When the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady (Notre Dame) in Paris caught fire earlier this week, the world was mesmerized by the apparent destruction of such an historical and holy edifice—one of the most widely recognized and frequently visited structures in the world.
Although the soaring Gothic cathedral is well known, until recent events relatively few people knew that it has been home to the holy relic of the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ during his Passion. The destructive fire sharpened the world’s focus on the cathedral, Paris, and the Catholic Church at the beginning of the holiest week of the year and, in God’s own providential way, made more widely known the existence of this singular relic.
It has also aroused skepticism and questions. How did one of the central relics of the Passion end up in the capital of France? How do we know this relic is authentic? Isn’t it more likely some pious myth?
The story of the arrival of the crown in Paris is a dramatic tale of the sacking of a majestic city, a bankrupt empire, and a saintly monarch desirous of manifesting leadership of Christendom in medieval Europe.
Three of the four Gospel narratives record that Jesus, during his Passion, was crowned with thorns by Roman soldiers (Mark 15:17, Matt 27:29, John 19:2, 5). However, documentary evidence for the crown’s whereabouts after the Crucifixion are scarce until the fifth century, when the Gallo-Roman bishop St. Paulinus of Nola (354-431) referenced the relics of the crown and the cross in his writings. A century later, the Roman senator and later monk Cassiodorus (c. 490-585) mentioned the relic of the crown of thorns in his commentary on Psalm 86.
Another sixth-century reference is found in the travel diary of the anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza, a Christian from Italy who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, who wrote, “There is in that church [the basilica Church of Hagia Zion] also the crown of thorns with which the Lord was crowned.” From the sixth to the tenth centuries, there are reports of the distribution of thorns from the crown to various persons including St. Germanus (c. 469-576), the bishop of Paris; Charlemagne (742-814), king of the Franks and holy roman emperor; and the Anglo-Saxon king Æthelstan (894-939). It is believed that sometime in the mid-eleventh century the crown was transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople, where it remained for nearly two centuries.
In the thirteenth century, Robert de Clari (1170-1216), a French warrior who participated in the Fourth Crusade (1201-1205), provided a description of his Crusade activities. He describes in his chronicle the multitude of precious objects and sacred relics contained within the majestic city of Constantinople:
Within this chapel were found… two pieces of the true cross… two nails that were driven through the midst of his hands and through the midst of his feet. And there, too, was found the blessed crown wherewith he was crowned, which was wrought of sea rushes, sharp as dagger blades.”
The Fourth Crusade, in 1204, resulted in the sack of Constantinople, which Pope Innocent III (r.1198-1216) condemned, and the establishment of a Latin Empire (called “this new France” by Pope Honorius III and colloquially known as “Romania”) that lasted until 1261. The Latin Empire faced significant challenges in its short existence, including the presence of exiled Byzantines, who wanted their imperial capital back, and a lack of western military manpower. Many westerners left the Holy Land and settled in Latin-controlled Constantinople, which ultimately weakened Christian-controlled territory in the Latin East (Acre, one of the last major Christian cities in the Holy Land, fell to a Muslim army in 1291).
The last Latin emperor to rule in Constantinople was Baldwin II (r. 1228–1273), who was also the only Latin emperor born in the city. Faced with significant financial difficulties, Baldwin embarked on a tour of western Europe in a recruitment campaign for men and money. While in France, Baldwin received word that his barons had borrowed money from the Venetians and used the crown of thorns as collateral. He begged King St. Louis IX(1214–1270) to help him repay the loan to prevent the transfer of the precious relic to Venice. In return, Baldwin promised to gift the crown of thorns to Louis.
The saintly monarch envisioned France as a new Holy Land, and what better way to manifest that vision than with possession of the relics of the Lord’s Passion. The king earnestly believed that the offer from Baldwin was providential and agreed to provide the funds to the young emperor. King Louis sent two Dominicans (Jacques and André), one of whom had spent time in Constantinople and could verify the authenticity of the relic, with a royal letter to the imperial city. The royal messengers arrived on June 17, 1238, one day before the loan’s due date. The Venetians, disappointed that the prized relic would not permanently reside in their city, honored the king’s payment with the condition that Louis allow the crown to travel to Venice for a period of veneration by the inhabitants of the republic. Louis agreed to the request, and, in 1239, the crown was transported across the sea to Venice, where it was received with much adulation.
That same year, the relic began the overland journey to France. Miraculous occurrences were reported during its journey to Louis’s kingdom, including weather phenomena wherein no rain fell when the relic was transported by day but torrential rains when it was safely inside at night. The king planned to accompany the crown into Paris (along with his mother, brothers, several bishops, barons and knights), meeting it ninety miles away at the town of Villeneuve-l’Archevêque.
From there, the king and his entourage began a penitential procession to Sens, which welcomed the relic with great fanfare. Clerics brought out the city’s collection of saint relics to welcome the crown amid the ringing of church bells and the sound of organs. The relic’s journey of continued via the Yonne River from Sens to Vincennes over several days. As they neared Paris, Louis and his brother Robert carried the crown of thorns into the city barefoot, each wearing a single tunic. Once inside the city, the king took the crown to Notre Dame Cathedral for a brief period before its arrival at the royal palace, where it was placed in the Chapel of St. Nicholas.
Recognizing that such a holy relic should not remain in a small palace chapel, King St. Louis IX ordered the construction of a special chapel on the Île de la Cité, near Notre Dame. The Gothic style chapel, known as Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel), containing fifteen exquisite stained glass windows that depict 1,113 scenes from the Bible, was consecrated on April 26, 1248.
