I recently, have had the pleasure of listening to a Franciscan Friar speak. If you are not familiar with the order of the Franciscan Friars, the are a religious order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. These men have decided to devote their entire lives to the idea of apostolic poverty. In essence, they travel from to place revealing concepts that they have discovered from their travels, apostolic ministries, and biblical studies. They are allowed to own nothing, save the robes on their backs and sandals for their feet, they rely -solely- on the charity of others for food and housing and spend hours in prayer and meditation.
One Franciscan Friar in particular, Father David Engo, is undeniably one of the most “down to earth” men I have ever met. He is extremely humble, wise beyond his years, full of love for his God and fellow man, and has the God given ability to bring reason to a world that is in seeming chaos. He is, truly, the epitome of what I would have expected to hear and see in meeting one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ.
There are some concepts that Father Engo shared that I thought were worth pondering upon and sharing with my friends, family, and fellow Christians [regardless of denomination].
Is The Beginning Really In The End?
Revelations Chapter 12 reveals, quite precisely, what the war in heaven was about. At this point, John the youngest of the Apostles and the author of the last book in the Bible, was seeing a vision of what happened in heaven that caused 1/3 of the angels to rebel against God. If you read it closely, you will see that a woman [Mary] with a crown of 12 stars [representing the 12 Houses of Israel] was about to give birth. At this point, a huge red dragon [Satan] appears in the sky with seven heads [seven deadly sins], ten horns, and seven diadems on it’s head. It’s tail swept a 1/3 [the number of fallen angels] of the stars from the sky and hurled them down to the Earth. The dragon stood before the woman to devour her child [Jesus] when she gave birth, but the child was caught up to God and His throne and the red dragon failed to touch either of them. As war broke out in heaven, the Devil and it’s minions lost and were cast out of heaven and thrown down to the earth. It pursued the woman who gave birth to the child, but could not catch her. He became angry and began waging war with the rest of her offspring.
War In Heaven
The war in heaven happened when God announced, to heaven and all it’s hosts, the love of His creation, the human race. It wasn’t just an announcement of love, He was showing the hosts of heaven, that He planned to become a human being, thus unifying the human race within the Holy Trinity. Lucifer was appalled that God would allow Himself to become a frail human being and was jealous that the angels were not as beloved by God as these feeble “human beings”. Now, to the beginning, Genesis 3, describes the fall of man. The red dragon that John wrote about in his vision regarding the war in heaven is described, simply, as a serpent. The serpent tempts and lies to the woman [Eve], in particular, getting her to sin and create eternal enmity between “woman and God”. In the next few verses, God curses the serpent, causing the dragon [serpent] to lose it’s legs, forcing it to crawl on it’s belly, and eat dirt. God put enmity between the serpent and woman, between her offspring and it’s offspring. Then He specifically tells Eve, “He will strike at your heel, while you strike at his head”. At this point, the Devil knew that his attempt to stop God from becoming human and inviting us to join in the Trinity had failed.
Understanding The Holy Trinity
The diagram to the right shows an understanding of the Holy Trinity as Christians know it. The Father is NOT the Son, the Son is NOT the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is NOT the Father. The Father is worshiped and glorified by the Son who is conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and all three were present at the baptism of Jesus. Yet, each of these separate entities are “ONE” God, unified. There are two people within the Holy Trinity because through Jesus Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection we are invited to unify [or come to a perfect communion] with the Holy Trinity, Itself. By baptism we are adopted by the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. We are the adopted sons and daughters of a God, who fell in such love with an aspect of His creation [human beings], so much so, that He decided to become one with them and bring them into the unity of Himself. By one man and woman’s sin did all humans fall, by one man and woman’s redemption all humans are redeemed.
While the Bible itself does not, out and out, make a big deal out of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, there are some very “in your face” things to note about her that every Christian “knows”, but seldom thinks about.
- Mary is the woman, clothed in the sun with a crown of 12 stars, referred to in Revelations 12 that describes how and why the war in heaven took place.
- Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit which, not only makes her the mother of Jesus Christ, but the espoused of the Holy Spirit, Itself, forever linking the family of the Trinity to the family of mankind.
- Mary consented to be the “handmaiden of the Lord”, He did not force Himself upon her.
But, perhaps the most profound things are the hidden ones. There are a total of 15 references in the New Testament where angels of the Lord appeared to various people. Each and every time, the very first words they spoke were “Do not be afraid… “. There is ONE exception to this rule, Luke 1:28 when Gabriel appeared to Mary he said, “Hail Mary the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women”.
