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John 17: 6-11

“I have made manifest your name to those human beings who have come out of the world to me through you.  Yours they were, and you have given them to me, and they have kept your word in their inmost being.  Thus they have recognized that everything which you have given me is from you; for all the power of the word which you have given me, I have brought to them.  They have taken it into themselves and have recognized in deepest truth that I come from you, and they have come to believe that I have been sent by you.  I pray to you for them as individual human beings, not for mankind in general.  Only for the human beings which you have given me, because they belong to you.  Everything that is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine, and the light of my being can shine in them.  I am now no longer in the world of the senses; but they are still in the world of the senses.  And I am coming to you.  Holy Father, keep, through the power of your being, those who came to me through you, so that they may become one, as we are one.”  *

The message of the High Priestly Prayer seems so simple: “They have kept your word in their inmost being.  Keep them through the power of your being.”

How do you do that—keep His word in a world of chaos and violence?  How do you create order in that chaos?  For us humans that looks like an impossible task.  It is even difficult to imagine that the angels will unravel all the knots.  They may have the patience of angels, but unraveling the chaos human beings bring about has to be a colossal job.  You can even imagine that the angels lose courage and sooner or later turn away from humanity with the message: “We can’t help you if you don’t help yourself and each other.”  In our time the danger arises that the angels will lose interest in human beings.

In the High Priestly Prayer, Christ prays for all who want to follow Him.  In this one sentence the task of all true Christians, wherever and whenever in the world, is expressed: “They have kept your word in their inmost being.”  Again, how do you do that?  For it can’t mean that we have to learn and remember every word in the Bible?

God waits and works in silence with more than the patience of an angel.  He works with divine patience to bring His word to manifestation in us.  No longer does He call us to order through commandments and prohibitions, but His word sounds in the still voice of our conscience, and in the strong voice of our destiny.  And even when this becomes fateful to us, even then it is still hiding the gift of the Lord of Destiny.

If we follow the voice of conscience, if we say yes to the voice of destiny, we have kept His word in our inner being and will be kept in the power of His being.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, May 26, 2024

* From: The New Testament, a rendering by Jon Madsen.

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The Spirit of Truth

The longer you take part in the Consecration of the Human Being, the more astonishing it may be that the miracle of the Transubstantiation takes place every time.  Not just now and then, but every time anew.  True, our attention is but wavering and changeable, but nevertheless you always come back strengthened from the altar.  What causes that?  On the one hand, it is the words of the sacrament that give us strength.  Someone once said, when she was asked why she kept going back to the service: “Where in the world can you experience hearing for a whole hour nothing but truth?”  That is because no human words sound at the altar, but angel words.

But even more than by these words are we nourished and quenched by the meal of bread and wine that is permeated by the presence of the Resurrected One.  “Christ in you,” this promise is literally and bodily fulfilled in the Communion.  With the Peace, He touches us, just as He did after His Resurrection, when He spoke to His disciples: “Peace be with you.  Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 21:21-22)  These words marked the beginning of a new era: the era of the Spirit of Truth.  This Spirit was not only meant for the first followers of Christ.  He is meant for all who want to follow Him.

Just as the miracle of the Transubstantiation is enacted every day anew, the Spirit of Truth also wants to touch us every day anew, every time when at the altar the words sound: “The Peace be with you.”

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, May 19, 2024

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“I am the way and the truth and the life”  (John 14:6)

Attempt to live in the truth” is the name the Czech dissident Vaclav Havel gave to his inner compass in a society in which the lie rules.  He did not call it “living in the truth,” as if it had already happened but, with a modest expression, an attempt.  That word indicates that it is not a ready-made recipe that produces results all by itself.  If you could speak of a result at all, it could perhaps only be the power of the powerless.  Vaclav Havel several times had to pay dearly in prison for this attempt, because the authorities of his country could not bear the truth.

On the other hand, it does not take any effort at all to live in the lie.  That does indeed go all by itself in a society where the right of the strongest rules and you can just let yourself be carried by the masses.

Whoever makes an attempt to live in the truth has to walk a lonely road.  We can’t follow Vaclav Havel in this.  I have to go my own way, which no one can prescribe for me.  But when in all modesty I try day-in-day-out to make the truth a reality, I walk on the path of Him who says: “I am the way and the truth and the life.  I walk with you in your attempt to live in the truth.”

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, May 5, 2024

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Easter

Easter

Nature is the teacher of art.

Natura artis magistra, is an old saying.

What art does nature teach us?

Of old one knew the art of living and of dying: ars vivendi and ars morendi.

But above all, nature teaches us the art of living IN dying.

