We were celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary by taking a week's holiday to Sicily back in 2006. In the town of Siracusa, Alex and I stayed in this rather excellent hotel at Via Francesco Crispi for quite a modest price, after learning about a discount in the tariff if the stay is seven nights long, as in our case. We accepted their offer and our smart upstairs room with no further ado.
Not that that particular hotel was the one we had planned staying at. Rather it was the one directly opposite, across the street we arrived at, only to our horror, that it had closed down quite a while ago, and its street sign was still hanging derelict from the front face of the building.
Oh, the memories, memories! I recall 1982, the year I enjoyed backpacking the whole length of the Italian peninsula, and I found myself staying at this hotel, simply by walking through to reception and asking if there is a room. Facing almost directly at il Stazione Ferroviaria di Siracusa, from where I had just arrived after an overnight trip from Naples, my temporary home was very convenient for shorter train journeys to the dramatic clifftop resort of Taormina, and Catania, which is the second-largest city in Sicilia after Palermo, and from Catania, the bus accent to the slope of Mt. Etna, where at the summit I stood on the rim of an active crater with just one other person I met whilst onboard the bus. Then not to mention the ongoing walks into town, including the Old City which is on a separated island bearing the name Isola di Ortigia.
My heart dropped like a stone as Alex and I stood in front of the derelict hotel in disappointment, hopes of memories revived suddenly crushed. But not for long. Across the quiet street, a voice called out, asking in Italian if we're looking for accommodation.
We both crossed the road to meet this young man. I explained that yes, we as a married couple is looking for a room and we are disappointed in the closure of Hotel Arete. He then beckoned us in and offered us a room with a double bed. We checked in for the week. Oh! Those wonderful days before those wretched Internet pre-booking requirements!
One feature which now stands tall in the heart of Siracuse is il Basilica Santuario Madonna Della Lacrima, a tall, grey fluted cone, meant to resemble a teardrop, reaching high towards the sky. Back in 1982, only what is now the crypt was completed, under a huge circle of flat and level platform forming the roof of the crypt, which within Mass and other services were held. But 24 years later, we both found ourselves gazing up this cone, and being a tourist attraction, the doors were open for free entry. What was once the huge, circular roof of the crypt is now the floor of the conical cathedral where all services take place, to commemorate a ceramic figurine of Our Lady which is fixed a little above the altar.
|Church of the Tears, Siracusa.|
The story goes that an ordinary family living in Siracusa was the owner of a ceramic figurine of the Virgin Mary, this piece if I remember, being somewhere between ten to twelve inches in height, 25-30 cm. It consisted of just the head and upper body, and it was fixed to a wall in the house. Although gotten in 1953, in 1957 the statuette began to shed tears. After a thorough examination by a bishop, the Church declared this to be a genuine miracle, and it was donated to Siracusa for public veneration.
Alex and I stood inside the basilica, the apex of the cone making a stunning view as it pointed heavenwards. Also within the church, there was another, more lifelike statue of the Virgin Mary. Whilst Alex wandered off to explore other parts of the church, I stood at a position directly in front of the lifesize statue. It looked directly at me, and all of a sudden, I felt a chill pass through my spine. Although it meant to appear holy and at the same time motherly, I couldn't help but feel a sudden unease as the figure stared straight at me, like some sort of evil.
I moved off, well out of its way, and rejoined Alex as we made our way downstairs into the crypt below. I remembered it as being exactly as it was when I first walked in, except that this time the whole subterranean chamber looked tired as if not used for some time.
It all about Mary, isn't it? This young Jewish woman, narrated by Luke, who was visited by an angel with the announcement that a boy was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit without a human father, and she will give birth to one who will be Christ the Lord. After the birth of Jesus, Mary and her husband Joseph went on to have other children who grew up eventually to be elders of the early church. It was while singing in the presence of Elizabeth she referred to God as her Saviour, Luke 1:46. That means she sees herself as a sinner and in need of a Saviour.
The Virgin Mary of the Catholic Church is a different entity altogether! Through the Immaculate Conception had taken place in her mother, St Anne, the Catholic Mary was born without any taint of sin. Not only is this unbiblical but such a church doctrine deifies her to "Mother of God" and a suitable mediatrix between sinful mankind and her biological son Jesus Christ. This, in a way, has exalted the female above the male, making her the direct link between sinful man and God, and one to be prayed to, adored and worshipped.
|The ceramic statuette of the Virgin.|
|Detail of the tears miraculously shed from the statuette.|
History seems to endorse the supernatural appearances of Mary at certain locations. One example was at the French town of Lourdes, and a church was built at the precise site. The Lady of Fatima, Portugal, was said to be witnessed by up to 70,000 people, and a sanctuary in honour of her appearance now stands at the site. The Lady of Zeitoun in Egypt was also seen by hundreds of thousands. And there are many more Marian apparitions which have taken place throughout history.