The crown of thorns remained in Sainte-Chapelle for over 500 years until the French Revolution, which saw the crown removed to the National Library for several years until the archbishop of Paris received it back with the signing of the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII. Subsequently, the crown was placed in Notre Dame. Encased in a jeweled rock crystal reliquary and containing only a circlet of rushes and no thorns, the relic was displayed on First Fridays of the month and Fridays during Lent, including Good Friday when the faithful were allowed to venerate it.
Although the fire destroyed the spire and wooden roof of the almost 900-year-old cathedral, a courageous priest, Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, rescued the crown, along with other holy relics and the Blessed Sacrament, from the blaze. Let us hope and pray that the renewed interest and knowledge of Notre Dame Cathedral and the crown of thorns caused by the great fire of 2019 might bring a resurgence of faith to France—the Eldest Daughter of the Church—and the whole world.
by Steve Weidenkkopf in catholic.com
The route known as the Camino de Santiago is neither a road nor a highway. It’s a walkway trod by travelers of all kinds for more than 2,000 years. Christians have traveled it for nearly 1,300 years.
Much of the route described in a 900-year old guidebook is still in use today. Some of it wends its way over the remains of pavement laid down by the Romans two millennia ago. It’s a route that writer James Michener—no stranger to world travel—calls “the finest journey in Spain, and one of two or three in the world.” He did it three times and mentions passing “through landscapes of exquisite beauty.” The European Union has designated it a European Heritage Route.
Christians are attracted to this remote corner of Europe because of a legend that Santiago de Compostela is the burial place of the apostle James the Greater. As such, it ranks along with Rome and Jerusalem as one of Christendom’s great pilgrim destinations.
The Camino de Santiago has its origins in pre-Christian times when people of the Celtic/Iberian tribes made their way from the interior to land’s end on the Atlantic coast of Galicia. For them, watching the sun set over the endless waters was a spiritual experience. As part of their conquest of Europe, the Romans occupied Iberia by 200 B.C. They built infrastructure, including a road from Bordeaux in modern France to Astorga in northwest Spain, to mine the area’s gold and silver. Some of the original road remains on today’s Camino.
When the apostles spread out across the known world to preach the Christian gospel, tradition has it that James the Greater came to Galicia. On returning to Palestine he was beheaded by Herod, becoming the first apostolic martyr. A legend that has persisted for 2,000 years claims that his followers took his body back to Galicia, where it was buried inland.
By the 12th and 13th centuries, half a million pilgrims made their way to and across northern Spain and back each year. Local kings and clergy built hospitals, hostels, roads and bridges to accommodate them. The Knights Templar patrolled the Camino, providing protection, places of hospitality, healing and worship, as well as a banking system that became one source of their fabled wealth.
Among the historical figures who made the pilgrimage to Santiago are Charlemagne, Roldan, Francis of Assisi, Dante Alighieri and Rodrigo Diaz (El Cid, Spain’s great epic hero). In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer tells us that the Wife of Bath had been to Santiago. Not all were enamored of it, however. In the 1500s, Sir Francis Drake, who did more than his share of harassing the imperial Spanish, referred to Santiago as “that center of pernicious superstition.”
A combination of the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment and European wars gradually suppressed the Camino. In the 17th century Louis XIV of France forbade his subjects from going to Santiago in order to stop trade with Spain. The Camino fell into disfavor but was never abandoned.
Now, after centuries of slumber, the Camino is alive with upward of 100,000 pilgrims—and growing—yearly.
Once again – too often it seems – a massacre opened the news and grabbed headlines worldwide. The attack of a fanatic on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left almost 50 killed and many wounded. It was a mad rampage carefully planned and broadcast live on social media for the world to see and discuss.
The fuel of these kind of acts is our attention and the perpetuation of it in time by the outrage for terrorism of any kind, poured by us on social media. Our comments and often polarized remarks prolongue the effect the terrorist had in mind. So, I for one am going to shut it down and extinguish the flame of hatred and bigotry this piece of provocation intended to stir. It won’t feed it with my energy.
The only reason why I see myself compelled to make a statement is simply because – as it has happened in the relative recent past – the name of the Templar Order was used to justify the misadjustment of individuals and the criminal way they decided to adjust reality to their personal illusory self constructed hell. In a document left behind as a sort of “Manifest”, giving the illusion that something deeper than a human free willing sense of pathological narcissism and god-like power over life and death was behind the killing, the attacker says: (quote) “[Before the massacre] I did contact the reborn Knights Templar for a blessing in support of the attack, which was given.”
To this I have 3 short statements that I plea should not even be discussed further:
1 – The Templars do not need to be “reborn”
2 – The Order does not support terrorism in any shape or form, from any group or side, even given the obvious historical anachronism of the quoted line
3 – This is NOT the face of a Templar – It’s the face of human stupidity on steroids
Luis de Matos, Eques a Flamula Veritatis
Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jersusalem Universal
The Mysterious Stories of Castle Ponferrada: Knights Templar, the Camino de Santiago and the lost Sword of Jacques de Molay
Every pilgrim who is traveling along the French route of the Camino de Santiago, going to Santiago de Compostela, will pass through the Ponferrada in the Spanish section. Most of them have no idea that centuries ago along the same route passed the legendary Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Templar Order.
Did they travel in their famous armors? I don’t think so. It is more likely that they wore comfortable clothes, similarly to other pilgrims of their times. Just imagine, the famous Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templar Order, traveling from France to Santiago de Compostela, located in the northwestern part of Spain. The journey was long and perhaps took a few weeks depending on the physical condition of the pilgrim. However, at the end of the route was waiting the majestic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The primary reason to make this pilgrimage was, and still is, to offer a prayer to the Apostle James the Elder.
