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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

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Where is the New Jerusalem?

These days we all live in two very different worlds, which are more or less separated from each other.  The one thrusts itself upon us; the other is less obvious but no less real.  We always have to make an effort to recognize that other reality.

A noisy world of power, money, and violence, in which the lie reigns, drowns out the soft forces of truth and love, so that it seems as if the lie has not only the loudest word, but also the last word.  The noisier the world around us is, the more silent is that other, hidden world.  But these two exist side by side, each with its own reality.

And we—each of us has the choice of the world we want to live in.  Here applies the rule: Like recognizes like.  The force of attraction of what belongs together enables each one of us to create our own reality, even though we are citizens of two worlds.  Thus there is not only a declining, but also a rising world.  The New Jerusalem is no fata morgana, no dot on the horizon, but a reality that becomes recognizable for everyone who seeks the truth and generates love.

Before the countenance of God that is the only reality that has a justified existence.  An old proverb says: Not noise, but love penetrates to God’s ear.[*]  Because just like for human beings, for God it is also true that like recognizes like.  For those who seek truth and love with all their heart, He lets Himself be found.

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 26, 2023

[*] Non clamor, sed amor sonat in aure Dei.

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“WHO CAN STAND UP TO IT?”  (Rev. 6:17)

November, the month of those who have died.

In these days death is omnipresent—not in the lofty rest that often characterizes death, but in the devastating battle that takes place between embittered peoples: hatred facing hatred, revenge facing revenge.  The whole world watches with powerless rage or with powerless despair.  In such a hopeless fight, taking place before our eyes, how can you still do something to create a counterweight?

These days I have to think of individuals who in similar situations looked annihilation in the eye, and in the depths of despair created a sign of hope.  These individuals usually did not appear before the footlights.  They did their work in silence.  And if they had not left their visible footprints, they would have been long forgotten.  Such a person was Etty Hillesum during the Second World War.  She became known because of the diaries she left behind after her death.  How did she do it—creating a counterweight in a world of death and depravation?  She wrote in her diary:

“This is really our only moral task: cultivating great plains of rest in ourselves—ever more rest, so that one can emanate this rest again to others.”

Our apocalyptic time, when the old certainties are taken away from us, faces us with the question: Who can stand up to it?

This one thing we can do: “Cultivating great plains of rest in ourselves—ever more rest, so that one can emanate this rest again to others.  The more rest there is in human beings, the more rest there will also be in this excited world.” [*]

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 12, 2023

 

*] Etty Hillesum suffered and died in German concentration camps during World War II.  Her diaries were posthumously published: An Interrupted Life, the Diaries 1941-1943.

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Flame

Every human being has a flame, that must not be quenched. Perhaps we should really say: Every human being is a flame, that must never be quenched. This is the flame with which we come out of the fire of the spirit when we are born. It is the greatest art of all to keep this fire burning our whole life long—not only in joy, but also in grief; not only in strength, but also in weakness. Also when you are sick, even if you are mortally ill, the fire can still smolder under the ashes.

There are, however, countless ways to choke this flame and extinguish it. The material world can make a slave of us, a slave of money and possessions, of power and violence, of intoxication and addiction, which make us forget what our task is in this life.

John, the greatest among all human beings, fore-lived, fore-suffered, and fore-died for us how we can keep the inner fire burning. Always, down to our time today, he has been “the burning and shining lamp” (Jn. 5:35), who gives us a radiant example of how we can preserve our flame. In one word John sums up what we need to do: Metanoeite, which means: Change your hearts and minds. (Mt. 3:2) This flame word tells us: Do not stop moving on the way. The flame can only keep burning if every time again you dare leave behind whatever threatens to chain you to the dying earth existence. With this disposition you will one day rise out of the ashes like a Phoenix.

Metanoeite:
Mensch, so du etwas bist                                         Human Being, if you are truly something,
So bleib ja nur nicht stille stehen.                         Then do not stay there standing still.
Man muss von einem Licht                                      From one light you must go
Fort in das andere gehen.                                        Forth to the other light.
(Angelus Silesius)

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, July 9, 2023

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“He must increase, I must decrease.”

The ego is the shadow of a great light.  In a world where egoism reigns supreme we often imagine: the ego, that am I.

But if that is the only reality, what is then left of us at the end of our life?  When someone becomes old and decrepit, gradually all the capacities disappear on which our ego is based.  Nothing happens of itself anymore, until we eventually become dependent on the help of other people.  The light of self-consciousness weakens, flickers, and goes out.  What is then left of us?

What is left on earth is what we call the mortal remains, an empty husk that soon falls apart.  Earth to earth; ash to ash.

But death is much more than the inglorious end of life on earth.  It is the time when the wheat is separated from the chaff.  As the shadow of the ego fades, the light of the Spirit grows.  Christ stands at every deathbed and receives the harvest of every human life.  Only then does the dying person recognize: Christ is the light of my shadow.

Countless people live as if there will never be an end to their ego, until the irrevocability of the end of life cannot be ignored anymore and there is no longer a way back—only forward, through the eye of the needle.

We don’t need to wait for that moment.  We can also try, in the midst of life while we are fully engaged in our everyday existence, to begin to walk this way forward.  Then we begin to realize: I am very small, and the world that stands behind me is very large.  The greatest of all people on earth, who became the smallest of all, let the light of his shadow manifest with the words: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Then only, if these words are fulfilled in life and death, is the promise fulfilled: “Christ in me.”

