The following is a photo of a linen and wool screen curtain (velum) that comes from a monastery at Antinoë (Antinopolis), Egypt, and dates from the 5th-6th century. It is likely an artifact of the early Coptic Christians. It depicts a praying couple beneath an apse in a church or temple, with a Coptic inscription written in Greek script underneath. The apse of a church building is near the east end, where the altar is located. There are columns on the left and right, perhaps symbolizing Boaz and Jachin, pillars that flanked the entrance in the porch of Solomon’s Temple, and have come to symbolize the temple ever since. The figures are dressed in liturgical clothing, including what appears to be a mitre, a veil, and robes, and in the traditional early Christian attitude of prayer with uplifted hands. Size: 1.05 x 0.86 m. It is located at the Benaki Museum, Athens. (Thanks Chad!)
Hugh Nibley once made this audacious claim: “All the arts and sciences began at the temple. Dance, music, architecture, sculpture, drama, and so forth – they all go back to the temple” ((Nibley, Hugh, and Gary P. Gillum. Of all Things!: Classic Quotations from Hugh Nibley. 2nd, rev. and expand ed. Salt Lake City, Utah; Provo, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; FARMS, 1993, 45)). The more I learn, the more I am convinced of that statement.
My mind returns again to posts I’ve written in the past about subjects that do not cease to fascinate me. Today I was reminded of a post in 2009, The Traditional Greek Folk Dances and their Ancient Roots. The Greek dances are some of the most ancient dances in the world, and have been passed down by tradition to the present day where they maintain many of their archaic forms. [Read more…]
William Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson have a regular religion column in the Deseret News. Their latest article is entitled “Pilgrimage: A sacred journey in search of God.” They point out that many religions have their own types of pilgrimages towards a holy place, shrine, or temple, where the pilgrim seeks to connect with God. Truly, the Temple Mount, or current location of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, is such a location for several major religions.
Latter-day Saints also have pilgrimages to temples. Many members of the Church throughout the world still have to travel great distances, over a number of days, at the cost of lifetime savings, to reach the closest temple to their home. In recent years, this has improved as temples have been built in more locations, closer to more members.
The temple itself can also be considered a pilgrimage within itself, a journey from a lower sphere to a higher one, even heaven, where one comes to God.
The article notes the ritual aspect of many religions’ pilgrimages:
Most pilgrimage is associated with special rituals and ceremonies. Pilgrims are often required to don sacred robes and undergo spiritual exercises such as prayer, reading scriptures or meditation. Many pilgrims abstain from ordinary activities of life by fasting, sleepless vigils or sexual abstinence. Sacrifice or offerings are often required of the pilgrim, even if it is only placing of a flower or rock in a special place. In return many pilgrims obtain tokens of their pilgrimages — special clothing, jewelry, books, medallions or relics — which they proudly wear or display as symbolic of their spiritual status as pilgrims.
Read the full article at the Deseret News:
A couple days ago my mind returned to some posts I made back in the infancy of TempleStudy.com in 2008. These posts were about the commencement exercises at Oxford University. Now that seems quite odd, doesn’t it? What would commencement exercises have anything to do with the temple? Well let me tell you. The Oxford commencement exercises as practiced today may be the oldest, longest-running, and relatively unaltered degree ceremonies still in existence, and their forms are still quite archaic, yet very familiar. Yes, even older than Freemasonry.
Oxford University, in Oxford England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Indeed, its beginnings date back to the 11th century! That’s old. Furthermore, they claim that their commencement exercises, also called “degree ceremonies,” have remained unchanged for over 800 years. That’s a long time. Therefore, much of what is seen today in the forms of the Oxford commencement are totally unrecognizable to the modern world. Undoubtedly even the graduates are likely baffled at the performances during the meeting. No other university does it quite like they do. On the other hand, much of what happens in the ceremony will be strikingly familiar to the endowed Latter-day Saint.
In 1906 a fellow by the name of Joseph Wells published a study about these ceremonies at Oxford, which I dug into quite a bit, and found quite a treasure trove of interesting parallels to modern LDS temple worship. Of course, I only point out the Oxford side of the coin. Why do these ceremonies have such interesting elements? Perhaps it was when Joseph Smith took his spring vacation to Oxford in early 1842 and witnessed the ceremonies first-hand, and thought there were some good things in there, ripe for borrowing. Joking aside, the origination of the forms of the Oxford ceremonies is up for investigation. I only took a passing look into what they are like today.
Here are the links to my original posts in 2008:
Part 1, Introduction – http://www.templestudy.com/2008/06/27/the-degree-ceremonies-of-oxford-university-part-1/
Part 2, Wells study – http://www.templestudy.com/2008/06/29/the-degree-ceremonies-of-oxford-university-part-2/
Part 3, YouTube videos – http://www.templestudy.com/2008/06/30/the-degree-ceremonies-of-oxford-university-part-3/
Part 4, Wells continued – http://www.templestudy.com/2008/07/01/the-degree-ceremonies-of-oxford-university-part-4/
I’m interested in hearing thoughts about where these exercises may have come from. Please let us know your comments.