The Story of the Monumental Castle
Ponferrada is known due to Castillo de Los Templarios, the Castle of the Templars which is the impressive size of 16000 square meters. Its appearance brings to mind legendary stories about the Spanish knights. A visit to the castle might inspire one to learn about the remarkable Spanish medieval history but also can allow you to travel back through time to a long lost era.
The site was known as a valuable place of defense from at least the Roman period. For centuries this land was covered with gorgeous vineyards and a heartwarming landscape. The castle was built in 1178 AD by Ferdinand II of Leon to protect the pilgrims of Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James).The property belonged to the Knights of the Templar Order. It was confiscated in 1311 when the order faced the cruelest drama among all of the Christian Knight orders. In 1340 it became the property of the Count of Lemos. 146 years later, the King of Spain incorporated the monumental Castle of Ponferrada into the crown.
Although now some defense elements of the construction have been removed, the castle still retains its characteristic style. Currently, the castle is in the process of ongoing restoration. It hosts the Templar’s Library and the Ponferrada Investigation and Study Center. Although many secrets of this place have been told, there are dozens of stories related to the pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago still await revelation. One of the known tales is related to the famous Jacques de Molay, a Grand Master of the Templar Order.
In The Shadow of Camino de Santiago
As mentioned, the existence of the Templar Order and the story of Camino de Santiago were intertwined in medieval times. ”Much of the route described in a 900-year old guidebook is still in use today. Some of it wends its way over the remains of pavement laid down by the Romans two millennia ago. It’s a route that writer James Michener—no stranger to world travel—calls “the finest journey in Spain, and one of two or three in the world.” He did it three times and mentioned passing “through landscapes of exquisite beauty.” The European Union has designated it a European Heritage Route. Christians are attracted to this remote corner of Europe because of a legend that Santiago de Compostela is the burial place of the apostle James the Greater. As such, it ranks along with Rome and Jerusalem as one of Christendom’s great pilgrim destinations. The Camino de Santiago has its origins in pre-Christian times when people of the Celtic/Iberian tribes made their way from the interior to land’s end on the Atlantic coast of Galicia. For them, watching the sun set over the endless waters was a spiritual experience. As part of their conquest of Europe, the Romans occupied Iberia by 200 BC. They built infrastructure, including a road from Bordeaux in modern France to Astorga in northwest Spain, to mine the area’s gold and silver. Some of the original road remains on today’s Camino.”
The impressive cultural heritage of the route became a puzzle that created one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in the history of the world. This is where thousands upon thousands of people since early medieval times were traveling hoping for God’s mercy or for many different reasons. Some of the pilgrims traveled there due to the political aspects. In the case of Jacques de Molay, the pilgrimage was caused by the mixture of political and religious reasons. As he was passing through the Camino, he visited the fortresses that belonged to his Order.
The story says that when Jacques de Molay was leaving the Ponferrada Castle and going to the sanctuary, he decided to leave in the chapel his sword as a votive relic.
The Mysterious Missing Sword
The sword of Jacques de Molay is considered a legend. Although from time to time someone starts to repeat the old legend, there are no clues as to what happened to this artifact. If the story about the remarkable Templar relic is real, what happened to this object? The answer to this is unknown. According to some stories told by the locals, it existed until Franco’s times, but it seems to be unlikely. The times of Franco reduced the number of priceless artifacts in Spain, but perhaps not in this case. The explanations that are much more convincing say that the sword was lost in the medieval period, used during fighting or taken by the cocky local ruler who wanted to look more glamorous wearing the sword of the famous de Molay. It is also possible that the sword is lying somewhere hidden under stones or earth, waiting for the glorious moment when it will be rediscovered.
By Natalia Klimczak in ancient-originas.net
I have a power in my soul which is ever receptive to God. I am as certain [of that] as that I am a man, that nothing is so close to me as God. God is closer to me than I am to myself: my being depends on God’s being near me and present to me. — Meister Eckhart (circa 1260-1328)
The scenario is bleak: Consumerism and materialism dominate all aspects of social life. Older people look with alarm at the crumbling of civic and religious institutions. Young people view the future with a sense of foreboding. Politicians appear self-interested, religious leaders hypocritical, business people ever more corrupt. Violence is escalating at home and abroad, with no ready solution in sight. Alienation and disorientation are pervasive.
Whatever similarities we may find in our contemporary predicament, the society I’m describing is 14th-century Germany. As in 21st-century America, many people of the time, feeling battered by the world around them, sought spiritual wisdom and a more profound connection to the divine. In the early 1300s, this meant that a large number of practicing Christians, laypeople and clerics alike, were searching for a more direct and satisfying experience of God’s presence than what they found in familiar institutional practices.
The potential chaos embodied in these grassroots, subjective movements alarmed some Church leaders. From his seat in Avignon, Pope John XXII, while mostly concerned with matters of state, sought to rein in both the “radical” Franciscans, who preached the importance of apostolic poverty, and the women known as beguines, who formed what we would today call intentional religious communities — groups of spiritually likeminded laypeople, rather than members of a formal religious order, who lived and prayed together.
In the midst of this tumult, many Christian seekers in the Rhineland of what is today western Germany found life-altering wisdom in the preaching of a Dominican friar, Eckhart von Hochheim, better known as Meister (“Master”) Eckhart. An acclaimed scholar trained at the University of Paris, Meister Eckhart sought to bring the fruits of his many years of theological and philosophical study and contemplation to lay audiences — an unusual aspiration among priest-scholars, who typically considered such matters beyond the comprehension of average people.
Even more revolutionary was Eckhart’s message. Unlike most preachers of the day, who focused on sin and eternal punishment, he described a process he called “the divine birth,” in which true believers could experience God directly within them. The key lay in letting go of all worldly things, all desires and preconceptions — even one’s image of God himself: “The more completely you are able to draw in your powers to a unity and forget all those things and their images which you have absorbed, and the further you can get from creatures and their images, the nearer you are to this [divine birth] and the readier to receive it.”
