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AMDG

I was in Copenhagen for the first time last week and was fascinated by many things. Not least the history of Denmark and the impact of the Viking Age (793-1066). These incredible navigators landed in N.America 500 years before Columbus.  As we also know they did a lot raping and pillaging.  I think particularly interesting is the gradual emergence out of a violent pagan culture, into the unifying and eventually pacifying force of  Christianity. This has been dramatised by the maxresdefaultfascinating Netflix series ‘The Last Kingdom’ which covers the partial Viking Conquest of Britain and the fightback of the Christian King, Alfred the Great.  As told in the Saxon Chronicles of Bernard Cornwall, it was a time of uniting disparate kingdoms and the Birth of England. With Christianity came learning and writing, which mystified the Vikings who dismissed this as sorcery at first, but came to understand its significance, not least as a reliable way of disseminating orders.

The King in Denmark was Harald Bluetooth.  Historians think that Harald had a prominent bad tooth … hence the name, ‘Bluetooth’. He was baptised around 960 by ‘Poppo the Monk’ after Poppo allegedly had passed through a ‘Trial by Fire’ to prove the power of his God was 1200 Harald BlÃ¥tand anagoria.jpgmost powerful. The baptism is recorded in this magnificent gold altar plate from the 12th Century.  He is remembered as a great King and a bridge builder in multiple ways.  As well as constructing the oldest bridge in Scandinavia at Ravning, he also united various tribes as did Alfred. Undoubtedly, some of the unity was brought about by conquest and force but after his conversion, according to lore, Harald had an uncanny ability to bring people together in non-violent negotiations. His initials H () and B () in ancient runes, may look familiar to you,  in fact, you may have glanced at them several times today! 

Image result for bluetoothModern short-link radio technology was developed in Lund in Sweden in 1989, but named Bluetooth by Jim Kardach of Intel in 1996, who explains the story in a blog on Tech History:

Harald had united Denmark and Christianized the Danes! It occurred to me that this would make a good codename for the program. At this time I also created a PowerPoint foil with a version of the Runic stone where Harald held a cellphone in one hand and a notebook in the other and with a translation of the runes:

Bluetooth Special Interest Group, wishes to unite different devices in the way the tribes were united by Harald Bluetooth. 

I have been reflecting on some of the resonances. Christianity spread around the world through communication and connection. With rumours of schism and criticisms of the Pope, it is worth remembering that one of the marks of true renewal, according to Yves Congar,  is that it is in communion with the whole Church. We live in an age of division and rancour.  Some people describe the ‘Diabolos’, as the divider or the slanderer. With so many accusations, in so many walks of life, sometimes it is difficult to discern between the facts and lies. In the midst of all of this,  Pope Francis urges us to build bridges, not walls….  that task seems clearer today and more urgent.

AMDG

The power of humankind has become breathtaking.  Geologists recently claimed that we are entering a new planetary epoch called the Anthropocene. This reflects our impact on the planet, on its geology and its ecosystems, with climate change constituting a small part of this ‘human-shaping’ effect.  Beyond harnessing the power of the atom we have also discovered that we are affecting the planet in ways that we could not imagine. One of the more interesting ways of the new ‘Anthropocene’ is how we are affecting the fossil record, particularly with chicken bones. Of the 60 billion chicken that are bred and consumed a year, there are so many bones filling our landfills that it is possible we are laying interesting layers for future geologists to discover – when the planet has become vegan.  Manmade artifacts such as litter, engineering structures, old cars etc will be known as ‘technofossils’.

It seems that we are not restricted to shaping our own planet,  I have just been reading about ‘directed panspermia’.  This is the plan of seeding alien worlds with microorganisms from the earth.  We know that bacteria can survive for years in the chill of deep-space, shielded from solar radiation. So if the time-span of homo sapiens is limited on this planet some ‘visionaries’ have started looking for other homes.  The first step is to identify suitable planets, one’s that revolve around a similar size star, in the life-enabling ‘Goldilocks Zone‘ i.e. not too close and not too far away from the star it orbits.  Having identified the target planet we could then scatter photosynthesising bacteria and algae into its ‘atmosphere’…. thus preparing an atmosphere that could assist the colonisation of the planet.

Are we playing ‘God’?  Contaminating other planets in this way risks destroying life that may have evolved on the ‘host’ planet independently.  So we might be playing Shiva (the Hindu Goddess of Destruction).  There are ethical issues being debated about this form of galactic colonisation.  Nasa is pressing head with ‘The Starlight Project’ – whose focus is on how to ‘propel’ intergalactic travel.  The plans include a  Terrestrial Biome in Space which will observe how the interstellar environment and extreme acceleration affects micro-organisms as they are frozen and then thawed on arrival.  As the experiment may potentially contaminate exoplanets, NASA’s funding does not cover it.   On a more positive note – an argument can be made that this is humankind using its God-given intelligence to assume its invitation to become co-creators. Our greatest organ for survival is our brain which leads to our ability to adapt.  This could be an incredible use of our intelligence.   Others would say this is our original sinfulness, the pride of Lucifer, who reached too far and was cast out of heaven.  It may even call for a seventh chapter to Laudato Si.

Ascension

AMDG  

As the church enters an intense time of prayer for nine days between Ascension and Pentecost (the original novena) …. I thought I’d share this beautiful reflection from Romano Guardini in his masterpiece ‘The Lord’. This book has been a delightful discovery for me recently …. it just keeps on giving beautiful insights from the soon-to-be beatified Guardini.  Although its 86 bite-size chapters cover the whole of Jesus Christ’s life – I have just noticed the picture on the English Translations is taken from El Greco’s Ressurection and Ascension.

 

 

Now the Evangelists’ manner of writing changes… we feel in the lines how He pauses on the sill between time and eternity …. He is in eternity yet in time, though differently than before, in the intimacy of becoming….  at that extreme edge of Christian history stands the ultimate event in which all that has been will be finished and fulfilled: Christs return for judgement.

What is the heaven into which Jesus was accepted on that first Ascension Day? The heaven that will once be all? In the Biblical account an upward movement is unmistakable; according to the Gospels,  Christ seems to mount upwards from the Earth. Is then heaven the summit of space? Certainly not.  The spatial ‘up’ is only a figurative expression for something spiritual. In the sense of the New Testament, though we were to fly to Sirius we should be no closer to heaven than we are on earth. Heaven is no more in the infinity of the cosmos as it is within earthly limits…. “Heaven” is also not what is meant by celestial beauty or peace ….. the Bible’s Heaven is something else.

Want to find out how Guardini describes heaven?  You’ll have to buy the book ….   🙂

 

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