Redemption & Resurrection

Redemption, resurrection, renewal, promise and freedom are themes of our current season. Over the ages, countless traditions have marked the springtime miracle of life bursting forth from seemingly cold, dead earth.

I’m thinking of three traditions in particular, two of which are probably obvious to those of us in the West, Passover and Easter. This year, the week of Passover overlaps Christian Holy Week, the period between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. To add a hint of scandal, I’m also thinking of the ecstatic Dionysian Mysteries of ancient Greece. All three involve breaking free of physical and spiritual bondage of some sort and emerging as a more complete, connected and authentic individual, community member and earthling.

Passover celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, led by the divinely chosen but less-than-willing Moses. They are reborn as a nation and set on a path by the Lord to the Promised Land. The physical redemption of the Israelites is honored during the 7-day holiday and it is also a time of spiritual redemption. Along with house cleaning of the soul there is house cleaning of the house. The Israelites left Egypt in a hurry and, unable to wait for bread to rise, they took unleavened bread to sustain them on their journey. A big part of Passover tradition is to rid the home of all traces of leavened stuff and anything that might consider leavening if given the opportunity. Cupboards and pantries are cleansed of breads and pastries, pastas and most grains and, for good measure, the whole house is usually given a major spring cleaning.

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the view of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo Jordan, as seen by the Israelites after wandering in the desert for 40 years

the view of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo Jordan, as seen by the Israelites after wandering in the desert for 40 years

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, a sign of redemption and liberation from death. Through Jesus we are shown that death is not an end but a new beginning, a passage to another life. Easter symbols are all about fertility and new life – eggs, chicks, bunnies, Easter Lilies…

the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples before being arrested

the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples before being arrested

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where Jesus was arrested

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where Jesus was arrested

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

Dionysian rites were held in the spring across the Greek and Roman world. Dionysus was associated with the season of rebirth because he was a twice-born god. His mortal mother Semele died while pregnant with Dionysus when she insisted that Zeus, the father of her baby, appear before her in his full godliness. Semele was not equipped for such a sight and perished instantly. Zeus provided the fetal Dionysus a substitute womb inside his thigh, from which Dionysus was born again some time later.

There were also strong liberation themes in Dionysian rites, which were characterized by wild abandon. Dionysus was god of the vine and wine was used to break down restrictive social barriers and inhibitions. Celebrants drank and danced into tranced-out frenzy, transcending the mundane world to be spiritually unified with the god. Woohoo!

La Jeunesse de Bacchus by William Bouquereau, 1884

La Jeunesse de Bacchus by William Bouquereau, 1884

NAME THAT COUNTRY

Bahla Fort is just one of many historical forts in our mystery country. It is, however, one of the oldest and the only one listed as a UNESCO Historical Site. The site is an oasis in the foothills of the Jabal al-Akhdar (the Green Mountain, part of the Al Hajar Mountains) in the interior of the country, about a 1/2-hour drive from the city of Nizwa. Bahla was built by The Nabhani dynasty, which ruled the area and controlled the lucrative trade of Frankincense from the 12th to 15th centuries. Construction of the sprawling complex, which is enclosed by a wall over 12km in length, was on-going throughout Nabhani rule and beyond.

 

 

Can you name that country? 
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Nasreddin Hodja, the One String Wonder of Aksehir

Across the Muslim world, stories and anecdotes attributed to or about Nasreddin Hodja are as much a part of the collective consciousness as the Grimm’s Fairy Tales in Europe and North America.

Nasreddin was probably a real man who lived in Turkey in the 13th century. Some sources say he was born in Turkey, others that he moved there from Iran. In any case, it seems agreed that he lived and worked as a judge and teacher in Aksehir, near the city of Konya in central Turkey. He is known for his sly wit, appreciation of the absurd, optimism and genial nature. The honorific Hodja refers to a wise teacher. Continue reading

NAME THAT COUNTRY

 

5 Sentidos in our mystery country’s capital city is one of our favorite paladares. A paladar is a privately owned and operated restaurant, usually in a restored house. Paladares, among other micro-businesses, have flourished in the country since reform to the state-run economy took effect in 2011. Finding a variety of interesting ingredients is a challenge in this country of shortages and rationing, but with the help of an extensive black market and native creativity, there is no shortage of world-class dining in the larger cities.

 

Can you name that country? 
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the Burnt House, Jerusalem

the Burnt House, Jerusalem

the Burnt House, Jerusalem

In Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the Burnt House Museum vividly illustrates the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. The exhibit includes the excavated remains of the home of a priestly family in the once upscale Upper City area near the Temple Mount and displays of artefacts found in the house. Among the items found are the arm bones of a young woman, a spear, stone jugs, bowls, plates, and oil lamps. Layers of ash and burned wooden beams and stones indicate the house was destroyed in an intense fire.

the Burnt House Museum, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

An inscription on a stone weight found in the house seems to identify the occupants as the Kathros family, a family of ill repute, chastised in the Talmud for abuse of power.

A film at the site gives a good overview of the political context of the destruction of Jerusalem and a moving account of the final hours of its citizens.

Our Magnificent Israel tour includes a visit to the Burnt House.