The Eternal Truth of the Holy Trinity, the true nature of God has been explicitly declared by the Apostolic Churches and Holy Scripture. It has been reinforced by the Churches and is reinforced every time we make the sign of the cross. But when was it first declared?
It was declared in a person first. Her existence will always declare it without a word uttered about it. It will always be declared by her image, also without a word said. Because when the Angel declared the virginal conception of her Son in her, a creature of God the Father became the Mother of God the Son who had to have been conceived in her by God the Holy Spirit. Her image will always declare the Holy Trinity, without a word said.
In the town of Maghdouche overlooking Sidon in southern Lebanon, is where legend says the wife of Potiphar (circa 1500 BC) is buried, seductress of Joseph from the Bible, which does not name her. Jewish, Islamic, and Persian literature have her name Zulaikha. The story in the Bible is that after Joseph’s betrayal and sale into slavery by his kin (Genesis 39), he finds favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian palace guard. In that household, Joseph rejects the advances and seduction of Zulaikha. In the event that led to his imprisonment, Zulaikha grabs the garment of Joseph but he escapes naked running out of the palace. She lies to Potiphar saying that he was the instigator and Joseph is sent to prison. There, Joseph finds new and greater favor and position with the Pharaoh, ultimately becoming a source of salvation and blessings for his kin, the very people who betrayed him.
This story reminds us two recurring themes of God’s grace and mercy:
1. In being wronged and betrayed, we can become a source of grace for people, many more people and much more grace than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. In receiving God’s grace and mercy we bring along other people too.
2. The continuum of grace always occurs through the fulcrum of chastity.
But this story is only an early chapter, with earlier, later, and other chapters to come.
The town of Magdouche is an ancient promontory and look-out post for Sidon. During Phoenician times (peak 1200-800 BC) the promontory had the shrine to Astarte, the pagan goddess of war and sexuality. The pagan legend has Astarte bearing two sons from her brother, Eros and Lust. Astarte is likely the same pagan goddess of Sidon, Ashtoreth, who captured the heart of Solomon, son of David (1 Kings 11:5).
The shrine was taken over by Christians after the Virgin Theotokos stayed in a cave there while waiting for her Son to return from preaching in Sidon. Jesus’ work in Sidon is referenced in many places in the new Testament (Matthew 11:21-22, Mark 3:8 and 7:31, and Luke 6:17) with even Matthew 15:21 referencing the city as a place of refuge for Jesus.
It took the convincing of St. Helena in the 4th Century by the devoted town folk for the empire to issue an icon of the Theotokos, reportedly painted by St. Luke, to the cave/Byzantine chapel: the Virgin of Mantara (the Waiting) or Virgin of Magdouche.
In the 8th Century, the cave was buried and hidden by locals to escape the detection of the local Moslem governors. Unlike the Caliph Omar who spared Jerusalem, they feared the cave would be destroyed by those leaders. Many of the region then dispersed into the higher mountains or converted to Islam. The Crusaders of the Latin Rite in Sidon of the 12th and 13th Centuries never suspected the chapel’s existence even with their own castle and chapel a stone’s throw from the hidden cave.
The cave’s legend lingered however.
Under the rule of the benevolent Druze Prince Fakhriddin II in the early 17th Century, peace and religious freedom was granted to the region. Byzantine Archbishop Euthymios Michael Saifi of Sidon (1682 – 1723) offered recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Around that time, the grotto was rediscovered when a goat-herder boy went after a goat who had fallen into the cave. The boy, we can call him Indiana Jones Jr., noticed the icon as the goat ran back into his arms. He piled rocks to escape with his beloved goat, alerting the townsfolk of his accidental excavation. The pilgrimages restarted.
So the worship of Astarte was replaced with love and devotion, now restarted, to the chaste and virgin Mother of God, the Living Ark of the Covenant. Her chaste and virgin Son was also wronged and betrayed, becoming a source of grace offered for all people, infinitely more than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. Lest anyone think that this is not related to the Potiphar story or that God’s hand does not sign scripture, read the evangelist Mark’s stunning account of what happened immediately after Jesus was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane:
Mark 14:51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.
John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
Where exactly did this wedding occur? In Cana of course. But where was that? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but maybe the words of a saint are worthy too.