Then, he said — “in the midst of silence” — God would come within the soul.
Meister Eckhart’s way to “know” God directly was shaped by two central insights, the products of many years of study and contemplation. The first was that the seeker must “unknow” everything he or she thinks about God. Human language and images are essentially metaphorical, comparing things to one another. But God is completely other. Obviously he is not an old man with a flowing white beard (or even a “he”), but he is also not a being in the sense that we normally mean. It is more accurate, according to Eckhart, to say that God is Being itself, since all existence derives from him. “We should learn not to give God any name . . . for God is above names and ineffable.” In fact, Eckhart warns, “if you think of anything he might be, he is not that.” This deconstruction of images of God, in which we come closer to knowing the ineffable divine by negative attributions — God does not exist in time or space, for instance — than by positive attributions, is known as negative theology, a tradition dating back to St. Augustine.
“We are the cause of all our hindrances. Guard yourself against yourself, then you will have guarded well.” — Meister Eckhart
God’s “unknowability” in word and image was a hard concession for a professional scholar who had invested himself in coming to know God through a rigorous probing of Scripture and Catholic tradition. But the more that Eckhart had tried to approach God rationally, the more frustrated he had become. Instead he came upon a second key insight: One could “know” God through direct experience. Later scholars would call such an approach “mystical,” but a more accurate and less loaded term for what Eckhart meant would be “intuitive”: Rather than trying to know God from the outside, through our senses and intellect, we should try to know him from the inside, from that divine presence already within each of us.
Eckhart called this presence “the divine spark.” He preached that, through a contemplative process of self-emptying, or “letting-go-ness,” the seeker will directly encounter the God within. Only with the death of the old and false self, in theological terms, could the new and true self be born.
The concept traces to St. Paul, who directed Christians to “put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” In Eckhart’s interpretation, the resulting “divine birth” represented no mere metaphor but a direct encounter of the individual soul with the divine. The best news was that God was eager to fully embrace the seeker: “You need not seek him here or there,” he wrote. “He is no further than the door of your heart; there he stands patiently awaiting whoever is ready to open up and let him in. No need to call him from afar: He can hardly wait for you to open up. He longs for you a thousand times more than you long for him.”
Eckhart’s message both excited and unnerved the Christians of his day. Although he never denigrated the external forms of piety around him — he was an active priest — his focus on the internal, on contemplation, was highly unusual, even unsettling to many lay listeners. The Church they knew preached that each person’s salvation depended on the performance of good works and acts of contrition, yet these were absent from Eckhart’s teaching. The Church they knew revolved around the veneration of saints and the celebration of sacraments, yet these played no apparent role in the internal self-transcendence Eckhart described. The Church they knew esteemed monks, nuns and other contemplatives as closer to God than the layperson, yet Eckhart preached that direct experience of God was accessible to any true seeker, regardless of social or religious status.
It is a testament to the truly “catholic” nature of medieval Christianity that what Eckhart called “a wayless way” to divine union — and subsequent commentators would call apophatic or imageless mysticism — coexisted peacefully with Eucharistic devotions, pilgrimages and penitential self-flagellation. Not until late in his life did Eckhart become caught up in an inquisitorial procedure, based largely on local politics, that culminated in several of his statements being condemned in a papal bull as “evil-sounding.” After eliminating these more controversial statements, his disciples Johannes Tauler and Blessed Heinrich Suso continued to attract followers after the master’s death in the late 1320s. Still, after several decades the master himself faded into obscurity.
Fast forward seven centuries and the medieval Dominican friar has emerged as something of a modern spiritual celebrity. Millions of Roman Catholics and other Christians now claim Meister Eckhart as one of their own, not to mention many Zen Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Advaita Vedanta Hindus, Jewish Cabalists and a variety of other seekers who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” In the United States, interest in Eckhart owes much to the popularity of his namesake, Eckhart (born Ulrich) Tolle, a spiritual teacher and author whose beliefs weave together the medieval master’s teachings with an eclectic blend of contemporary Eastern and New Age concepts. Thanks in part to the massively influential endorsement of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Oprah’s Book Club, the modern Eckhart’s books have together been translated into more than 30 languages and sold some 10 million copies worldwide.
What is it that all these people see in the words of this sage from a distant era? The most common denominator appears to be an attraction to Eckhart’s revolutionary method of direct access to God (or, for some, to ultimate reality) — a profoundly subjective approach that is at once intuitive and pragmatic, philosophical yet non-rational, and above all, universally accessible. Many modern Christian authors, such as the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr — who calls Eckhart a “mystic’s mystic” — view his teachings as part of a long Christian contemplative tradition.
“Where is this hidden God? It is just as if a man were to hide himself and then to give himself away by clearing his throat. God has done the same. No man could ever have found God, but he has revealed his presence.” — Meister Eckhart
Despite that noble pedigree, Meister Eckhart was late to gain notice among modern Christians. His attractiveness to many contemporary Catholics ironically owes much to the post-Vatican II Church’s intensified engagement with other world religions. The Council’s 1965 declaration Nostra aetate (“In Our Time”) is best known for its repudiation of Catholicism’s long tradition of anti-Semitic statements, but it also represented the Church’s first genuine outreach to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-Christian religious traditions. By a vote of 2,221 to 88, the Council affirmed that the Holy Spirit can indeed be at work in these faiths as well, although obviously not to the same degree as in Christ’s ordained Church.