What for us humans is often a battle of life and death is self-evident for nature.  Unceasingly, she teaches us: no life is possible without death.  Or, in the words of a well-known author: Death is the trick of nature, to have much life.*

Look with how much apparent ease a tree brings forth its blossoms at this time of the year, and how obviously and effortlessly it drops its wealth of flowers in the wind, so that all the color and scent has passed away in a few days.  Would we humans ever succeed in dropping everything that has flourished in our lives with such ease and letting it pass away—in the realization that only that which dies can produce fruit?  If there is one place where the secret of life and life out of death comes to appearance, it surely is nature.

That is what the altar prayer of Easter time wants to tell us: the earth itself has become luminous.  Spirit-shining sun power streams through the earth.

By His death and resurrection, the germ was laid in the dying earth existence for a new earth.  And we begin to share in His resurrection if we become pupils of the master of art, nature.  She teaches us how in every tree, bush, and plant new life is born from death.

Thus Christ teaches us how from His death, if one day we die in Christ, resurrection is born.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, April 15, 2024

 

* Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Der Tod ist der Kunstgriff der Natur, viel Leben zu haben.

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Easter

One of the most revealing and confrontational discoveries of the past century is that of the unconscious and the obscure forces that slumber in it.  It seems as if this discovery has brought it about that the forces of darkness have been unchained more than ever.  Be that as it may, in this regard we are not only contemporaries but also fellow sufferers.  We are not simple, straightforward human beings.  Every person of this time is a vessel full of contradictions.  With part of consciousness we shine light on the inner and outer world; another part remains hidden in the unconscious and leads a life of its own in the dark.  Increasingly, we are confronted with this uncomfortable truth: in every person forces are slumbering that may be destructive.  One need not be a criminal for this.  The saint knows better than any other person that he too might do anything.  And we will be wise, since we are no saints at all, to watch out for what we don’t know and don’t want to know about ourselves.

But in the depths of the soul there is not only a demon hiding that is waiting for the opportunity to do its destructive work.  Hidden under this abyss there lives in every human being—even in the criminal—a deep longing for redemption.  In the grave of the soul something is buried that is waiting for us to awaken it.  And only if the grave of the soul becomes an altar of the soul, if we seek Christ with heart and soul, will He let Himself be found and will rise from the depths.

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Easter 2024

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Good Friday

When we hear the story of the Last Supper we know already what will happen and what comes next: the martyrdom, His death, and resurrection.  Of course it was not that way for His disciples when He had the meal with them.  He was speaking in riddles to them.  He kept them guessing about the future.  Every event that followed was another riddle: Gethsemane, the sleep that overcame them, the capture, the flight.  None of them was able to stand by Him to the end.  Of course not, none of us would be able to maintain our footing in such circumstances.  How could a person at that time ever foresee that the last evening meal would not only be followed by the first morning meal of the Resurrected One, and that He from now on would give Himself, day in day out, in bread and wine, to every human being who hungers and thirsts for His presence?

At the end of His life on earth, Christ indicates with an unusual word that this end is the beginning of a completely new life.  Of all the disciples only John was present as witness when this last word sounded on the cross: “It is fulfilled.”  He is the only evangelist who wrote this word from the cross down.  What is so special in these words?

Christ here used an expression that originated in the old mysteries: tetelestai.  It means something like: the goal has been reached. (telete was the ancient word for initiation.  The place where the initiation took place was called in Eleusis: telesterion.)  The expression tetelestai is no finality, but an indication of a completely new life.  From then on the initiate stood on the other side of the threshold and was at home with the Gods.  From the other side he could order life on earth according to the hermetic principle: As above, so below.  The holy order of heaven had to be reflected in life on earth.

Where was Christ after He had spoken His last words?  He too crossed a threshold, but not to go to the Gods, but to the demons and the dead.  In the three days after His death He was not in heaven, not on earth, but “in the heart of the earth.” (Mat. 12:40)  There He brought light into the hopeless existence of death and the underworld.  There the germ of a new heaven and a new earth was planted.

Since His death and resurrection every death experience can become the germ of a new life.  For whoever dies in Christ walks with Christ through death into deathless life.

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Good Friday 2024

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John 8 – The Adulterous Woman

For centuries the traditional Church has tried to ban St. John’s story of the adulterous woman from the Bible.  In some Bibles it is missing even today.  Why?

Without a trace of judgment Christ forgives what a person has done.  He does not condemn.  Isn’t that a license to commit adultery?

You could compare the people who want to ban this story from the Bible with the Scribes and Pharisees, who could not imagine guilt without penalty.