“Cana, in the neighborhood of the tribe of Archer, near Great Sidon. This was the place where Jesus Christ our God transformed water into wine.”
Saint Eusebius of Caesaria, the first historian of the Church (264-349 A.D.)
Where is the real Cana?
Apostle carving, Lebanon
Apostle carving, Lebanon
Cave for Disciples, Southern Lebanon
Grotto Mantara statue
Grotto of the Place of Waiting (Al Mantara), Magdouche, where Mary waited for her son to return from Sidon.
Basilica at The Waiting, Sidon.
John 2:11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
Antique icon, Cana Wedding
The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.
Come, bride of Christ, receive the crown which the Lord has prepared for you for all eternity; for whose love you have shed your blood. And you will enter into the Paradise among the angels. Come, O you my chosen one, and I will set my throne within you: so shall the King have pleasure in your beauty.
Twice in the Gospel of John, Jesus addresses His own mother as “woman.”
John 2: 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
John 19:26 “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,””
This is the same term of expression He uses for the Samaritan woman who had had five husbands (John 4:21) and the adulteress about to be stoned (John 8:10).
Why the apparent dishonoring of His mother? Particularly in the setting of the culture of the time in the middle east, still present to this day, of honoring motherhood. Jesus is reminding us of the role of His mother as the new Eve, who will produce the fruit of redemption from the new tree of the cross, to counter the disobedience of the first woman who offered the forbidden fruit.
But there is more.
Jesus is also reminding us that the notion of the Creator, God (Himself) would need a mother to do anything is ridiculous if she was not meant to be for us. Our mother. If she was not meant to be the mother of humanity. He submitted Himself to her for us.
Hail then to our Mother, whom the early Fathers called the new Israel.
1 Yahweh, my heart is not haughty, I do not set my sights too high. I have taken no part in great affairs, in wonders beyond my scope.
2 No, I hold myself in quiet and silence, like a little child in its mother’s arms, like a little child, so I keep myself.
3 Let Israel hope in Yahweh henceforth and for ever.
“Through Mary, the miserable obtain mercy, the graceless find grace, the sinners receive pardon. The weak gain strength, earthlings acquire heavenly things, mortals win life, and pilgrims find their country!”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fulcrum as follows:
1. The support about which a lever turns
2. One that supplies capability for action
This post expands on a prior, The Evangelization of Celibacy, to expound on what has developed into dogma in the apostolic churches. On celibacy, chastity, and marriage. Even contraception. The word dogma has acquired bad connotations in our current age, causing some people, even clergy, to question dogma and think that it somehow needs to evolve, and keep up with the times. They think that dogma is somehow arbitrary and without any objective truth at its roots. But dogma is developed for our protections and for actualizing the work of God, as a manual or handbook is written for the operation of a tool or device. Some people can expand on their knowledge on how something is designed to work and develop a working knowledge of how to use a tool or device without the use of a manual. But this is generally not a good practice.
Jesus says in John 10: 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works…
More about works in Hebrews 4: 3…And yet His works have been finished since the creation of the world.
These passages remind that God’s purpose will be done. He simply asks for humans to witness to them. The emphasis is for humans, flesh and soul. The exquisite model of this is how God used the Virgin to transfer the throne of David:
Luke 1: 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, 33 and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.
God then is the force behind the works. The Virgin, flesh and soul, is the fulcrum, or vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”.
There are of course other works of the flesh that constitute the fulcrum for God’s eternal Kingdom. The central acts of the Kingdom are the crucifixion and resurrection, but here we discuss our role as sexual beings, men and women with procreative potential.
God’s use of a Virgin as the fulcrum of the Kingdom is an act that captures runaway sexuality. God uses His original design to implement His Kingdom. There is no redesign. The sexual physiology of our bodies is for procreation, a scientific fact. The baptized then are changed to recognize their bodies as manifestations of the Kingdom through a number of ways that include chastity of the single, fidelity of the married, and celibacy for the religious. The chastity and celibacy for a couple using natural family planning combines all of these. Avoiding the morbidity of drugs. Sexual expression has been recaptured by our will, the means to beautify the soul. Our bodies become the fulcrum for the Kingdom.
