Lent

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
– The Waste Land by TS Eliot

Today marks the beginning of Lent- a traditional Christian season of repentance (or more properly metanoia) forty days prior to the celebration of the Easter. 

More than merely repentance of the wrongs that one has committed, metanoia is a changing of mind- a reorientating of oneself in an act of transformation. 

These forty days are likened to the Gospel story of Christ’s time in the desert, of separation, comtemplation and temptation. A trial of spirit. 

Lent opens appropriately with Ash Wednesday- where through ritual, prayer and contemplation, we reflect upon our own weakness and mortality. Remember O Man, that you are dust, and to it you shall return. 

It is a day to reflect upon attachment, not only to external things which reinforce our ignorance and separation, but also especially to our own minds and bodies, which, like everything else, will deteriorate and decay with the passage of time. 

I will show you fear in a handful of dust

Yet, this day gives way to the fullness of lent- an opportunity to experience a change of mind from that which is transitory to that which is eternal. 
As Gnostics, there are many different views that can be drawn from the symbology of Lent and I’d like to share with you my own, perhaps you may find some value in it. For myself, Lenten discipline is about a few things- removing obstacles, seeing through superficiality, and renewing ourselves through our connection to the Divine- for which the former is of prime value. 

If you have encountered historical Christianity with any amount of depth, you have probably come across concepts associated with the so-called redemptive power of suffering- there are many who identify with Lent in this fashion- particularly through the temptation and trial in the desert. The idea that through trial, loss, difficulty and any other euphemism for things that are hard to bear, we can see ourselves and the Divine, as well as the relationship between them, more clearly. 

There is some truth there, but it does not rest within the realm of suffering but of reconnection. The Divine Beloved does not desire suffering for anyone, suffering is a natural byproduct of human existence. We rise, we stumble, we fall, we trip, we push, we are pushed, we bend, we break, we bind, we loose. 

Reconnection in the context of Lent, then, is not about suffering but about a willful and intentional examination of those things that are most important to us and our spiritual journeys. It is not about accepting life’s slings and arrows as some kind of noble Divine given test, for nothing could be further from the truth, but rather goes beyond what life hands us into an intentional clearing away of those things that keep us from a full understanding of ourselves and the Divine not only in us, but present in the world and in our fellow humanity. 

Does this mean we should turn Lent into a joyless enclave of ascetic rigour? – hardly. 

It is an opportunity to examine priorities, seek out again that connection to Self and the Divine, and bridge the perceptual gap between the two- not towards a more “serious” life, but towards a more joyous one. When that gap is bridged we have opportunities for greater understanding, greater happiness, great compassion, greater joy- as we not only see the Divine present in our own lives through love, creativity, communion, connection and passion, but also as we share those things with and recognize them in, others. 

In order to do that we need focus and discipline- not a focus and discipline that merely says “I’m not going to eat chocolate for lent” but a focus and discipline that says “I’m going to take some time to work on myself and my journey”. It’s something we should do every day of the year, but in case we don’t- Lent is here for just that purpose. 

As for suffering.. suffering is unavoidable. The Divine Beloved seeks not our suffering, and while suffering may not be a test, it is an opportunity. Lent is a period of purification, of clearing away, and is a process of spiritual intention. Suffering, tends to happen despite our intentions. 

Suffering is nothing other than what it is but we can take out of it an opportunity to take the lead of life and transmute it into gold. Given the things we go through as human beings, not every situation is an opportunity to do that perfectly, and sometimes the gold we create will be mere ounces to pounds of lead, but it is an opportunity just the same.

Unlike so many other times, trials and lessons in life- Lent offers the opportunity for us to reconnect, examine and explore not only our relationship with the Divine Beloved, but with ourselves on our own terms and of our own choosing.

It should be remembered that Christ went into the desert willingly and of the inspiration of the Divine

Lent offers us the opportunity to to walk to the burning and dry realms within ourselves to meet both ourselves and God there, and through the season that follows Lent, bring life to those places. 

+ IOHANNES IV
Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch
The Apostolic Johannite Church

Conclave 2019

The Apostolic Johannite Church is proud to present the twentieth annual AJC Conclave – May 16-21, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec

Each year the people of the AJC, friends and family gather together to socialize, learn, build our skills and deepen our community. It is an amazing opportunity for spiritual growth and insight to modern Gnostic practice.

Conclave offers lectures, workshops and panel discussions selected to develop ministry skills, support the work of church leaders both lay and ordained and deepen and enrich the spiritual lives of attendees. Conclave is also rich in social time, time to eat, talk, pray and practice together. It’s like a retreat and a conference all rolled into one.