Already by that time, several Catholic thinkers had begun to explore affinities with non-Christian religions, particularly those of Asia. One of the most famous of those spiritual explorers, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, engaged extensively with Zen Buddhist teachings before discovering a strikingly similar approach already present within his own tradition: Meister Eckhart. Merton agreed with his frequent correspondent, the Japanese scholar D. T. Suzuki, who called Eckhart “the one Zen thinker of the West.”
At the same time that medieval Japanese monks were formulating the core of Zen teaching, Eckhart drew deeply on centuries of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and pagan thought to develop a remarkably similar approach to experience of the divine. “Letting-go-ness” lines up with the Zen “no-mind” (wuxin) as well as the Taoist “no action” (wu wei). Buddhists also appreciate the master’s distinction between the constructed individual identity of each person — what we would call the ego and Eckhart calls the “false self” — and the common nature we all share, the authentic self, which the master identified as divine.
Like his Zen counterparts, Eckhart was wary of God-talk, which he thought more often obscured than revealed the divine, and he aspired to a unity with the ultimate. He called this a “second” or “divine” birth, which is in many ways similar to the Buddhist notion of satori, orenlightenment. The resulting “Christ nature” that he described, echoing St. Paul in Galatians 2:20 (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”) looks remarkably similar to the internal “Buddha nature” of the Mahayana tradition.
At the same time, Eckhart’s embrace of meditation anticipates by seven centuries its popularity, along with the practice of “mindfulness,” among people of faith as well as among the ever-growing number of New Age seekers, agnostics and avowed atheists and others who list their religious affiliation as “none.”
Obviously many important differences remain between the Catholic Eckhart and other faith traditions, most notably on the role and identity of Christ. But the significant convergences have attracted increasing attention since the 1960s. In that sense, Eckhart, whom Merton called “my life-raft,” has brought the contemplative tradition to non-Catholics while deepening the modern Church’s ecumenical dialogue with other spiritual traditions.
Of course, not all Catholics would view the similarity of Eckhart’s teachings to Zen Buddhist practices as a recommendation. While more ecumenical Catholic writers such as the priests Aelred Graham, OSB, Robert E. Kennedy, S.J., and Richard Rohr celebrate the affinity, other more conservative thinkers, such as James Hitchcock, have remained cautious about a full embrace of the medieval friar (particularly given Eckhart’s sermons on the Godhead, in which detractors detect hints of pantheism).
Other modern advocates of lay contemplative practices — particularly Father Thomas Keating, OCSO, and the other founders of Centering Prayer — have bypassed Eckhart altogether in favor of other mystical writings such as The Cloud of Unknowing, a work composed in Middle English a few decades after Eckhart’s death. Yet during the past 20 years, the tide among Catholics has shifted definitively. The two previous popes have spoken favorably of the once-censured Meister Eckhart, leading the Dominicans to request a formal rehabilitation of their late brother in 1992, only to be informed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2010 that, in the words of Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., former master of the order, “there was really no need, since he had never been condemned by name, just some propositions which he was supposed to have held, and so we are perfectly free to say that he is a good and orthodox theologian.”
“Mysticism” also remains a suspicious concept for many modern people, given its popular association with visions and other supernatural experiences. But Meister Eckhart never claimed any special powers or called himself a mystic — or anything other than a Catholic preacher of the gospel. If he was a mystic, he was a profoundly anti-obscurant, egalitarian and down-to-earth one, rooted in centuries of Catholic contemplative tradition. In that sense he may be the perfect mystic for our own troubled times.
By Joel Harrington in magazine.nd.edu
Joel Harrington is Centennial Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and the author or editor of seven books on premodern Germany. His Dangerous Mystic: Meister Eckhart’s Path to the God Within was published in March 2018 by Penguin Press.
1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
We should start by going back to the Holy Scriptures. We should seek inspiration in the words that were written for our reconciliation. It’s true, many in the last twenty centuries have rendered these words empty as sea-shells washed away on a distant beach. No worth inside, no pearl or food. Shells that mirror the empty cavities of desolated hearts. But we owe it to ourselves to pick up the shell and bring it up to our ears. What was once empty, if we listen carefully and close our eyes, has the whole ocean inside: water, wind and foamy waves, millions of shiny scale fishes, an infinite number of living forms and signs of life and wonder, pearls and reefs, color, light and refraction. To the listening ear, no shell is empty, no heart is void. We should start then, by going back to the Scriptures and be sure to listen. And listen well.
Colossians 3:13-14Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Templar Unity is probably one of the most compelling objectives that has emerged in the Templar movement since the Internet and Social Media connected everyone in a single world-reaching network, regardless of country, obedience, templar branch or family. Everyone talks with everyone else and many start wondering why are there so many different groups, when so much is common, so much is shared.
A good friend and Brother, a few weeks ago, during one of our international events, gave me a quick peak of his mind: “What’s ‘ point? Uhu? What’s t’point?” he said in his eastern European broken English while he waved his hands in the air. “What’s point? Uhu?” Indeed, Naned, what is the point of it all? Why are we so many and so few? So noble, spiritual, altruist and utterly divided? So compassionate and merciful but driven apart by fraternal misunderstandings?
I want to write a little about Unity in Templar groups. The last few months have been full of hopeful news and unprecedented events that should transform the Order in the next couple of years. It’s important then to provide some context and help the readers of the Templar Globe understand the challenges ahead, given that many are members of one of the many branches of the Order.
Let me remind you that this article has a point of view: the one of Luis de Matos, myself, Member of the OSMTHU, Chancellor of the Magisterial Council of our branch, and dedicated knight for over 25 years.
