Monday, February 26, 2007

The Burning Bush: Reflections from Wyoming Youth Retreat

These are the thoughts that distracted me while people were giving their testimonies on Saturday. I pass them on so they can distract you, too.

Note that the burning bush has seven tiers with the Eucharist in the monstrance on top. If I recall correctly, a sevenfold mountain in ancient Mesopotamia was a symbol of deity. On river plains over there, they didn't have a lot of mountains, so they sometimes built their own--ziggurats, holy mountains sacred to various deities.

If my memory isn't faulty, the ancient historian Herodotus described the famous ziggurat in Babylon, Entemenanki, "the Temple at the Base of the Universe," as having seven tiers, each painted a different color. Some believe Entemenanki may have been the inspiration for the Tower of Babel described in Genesis. The Tower of Babel, of course, is the ultimate representation of man's attempt to reach Heaven on his own terms rather than on God's.

One of the speakers mentioned this weekend that Pope John Paul II referred to Christ as our "mystical mountain," and we all remember that Dante depicted Purgatory as a mountain with seven levels, the last of which is a ring of purifying fire surrounding Paradise.

The builders of the Tower of Babel wanted to reach Heaven on their own terms, without suffering, without sacrifice. Christ, however, opened the door to Heaven through ultimate sacrifice and ultimate suffering. He invites us to follow, to climb the sevenfold mountain, by his path, by taking up our cross daily and walking after him. God accomplishes for us what we could not accomplish ourselves, but we must achieve it on his terms rather than on our own. I find this is exquisitely represented in the seven-layered burning bush with the Eucharist at the top, for the Eucharist is Christ himself, the source and summit of our faith, waiting to lead us into Paradise if we agree to walk through the purifying fire.

Okay. Tomorrow, I hope to put up a post reviewing Oscar Wilde's famous and ambiguous
The Picture of Dorian Gray, a controversial work, an important ancestor of modern speculative fiction, and a book that has acquired multiple interpretations. I don't promise to give the correct one, but I hope I can say I have a few insights. In particular, I'll be discussing the Barnes & Noble Classics edition with intriguing commentary by Camille Canti, and I'll try to relate it to some other major proto-sf from the same period, as well as one or two more contemporary works.
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