God is not outdone in generosity. The religious that sacrifices their sexual propensity to procreate, are rewarded with the procreation of members for the Kingdom, becoming the vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”. This is the explanation of the urgency in the Apostle Paul’s writing about not recommending marriage over celibacy. He was not a homosexual and did not hate women. Now we can see that Paul’s writings are a sample of how God taught the early Church to bestow the title of Father on a priest.
See also another example of how the Kingdom passes on through the celibate (eunuch): Acts 8:26-40.
So we humans become the fulcrum of the Kingdom if we accept the force at work. Hence we have a working definition of the True Faith. If we do not accept the Faith, God will simply find others about whom the lever may turn and who can supply the capability of action.
“It is for God to grant His grace, your task is to accept that grace and guard it.”
Jesus Christ is God and and Man, the staple teaching about God in His Church. This has been true since the birth of Christ, actually since the Annunciation, when Christ was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Perfectly God. Perfectly Man. Two natures. One Person. This dual nature (hypostasis) has been expressed in the Oral Apostolic tradition and in iconography, long before the printing press and the more widespread literacy that occurred in the second millennium. In ancient iconography, this is written in the extension of the second and third digit of the right hand of Christ as in the ancient icon of Christ Pantocrator from Mount Sinai monastery:
The Trinity and Dual Nature
(The opposing two remaining fingers with the thumb represent the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one Divine Person, but that is not the subject of this essay.)
The dual nature is also written in the asymmetry of the eyes and facial expression. The asymmetric eyes indicate Christ’s (God’s) new (since the Incarnation) will to see with both Heavenly and human eyes.
The Dual Nature of Christ in the Eyes
A Heavenly and earthly perspective. This is for us, as He intercedes for us humans before God the Father. It is also representative of His life when He walked on earth, Perfectly God, and perfectly human. Two planes of existence. (Here are two examples of Christ being perfectly human in humility while being God: John 11:33-35, Matthew 24:35-37.)
Now what this means to us in the Vine of Christ is exactly the same. It is our life on two planes of existence, the human plane and Divine plane, where the Divine is through the Sacraments, the perspective of the eastern churches. How we live in the Divine plane is by living our ordinary human lives while partaking in the Sacraments. (Willful rejection of the Divine plane of existence is remedied through the Sacrament of Confession). We cannot fathom the full significance of our Divine plane of existence at this time (we can barely appreciate the significance of our human existence) but one way we can remind ourselves of this mystery is to think of ourselves as a chamber or temple where God and His angels, patriarchs, faithful, saints and the Queen of saints meet, confer, inspire, and act exactly in our moment in history, without us necessarily knowing of any plan or action, nor necessarily while receiving any inspiration, although He may let us, His vessels, know some things according to His Holy will or even give us a supernatural power to execute His will. Sometimes this occurs in the humiliations and sufferings of our human lives and these states may be when His power is most manifest (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here in the human plane, we work out God’s justice in penance. The Sacraments are the exquisite methods used by God whereby He imparts His Nature to us in doses while implementing His will on earth, even before we are fully converted. Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
“For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the the hope of the resurrection to eternity.”
Saint Irenaios of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 18, 2nd Century
How encouraging it should be to seek the Sacraments in this, God’s plan of salvation. How encouraging it should be to know that Christ’s dual nature becomes manifest in us this way. But how ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great. So let’s look at another icon for inspiration. This time of the Mother of God and from a different era and civilization, also without widespread literacy.
The Dual Nature of Christ in the Eyes of the Virgin
This link exposes the two sides of the Virgin’s face. We can extend this further, noting that the “brighter” or blissful side of the face is on the heavenly side, represented by the mantle of stars and the “sad”, or we can say more human/suffering side, with the tear drop in the eye, is on the side of the earth colored tapestry. The pattern on the earthly tapestry is a direct reminder of the Mayan calendar for the peoples of that culture and represents our human existence at any moment in history. This is the sojourning (or revealing/manifesting?) side with the knee bent forward. (Click on image for detail.)
Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Virgin’s forearm lifts the heavenly garment out of the way to expose the earthly tapestry for us on that side of her face. The winged creature (or Saint Juan Diego) reinforces this point by having one hand on the heavenly and the other on the earthly vestment, bringing each forward to parallel the facial expressions. And if you look closely at his face, you can wonder of another creature with human and heavenly perspective.