This is a deeply rooted tendency that is still there in each of us.  We may not penalize the mistakes of others with stones, but we proclaim devastating judgments, which lead a life of their own in our media and make the perpetrators into culprits.  We think and speak evil about people who, in our eyes, are wrong.  We ridicule people who, in our eyes, are stupid.  But also in our day the saying is true: “Whoever among you is free of sin let him throw the first stone…”

Adultery – every human being is guilty of it.  Someone has given it name: “Cosmic adultery.”  That is what philosopher Saint Martin calls our collective separation from the divine world.  We are detached from God, and in consequence of this we are detached from everything and everyone around us.  God has not abandoned us, but we, each one of us, have turned away from Him.  By our cosmic adultery we have lost the spirit.

And only by becoming aware of the loss of the spirit grows our longing for the awakening of the spirit.

And only through Him who, like a lamb, bears the sins of the world, is the abyss bridged that separates us from God.

 

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, March 17, 2024

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Passiontide

Just as in history there are eras of blossoming that you can compare with spring tide, we are also familiar with autumn tides of humanity, when all that has bloomed dies.  Author Roland Holst expressed this sense of an approaching end with the words:

… that I was born in the autumn of a world

And have to die in it.

 

We all have death at our heels—even more, he has become our inseparable companion.  You could despair in a world where so much is doomed to death, degenerates, and falls apart.  But try to think that everything would stay the same.  Just imagine that no one and nothing would die anymore—that is perhaps the worst that could happen to us.  What is doomed to death must die, to make space for new life.

In these days the altar has become black.  This color—or rather, this absence of all color—is more than the herald of irrevocable death.  If we dare to face death, if we dare to go through the eye of the needle, we come to know a form of life that is born from death.  We then look beyond the fall of a world in which everything has to die sooner or later.  Then you can say together with the poet:

I will no longer see the blades

Nor ever bind the sheaves again

But give me faith in the harvest

For which I serve.

 

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, March 4, 2024

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Kings

Real kings are hard to find in our time.  For whoever calls himself king, or is so called, is at best a pale shadow of it, and at worst a mere caricature.  For how often isn’t the magic of a fairy tale coronation and a fairy tale marriage broken by the sobering reality of human weakness?

We have to look far into the past to find real kings—high initiates who led a people with sure knowledge, and who were able to transform this knowledge into laws carved in stone.  Their wisdom was derived from the stars according to the heavenly law: As above, so below.  The eternal script of the stars, the dictates of the heavenly hierarchies, was the source they drew from to order life on earth.  The symbol of this source of inspiration was of old the golden crown: from a world that rises far above earthly thoughts flowed their inspirations.

The Gospel shows that in his conduct the king followed the inspirations of the angelic world.  It is the angel’s message that causes the three kings to decide to return to their lands by a different way (Mat. 2:12).  How far do our ways seem to be removed from their royal way!  By trial and error, wandering and straying, we have to feel our way to our goal in life.  In our noisy world the voices of the angels are drowned out, have gone silent.  And yet, in every human being a capacity is hiding that can show us the way.  In each of us speaks the voice of conscience.  Even if we don’t want to know what our conscience is saying, it does not leave us in peace until we hear its voice.  That is the Christ voice of our conscience.  And whoever let themselves be led by this voice will sooner or later discover royal gifts, which are lying deeply hidden in us and are waiting to come to light.

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, January 6, 2024

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Heaven and Earth will pass away  (Mat. 24:35)

For many of us the altar is not only a familiar spot, but also a place that pulls us with an astonishing power of attraction.  One of our churchgoers once said: I don’t understand what goes on at the altar at all, but my feet bring me there every time again.  What makes the altar a place that irresistibly attracts us?

When you realize that for dozens of years countless people have made countless offerings here, week in week out, you begin to understand why this spot has such a power of attraction.  For as soon as we make our little offering, the offerings of our predecessors are also evoked—from all true Christians, from all who have died, from all who had not yet Christ.  At the altar all sacrificial capacity is bundled, from the visible and the invisible congregation.

A saying from Greek antiquity expresses this in the words: Stronger than an impregnable fortress is an altar.  Of course, one did not mean the stone or wooden altar that sooner or later will decay, but what happens at the altar.  What is it that makes the altar an impregnable fortress armed against all attacks of the adversary powers?

It is our offerings, which are justified before God.  Even though sometimes we have no more to give than our deficient thoughts, our imperfect love, our weak will power—it is irradiated by the offerings of our predecessors, but even more by the Christ sacrifice, which He brings for us to the end of the world.  And also when every altar and every temple, also when heaven and earth have passed away, as an impregnable fortress our offering continues to exist.

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, December 10, 2023