, ,

Our Humanity

From Rev. Michael Latham, priest to the San Francisco congregation, writing from Germany:

Here the war is more immediate.

Not because there is more news coverage, not because there is more consciousness, not even because we are closer in distance. No, the immediacy is in meeting the “refugees”. They have names, biographies, and homes they have been forced to flee. They have voices that tell the story of their journeys. They have brought everything they can carry in their arms with them.

Maria is 33 years old.

She celebrated her birthday with us on Thursday in the community house, surrounded by people she had only met a few days earlier. She speaks neither English nor German. She speaks her mother tongue Ukrainian. She has bright eyes and a bright smile that seems incongruent to her story. She is destined to bring joy into this world. Beside her, sitting at her birthday dinner, are her two children, Varvara, who is 12 and Elizer, who is 9.

They are deeply, lovingly connected to one another and with the infectious joy of their mother. They run up and down the stairs in the community house with the free abandonment of children. Gisela Thriemer, the priest here, is teaching them German. How to count, how to name things they are eating. And they both agree that ice cream is their favorite food!

They also brought a cat with beautiful blue/grey fur who wants to know who everyone is, because he is also part of the family.

Maria is – was – a music teacher at a Waldorf school in Kyiv. She is also a cellist. She escaped to Poland with her two children and the cat, and anything they could carry in the way of clothing. There, she was met by a friend living in Darmstadt, Germany who brought her to this town where she stayed on a couch until more refugees arrived,  then she needed to move out.

She came to the church on a Sunday, and asked the priest, Gisela, if she could help her to find a place to stay. Gisela did not know Ukrainian so called a friend to translate, while Maria stood by her. ‘Can you help me?’ She is now staying in a room in the community house sometimes used by an intern, to live there for now with her two children and the cat.

Maria plays cello. During a service for peace on Wednesday evening in the church, she joined the beautiful musicians and choir in Darmstadt to play together. The congregation was invited to say prayers, light a candle, then place it in a golden basin filled with water. Many children and families were there; older and younger members sung together. Dona Nobis Pacem was sung, reminding me of our service for peace a week earlier in San Francisco, where we sang this also.

Maria played the cello, loaned to her by one of the congregation. It was beautiful, soulful, and poignant. Yet nothing prepared us for a Ukrainian folk song she sung accompanied by the guitar. It didn’t so much reach our ears and bring its haunting melodies into our hearts. It tore apart the soul – tears were rolling down many eyes. The pain of our human desolation was laid before us.

After this we began the vespers service, candles on the altar were lit.

The trinity crosses that we all share…

The Father-God,
The Son-God,
The Spirit-God.

 

 

Then the trinity epistle…

Conscious of our humanity…
Aware of the Christ in our humanity…
Grasping the Spirit through our humanity…

 

 

What is said and done at the altar is more immediate.

We have become connected to all our brothers and sisters through our humanity.

Before I joined Maria, her children, and friends at her birthday dinner, I joined Micky Eisele and his sister Julia Eisele-Nazael. Years earlier I had the blessing to accompany a youth group from Darmstadt on a trip to Namibia. Micky was a teenager then, and there in Africa I had the pleasure of getting to know him on his journey towards adulthood.

Julia had been left a rather large, old house from her grandmother. It remained empty of all furnishings until last Thursday night. With Micky and a large van, borrowed from a farmer nearby his home, we went door to door of several members of the community, picking up dressers, dining tables, lamps, bedding, kitchen cookware, plates, knives and forks, and a washing machine and dryer. Julia packed her car with bedding. The three of us filled the house with donated furniture and basic cleaning supplies for the next arrivals:

A mother with two children 9 and 12 years old.
A mother with a daughter 14 years old.
A mother with an 8-month-old baby.
The grandmother to this baby.
A mother with her 4-year-old child and their dog.
They would be arriving in 3 days, also coming through Poland.

The following day we, Gisela Thriemer & I, made our way to Berlin for the ordinations of the priests. She was often on the phone coordinating what was still needed to receive these displaced human beings, and to make sure the beds would arrive at this house on time for their arrival. Although I had helped a little, I felt that there is still so much I could do. But what?

As we alighted in the Berlin Central Train Station, my thoughts were turning to meeting my colleagues and my ordination brothers & sisters that I have not seen in 2 years.

We were on track 10. Directly opposite on track 8, there is a very long and wide platform where people wait for the train. We both stopped and stood overwhelmed. On this platform a sea of humanity was gathered. Thousands were packed together waiting for a train. Many, many women and children with bags and rucksacks.

Deutsche Bahn have given the refugees free passage to anywhere in Germany. These were the ‘refugees’ from Ukraine, arriving now from Poland, waiting for trains to take them to many different towns and cities in the south. There were helpers in day-glo vests with signs inviting those seeking shelter to come and speak with them.

