Lao-Tse and St Confucius, or St Zoroaster and St Abu-Bekr. Better even is unbaptised saintliness than baptised earthliness."
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