Category Archives: Christianity

“Don’t Cling To Me.”

According to the American Bible Society, there are some 900 translations of the Holy Scriptures.

And, that number in English, alone.

Our esteemed and Oxford-emeritus vicar, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Girard Rev. Charles Brock, made this known on Orthodox Easter.

I sat in attendance from a physical distance of some 14.5 miles, virtually, via remote online viewing. This being my social mode for over two years, I’d become inured to the limits of two dimensions – the restricted frame; the often glitching, inferior audio; and, the perimeters of the space chosen for broadcast. Like the playpen into which I’d been plunked as a developing infant, its bounds were long familiar.

The subject was Mary Magdalene. She’d be the first on record – every record, in fact, including that of the Gnostic Gospels (finally also bound, but many centuries since the Holy Canon decreed around the table at Nice) – to see the risen Christ. Not actually recognizing him, at first, the prevailing mystery (“thinking him to be the gardener”); her eyes were opened, by way of her ears. Jesus spoke, and called her… “Mary.”

But, upon her realization, Jesus gave Mary an immediate directive. He told her not to touch him.

The love between this woman and her Christ has been contemplated by every scholar and pious, from the secular apostate to the devout. Perhaps there are several reasons why.

One considers the power of both magnetism, and its reverse; how she could keep from wrapping him in embrace, at the very moment when he spoke her name, defies common comprehension. But, enter those pesky 900 translations; one interpretation of his declaration reads: “Don’t cling to me.”

The school of that thought sees his instruction in a broader context. Christ could not be held – held on earth, held back from his destination, held by any force. He was on a path which would take his resurrected body away from the present space and time, the very moment of that encounter.

Well outside of the realm of codependent theory, “clinging” in this case was rejected not because of the nature of the relationship between Jesus and Mary but because, as Christ said, he had “not yet ascended” unto his “Father.”

Speaking of theory, there are many with regard to the intent behind this statement. Would the ascension be required, in order for Christ to be “touched” again by his beloved? Or, was the idea that being touched at all giving cause to defile him? Would human contact with his as yet unglorified body perhaps contaminate it?

There is momentary relevance, here.

The human touch. We’ve missed it, so. Any number of substitutions have had to suffice, from “virtual” hugs to gestures made in the air across a wide swath of grass or concrete.

What would Christ say? This writer clings to a yearning for human embrace. Humanity’s need for physical nearness is part of what makes us vitally healthy, and not just physically.

This is universally true……in any translation.

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© 4/26/22 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part (including translation) permitted without written permission of the author and/or unless shared by blog link exclusively. Thank you for your trustworthiness.

littlebarefeetblog.com

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“How Shall We Then Live?”

For many years, this writer has been alluding to having been raised by a sect of Christian Fundamentalists. Most of the time, the context has been apologetic, or in the form of some excuse for alarming or curious reactions to life events. Almost assuming others are looking on with cocked eye or raised eyebrow, I have felt the need to explain why it is that I respond differently to just about everything.

Enter the coronavirus pandemic.

At first sign, I was sure we were in for a radical change in our social and professional landscape. Most thought me purely reactionary, alarmist, then sensationalist. Some laughed, handing me their version of a tin foil hat.

All this proved true but, by the time such reality was manifesting, my prophetic cries were muffled by dictae from the voices of hastily appointed if frequently shifting actual authority.

What ultimately ensued is still affecting everyone, today; yet, the ones out front sounding the call are still pushed aside in favor of some vaguely gathered general consensus by those firmly planted in the middle of the collective scope of reference.

You won’t find me among these. Why?

Because I was raised by a sect of Christian Fundamentalists.

What distinguishes me, and those of my ilk?

First, we view the world through firmly entrenched dependence on the black and white lens. It’s in our cells; we can’t – without excruciating, conscious effort – escape it. We see things from an all or nothing perspective; one is either saved or lost, bound or free, right or wrong.

And, this informs our judgments. When things happen outside of our deliberate action, we must immediately evaluate according to a moral paradigm. “Whatsoever things are true….honest….of good report……” Is there truth, inherent? Is there candor? Is the source trustworthy? Are the instructions clear, and appropriate? And, based on all of the above, what should our course of action then be?

But, it doesn’t end there.

Like most students of the Scriptures, we dig. Deeply. We read, and listen, and consider. We check references. We constantly ask of these: where is your evidence? From whom do you derive your data? No alleged, or self imposed, authority bends our knee. Having been taught to believe that the devil appears as an angel of light, we peel back face value to find what may be hiding behind.

Once we have made all of the determinations outlined above, we are compelled to act. And, act we do, but in a manner which some might term beyond earnest.

It’s called zeal. We don’t just decide, for ourselves. We stand, on the proverbial corner, and preach.