The two vestments and natures at the feet
How ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great, but how full of grace is the Theotokos, assumed into heaven body and soul, to give us insight into the mystery in such a beautiful way.
Holy Virgin in my heart
every day before I start.
And when the daily heartbeats stop,
catch me Virgin when I drop.
God is triune, three Persons in One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A glimpse of this mystery can be facilitated by looking at who any one of us are. God made man in His image. So there must be a clue in us about God.
Any one of us must be a son or daughter of someone. We can espouse and become a spouse. We can procreate or adopt and become father or mother. So each one of us can mirror the three persons in one, although we are each only one person. Even those that do not marry or do not have children, still have that three-in-one reminder of God in their very being. We exist for the glory of God. The triune character of man or woman, has an inherent potential to be faithful, like a spouse, or care for another, like a mother or father would. The Holy Virgin has a triune character: Crowned Daughter, faithful Spouse, and Virgin Mother. Meet the new Eve, the Realm of God’s Love. Her triune character is all for the glory of God.
In the capacity or actuality of the three-in-one character in us, there is then the mark or reminder of the Divine. Note that this state is not contingent on having sexual relations; rather it is a primordial and eternal state of the soul. A characteristic of the Divine substance. The teaching and notion of the Holy Virgin embodies this truth. This leaves the sexual act in its proper place: the creation of new life. And this teaches male-female relationships without sexuality.
In creating man, God meant that no gift be not subject to the will. Contraception. like an illicit drug, effectively makes a decision for you and in direct opposition to the triune character. It is replacing your will, a component of the soul, so the will weakens. In the case of the contraceptive drug, the effect can also weaken the male’s will, who has to interact with the female in everyday life. Contraception produces a subtle distortion in the soul made for the glory of the Triune God, leading to the soul’s dysfunction. Male and female. Meet the curse of the modern age.
Now man in the image of God is created body and soul. Intimately intertwined. The body then manifests the soul, along the principle that form follows function. The bodily change that results from contraception contradicts the function. With this understanding, such an alteration of the body might be expected to result in ill-effects on the physical health of the person. And it does. These effects of contraception have been documented in the medical literature but have been effectively swept under the rug by the main-stream culture:
Blood clots in the extremities and pulmonary emboli. In recent decades, there was the not infrequent puzzle of explaining chest pain in women with normal chest x-rays. With the current use (and abuse) of CT scans, small pulmonary emboli are now known to be the cause. Small and insignificant, is the the current cultural rationalization to carry on.
The cyclical nature of contraceptive drugs is designed to trick the body into recognizing a pregnancy that is not there. The ovulation is thwarted. The uterus also looses the natural cycle, now capable of denying the implantation of breakthrough fertilization. If these organs are to be so fooled on a monthly basis for most of the adult life of a person, then how can we not expect the rest of our organs and tissues to be not fooled? Month after month. What about the cumulative effects? This background is the scientific explanation of the statistically proven dysplasia in breast tissue from contraceptives that increases the risk of cancer. It is called biological plausibility, the long lost spouse of biostatistics. A doctor should be able to explain things to patients in terms they understand.
Not to be left undone, the male has his equivalent. There is the emerging realization of the link between vasectomies and aggressive prostate cancer.
And what about other tissues? The brain for example. If it is well known that pregnancy causes psychological effects, then why not monthly phony pregnancies?
The analogy of mind-altering drug use is appropriate: Illicit drugs block the intellect, will, and memory, components of the soul, and produce adverse health-effects on the body.
But can we stop with contraception? If the person develops habits that deny the triune nature of the soul then might we not develop yet unstudied effects on the body from other inventions like barrier methods to avoid pregnancy, or even masturbation or pornography? What is the effect of the soul, our will and intellect, by these habits? Our productivity? Our peace of mind? Do we become like deer during rut season, except all year round and for all our lives?
Dysfunctional souls are easy prey for predators. Without even mentioning the devil and his goals, the dysfunctional soul becomes fodder for the proponents of population control that deny the freedom, will, and the means available to humans. They believe in animal husbandry. You are a cow in a herd. You have no control over your facilities. They propose contraception while encouraging seduction, the continual hum of the culture. Just like the medical industry creates pathology for treatment and the war industry, conflict for hardware.
James 4: 1, From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your members?