Icon: St. Michael, Horseman of the Apocalypse

Quis ut Deus?

A large icon showing St. Michael Horseman of the Apocalypse. Tempera on wood panel. Crowned, with prominent, outstretched wings, astride a fiery winged horse, the archangel blowing a golden trumpet, raising a Book of Gospels and killing the dragon with his lance with cruciform finial. Christ Emmanuel appearing in swirling clouds. The background stripped to gesso. Minimally restored. Russian, 19th century.

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Phillip Medhurst presents 263/392 the James Tissot Jesus c 1896 James the Less

Picture Stories from the Bible

By (James) Jacques-Joseph Tissot, French, 1836-1902. Opaque watercolour over graphite on paper. Brooklyn Museum New York.

Photogravure from “La Vie de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ . . . . avec des notes et des dessins explicatifs par J. James Tissot” 1896-97.

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The life and times of old camel knees, the Apostle James

Messy Oaks by John Roland


There are few books quite like James in the entire Bible.  It is a hard hitting, direct and to the point book as well as encouraging and offering hope for the future.  James is a respected leader of the church of Jerusalem and he wants to encourage, challenge, and edify those persecuted Jewish Christians that have been dispersed.  Maintaining the tradition of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, James probes the piety and devotion of believers with sharp, to the point observations about hypocrisy, while offering maxims and principles about matters of faith and Christian lifestyle.[1]


In evaluating a book, one is immediately drawn to determining the background of the author.  Who is he?  What is his background and how does it influence his writings?  What is his personal relationship to the storyline?  What is his perspective, biases, audience, etc.?  In knowing these things, one can gain a much…

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Sacrificial Killing in the Early Middle Ages: Vikings Season 2


Aethelstan receives crucifixion for apostasy... Aethelstan receives crucifixion for apostasy…


As recent entries should make clear, I’m getting myself through Season 2 of the History Channel ‘Vikings’ series.  It is of great interest to me as a mortuary archaeologist of the first millennium AD societies. The series is the latest worldwide popular 21st-century portrayal of Scandinavia and the Viking diaspora in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Therefore this series needs to be taken seriously by academics as a way of tackling and debating the use of legendary, historical and archaeological evidence relating to life and death in this important period of European history.

See my earlier blog entries for other dimensions of the ‘Vikings’ series. As well as reviewing seasons 1 and 2 in general terms together here, I previously went on to review in more detail the mortuary archaeological dimensions of Vikings Season 1. I have also recently…

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O Radix, A Third Advent Reflection and Sonnet

Malcolm Guite

Image by Linda Richardson Image by Linda Richardson

The third Advent antiphon,in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word,  O Radix, calls on Christ as the root, an image I find particularly compelling and helpful. The collect is referring to the image of he ‘tree of Jesse the family tree which leads to David, and ultimately to Christ as the ‘son of David, but for me the title radix, goes deeper, as a good root should. It goes deep down into the ground of our being, the good soil of creation. God in Christ, is I believe, the root of all goodness, wherever it is found and in whatsoever culture, or with whatever names it fruits and flowers, a sound tree cannot bear bad fruit said Christ, who also said, I am the vine, you are the branches. I have tried to express some of my feelings for Christ as…

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Mythical Beasts: The White Stag

Under the influence!

The white stag, like many other mythical creatures, wanders through the tangled forests and wild moorlands of our distant past.   Elusive and rare, our forefathers may have caught a glimpse in some hidden glade in the woods,  or seen it moving ghost-like across the wild moors, or maybe stood high on a rocky outcrop crowned against the sky.  The white stag was always something to be desired yet always out of reach. Always leading the hunt onwards, ever onwards, to a destiny ordained by the gods.  From the dark, distant memories of the Wild Hunt have grown the very stuff of legends.

White Hart Badge of Richard II – Author:  Sodacan CC BY-SA 3.0

Encounters with the White Stag

For those humans who  encountered a white stag, there were often profound consequences, sometimes stimulating great spiritual changes within a person.   Sometimes these encounters have been the trigger of great events…

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The Faddan More Psalter – the materiality of texts in early medieval Ireland

Early Medieval Ireland and Beyond

Aidan O’Sullivan

It was one of the most astonishing Irish archaeological discoveries of modern times.

On a hot summer’s day in July 2006, a man working a mechanical excavator on a raised bog in Faddan More, Co. Tipperary uncovered – and saved until museum staff could reach it – a late-eighth century psalter, or book of psalms, that had been buried there centuries before. Perhaps amongst the most significant things about the Faddan More Psalter is not so much the text itself (which appears to be fairly conventional; would that it were a lost early Irish law tract or saint’s Life), but the materiality of the book itself.

Faddan More Psalter, shortly after its discovery (Image: National Museum of Ireland)

The National Museum of Ireland’s staff of conservators, under the direction of Anthony Read, working with John Gillis who was seconded from TCD Library for the project…

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The Council of Chalcedon today

Classically Christian

The Council of Nicaea Council of Nicaea, St Sozomen’s Church, Galata, Cyprus

Glancing over their calendar of upcoming services, I noticed that today the local Eastern Orthodox church was celebrating the Divine Liturgy in honour of the Fourth Ecumenical Council — the Council of Chalcedon of 451. A happy coincidence is that I was typing up notes from old notebooks yestereven, and I found this from Philip Jenkins’ book Jesus Wars:

If only because of the other paths that could so easily have been taken, these debates give the mid-fifth century an excellent claim to be counted as the most formative period in the whole history of Christianity. Much recent writing stresses the earlier Council of Nicea (325) as the critical moment in defining the beliefs of that faith, the critical dividing line between early and medieval Christianity. In reality, the struggle even to define core beliefs raged for centuries beyond this time…

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The Origins of Purgatory

The Kindled Flame Blog

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The idea of Purgatory was neither taught by Jesus nor His apostles. How it became an integral belief of the Catholic Church today can be seen by looking at its origin, development and purpose over the centuries.

1. Prayers for the Dead

Purgatory belief can be traced to the unbiblical practice of praying for the dead. Writings of some early church fathers contain references to prayers for dead loved ones to have ‘refrigerium’ (refreshment or pleasures of paradise).

Mohrmann Christine in a philological study comments that the term “refrigerium” refers to “heavenly happiness” that “Among the later Christian writers, refrigerium is used in a general way to denote the joys of the world beyond the grave, promised by God to the elect” (Le Goff Jacques, The Birth of Purgatory, University of Chicago, pp. 46-47).

While prayers for the dead can be found in their writings, they do not contain…

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Wa Habibi – Good Friday hymn in Arabic

Inspired Angela


Ever since I heard “Wa Habibi,” this Good Friday hymn has become one of my favorite songs. Arabic music has beautiful melodic qualities, and is part of our musical ancestry as Christians. (Our Lord’s mother tongue was, after all, Aramaic – the linguistic ancestor of both Arabic and modern Hebrew.)

“Wa Habibi” (My Beloved), here sung by Fairouz, has become a welcome aid to my prayer life. May it bless you, as well.

English translation:

My beloved, my beloved
What state are you in?
He who sees you, for you would cry
You are the one and only sacrifice

My beloved,
What blame have the nations put upon you?
They melted you with wounds,
To which no healing would do

When in the dark orchard at night
The God Creater kneeled and prayed
Life was praying with the One
Who gave life hope and prayer

The olive trees…

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