One Catholic priest had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who instructed him to "Slay all the Babylonian hordes." This priest was none other than Ignatius Loyola, the 16th Century founder of the Jesuits. At first, Loyola thought that Mary was referring to the Muslims. He soon found out though that she was referring to the Protestant Reformers, who believed that salvation comes as a free gift to everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, without the need of any works to earn it. In other words, the vision ordered the slaughter of men, women and children who relied on God's grace alone to be saved.
Oh, such a need of a mother-goddess, the source of tender compassion and one who can successfully intercede with an irate God who needs to be continually pacified from the endless stream of transgressions thrown at Him from a sinful world. Perhaps all this comes from the perception of our human fathers. Like the time when I did something naughty as a small boy, and Mum used to say:
Just wait until Papa finds out!
That means that the father has always been the one to administer corporal punishment. To be led to the garden shed was always between father and son rather than the mother, the one parent the smarting boy would run to for soothing compassion after Dad had finished with him. Indeed, if the boy's misdemeanour was to anger Papa, then it's usually Mum who pleads her husband to withdraw the punishment or even to calm his rising temper.
Even with this very occasion mentioned in the Bible is a strong indication that this paternal discipline is as old as the hills. For example, the sparing of the rod by a father indicating a lack of love for his children appears in Proverbs 13:24, which is during the reign of King Solomon.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that there is a crying demand in the human heart for a queen of heaven to intercede on their behalf. I recall once, at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, watching a couple of young men praying to an image of the Virgin erected within one of the side aisles. When one of them turned and saw me watching in apparent astonishment, they then beat a quick retreat.
With this exaltation of the female above the male, stretching from the dawn of time, it comes to no surprise that such a blasphemous movie is about to enter the Big Screen. With the name Habit, it features an actress, Paris Jackson the daughter of deceased singer Michael Jackson, playing the role of a female Jesus Christ. Indeed, if for the last 1,600 years the Virgin Mary had acted as mediatrix, or intercessor between sinful man and God, so the tempo beats on. From intercessor - to God himself, the Second Person of the Trinity, the female has reached the pinnacle of divinity, even if it's merely for entertainment, at least for now.
It as if the Edenic Curse has turned full circle. Ever since it was Eve who was tempted rather than Adam, I can't help but see the rise of women to prominence, especially to the point of reverence. Am I against feminism? That's quite a point! I once watched a documentary on TV about what was once a happy and thriving marriage between this ordinary husband-and-wife couple. He was the breadwinner. She stayed up home to bring up their children. Now that their kids have grown up and flown the nest, the couple was on the verge of a divorce. By a thorough investigation made for public viewing, the underlying cause of the looming separation was that recently she had been attending college and has gotten herself a degree, with which she would go and pursue a career.
Indeed, such a quest for independence at first looks commendable and solve the problem of latter-years boredom. But as sidespin to this is the rapid rise of abortions. Here in the UK, the number of elective abortions has reached an annual total of 200,000 unborn deaths. That is around 570 abortions carried out every working day. And all this for career or social convenience and in some cases, eugenics. Abortion can now be justified if the baby has a cleft palate or lip, a club foot, has Down's Syndrome or has Spinal Bifida.
Another consequence of feminism seems to be domestic violence. According to the BBC through the information gotten from 43 police forces across the UK, in 2019 up to 173 people were killed by their partners as domestic abuse, the majority of these deaths were female victims. That is one death in just over two days. The rate of non-fatal violence in the home must be much higher.
With divorce made much easier and the honour bestowed on marriage now non-existent, I ask, what's the heck is going on? Perhaps I can look upon myself as an example of the male psyche. There has always been a level of personal satisfaction in being the breadwinner, whether I was single or married. I do recall our courting days when my wife-to-be suggested attending college and perhaps take on an office job. Immediately I felt threatened and quashed the idea!
|Trailer image of the blasphemous Hollywood movie Habit.|
Perhaps you as a reader is now considering me as a vile sexist and male chauvinist. If you're female, perhaps you click off this page and never read my blogs again. But before you do, please consider this: The biggest killer of all men here in the UK is suicide. And according to hearsay, these victims seem to be mainly from a non-academic background, and with little education, such a victim sees himself as a failure (whether that's really true or not) who will never see himself as a successful breadwinner raising up a family. (And I also accept that financial hardship can also be the cause of suicide.) As an example, in 2018 there were 4,903 male suicides in comparison with 1,604 female deaths. According to my own experience, it does look as if marrying and raising a family is the ultimate aim of the masculine psyche.
Having faith in Jesus Christ will go a long way to finding life's fulfilment. God has always expressed himself in the masculine gender, and Jesus Christ was born male, not female. And the day will come when all humans - both male and female - will confess Jesus Christ as Lord (not Lady) to the glory of God the Father (and not Mother). A God who will give eternal life to everyone who believes in the risen Son, Jesus Christ for salvation, regardless of whether the Christian believer is a man or a woman.
A female Jesus? On yer bike!