- When you hail someone, such as a king, queen, or conquering hero, it is an acclamation of enthusiastic approval, not just a simple greeting such as “hello”.
- The reference to the Lord being with her was a testimony to her being “chosen” by God.
- The next statement Gabriel makes to Mary is “Blessed are you among women”.
To, truly, understand the reverence that Gabriel, an angel of God, showed Mary you almost have to picture Gabriel prostrating himself before Mary while making these statements. After all, Gabriel was there when the war in heaven erupted and was now greeting the very woman that God hid from Satan’s grasp for so long. The woman that would allow herself to be a handmaiden to the Father, to allow herself to be espoused to the Holy Spirit, and to allow the Son to enter the world as a fragile human baby boy.
Part Of God’s Plan Revealed To Humans
There is an irony between the relationship of the Father and Abraham that can not be ignored. In Genesis chapter 22, Abraham was told by the Father to take his one and only son, Issac, to Moriah and offer him up as a holocaust sacrifice to God. In verse 6, Abraham lays the wood on the shoulders of Issac as they go off to build an altar to worship and sacrifice to God on. As they were walking, Issac asks Abraham, “where the sheep are for the holocaust to which Abraham answers that God will provide the sheep. After the altar is built, Issac is tied up and placed on top of the wood. Abraham readies his knife to kill his only son as an offering to God, but at the last moment he is stopped by a messenger from heaven. Does any of this sound familiar? God loves us and is dedicated to us, so much so, that He offered His only Son in sacrifice to US. All to bring US into the love of the Holy Trinity if we so desire.
Baptism And Communion
The biggest contention between the differing Christian denominations boils down to one simple question, “are baptism and communion real or symbolic”? Does baptism actually wipe away sin or is it a symbolic action? Does a piece of unleavened bread and a glass of wine turn into the body and blood of Christ or is it a symbolic action? After studying many different theologies on these three subjects, I have found an interesting twist to the perception of my brothers and sisters. Most Christians believe that baptism is VERY real, however, when it comes to Communion, most Christians believe it is merely a symbolic gesture to remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
1rst Corinthians 11 verses 29-31 states the following:
 “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning [or recognizing] the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself”.
In other words, even though you can not see it, smell it, or taste it you must recognize that every time you take Holy Communion, Jesus Christ is present and you are, in reality, in a state of total communion with God. By this action, we continue to not only remember Christ’s sacrifice, but continually share in it. However it helps you perceive Communion, either symbolically or realistically, beware of treating it as a “past event” instead of a “current event”, or Paul warns:
 “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying”.
The result of sin is both, disease and death, baptism and communion are the “medicine” for sin. Baptism is your initial dose of “sin remedy” and communion is the continued treatment for sin. What is extremely important to understand is that you can not treat sin with “placebos”, it requires the very real intervention of Christ.
 “If we discerned [or recognized] ourselves, we would not be under judgment;”
What St. Paul is saying is; if we as Christians, during communion, recognized ourselves “in a oneness” with Christ, we would be forgiven and not be under God’s judgment.
You want further proof, I saved the best for last. How about the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Himself in John chapter 6 verses 51-71 that caused a complete uproar among the Jews and many of His former disciples that returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. In these passages, you begin to see how Judas of Iscariot allowed himself to be filled with doubt. He was the first to eat and drink without discernment. He did not believe that Jesus was God, he did not believe in the teachings of the “true presence” in communion, he even got to witnessed jaw dropping miracles and had more spiritual guidance than most, yet he betrayed Jesus. To further complicate matters, he saw himself as “unforgivable” and so, death came quickly and by his own hand.
Discernment of the true and current presence of God during these sacraments is what is important. To deny that the Holy Spirit does not, in real time, wash away sins at baptism is akin to accusing the Spirit of not doing it’s job. To deny that Christ is present, in real time, in the act of Holy Communion is akin to saying that the act has no power, whatsoever. It is just a “re-enactment”, nothing more.
To properly describe the word Greek word, ekklesia, I must feel I must remind my Christian brothers and sisters that God makes Himself known by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is by the graces of this entity of God that our sins are revealed to us, it is by the graces of the Spirit that power is given to us to resist certain temptations of sin, it is by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ, Himself, was born to begin the tradition of “Christianity” that His Father [the Spirit] would spread throughout the world and time. This same entity, continually, calls people to a holy “ekklesia” [gathering or assembly] on the Sabbath Day. Those that choose to answer the call to holy ekklesia and are enlightened about the “true presence” of Christ in Communion receive the blessing of all blessings, very potent “sin medicine” as well as a continued communion within the Holy Trinity. Some translations of the Bible use the word “Church” as an English description of the word ekklesia, which is descriptive in the minds of some and conspiratorial in the minds of others.