As always, we welcome you, no matter who you are or what your spiritual path, to join us for this unique week. You can come for all or part and participate as much or as little as you’d like. However you choose, we welcome you into our household.

Our theme this year is The Divine Feminine

Keynote Speaker and Dr. Juliana Eimer Memorial Lecture

The Apostolic Johannite Church is excited to welcome and present Dr. Celene Lillie as our Keynote and Dr. Juliana Eimer Memorial Lecture presenter which will be delivered as one lecture.  She will be presenting on The Thunder,  Perfect Mind.

Celene Lillie (Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary) is the Director of Adult Education and Spiritual Formation at First United Methodist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.  She is the author of The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis, the director of translations for A New New Testament, and a co-author of The Thunder Perfect Mind: A New Translation and Introduction. (via the Westar Institute)

For several years, the Rev. Subdeacon Juliana Eimer, Ph.D was an active presenter and participant at our Conclaves- speaking on a variety of topics, from female Saints to the nature of Divinity. Her passing a mere months after Conclave 2016 was difficult for our community, and the Apostolic Johannite Church has chosen to remember her work here with us through an annual lecture in her name.

Program of Conclave Lectures and Workshops

In addition to our Keynote, we are also excited to bring you an engaging list of speakers and activities throughout the Conclave program.

Without further preamble- here are some of the talks and workshops we have at the time of this announcement:

  • The Divine Feminine in the Gospel of John – Dr. David Goodin, McGill University
  • Missing Witches with Risa Dickens and Amy Torok (of the Missing Witches Podcast)
  • The Sacrament of Matrimony with the Primate of the United States
  • The Great Lady in Temple Theology with the Bishop of New South Wales
  • Centering Prayer for Gnostics with the Bishop of New South Wales
  • Incarnation and the Divine Mother with the Rev. Mrs. Christina Rockey
  • The Divine Feminine in Secret John with V. Rev. Tony Silvia
  • Mirth and Reverence: The Spirituality of Comedy and Joyful Living with Fr. Joseph McCauslin
  • The Gospel of Mary with the Rev. Mr. Clark Aitkins
  • Feminine Figures in Gnostic and Buddhist Scripture with Deacon Jason Campbell

Costs and Registration

Lodging is not included and is the responsibility of the attendee.

Full Registration

Individual- January 1st to April 1st: Early Bird: $500
After April 1st: $525

Couple- January 1st to April 1st: Early Bird: $900
After April 1st: $950

Full Registration includes All Activities and Eight Meals:

Thursday: Dinner
Friday: All Activities, Lunch and Dinner
Saturday: All Activities and Lunch.  Dinner excursion at own cost
Sunday: All Lectures, Workshops, and Dinner
Monday: All Activities, Lunch and Dinner
Tuesday: All Activities, Lunch

Weekend Package includes All Activities and Four Meals

Individual- January 1st to April 1st: Early Bird: $250
After April 1st: $300

Couple- January 1st to April 1st: Early Bird: $450
After April 1st: $500

Friday: All Activities, Lunch and Dinner
Saturday: All Activities and Lunch.  Dinner excursion at own cost
Sunday: All Lectures, Workshops, and Dinner

or

Saturday: All Activities and Lunch.  Dinner excursion at own cost
Sunday: All Lectures, Workshops, and Dinner
Monday: All Activities, Lunch and Supper

$125 Individual Per Day Registration (Includes activities and scheduled meals excepting Saturday Dinner)

Refund Policy

From Now until April 1st- 100% Refund
April 2nd to May 1st- 50% Refund
After May 2nd- No Refund will be issued

Registration closes May 2nd

We look forward to seeing you there and sharing your journey. Registration opens soon

 

Bishop Tim Mansfield: The Magdalene

Icon of Mary Magdalene, dressed in red, holding up an egg.

My intent with these short essays has been to trace parallel female figures to the two Johns depicted in the Introduction course – Mary Theotokos parallels John the Baptist, Mary of Bethany parallels John the Beloved. In the course of those explorations, we discover that the parallels aren’t direct – both Mary images deepen as well as mirror the John images. These are people after all, not mere symbols; they are themselves.

So let’s take one more step by looking at yet another Mary – the Apostle to the Apostles, the Disciple beyond compare, The Magdalene.

The image for this blog is an icon by Robert Lentz depicting a traditional story about her.

One tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that following the death and resurrection of Jesus, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. When she met him, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed, “Christ is risen!” The Emperor laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house.

