A group of researchers has just begun a two-week excavation at the well-known Stonehenge site in England in an attempt to discover, once and for all, the meaning behind the mysterious ruins. According to current scientific dating, Stonehenge dates back to about 3000 B.C., but it has perplexed archaeologists for years as to the purpose of its creation. Who created it and why? Why was the structure a venerated destination for thousands of years, being built, taken down, rebuilt and expanded a number of times. [Read more…]
I have a certain affinity or appreciation for Eastern Orthodox Christianity, having visited Ukraine two years ago where I had the opportunity to visit many of the beautiful cathedrals all across the country. I found many of the practices, architecture, and artifacts of the faith to be intriguing from an LDS standpoint, showing parallels to our own traditions and beliefs. From the structure of the cathedrals, to the mosaics and frescoes, to the belief system, many things stood out to me. Could it be that the apostasy has had less of an affect upon the Eastern tradition than other sects of Christiandom?
This morning an article by Marvin R. VanDam on Meridian Magazine was brought to my attention. VanDam most recently was the director for temporal affairs of the Eastern European and Central Asian Area of the Church. In his article VanDam explores the studies of a well-known Russian religious scholar, Sergey Antonenko, who finds many striking parallels between Eastern Orthodoxy and the LDS Church. Antonenko finds that, like the Latter-day Saints, Eastern Christianity has a tradition of “taking care [concerned] about the deceased, instead of forsaking [them].” Such a concern, he says, can be traced back to early Christianity.
Most particularly, VanDam informs us that Antonenko finds that the practice of baptism for the dead has its roots in ancient Christianity, citing Paul in Corinthians as evidence:
Those who are advanced in the religious studies may conclude that vicarious baptism existed in the history of the Christian Church. . . . Direct [literal] meaning of the verse implies that “baptism for the dead” for the ancient Christians was confirmation of their confession [faith] – of their belief in resurrection.
VanDam then cites striking examples that Antonenko gives of the practice of baptism for the dead in Kiev, medieval Russia, an area which is now part of Ukraine. In contrast to the Latter-day Saint practice of vicarious baptism “for” the dead, these baptisms were very literally baptisms “of” the dead, where the bones of deceased relatives were exhumed, baptized, and reburied, such was the overarching concern of these people for the salvation of their dead, but citing precedence and reason for doing so from the early Christians.
Read the entire article at Meridian Magazine.
The word orant, or latin orans, is a noun form of the verb orare, to pray, and describes an early mode of prayer practiced by the first Christians ((http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/orant)). From Wikipedia we read:
Orant is a type of gesture during prayer in which the hands are raised, set apart, and the palms face outward. It was once common in early Christianity, and can frequently be seen in early Christian art, but has since become quite rare. The gesture is more common in Catholic worship, esoteric sects, and in certain forms of exorcism ritual. It is commonly used in small group renewal weekend settings such as Cursillo. This renewal weekend is offered by Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches. It is common in some charismatic churches during praiseful singing as well. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orant))
The image above comes to us from the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Ravenna, Italy:
Saint Apollinare, the first bishop of Ravenna, is robed in a white dalmatic and purple tunic, embroidered with bees, symbolizing eloquence. He is in the early Christian “orant” position–with outstretched arms praying. ((http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/italy/classe/santapollinare/santapollinare2.html)) [Read more…]
An exhibition back in 2000 at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, which was curated by Yael Israeli and David Mevorah, shows artifacts from the early years of the Christian church. The exhibition was entitled “The Cradle of Christianity“:
The exhibition attempts to synthesize the literary sources with finds that have been excavated in this country, particularly over the past fifty years: architectural remains, liturgical objects from churches, personal belongings of the Christian inhabitants of this land, and souvenirs made for pilgrims.
They have made an effort to separate the artifacts from the religious doctrines, trying to present the artifacts as they are, objectively.
I found several things interesting as I browsed the website of the exhibition: [Read more…]
During my senior year as a student at Brigham Young University, the Fall 2006 semester, I enrolled in Dance 260 which was an “Introduction to Dance” course. The professor was Susanne Davis, a World Dance Division Administrator. In the class we learned about the history of dance, from the beginning of time down to the present. It was a fascinating experience to learn about the origins of dance, particularly since I have an affinity for ballroom dance, being an active competitor in the sport for more than 15 years. But it was even more interesting to me because of the connections I saw between religion and dance. Our final assignment was to write a paper about dance, relating it in some way historically to what we had learned in the class.
Several years previously I had read Hugh Nibley’s “The Early Christian Prayer Circle” in which he cites similarities between the early Christian practice of the prayer circle with the ancient tradition of round dances. I had always wanted to explore this connection more fully, and this research paper gave me that chance. I was even more convinced of my direction when I saw many more parallels to the prayer circle in the evolution of dance in ancient religions and practices as we read further in our texts.
My research led me to the thesis for my paper which I entitled, “The Genesis of the Round Dance”:
Round dances, through all ages of time and all locations of the world, display striking similarities in structure and theme. This is strong evidence that they share a common origin. These dances are usually quite religious in nature and I propose that round dances, like other widespread yet similar ritual motifs found scattered across the world, had their beginnings in one of the first sacred rites of this world given to and practiced by our first parents, namely the ancient prayer circle.
My paper found strong acceptance with the professors of the Dance Department at BYU. I was accepted to present my paper in the annual Dance Department Writer’s Symposium, and was published in their journal now available at the Harold B. Lee Library. What will follow is the paper, split into parts, with some additional edits of my own.