17 Apr 16
“Our old gods were not obsessed with us. Among themselves they had endless squabbles and love affairs to be sure, but they ignored us most of the time. By contrast, this Christian God apparently has nothing better to do than make rules for us.”
from Bernard Cornwell
As a meandering ascendant from primitive European tribes, to whom the above notion often occurred as they were progressively “Christianized” by Romans, I fully realize the “Christianity” we’ve thus inherited in our age is an incongruous mixture of Scriptural truths with pagan symbolism and holidays.
I admire my Jewish friends and colleagues who have inherited a much less contaminated religion, yet still one complete with tedious symbols and celebrations (like the upcoming Passover Week), the purpose of which is long-lost on many of its observers. Among Jewish friends, they still, however, do their best to remind each new generation of the origin of the symbolism, and what each symbol is designed to represent and of what period of history, or historical event, it is there to remind them of. “Memory pegging” is nothing new, and their efforts enjoy at least modest success.
“Empires do not suffer emptiness of purpose at the time of their creation. It is when they have become established that aims are lost, and replaced with vague rituals.”
Princess Irulan (played by Virginia Madsen) in the 1984 science-fiction feature film, “Dune”
On the Christian side, some symbols, like the empty cross, is still effective and genuinely communicative, but “Christianized” (formally pagan) holidays, like Christmas and Easter, never had credibility, an error long-past any chance of correction, as most of Christendom would readily point out!
It strikes me that at the last Passover Supper observed by Jesus, probably in 33AD as we reckon time, this long-established Jewish holiday, was observed as normal, but with the addition of new symbols.
The “Passover” observation was designed to commemorate the precipitous departure of the Israelite people in 1200BC, from four-hundred years of captivity in Egypt. The celebration is full of symbols, from unleaven bread to parsley dipped in brine. Actually, the “Passover” was observed long before that age, back to the time of Abraham, but way back then it had a different name and different symbols. Moses updated the celebration and its symbology.
1200 years later, Jesus updated it again, this time adding the “bread and wine” sequence (maybe even the “foot-washing” routine), and Christians at least have been observing it that way ever since, dropping all previous symbols. In fact, some Christians, in their enthusiasm for disconnecting themselves from all vestiges of Judaism, participate in this new symbology every week, not just on Passover (Easter).
“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”
A nation’s, or a religion’s, memorials and symbolic rituals, in order to be lasting and genuinely helpful, need to be clear and historically accurate. I love visiting historic memorials that precisely list dates and individuals. I can relate directly with that, and I enjoy passing it on to the next generation. By contrast, the more unfocused, vague, and “secret,” the more quickly forgotten.
Our Jewish friends clearly do the best job of this, and they greatly benefit from it. I often wonder what rituals and symbols our ascendants will be observing a thousand yours from now, and if they will remember this age and our challenges, accomplishments, and failures at all!
Every generation needs to carefully study history, particularly its own!
“Every act of conscious learning requires a willingness to suffer injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why adults, especially when vain or ‘important,’ cannot learn at all!”