What I love about this story is that it vividly depicts Mary’s personal power. She isn’t a timid follower of Jesus, she is a significant woman of renown who stands up to emperors to speak the truth. In the canonical gospels, she communicates the news of the Resurrection to the apostles, but in gnostic scriptures like The Gospel of Mary, she goes much further.

[…] Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you. But rather, let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men.When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Savior.

Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.

Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.

– Gospel of Mary Magdalene 5:2-7

… and she does, laying out a complex doctrine of human freedom attained by defeating the hold of the ruling powers over the human soul. Peter – never the sharpest chisel in the toolbox – doesn’t follow.

Mary depicts a human being entering the fullness of spiritual insight, the Word flowing through her as she teaches. She isn’t merely one who has learned, she is one who Knows.

What’s Johannite for me about this image isn’t her forthrightness or her certainty, it’s her transformation.

The Magdalene earlier in the gospels is a much milder, more humble figure. Prior to the crucifixion, she is one among the followers of Jesus – but as the story advances beyond the death of Jesus, she emerges as this striking, powerful figure. Just as we see with the later stories around St John, Mary is depicted undergoing a profound transformation from follower to teacher.

This transformation also depicts a crucial aspect of the Johannite understanding of Jesus as not merely teacher, but as an exemplar – his life depicting a path which others… which we… might follow. This is crucially different to the Jesus most of us grew up with who is a singular figure worthy of devotion and worship, but not someone we might hope to emulate.

For us, Mary Magdalene (and John the Beloved later in life) depicts full human spiritual maturity, which is not simply to echo Christ, it is to be Christ – to fully realise throughout your being the total unity between the Logos and human nature.

Sept 23: Patriarchal Visit to Holy Grail Narthex, Montreal, Que.

The Apostolic Johannite Church is pleased to announce an official visit by the Patriarch of the Apostolic Johannite Church to Holy Grail Narthex in Montreal, Que, Sunday September 23rd, 2018 at 6pm.

The Patriarch will be celebrating the Contemplative Eucharist together with Rev. Subdeacon Jonathan Stewart and Holy Grail Narthex at Présence Meditation Center, located at 207 rue St. Viateur Ouest. 

The Contemplative Eucharist is a Rite of the Apostolic Johannite Church which emphasizes silent contemplation and is practiced together with meditation and the ancient practice of Lectio Divina. All are welcome to attend and take communion.

Following the Eucharist, there will be dinner at a locally selected restaurant, for informal conversation and discussion.

The God Bearer

From: The Most Rev. Tim Mansfield, Bishop of New South Wales

The God-Bearer


It has been said that to be a Johannite is to be a Marian – a devotee of Mary. I think this is true in several interesting ways.

There is an old tradition, grounded in Patristic sources, that St John the Evangelist and Mary, the mother of Jesus, led the community at Ephesus together. Among the ruins of Ephesus today, there remains a house remembered as the house of the Virgin Mary.

To connect our several Johns with our various Marys in a different way, many theologians consider John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin to be the final prophets of the Old Testament.

So, what I’d like to do in this short pondering is to approach Mary in a similar way to the way we approached John the Baptist in the Concepts course – by way of art as a means of entering into as aspect of Johannite tradition. This will wind its way into the Concepts course eventually.

Just as I did with the Baptist, I’m going to focus on one type of depiction of Mary. The variety of depictions of her is so vast, her titles so profuse and devotion to her so profound, that it’s almost impossible to try to encompass it all, so I’m not going to try. I’m just going to pick one type and one example of that type that, as it happens, I rather like.

One Mary’s many titles, one of the oldest, is Theotokos (Θεοτόκος), literally God-bearer. It’s more usually translated by the English term “Mother of God”. The accuracy of the term was a matter of significant dispute in the early church because it relies on a specific understanding of who and what Jesus was. But it finds it echoes in many examples of both Orthodox and Catholic art.

The feature image up top is “La Vierge au lys” (1899) by William Bouguereau (1825-1905). Bouguereau was considered a hack by his Impressionist contemporaries, but I think his luminous, hyper-realist work has aged rather well. The one I want to focus on is an earlier piece, “Madonna and Child” (1888).

Virgin Mary holding up baby Jesus
“Madonna and Child” (1888), William Bouguereau

Despite its slight flatness, I like this version because it’s more straightforward. As you can see, it depicts Mary as bearer of Jesus in both senses of that word in English – mother and carrier.

Madonna and Child is a classic theme in paintings and icons and they are almost always simple. Mary is seated. Jesus sits on her, she holds him. It’s almost a natural pose of a mother and her child, except that he is almost always facing outwards toward the viewer, toward the world. This isn’t that odd, mothers often hold children that way when they’re showing them off in some way. But while this is sort of that, it’s also something else.

