25 January 2019 – “Speaking with the Stars”: Dear Friends, right after dark, face East & glance up high. The bright star there is Capella, the Goat Star. To the right of it, by a couple of finger-widths at arm’s length, is a small, narrow triangle of stars known as “the Kids.” They’re not exactly eye-grabbing, but they form a never-forgotten asterism (informal star pattern) with Capella.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. Before this, he was known as Saul, “a Pharisee of Pharisees”, who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus.
The Acts of the Apostles says that Paul was on his way from Jerusalem to Syrian Damascus with a mandate issued by the High Priest to seek out & arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning & possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, & communicates directly with a divine voice.
Acts 9 tells the story as a third-person narrative: As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. Acts 9:3–9, NIV
The account continues with a description of Ananias of Damascus receiving a divine revelation instructing him to visit Saul at the house of Juda on the Street Called Straight & there lay hands on him to restore his sight. Ananias is initially reluctant, having heard about Saul’s persecution, but obeys the divine command: Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9:13–19, NIV
Acts’ second telling of Paul’s conversion occurs in a speech Paul gives when he is arrested in Jerusalem.[Acts 22:6-21] Paul addresses the crowd & tells them of his conversion, with a description essentially the same as that in Acts 9.
Acts’ third discussion of Paul’s conversion occurs when Paul addresses King Agrippa, defending himself against the accusations of antinomianism that have been made against him. [Acts 26:12-18] This account is more brief than the others. The speech here is again tailored for its audience, emphasizing what a Roman ruler would understand: the need to obey a heavenly vision,[Acts 26:19] & reassuring Agrippa that Christians were not a secret society.
The conversion of Paul, in spite of his attempts to completely eradicate Christianity, is seen as evidence of the power of Divine Grace: “no fall is so deep that grace cannot descend to it” & “no height so lofty that grace cannot lift the sinner to it.” It also demonstrates “God’s power to use everything, even the hostile persecutor, to achieve the divine purpose.”
The transforming effect of Paul’s conversion influenced the clear antithesis he saw “between righteousness based on the law,” i.e. the letter of the law, which he had sought in his former life; & “righteousness based on the death of Christ,” which he describes, for example, in the Epistle to the Galatians.
Interesting that in rural England, the feast day celebrated on 25 January, functioned much like Groundhog Day does in our modern-day US. With prophecies ranged from fine days predicting good harvests, to clouds & mists signifying pestilence & war in the coming months.
1366 – Deathday of Henry Suso, a German Dominican friar & mystic, the most popular r writer of the 14th century. He is also notable for defending Meister Eckhart’s legacy after Eckhart was condemned for heresy. Suso also studied philosophy in Strasbourg, where he would have come into contact with Meister Eckhart, & Johannes Tauler, both celebrated mystics.
Suso was esteemed as a preacher, in the cities of Swabia, Switzerland, Alsace, & the Netherlands, speaking with individuals of all classes who were drawn to him by his attractive personality, & to whom he became a personal director in the spiritual life.
Suso was reported to have established among the Friends of God a society which he called the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom. The so-called Rule of the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom is a free translation of a chapter of his Horologium Sapientiae, which did not make its appearance until the 15th century. Suso was beatified in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI.
1586 – Deathday of Lucas Cranach the Younger, German painter.
1742 – Deathday of Edmond Halley, English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, & physicist. He was the second Astronomer Royal in Britain.
From an observatory he constructed on Saint Helena, Halley recorded a transit of Mercury across the Sun. He realized a similar transit of Venus could be used to determine the size of the Solar System. He also used his observations to expand contemporary star maps. He aided in proving Isaac Newton‘s laws of motion, & funded the publication of Newton’s influential Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. From his September 1682 observations, he used the laws of motion to compute the periodicity of Halley’s Comet in his 1705 Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets. It was named after him upon its predicted return in 1758, which he did not live to see.
Beginning in 1698, he made sailing expeditions & made observations on the conditions of terrestrial magnetism. In 1718, he discovered the proper motion of the “fixed” stars.
1881 – Thomas Edison & Alexander Graham Bell form the Oriental Telephone Company.
1882 – Birthday of Virginia Woolf, English novelist, essayist, short story writer, & critic
1890 – Nellie Bly completes her round-the-world journey in 72 days.
1915 – Alexander Graham Bell inaugurates U.S. transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
1918 – The Ukrainian People’s Republic declares independence from Bolshevik Russia.
1999 – A 6.0 Richter scale earthquake hits western Colombia killing at least 1,000.
2011 – The first wave of the Egyptian revolution begins throughout the country, marked by street demonstrations, rallies, acts of civil disobedience, riots, labor strikes, & violent clashes.
POD (Poem Of the Day)
Prayer is Point
It’s always good to count our blessings, to be grateful for our friends & nurturing to our chosen family. But perhaps we must also take time to ask: Who are my enemies? Am I someone’s nemesis? Does anybody consider me their adversary? And, do I derive anything useful from playing this oppositional role?
I suppose in the knot of karma there is always some good, some point to the friction of being someone’s obstacle.
But perhaps now, in the subzero climate in what feels like the dead of winter, it’s the perfect time to rise up & meet the wisdom tied up in that karmic knot. And to immunize ourselves with the 4 agreements:
- “Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best. ”
We may not fully understand it all, or be able to completely stop feeling the pain while striving toward equanimity, but perhaps by acutely attuning to compassion & common sense, we can at least quell that quarrelsome intransigent within ourselves.
And even though it’s 5 below zero here in the heartland, I know that I can cultivate new seeds. The cold hard stones can become living kernels, robust & hardy. They have the potential to grow into big, strong blooms of forgiveness & peace, & the longed for future fruit of love.
And so it shall be