Regardless, as I came to know the word “ekklesia”, I began looking around at all the different faces of the people who go out of their way to answer the assembly call of the Holy Spirit by attending a Christian Church at least once a week. I am astounded by the number of both, familiar and unfamiliar, faces I see on a weekly basis since I started observing “the miracle”. Each and every person gets something different out of the gathering, but the call is answered by many Christians in many denominations throughout the world. In some countries, at the risk of life and limb, Christians assemble to worship the Trinity in faithfulness to the call of the Holy Spirit. It is a blessed miracle that is truly amazing.
What Is In A Name?
Names have many uses, they define us on an individual basis as opposed to using interjections to reference each other, they contain an assumed power when sworn by, they are repeated when idolized, and are glorified when worshiped. The Father [Yahweh] shared His name with us, though we seldom use it out of fear and respect. The Son [Jesus] shared His name as well, this name is more commonly used in love and respect. Jesus, however, taught us the “proper” name of God as well as the name we should use in referencing the Father for the rest of eternity. The “proper” name of “God” lies in the Trinity, Itself; it is simply, “Father, Son, & Holy Spirit”. All Christian traditions, prayers, petitions, and rituals are done in this “proper” name of our Lord. However, Jesus taught us a new name – perhaps more of a “reference” than a name, “Abba”. This word has been traditionally translated to English as meaning “Father”, but it’s not until you have heard a lost Jewish child scream for his “abba” and watch as his “abba” picks him up, pats his back and says, “it’s alright.. Abba’s here..” before you realize that this means “Daddy”.
Which brings me to another way in which names have meaning. Muslims tend to take great offense to Christians referring to God as “Abba” and not “Allah”. They are taught that “Allah” is “Master” and it is a serious offense to refer to God as anything BUT Master. To claim that God would adopt mankind and allow us to call Him “Daddy” goes against everything the Qu’ran and Hadith teach of God.
Saved By “Faith” Alone
On the surface, this acclamation may seem sound, but the truth is reveal within Scripture as Jesus makes clear that, “faith, hope, and charity” are all graces [or freely offered gifts] of the Holy Spirit. The greatest of the three is charity [or love]. Why? Because charity [or love] requires you sacrifice something of yourself to another. There is no “true love” or “true charity” without giving or making some sort of sacrifice to show your love or charity to your God and your neighbor. Therefore, we are not saved by “faith” alone, we are saved by the “graces” of the Holy Spirit and adopted by the Father through the Son. Do not be deceived, while good works, faith, obedience, hope, and charity are all wonderful graces that are bestowed upon mankind, it is ONLY through the Holy Spirit that these graces are bestowed.
The Immense Importance Of Prayer
The Bible is full of prayers to God in all His individual forms and collective Self. The entire book of Psalms is a guide consisting of prayers and petitions written by King David that both, pleased and moved, God. In Matthew 6:9, Jesus teaches us to pray in private, not only in public, He even gives us the perfect prayer and format to use when praying:
- Praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to the Father.
- Acknowledgment that God is in charge and His Will is always done.
- Ask for the things we need to live especially the grace to forgive others so we are forgiven.
- Petition the Spirit for the power to resist known sins and to reveal sins that are unknown to you.
- Personal petitions for family, friends, and self.
- Once again, give praise, adoration, and acknowledgment of control over all things to God.
Shortly thereafter, in Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus reveals that prayers are answered in a “Fatherly” manner according to need, not necessarily want or desire.
From personal experience, I have found that steadfast prayer and meditation on Scripture will show you what you need to include in your own specific petitions to God, but be on guard that you are not swept up in self petition and forget the rest. Rather, remember your relationship with Him, rely on the fact that He knows what He is doing, be faithful in your prayer life and you will be rewarded beyond your imagination… perhaps you will become a Franciscan Friar?
The Alpha & The Omega
Everything, except God, has a beginning and end. This long winded and, hopefully, thought provoking article has reached it’s conclusion. I pray that the people who read this expression of Christ’s love are inspired to return this love to Him. I pray that all of us realize that it has pleased the Father to make US His children, even before the war in heaven occurred. I pray that faith, hope, and charity are recognized as “graces of the Spirit”, not “graces of man”. I pray that all of my brothers and sisters faithfully answer the call of the Holy Spirit to attend their holy ekklesia, remembering to revere both, baptism and communion, as the Sacraments they are.