As we moved into the main part of the station, I saw families with little children huddling in groups on the floor of the station, comforting the children, feeding them, playing games.

Holding their children to keep them free of the uncertainty and the unknown of their lives.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought everything I was about to do seemed superfluous, silly even – to go on when there are so many needing help. What do you do?

Meeting my colleagues, my friends, my fellow walkers with Christ, we all feel this. It’s not something you can avoid. We are all overwhelmed by the need in front of us. The communities in Germany are responding. They help in any way they can.

Later we prayed together in our vestments, celebrating the arrival of new colleagues into our circle. The heavens opened once more to receive and bless them, and us.

We are a small worldwide church really. Yet, we have been given something so precious & real that we barely know its significance. And its power.

The Sun Being of Christ alights at the altar, and we can unite with Him there. His Body and Blood is given to us, to strengthen us, so we may step into this world of conflict and separation. We can help unite with all our brothers and sisters struggling all over the world.  We can share out of this cup of life, the communion for the evolving of our humanity.

My colleague Guido Rosell in Berlin asked if I would co-celebrate with him this morning, as his colleague was feeling unwell.  The time came for communion. I stood beside my ordination brother at the altar and knew, no matter if it is in San Francisco or in Berlin, this sacrament lives as the sun-filled power needed for our time on this earth and for the journey onwards after we leave it.

I feel blessed to have received my ordination in this church. I feel blessed to have met you, dear community of Christians, who strive with open hearts to bring the real presence of Christ into this world-time that is desperate, and aching, for His Love.

For Maria, Varvara & Elizer.

–Rev. Michael Latham


These pictures below were drawn by the students of the 5th-grade religion class in the Waldorf School in Darmstadt.

The word painted is pronounced “MIR”  and is the Ukrainian word for peace.
Frieden sei mit Euch – is German for Peace be with you.

 

 

 

 

, , , ,

North American Newsletter: Summer 2021

News from the wider Christian Community:

North American Newsletter, Summer 2021

AND…

A podcast with Oliver Steinrueck in which he speaks about the upcoming world conference to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the founding of The Christian Community. The conference is called LOGOS — Consecrating Humanity and will be in Dortmund, Germany on October 7-11 2022. This is the first podcast that was offered in English. Click here to listen.

Christian Contemplations

Rev. Craig Wiggins’ Christian Contemplations

Born out of the necessity of communicating with his Chicago congregation during the corona shutdown, these Holy Week contemplations expanded into Eastertide and might just continue on indefinitely. In approximately twenty-minute segments, Rev. Wiggins attempts to capture one aspect of the mysteries of Christian development, Christ consciousness and practices that can enhance our lives on Planet Earth. Be welcome!

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHp-selV0-ChWV9OYfJfBdg/featured

, , ,

Sharing Questions, Sharing Discoveries: ASK 2020, Atlanta

“I am learning to live close to the lives of my friends without ever seeing them. No miles of any measurement can separate your soul from mine.” ― John Muir  

From time to time we may be confronted with questions such as: “What is your church like? Why do you attend? ” or “What is The Christian Community anyway?” We may struggle for an answer because it is almost as if we were asked why we are here on earth! We are striving toward an understanding and recognition of the living Christ; the life-affirming, renewing, empowering source of unlimited love that yearns to illuminate every human being. We have a shared destiny with those who seek to know Christ in freedom and who accept the Sacraments as an aid to their seeking. We have to remind ourselves from time to time, why we gather together and why it is important for the evolution of the earth and for all of humanity. To that end we are inviting you to a larger gathering of the greater North American Christian Community, to celebrate, learn, explore, and share our questions and discoveries together.

What moves us to travel several hundred, even thousands, of miles? To ask questions? To seek answers? To knock on each other’s doors? Yes, all of the above and more will be happening during the festival time of John the Baptizer this coming June in College Park, Georgia, close to Atlanta. An evening celebration and bonfire will be the kickoff to five days of meeting one another and asking, seeking and knocking together.

Following in the big footsteps of the North-South conferences and the North American conference in Staten Island a while back, the priest circle of The Christian Community felt it was time to call its members and friends in North America together. And what better location than the Atlanta area? Enthusiastic folks from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee have come together to form a planning group. In November 2018 we met for a retreat in Decatur, Georgia at ‘The ARC’ and have since been meeting regularly with a team from the priest circle to envision this gathering.