THE TEMPLAR LEGACY
This recent movement towards Unity is restricted to one of the five major expressions of the modern Templar Order. I will address these as a whole, under the term “Templar Legacy”, that we can characterise as follows:
1 – Orders that are direct descendants of the Templar Order suspended in 1310
This is a very controversial subject, however there are very few with such a strong claim and impact in history as the Order of Christ in Portugal, whose Caravelas brought forth the Discoveries age in the 15th century. The Order of Christ was reformed and later extinguished in the 19th century and any attempt to follow their trail up to the 20th century is generally fruitless.
2 – Templar Strict Observance
The Order appeared in the 18th century (1753, Baron Von Hünd) and it can be traced as the first of the revivals, over 400 years after the original Templar Order had been suspended. As in all modern Templar Orders (except “1” above) there is no historical link to the original group. In 1778 the TSO became the inner Order of Freemasonry in Europe after the reform known as The Rectification of Wilhelmsbad, and all Templar ramifications within Freemasonry (including the Templar Degrees and Grand Encampments of the United States) derive from this line.
3 – Ordre du Temple de Fabré-Palaprat – Ordre Soverain et Militaire du Temple de Jerusalem (OSMTJ or OSMTH)
It has been one of the most successful revivals of the Templar Order, at one stage being recognized by Napoleon as one of the Orders of the Empire. In the early 19th century it sought the recognition of the Order of Christ (see “1” above), but with no success. It’s within this Order that the OSMTHU works. And it’s within it that Unity between the many groups is being discussed at the moment.
4 – Templar Orders founded after 1960
There is a large number of Orders that were founded within a movement that may be called of “New Age” or “Age of Aquarius”, mainly steaming from groups very close to the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosicross (AMORC) in France and the United States (Ordre Renouvé du Temple, Militia Crucifera Evangelica, Ordre des Veilleurs du Temple, Ordre Souverain du Temple Initiatique, etc.). They are very fragmented while not keeping any concept of provenance for the most part.
5 – Spontaneous Templar groups
There are many groups that use the Templar name, without any connection to any of the afore-mentioned groups or lines. They frequently appear from thin air, with a self-appointed leader, an imaginative concept of what “secrets” the Templars are supposed to have kept, varying from the inoffensive to the extreme (including some extreme right variations emerging in the last few years).
THE PALAPRAT FAMILY
The Fabré-Palaprat revival dates from early in the 19th century. As with all Templar related subjects, it’s very controversial and a long running discussions tends to debate weather or not the Larmenius Charter (please google it!) is a fake document and if Palaprat had legitimacy to claim the continuous line of Templar Grand Masters since the middle ages. We are not going to address that complex subject at the moment. For the OSMTHU, our position is simple, and we can summarize it in two statements:
1 – No, in 1800, apart from the Order of Christ, there were no surviving lines of Orders, heir to a Templar legacy, including Fabré-Palaprat’s. So, he had no claim to the Templar Order. Likewise, we are not the historical Templar Order.
2 – Yes, his Order is legitimate. He was well in his right to revive it. If you don’t think so, don’t bother me with your arguments, go and talk to Pierre de Coubertin and tell him the Olympic Games have to shut down because they are not legitimate. And the athletes used to compete naked, so it clearly is not the same!
UNITY? WERE WE APART?
Yes, the OSMTJ/OSMTH (the Palaprat revival) has been split for over 70 years. There are now four main branches of the Order. The original group survived until the 1940’s under the following leadership:
1804-1839 Bernard Fabre-Palaprat (Grand Master)
1839-1840 Sir William Smith (Grand Master)
1840-1850 Edward VII. d’Angleterre et George V. de Hanovre (Grand Master)
1850 Narcisse Valleray (Regent)
1866 A.G.M. Vernois (Regent)
1892 Joséphin Péladan (Regent)
1894 Secretariat International des Templiers
1934 Conseil de Regence – Joseph Vandenberg
1935 Theodore Covias (Regent)
1935-1945 Emile Isaac Vandenberg (Regent)
During the Second World War the communication between groups was difficult. International coordination had been sparse between 1850 and 1939, with Regents and Secretariats instead of a Master. By the start of the war, Priories were national entities, very much autonomous, working on their own with very little international reach. Fearing the impact of the war, Regent Vandenberg decided to place all important documents in the hands of a diplomat residing in Bruxelles, member of the Order, because Belgium was surely out of reach of German forces and an Embassy would be a safe place. As we now know, Bruxelles was not safe, so when the Diplomat had to return to his home country, he took all the documents to safety with him. That was Antonio de Sousa Fontes, from Porto, Portugal.
By the end of the war, Vandenberg requested the documents back to reorganize the ruling body, but he died in a car accident before his orders were followed through. That placed Antonio Sousa Fontes as custodian of the Regency documents, which he refused to surrender, appointing himself as Regent. That was not accepted by most of the Priories that had worked under Vandenberg in Europe and the Prior of Switzerland, Baron VonLupreccht, declared the autonomy of his Priory, in which he was followed by several others (including Scotland and England). This gave way to the Autonomous branch of the Order, also called IFA (international Federative Alliance) until 1999, today called OSMTHU.
That is our group. The one that has brought you The Templar Globe in the last 12 years.
Since the 1940’s the Priories have been working in autonomy, cooperating in many projects and subjects and growing as time went by. There were limited contacts with other groups (including Antonio Fontes OSMTH) because communication was sparse and mainly by letter. In the 1980’s the Priories created a Federation (IFA) to help improve cooperation and in the 1990’s the IFA helped the other branches reach their goals. Talks were held with the OSMTJ group and what would become the OSMTH (also sometimes called “the Atlantic Obedience”), in Tomar, Lisbon, Madrid, London, Salzburg, Turku among others. In Tomar the historic “Protocol of Tomar” was signed in 1996. Although Unity was not achieved at the time, the signers and their branches remained in close contact, cooperating in a non-official capacity for many years.