 

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, July 3, 2023.

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St. John’s Tide

“From You come light and strength,

To You stream love and thanks.”

These two sentences from a children’s prayer[1] encompass everything that is divine service and human service—or rather, should be.

God serves His creation ceaselessly with light and strength.  Not only the inexhaustible light of the sun and the life forces of nature, but also the light of our consciousness and our life forces—we owe it all to Him.  God’s religion—that is His creation.

The only appropriate answer to this gift is love and thankfulness.

Light and strength from God—love and thankfulness from the human being.  That is the golden chain that connects us with each other.

As long as humanity has been conscious of its origin and future, people have served God with this answer at all the altars on earth.  Perhaps this time, our era, is the only one in the history of humanity in which it is no longer self-evident to serve God in this way.  We no longer realize to whom or what we owe the light of our consciousness and our life forces.

Our sciences teach us that the laws of physics and chemistry carry and order life on earth.  Our daily existence is the product of these sciences, which teach us to act quickly, efficiently, purposefully, and especially to make a profit on everything.  But if love for God and thankfulness to God die out on earth, the golden chain is broken.  What will then happen on earth?

Are we perhaps already seeing the consequences of our lovelessness and our thanklessness in the mirror of nature, which is falling into chaos?  Or is nature, God’s creation, His answer to the chain that is broken?

Be that as it may, if there is anything that is lacking in our chaotic era, it has to be our answer of love and thankfulness.  And if this answer does not come from all of us, as it did as of old, then at least from some places on earth where individuals gather at the altar to profess with heart and soul:

“To the Father God shall stream our soul’s devoted and heart-warm thanks.”[2]

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, June 2023

[1] Verse for the children in the first grade of the Waldorf School.

[2] From the Epistle of St. John’s Tide.

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Thirst

If there is anything that binds us to the earth, it has to be the thirst for existence.  It shows itself in countless forms, not only in hunger and thirst for food and drink.  Whenever we walk through the streets of a city we will quickly recognize how the thirst for existence dominates our lives.

Although Christ’s realm is not of this world, during His life on earth He knew hunger and thirst, longing and temptation, hardship and pain.  He is the only one of all the inhabitants of heaven who knows earthly existence and all the temptations it brings, out of His own experience.  “Give me to drink.” (Jn 4:7)  It sounds not only in the heat of the day, but to the bitter end: “I thirst.” (Jn 19:28)  The angels know nothing about this.  Even the Father doesn’t.  None of them ever became a human being of flesh and blood.

The Risen Christ no longer knows hunger and thirst for earthly substances—but it is His thirst for our existence that makes Him long to be with us, all days, to the fulfillment of the world.  His meal is not only the most precious gift on earth, it is also the most precious gift we can give Him.  “I thirst.  I only have what people give me.  I take nothing.”  Thus someone heard Him speak in His longing to share the meal with us.[*]

What a surprising expression: He wants to share with us the meal He bestows on us.  In this game of giving, taking, and sharing the enigmatic word becomes real, which He spoke as a promise for the future: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14)

Only if I give myself to Him as He has given Himself to me, the meal is fulfilled and his thirst for our existence is quenched.

-Rev. Bastiann Baan, June 11, 2023

[*] Gabrielle Bossis.

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Pentecost

Everywhere in nature presence of Spirit reveals itself.  Wherever you look, everything is ordered and arranged according to wise laws of nature, in which every plant, every animal forms an indispensable link in the whole.  We are hardly able to unravel some of this perfect order in the science we call ecology, a word the literal meaning of which is: logic of the household of nature.  Nothing in this order seems to be left to chance.

Our human order is child’s play compared with the perfect laws of nature.  In our lives “ecology” is often hard to find.  True, in our origin we were made in God’s image, but this primal image is disformed and mutilated again and again into God’s counter image, the unholy spirit.

At Pentecost, Christ wants to send the Spirit into our souls—provided we make room for the Spirit.  His presence of Spirit needs our presence of spirit.  And if there is no space for Christ in us, the breath of the Spirit blows to other places on earth.  The Spirit blows not only where it wills, but also to the dwelling places we prepare for it.

For this reason the Holy Spirit is also called the Paraclete—this means literally “the called one.”  May our prayer, the great prayer of the Consecration of the Human Being, become a flaming call for the Spirit, so that He can find a lasting home in our community!

Rev. Bastiaan Baan, May 28, 2023

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The Ruler of This World

Wherever and whenever you look around you, the ruler of this world is always present—so prominent, so overpowering that the hidden power of the good is mostly really hard to find.  It sounds so simple in the last words of Christ, and it is so difficult to recognize in our daily existence: “…the decision has already been made about the ruler of this world.” (Jn. 16:11)  It often looks as if the ruler of this world has free play.

Only when you try to imagine what Christ did when He stood face to face with the adversary power can you begin to understand these enigmatic words.  How did He look?  What did He see?  He saw a deformed being, a demon, estranged from his origin and purpose.  Christ Himself, through whom “all things came into being” (Jn.1:3), recognized His creature.  And the demon recognized his origin and purpose—and surrendered.

We human beings are still far from able to vanquish the ruler of this world on our own power.  But together with Christ we can subdue him.  One of the psalms says it with the words:

With the Lord on my side I do not fear
What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. (Ps. 118: 6-7)

Watch the adversary power, together with Christ.  Look at the world through the eyes of Christ—and the ruler of this world will recognize his Lord and Master.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, May 7, 2023