We began with the theme: what questions are people living with? What keeps me awake at night, or, even better, what gets me going and keeps me going all day long? Contemplation of a lecture by Rudolf Steiner given on September 29, 1922 in Dornach helped set the mood and focus of the work to come:

“Think of the earth and within it the different processes of nature and plant life. All this will pass away. But on this earth, in future time, sacred rites will be enacted out of a true understanding of the spiritual world. Through these rites and sacred enactments, spiritual Beings are called down. As I have said, a time will come when the material substance in minerals, plants, animals, clouds, the forces working in wind and weather and also, of course, all the accoutrements used in rites and ceremonies, will pass away, will be dissipated in the universe. But the spiritual Beings who have been called down into the sphere of the rites and sacred enactments — these will remain when the earth approaches its end.”

Isn’t that what we do every time we unfold spiritual activity, even as individuals in our quiet space at home? How much stronger can the effect be when we gather together and participate in “rites and sacred enactments”? How to bring this impulse down to Earth?

At a crucial moment in the conversation one of us opened the New Testament and read from the Gospel of Matthew “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” And so, the conference topic was born:

Ask, Seek, Knock – ASKATLANTA2020 – Walking with Christ.

In the meantime, the venue has been found, speakers and workshop leaders have been engaged and many more exciting events are being prepared. All you need to know can be found on the website: https://ask2020atlanta.org/

–Rev. Craig Wiggins
Lenker, North America

, ,

The Root of Fear [i]

After Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, …the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”[ii] Later we read: Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden … and … stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.[iii]

Being afraid is the very first human emotion the Bible explicitly mentions. It appears immediately when the ‘Fall’ into the world of sense-experience is initiated by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. In the biblical account, fear appears to be joined with all that we experience in the earthly world. This description of fear is coupled with God’s first question to the ‘fallen’ human being, “Where are you?” Notice that the question is not answered. The man only says, I hid myself, seemingly not knowing where or who he is and thus being afraid. Jewish legend refers to “naked” as the loss of the “cloud of glory,” [the sheaths of auric light] that surrounded the human being before the Fall. [iv]

The original fear led to hiding to avoid being “seen,” that is, being known in the “fallen” state. Since the way back into the garden was blocked, this leads us to consider that our state of being alienated from both our true being and the divine world, as well as being mortal, arose out of divine intention.

Obviously, this original fear originated earlier and lies deeper than any of the fears we normally experience in today’s life.

[i] Most of this article’s content is based upon statements about fear that were made by Rudolf Steiner. Most of the translations of his remarks are my own. Bible passages are from the New American Standard Version, but in places indicated with [ ] I have substituted my own renderings. Quotations or paraphrases from Rudolf Steiner are referenced by the volume of the ‘Gesamtausgabe’ (GA) or collected works. All quotations are given in italics.

[ii] Gn 3:9 – 11.

[iii] Gn 3:22 – 24.

[iv] L. Ginzberg. Legends of the Bible, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia & Jerusalem, 1992, 647 pp.

 

Read the entire article here.

, ,

The Periodic Table and Christianity

The Periodic Table and Christianity: Patterns in the Universe and in Human Lives

When God made the universe and the human race he used many of the same patterns for both. The physical universe in which we live came from the spiritual world in a series of steps. Using heat, pressure and a great deal of time, the angels formed the 92 naturally occurring elements crystallizing spirit into matter. They began with hydrogen, a substance so light that it rises up through the atmosphere toward the stars whenever it is left alone by itself. So close to the spirit, just barely matter, it seems to want to go home back to the spiritual world. However, hydrogen is needed here to keep the earth from becoming too hard, too dense too fast. Usually it is bound up with other elements. Water, for example is made of two atoms of hydrogen tightly hugging one atom of oxygen, which only feels complete in their embrace: H2O. Without hydrogen we would have no water, no life on earth.

Scientists over the last 200 years have identified the 92 basic elements, as well as the complex patterns found in their interactions with one another.

The result of all that research is known as the Periodic Table, an arrangement that assigns numbers one (hydrogen) through 92 (uranium) to the naturally occurring elements and reveals an amazing array of patterns. The simplest pattern shown is size and weight: during creation every element appears to have arrived out of the spiritual world bigger and heavier (and often denser) than the preceding element. This is reflected in the periodic table in the “atomic weights” attached to each element. Scientists arbitrarily assigned the first element, hydrogen, an “atomic weight” of one. Each succeeding element has been “weighed” and then assigned a number to express its own atomic weight.

These weights are measured as multiples of hydrogen’s number one. Helium is twice as heavy as hydrogen and yet will still rise up through the air because it is lighter than air. Oxygen (the 8th element) for example is 16 times heavier than hydrogen, nitrogen (the 7th element) 14 times heavier.