Rejoice, you through whom joy shall shine forth. Rejoice, you whom the curse will vanish.
Rejoice, the Restoration of fallen Adam. Rejoice, the Redemption of the tears of Eve.
Rejoice, O Height beyond human logic. Rejoice, O depth invisible even to the eyes of Angels.
Rejoice, for you are the King’s throne. Rejoice, you bear Him, Who bears the universe.
Rejoice, O Star revealing the Sun. Rejoice, O Womb of divine Incarnation.
Rejoice, you through whom creation is renewed. Rejoice, you through whom the Creator is born a Babe.

The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos

She is his mother in these pictures, but what you see so clearly in Bouguereau’s work is that she is also the Lord’s throne. This is, as Margaret Barker likes to say, temple talk. In the First Temple in Jerusalem, the Lord’s throne in the Holy of Holies is also Wisdom, who is also the Mother of the Lord – in the typically sliding semiology of Temple life.

Mary has a long connection to the Temple. There’s a tradition that she was one of the young women charged with weaving the temple veil that is drawn in front of the Holy of Holies.

Symbolically, depicting Mary as the Throne connects Jesus to the Royal Priesthood and to the First Temple. This parallels the Baptist acting as connection to Primordial Tradition. In both cases, his teaching is grounded and validated in deeper, older tradition, even though it was rejected by his immediate contemporaries in the Second Temple priesthood. The Theotokos and the Baptist connect to the past. The Evangelist and the Magdalene connect to the future. More on that next week.

The other parallel that occurs to me is that both of them characterise modes of surrender. The Baptist surrenders his prominence in favour of Jesus (this is possibility a Gospel fiction, rather than anything that happened, but let’s go with it).

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.

– John 3:28-30

Mary’s surrender is to God’s will that she become Mother to the Lord.

Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. […] For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

– Luke 1:26-38

This willing surrender to allow the ego and ultimately the self to drop into the background as Christ takes up the foreground is, I believe, a key aspect of a deep, spiritual path. I’ll say more in the context of the Johannite practice course.

In the meantime, enjoy the Bouguereau. You’re welcome.

Legacy and St. Joseph of Arimathea

St. Joseph of Arimathea is the man who, according to the canonical gospels, offered his own tomb for the burial of Jesus.

In later legends, he would be connected with the Holy Grail- bearing the cup to Britain, and with planting his staff in the ground for his rest, the birth of the Glastonbury Thorn.

The connection of Gnostic Christianity to Grail legends is not a new one by any means so I’m not going to explore that here.

The thing I do want to highlight is the note in the gospels of him obtaining the body of Jesus and laying him in the tomb which was set aide for himself.

I’ve often spoken of the Apostles and Saints as models and exemplars- they both embody qualities that demonstrate the commonality of our own failures and desires- be it anger or doubt and they also encapsulate our aspirations and hopes- qualities that we seek to emulate.

Excepting the noble quality of giving up one’s own life for another, what could be more admirable than someone who sacrifices their own legacy and remembrance for a higher purpose, in this story, the resting place of the Incarnate Logos?

We spend a lot of time, as individuals, as families, as friends, as a society- seeking to both prolong life and the remembrance of it when it passes. The former is a common element of human existence, and has been for the length of recorded history. The latter, in many ways, has been the way in which many people, spiritual or not, give meaning to struggles in this life.

If we are remembered, then we are valued, if we made a difference, then we are remembered. So much is done by us to ensure remembrance, if only to convince ourselves of differences made and value achieved.

In a very real and concrete way, these things are given shape in the form of memorials, tombstones, mausoleums, and markers. Adorned with the names of our loved ones, our spouses and partners, the symbols of our faith in life, they seek to grant a lesser form of material immortality, and also to assure us that we too will be remembered when the time comes.

In the story of the gospels, Joseph was a wealthy man and an elder, a pillar of his community and his tomb, like those of comparative stature in the present day, would have served as a mark of his achievement, his respect and attainment.

And he just gives it up.

We need not suddenly rush to halt our dreams, life goals and plans. In our story there is nothing to indicate that Joseph did. These things are part of what makes us who we are. The point here is not to discard the things we do but examine the reasons for doing them.

Would you value your own achievements less if you were not remembered as the one who did them?

Can you take satisfaction in doing something that needs to be done over being the one who has done them?

The answer here is an individual one. It is never simply a matter of throwing away recognition, for recognition can be a step upon which we are given greater opportunity. The answer, the balance, the reasons will always be as unique as you are, and so should the value be that you give to others. I’ll leave that with you to think on.

+ IOHANNES IV
Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch
The Apostolic Johannite Church