In 1999 the OSMTHU has elected Fr+ Fernando de Toro-Garland as Master, followed by Fr+ Antonio Paris. This is the list of Masters:
1945 – 1987 Autonomous Priories
1987 – 1999 International Federative Alliance
1999 Fernando de Toro-Garland (Master)
2004 Antonio Paris (Master)
2006 Luis de Matos (Interim Master)
2018 Antonio Paris (Master)
At this point, following the “Declaration of Arraiolos“, the OSMTHU is once again committed to unite the Templar world. The declaration was signed during the Pentecost of 2018, in the same exact day Fr+ Fernando Fontes passed away. We were not aware of that fact when we were preparing the Declaration. Being the head of the OSMTH – Regency, the death of Fr+ Fontes precipitated change (as we shall see ahead) and the desire of many groups that had split from his branch to start talking.
2) OSMTH – REGENCY
This is the second branch that originated from the Second World War situation. It is also referred to as OSMTH – Porto.
When Antonio Fontes decide to take up the Regency of the Order upon the death of Vandenberg, without significant opposition since VonLuprecht maintained the autonomy status that prevailed before the war (with other Priories), the Order de facto had two branches: the OSMTH Fontes with its seat at Porto and the Autonomous branch (that became the OSMTHU) with his main seat at Zurich.
The OSMTH – Regency proceeded, creating Priories and expanding the number of Templars that had no knowledge of the WW2 events. In 1960 Antonio Fontes died and his son, Fr+ Fernando Fontes, took over the branch of the Order and the titles of Regent and Grand Master. This created the problem that became the de facto running argument for the splits and crisis that overtook the OSMTH – Regency over the next 60 years: the fact that Fernando Fontes hadn’t been elected as Master and the way he run the Order as a personal asset inherited from his father. This was in stark contrast to how the Order was created or run up to that moment. In all fairness, all those accepted into the Order during that period seem to have had no problem with the setup when they requested to be knighted. It was only later, when their ambitions of status and degrees were eventually cut short by the Grand Master that complaints started to arise.
After the 60’s there was no connection between the OSMTH and the OSMTHU, having evolved in parallel without great awareness of each other’s work.
The Regency group had the following leaders:
1945-1960 Antonio Sousa Fontes (Regente)
1960-2018 Fernando Fontes (Regente e Grão Mestre)
2018 Susana Fontes (Regente) e Albino Neves (Grão Mestre)
By 1970 there was a growing opinion within the OSMTH that Fontes had to call elections. Some fringes wanted to replace him, but others just wanted to provide the legitimate act that would confirm his position not as an inheritance (that could be put into question), but as properly an elected Grand Master. Plans were put in place to hold the election in Tomar, but when the time came, Fernando Fontes refused to be subjected to an electoral procedure, saying that he was the Grand Master and no election could add anything to that fact. This would cause the first major split, that created the third large branch of the Order, as we will see.
Since the elections had been called and Fernando Fontes did not attend the meeting, a number of Priors decided to hold them anyway, creating the split that becomes the OSMTJ, based in Switzerland, led by Master Zdrowjewski. This is their line of Masters:
1970-1989 General Antoine Zdrowjewski
1989-1994 Georges Lamirand
1994-Today Dr. Nicolas Haimovici Hastier (Regent)
Currently the Order is headed by Fr+ Nicolas Haimovici Hastier (one of the signers of the “Protocol of Tomar”)
In the 90’s, history repeated itself. A large group of Priories, lead by the very serious and well organized American Priories, with a mostly military membership (that included the Secretary General of the Group, the then Col. Ronald Scott Mangun, later signer of the “Protocol of Tomar”), offered Fernando Fontes the opportunity to be elected as Grand Master in elections in which he would be the sole candidate. Initially he accepted, but as the time of the election came closer, he resisted the idea. During the meeting in Paris in 1995 the group became offended by the absence of the Grand Master to his own election and decide to declare autonomy. That’s when the new branch was formed.
4) OSMTH – (aka “Atlantic Obedience”)
Between 1995 and 1998 talks were held with the OSMTHU (AFI) and the OSMTJ. In 1998 the group was stable and took the step to elect its own Master, a former member of the OSMTHU as Prior of England.
1998 Sir Roy Redgrave (Master)
2005 James Carey (Master)
2009 Patrick Rea (Master)
2013 Robert Disney (Master)
2015 Patrick Rea (Master)
2018 [New Master] (Master)
These four branches of the original OSMTH of Fabré-Palaprat represent among them over 2/3 of all Palaprat related Priories in the world.
There are still many Priories and smaller organizations that work alone or in a close group that should be counted. A new Ordre du Temple claims to have re-established the Joanite Church of Palaprat, but the provenance is not verified, with many splits after a few short years of activity indicating leadership issues. Apart from the four main branches quoted, that show consistent work, many years of history and a clear provenance, there is still some work to be done with the fragmented branches that seem to appear and disappear every year with a short presence on the Internet followed by oblivion.
For the first time in over 70 years, the several groups have invited each other to visit and talk about “unity of mind and thought”. An international joint group with members of the largest groups is now being set up and will start talks in 2019. Even if Unity is still a step too far, convergence and cooperation seem to be on the horizon.
We tell everyone we are ecumenical. And we are. However we had the tendency of excluding other Templars. Most of us know members of all the branches, talk to them, have close friendships that have lasted for many years, but when we put our mantles on, we have been requested to turn our backs on them because they were “not templars” like us.
We are required to take care of the poor, the feeble and the needed, but we have been advised to neglect the brother and sister that identify as Templars because we are not on the same branch. That had to stop. The first steps have been taken. We expect to bring you interesting news in 2019!