At first the ability to react and combine with other elements increases very quickly and each new element is very different from the last: nitrogen (7) follows carbon (6), chlorine (17) follows sulfur (16) while aluminum, silicon and phosphorus are element numbers 13, 14, 15. Each new element brings something radically new making the world much richer and far more interesting. However, as the elements become heavier, they become increasingly similar to the preceding element. For example, iron (26), cobalt (27) and nickel (28) are very similar, though not identical. They are strong, sometimes brittle, metals with atomic weights of 56, 59 and 59. Already they are approximately 59 times heavier than hydrogen.

A pattern very similar to this is seen also in human lives: as a human soul is descending into the earthly realm the first 20 or 30 years are usually very different from each other, bringing new and interesting experiences that enrich and enliven one’s biography. Often thereafter questions of professional life, domestic situation and circle of friends become so settled that, in retrospect, the years become very similar, even blending into one another. Then heaviness can set in.

In the periodic table, by the time we get to elements numbered 57 (Lanthanum) through 71 (Lutetium) we are in a world of deadly monotony.

These elements, sometimes called rare earth elements (although not all are rare) are so similar in appearance, chemistry and physical properties that they are nearly impossible to separate from one another. Hence, their discovery and identification extended well into the 20th century. It can appear as if each new element were merely a repeat of the previous. Even though the elements numbered beyond 71 occasionally display very different characteristics, for example, gold (79), mercury (80) and lead (82), which has an atomic weight of 207, nevertheless, heaviness, density and repetition are the rule.

Then something entirely new and unexpected enters the picture, an impulse that could not have been predicted from what had gone before. The last naturally occurring element, Uranium (92), 238 times heavier than hydrogen, displays best this new phenomenon. There is a natural limit to how densely matter can crystalize. When earthly matter becomes too heavy, too dense, it begins to fall apart and “dis-integrate” from within the very core of the atom, the nucleus. Atomic radiation is given off: gamma rays, alpha and beta particles.

This radiation is deadly to life. Radioactivity leads to death which is the end of the road for matter, and the death of matter means the end of earthly life.

Death is not simply the opposite of life; it is a force that destroys life. The opposite of death is resurrection, the power to wrest life from death. In the world of earthly matter there is no power to resurrect. Like matter itself that power comes from the world of spirit. But it can only come through human beings. We have the task of overcoming the death of matter. As Paul said, all creation awaits redemption; this includes the very atoms of matter.

How are we to do this? We can only begin by overcoming death in all its forms in our own lives. The same pattern seen in spirit’s descent into matter is seen in our lives. Once we have passed through the adventures and transformations of youth, we must face increasing seriousness in our lives. The heaviness of karma, the weight of our personal obligations and the dark threat of life’s dreary repetitions can depress and discourage us. We sometimes even fear that matter’s destiny could be ours: disintegration. These difficulties are the consequence of our living in a universe made of matter.

However, the advantages of living in such a universe are even greater: we are free to think, feel and act as we see fit. In this, our freedom, we can think and question; we can wake up to the gifts, abilities and powers that are ours by virtue of being human beings. Fundamentally, we can inquire as to the meaning of life, the meaning of our own personal lives. We are free to think of, and long for, the virtues and human qualities that give life meaning: goodness, beauty, courage, faithfulness, honesty, hope, integrity, persistence, forgiveness, compassion, purity, self-restrain, sacrifice and, most importantly, love, which we can learn only in freedom. Longing for these virtues with clarity, which means thinking them in full consciousness, is actually another way to describe prayer. We are praying when we deeply long to do better, to help others and to improve ourselves.

When we pray again and again, that is, repetitively, something entirely new can come into our lives that could not have been predicted from what has gone before. Christ’s strength and spiritual light will enter our souls; this is the strength to carry and transform the burdens of our lives. Christ does not free us from the weight of the world by magically lifting us out of the world of matter and back into the world of spirit. He came to earth; he took on the weight of an earthly body to bring the power of resurrection to earthly matter. Salvation is not from the weight of our burdens and the earth; Salvation is transformation of the earth through us; in doing so we ourselves are healed as the weight of our burdens becomes less and less.

God could only help by becoming a human being. That is because we human beings are the only spiritual beings possessing consciousness of self, who actually live in this world of matter; matter permeates the essence of our physical bodies. That is why the power of resurrection began in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. With Christ’ power in our souls we can, with time and prayer, overcome the death in our soul and then resurrect this world whose natural fate would otherwise be the death of matter.

The new impulse that enters our lives is not disintegration, as with matter, but integration. The dark, all too human, corners of our soul are integrated with our higher self, which is carried by Christ. His transforming light streams into our souls, and thus into our bodies, bearing our true self; that self then can truly say, “Not I, but Christ in me.” Thus integrated we become an “integer,” a wholeness possessing integrity. Together with Christ we can then help to carry and transform the weight of the world.