Apr 17, 2014

The Great Tribulation

Holy Thursday  Eve

Thanks to William Lindsey at Bilgrimage for the link to a profound meditation by Waldemar Boff,  the brother of Liberation Theologian, Leonardo Boff, entitled

As we enter into the sacred triduum of Holy Week, remembering the paschal mystery of the Lord, who descended into the nether depths of death, darkness and negation before rising to new life on Easter morn, these sobering words of the Boff brothers act as a prophetic call, alerting us to the fact that we on earth as an entire ecological community are heading into the darkness of trial and tribulation, and it is coming "soon." William Lindsey has written some prophetic words on this subject at his blog, with which I concur. There really is no way around this coming transition, in my opinion, given the state of the world, the plundering of human beings and the near universal denial we humans seem to be perpetuating, a simple refusal to see the consequences of our destructive behavior. Ecological, economically, politically, we are coming to the end of one way of life on this planet, and hopefully some of us will help to transition the community to a new way of life beyond catastrophe. Already, as Waldemar says, the seasons are in disarray and we can no longer be sure of summer or winter. Just three days ago here in Prague, after experiencing a significant heat wave for two weeks, Prague was plunged into near zero temperatures with snow in some parts and hail storms in others. My students were stupefied and stared out the window at the hail stones falling onto the playground, something very rarely seen here in the Czech Republic.  Three days later and we were returned to glorious spring weather. This is only a very tiny example of what promises to be major, catastrophic changes in store for us. As I read these prophetic warnings coming at us from prescient figures around the globe, my heart cries out for my very young students, so hopeful, enthusiastic, filled with life and promise and joy. And yet what kind of future awaits them? The deniers rebuke the prophets as negative, nihilistic fanatics and insist that things will continue more or less the same, but that is simply no longer believable. We are headed for a terrible crisis on a global scale unlike anything so far seen on this planet and now is the time for prayful but active preparation. 

Waldemar Boff's reflection on this coming trial is cautiously hopeful without denying the very real suffering that seems to be in store for the human community. 

His opening comments are chilling:

No one knows the day or the hour with certainty. That is because, almost without realizing it, we are already in its midst. But it is coming, with ever greater intensity and clarity. When the great catastrophe occurs, it will appear to be a surprise.
Not withstanding that well documented data point to the inevitability of global changes due to climate, with consequences that scientists are trying to fathom, and that surely will worsen, the economic interests of the great nations and their leaders’ lack of vision keep them from taking the measures necessary to mitigate its effects and adapt their way of living to the Earth’s feverish state.
But he goes on to offer some tentative words of hope and encouragement, not that the trial can be avoided, it cannot, but that remnants of humanity are already being prepared to help make the transition. The Boff brothers with their ecological concerns and movements, and community experiments in Brazil and elsewhere, are living examples of these pockets of wisdom and sanity preparing us for the great divide.
Waldemar again:

But will this be the end of the biosphere? No. For the just and sensible ones, God will make those days brief, and will not destroy all life on Earth, keeping the promise made to our father Noah. But it is necessary for humans to pass through that tribulation to awaken from their selfishness and recognize that the human being is part of the community of life, and is its main guardian.
What can we do to prepare ourselves for those times? First, we must recognize that we are already living in them. We no longer know when Spring or Fall will come. Nor can we count on the months of cold and warmth. We no longer know when there will be rain or sun. Also, it is important to remain silent, vigilant, and observant, watching for the signs that indicate the acceleration of the processes of change. And above all, it is essential to convert, to change our life habits, undergo personal change, profound and definitive. Only then will we have the moral conditions to ask others to do so. But, as in the time of the prophets, few will listen, some will ridicule and the majority will remain indifferent, allowing themselves all sorts of liberties, as in the times of Noah.
We should also return to our roots, to start over, as repentant humanity has done so many times before, recognizing that we are just creatures, and not the Creator, that we are comrades and not the lords of nature; that to be happy we must necessarily submit to the great laws of life and listen attentively to the voices of our consciences. If we obey those main laws, we will harvest the fruits of the Earth and the joy of the soul. If we disobey them, we will inherit a civilization like that in which we are living now, full of greed, war and sorrow.
Waldemar goes on to offer some simple wise suggestions for survival, which you can read at Leonardo Boff's blog here. But a friend of mine sent me a video recently (the link to which I've misplaced), outlining the worst places to be in the world for the coming upheaval. First on his list was the United States itself, secondly any large urban centers.  And on and on and on. Of course, most people view this stuff and consider it the ravings of lunatic fanatics, end of the world doomsday prophets. Yet these warnings resonate with myself because I've long been spiritually connected to the Marian apparitions of Garabandal and Medjugorje, which seem to be warning of similar trials to come. Waldemar Boff warns that the rich driving their Mercedes Benz' may one day be offering all of their wealth for a simple glass of dirty water. It's a simple image and a devastating symbol or metaphor for what may be upon us sooner than we think. The visionaries of Medjugorje reported seeing visions of human beings crying out from terrible, unquenchable thirst. All of this sounds so terribly depressing and despairing, but I've long believed that these apparitions have arrived precisely to offer some sort of comfort and support during an upcoming period of terrible trial and suffering. People can look back upon these visions and warnings and comfort themselves with the thought that "Heaven and the Spirits anticipated this trial and gave us the guidance to endure them." Which is why perhaps those most in need of this particular kind of comfort have been drawn to the apparitions in the first place. 
And the Boffs may be right. When it comes upon us, it will be sudden. Other wise observers, like former congressman Ron Paul, have been urging Americans to invest in precious metals, and when you listen to his analysis, it sounds quite reasonable, balanced, sane - not at all alarmist or extreme or fanatical, simply a sobering assessment of practical reality beyond denial and delusion. Whatever is coming, and however soon it arrives, now is the time for prayer, penance, sacrifice - and some sobering changes to our lifestyle. Above all, it is a time for the utmost faith and trust. As the Madonna of Medjugorje told the visionaries, "Be prepared to die at any moment, and have complete trust in the mercy of God."