During the Pentecost Celebration of 2018 of the Priory of Portugal of the OSMTHU. brothers from the OSMTH, Grand Prior of Portugal, Fr+ Antonio Andrade and his Chancellor Fr+ Fernando Castelo Branco, visit with Prior Fr+ Vinko Lisec from the OSMTHU. Prior Fr+ Luis de Matos and Master Antonio Paris were hosting.
Ceremony of OSMTH – Porto in Castelo de Vide, October 6, 2018; Three branches of the Order represented: OSMTH, OSMTHU, OSMTH – Regency (Porto)
Left to right: Fr+ António Andrade, Prior of Portugal of OSMTH (“Atlantic Obedience”); Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos of Priory of Portugal of OSMTHU; S+ Susana Sousa Fontes, Regent of the OSMTH – Porto; Nenad S. Davidovic, General Magistral Advisor in the Magnum Magisterium OSMTH Porto and the Great Prior of Serbia and of New Jerusalem
Ceremony of OSMTH – Porto in Castelo de Vide, October 6, 2018; Three branches of the Order represented: OSMTH, OSMTHU, OSMTH – Regency (Porto)
Ceremony of OSMTH – Regency Porto in Castelo de Vide, October 6, 2018
Left to Right: Unidentified, Fr+ Miguel da Fabiana, Priory of Portugal OSMTHU; Unidentified, Fr+ Luis de Matos, Prior and Chancellor of the OSMTHU Magisterial Council; S+ Susana Sousa Fontes, Regente OSMTH – Porto; Fr+ André Cardoso, Secretary General of OSMTH – Porto; F+ Luis Fonseca, Commander of Lisbon Chagas, OSMTHU; Prior of Toledo of OSMTH – Porto; Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Lagos, OSMTHU; S+ Blanca, Prior of Galicia, OSMTH – Porto; Fr+João Pedro Silva, OSMTHU; S+ Susana Ferreira, OSMTHU; Fr+ Ricardo Salum, Head of Feytorias, OSMTHU; Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos, OSMTHU.
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
OSMTHU delegation arrives in Torres Novas. Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Lagos and S+ Sandra Oliveira
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
OSMTHU delegation, left to right: Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Lagos; Fr+ Luis de Matos, Grand Prior of Portugal and Chancellor of the Magisterial Council; S+ Sandra Oliveira; S+ Paula Mateus, Preceptor of Porto; Fr+ Paulo Valente, Commander of Sintra; S+ Susana Ferreira; Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos; Fr+ João Pedro Silva; Fr+ Luis Fonseca, Commander of Lisboa – Chagas and Fr+ Ricardo Salum, Head of Feytorias
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
The delegation enjoying the day.
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
Two Priors of Portugal (Fr+ Antonio Andrade OSMTH and Fr+ Luis de Matos OSMTHU) greeting just before the opening of the ceremony.
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
Prior of Portugal OSMTH, under Master Fr+ Patrick Rea, Fr+ Antonio Andrade, opening the National Chapter in the Alcaidaria of the Templar Castle of Torres Novas. In attendance Fr+ André Cardoso, Secretary General of Master Albino Neves, and a large number of Knights and Dames of the OSMTH – Regency and Fr+ Luis de Matos, Chancellor of the Magisterial Council of the OSMTHU under Master Antonio Paris and his delegation of the Priory of Portugal.
A substantial part of the ceremony of adoubement is conducted privately, only accessible to members of the Order. The act of adoubement itself, however, is public. It becomes a commitment not only to the Order but also to the world. Having this in mind, it’s not easy to describe the complete ceremony as it is conducted in the priory of Portugal, since it strictly follows Tradition, starting just moments before sunset, leading to a night long vigil where the future Knights and Dames are led to contemplate their life and prepare to partake of a new quality, that is both physical and spiritual, that could change their lives.
It is preferable, therefore, that we let images and quotes fill the gaps of what is customary to make public and what is deemed as more suitable to keep reserved and personal.
“Once they have installed themselves in this holy house with their horses and their weapons, clean it”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Ex Occidente Lux
“Colors are light’s suffering and joy”, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Lux in Flamma
“Danger or victory depends on the disposition of heart”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
“This is, I say, a new kind of knighthood and one unknown to the ages gone by. It ceaselessly wages a twofold war both against flesh and blood and against a spiritual army of evil in the heavens.”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Spero in Fide
Post Tenebras Lux
“Go forth confidently”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
“If some perhaps find my work unsatisfactory or short of the mark, I shall be nonetheless content, since I have not failed to give you my best.”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
All photos were taken by members of the Order, including Novices, Squires, Knights and Dames. For a full credit list, please visit our Facebook Group.
The Order has the following new Knights and Dames: Catarina Silva, DTJ; Cristina Vargas, DTJ; Filipe Silva, KTJ; Inês Ferreira, DTJ; João Gonçalves, KTJ; Jorge Amador, KTJ; Jorge Cravosa, KTJ; Pedro Bernardo, KTJ; Vera Reis, DTJ. The Order also received new Novices and Squires.
After the Benedictio Militis and the Pentecost Mass, the Order joined the Idegeo [Association] of Professor Manuel J. Gandra‘s celebration of Pentecost in Arraiolos. The Portuguese traditional Império do Divino Espírito Santo, in preparation for the Third Age announced by Joachim of Fiore or the Fifth Empire (of the Holy Spirit) referred to by poet Fernando Pessoa and many others, is comprised of an Auto, with the Parade and Coronation of the Child King, followed by the Bodo do Império, a popular feast and meal shared between all the participants as the anticipation of an era of the universal fraternity of mankind. This is the second year that the Priory of Portugal supports and attends these celebrations as part of the annual calendar.
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