That comes from having been told to do so. “Go ye, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every tongue, people, nation…..” To us, there are no limits to either our scope or sphere of influence. We must tell it, on the mountain, to all.

So, the next time you find yourself recoiling at yet another declaration on social media which doesn’t quite align with that which you and your milieu have come to accept as true, stop. Look. Lean in. Take a moment, or more, and really investigate what is being presented. And, if it’s coming from me or somebody else so inclined, you might find yourself enduring a shift. Don’t let that frighten you. Many call this growth, and most celebrate its worth.

When you do, you may notice a certain kind of clarity of purpose forming. And, this will drive your action toward decisions which bring an even deeper peace. You will have developed a plan for living which no longer depends on following what just seems like an acceptable path presented by those with either the loudest or most pervasive voices; rather, you will have carved one for yourself, from the inside out, and nobody will be able to take that from you.

We in the Plymouth Brethren were taught that this source was the Spirit of God, and the gift given: discernment. I can’t prove the presence of such a Spirit. I have no hard data, on that. What I do have is a driving force, that comes from the center of my cellular nuclei, which moves me to both think, look, listen, read, compare, contrast, verify, contemplate, and then act. And, for that, I make no apology at all.

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Quote footnotes: “How Shall We Then Live?” – Francis Schaeffer; “Go ye into all the world…” Mark 16:15; “Whatsoever things are true…..” Philippians 4:8.

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© 10/1/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole, including translation and screen shot, permitted without signed written permission of the author. Sharing permitted by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for representing the higher standard.

littlebarefeetblog.com

My Christmas Card List.

When Mum found out she was terminally ill, I remember her smile of resignation as she looked from one to the other of us, sitting there on the front porch, together, nearly all of us in the family. It was almost apologetic, as if somehow she’d disappointed each of us by not getting the “good” diagnosis. That was Mum, always determined to do the right thing, the acceptable thing, the thing which was expected.

But, then she set about, to plan, as plan she would whenever anything presented to be addressed. With a noticeable sense of urgency, her ability to verbally communicate rapidly deteriorating, she insisted on finding [managing to get me to find] her box of Christmas cards. In methodical if repetitive silence, she flipped through them all, searching for names and their addresses. Since organized thought was diminishing with the tumor’s encroachment, this was a trying task. She enlisted me, yet again, haltingly explaining that she needed to “let everybody know.” I would compose a letter, to copy and send out to everyone on her list. These were the people who meant the most, who would care to know; these were those whom she loved.

Most everyone I knew who still sent out Christmas cards did so dutifully; there were endless, extended family and both present and former coworkers, that end of year stock taking of those still considered part of the relevant realm. But, to Mum, the list was precious; these were her dearest friends.

In her world, actually spending time with others just for fun had to take a back seat to the needs of the family. Dad had his shop; he could never leave his haircuts. There was no time in a given year to travel – except for that one week in August, south of town to the college campus about 90 minutes away where everybody on her Christmas card list would convene for seven full days of heavenly Christian fellowship.

These were people she’d known, together with all the cousins out east, since childhood. They’d kept in touch every year, for the entirety of their lives. Most had married, raising children who would represent inter-familial connections from within the fellowship. They were all joined at the heart.

Or, at least, Mum thought they were. She carried them all in her mind, as she sat every day at the sewing machine, revisiting any number of brief encounters across the whole of her life. Her thoughts devoted to every detail of a vivid recall, so each person would materialize in her memory. It was inside her head that she would sustain her relationships with each of them, tucking her favorites into their own corners for reference as they came into the frame of her story.

I’d sat, perusing the list we’d gathered. Many of them were totally unknown to me; surely, I had never met these, at all. Some were familiar, among the few ministers who would visit yearly with their wives; still others just names I’d heard spoken over the phone, in conversation with a sister or two. Mostly, had we ever actually seen these people cross the threshold of the front stoop, our house would have been filled every week to flowing with the glow and glitter of live laughter, of real life interchange. I was certain, sitting there next to Mum in the chair beside her bed, that they’d all have felt her love just as much as she did without them present in the room.

But, they hadn’t been, and they weren’t, and now she was about to die without them. She would send my letter, and some would call. Most would send cards, and set reminders to order flowers. But, she would know them, well, as well they ever could have been known, with a kind of devotion unseen and unspoken. And, every Christmas thereafter, maybe she would occur to them, and they would finally know.

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I was the second born, the love child of a reunion marriage. Often, I’ve been known to declare myself the embodiment of both my parents’ strongest and weakest traits. Among these, I bear Mum’s willingness to love from afar, her inability to materialize relationships, her life of wistful imaginings. If you are on my Friend list, I carry you in my heart. Whether we live or whether we die, you will have been loved, if only by me.

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© 3/11/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting, in whole and part, the entirety of this story – by leaving its contents intact and untranslated. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thanks, again.