To change tact a little bit and raise the mood as well, in my last posting I commented somewhat tongue in cheek about some of the beautiful homes available in Marin County, one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. What will happen to all of this wealth and all of these privileged folks living in these splendid homes if things go bottoms up in some drastic way? Hard to say, but I was raised in Marin County for most of my boyhood and these are mostly decent people who found themselves situated in this special place and made the most of it. I'm not speaking of the unspeakably rich on Belvedere Island, on their multi million dollar estates. But people like my parents, who were solidly middle class, and only just barely that. My mother was a middle school math teacher and my father, severely handicapped with only one lung, was self-employed. Through hard work and ingenuity, they managed to save and then build from scratch their dream home at 484 Hillside Avenue in Mill Valley. They drew up the plans, purchased the materials, hired the contractors and carpenters and within six months their home was built on a prime piece of real estate high up in the hills on a non country, unpaved dirt road. And yet it was a very simple home, with nothing particularly fancy or luxurious about it, except for the stone fireplace which extended all across one wall, and for its decks facing spectacular valley views. There is no way my parents could have afforded to purchase this house already built. They could only manage by doing it all themselves. Today this house is surrounded by other far more elaborate homes and is valued (assessed by the county of Marin for tax purposes) at $1,400,000, probably the cheapest house on the road. I'm shocked every time I think about this number, but in fact while this number may seem extravagant to anyone living outside the SF Bay  Area, for Marin County this is still 'only' middle class. Try and find any family home for sale in southern Marin for under $500,000. You won't find one. A condo or two, perhaps, for $350,000, but that's as low as it gets. One of the readers of this blog emailed me that in his home state of Kentucky, perfectly adequate 3 bedroom, 3,000 square foot homes can be purchased for  only $60,000. That means for the value of our family home in Mill Valley,  one could possibly buy 23 homes in places in Kentucky. Quite a shocking disparity. Does that make all of the people living in Marin greedy, selfish, capitalists, or corporate criminals and shady bankers, destined for the fires of gehenna when the 'great tribulation' arrives. Will they be selling off all of their assets for a simple glass of dirty water? I think not, though some of the people living in $18,000,000 mansions on Belvedere Island and the Tiburon peninsula probably need a shock and a wake up call. 
I know many of these people in Mill Valley, decent, kind, liberal in outlook, appalled by our foreign wars, alarmed by our abuse of the environment, voting for Obama with enthusiasm, only to feel bitterly betrayed, and doing their best  living  ordinary 'middle class' lives in family homes, whose price tag would both shock and appal Americans living in the Central states. In fact, I know the family living in the beautiful redwood forest home I featured in my previous posting (which is why I featured it, as it's up for sale). Both the mother and father are doctors, with some six children and two 'servants' living in the luxurious guest cottage (who manage the house and grounds). Yet this family has hosted many spiritual retreats and conferences in their expansive home and grounds, including seminars conducted by the renowned Czech psychologist, Stanislav Grof, one of the founders of Transpersonal Psychology and also a Mill Valley resident. They have generously shared these beautiful facilities for many worthwhile events. So one must be careful about rushing to pass judgement, even though sometimes harsh judgements are called for - especially against criminal bankers destroying peoples' lives and paying themselves multi million dollar bonuses, and then erecting gated communities to hide behind, protecting themselves from the wrath of their victims. 
Yet in the end, as the economy crumbles and the environment drastically alters, all of us, guilty and innocent and in between, will be called upon to pass through the great tribulation and suffer the consequences of humanity's irresponsible behavior. I just hope I won't live to see it, but given my parents' longevity (100 years), I've probably got at least another twenty years on this planet before my own transition to the world of the Spirit. Who knows what wonders may ensure in that time. What seems certain, however, is that it will be a time requiring the utmost faith, hope and ingenuity, as people like the Boff brothers in creative alternative communities across the globe prepare the rest of us for the transition to another, more simple, more just and more ecologically sound way of life on this suffering planet. 

Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus Come.
To end:

Here are some photos of the beautiful former residence in Sausalito, Marin County, of renowned Chilean writer, Isabel Allende, cousin to assassinated Chilean president, Salvador Allende, brought down in a US engineered coup on that other infamous 9/11, September 11, 1973.