Archive for the ‘Book of Isaiah’ Tag

Crusader Christendom, Jerusalem & The Massacres of Muslims and Jews, 1095-1146.   Leave a comment

 

Popes, Princes and Pauperes:

When Pope Urban II summoned the chivalry of Christendom to the Crusade, he released in the masses hopes and hatreds which were to express themselves in ways quite alien to the aims of the papal policy. The pauperes, as they were called by the chroniclers, were not greatly interested in assisting the Christians of Byzantium, but they were passionately concerned to reach, capture and occupy Jerusalem. The city which was the holiest city in the world for Christians had been in the hands of Muslims for some four and a half centuries by 1095. Although the possibility of recapturing it seems to have played little part in Urban’s original plan, it was this prospect that intoxicated the masses of the poor. In their eyes, the Crusade was an armed and militant pilgrimage, the greatest and most sublime of all pilgrimages.

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For centuries a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre had been regarded as a singularly efficacious form of penance and during the eleventh century, such pilgrimages had been undertaken collectively: penitents tended to travel no longer singly or in small groups but in bands organised hierarchically under a leader. Sometimes, most notably in 1033 and 1064, mass pilgrimages had taken place, involving many thousands of people. In 1033 at least, the first to go had been the poor and amongst them had been some who went with the intention of staying in Jerusalem for the rest of their lives. In the Crusade, as well, many of the poor had no intention of ever returning to their homes: they meant to take Jerusalem from the infidel and, by settling in it, turn it into a Christian city. Everyone who took part in the Crusade wore a cross sewn onto their outer garment, the first badge worn by an army in post-Classical times and the first step towards modern military uniforms; but whereas for the Knights this cross was a symbol of Christian victory in a military expedition of limited duration, the poor thought rather of the commandment, Take up the Cross and Follow me! For them, the Crusade was a collective imitato Christi, a mass sacrifice which was to be rewarded by a mass apotheosis at Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem which obsessed their imagination was no mere earthly city but rather the symbol of religious hope. It had ever been so since the messianic hope of the Hebrews had first begun to take shape in the eighth century BC and as the prophet Isaiah had bidden them:

Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her… That ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory… Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river… then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dangled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

In the prophecies of the post-exilic period and in the apocalypses the messianic kingdom is imagined as centred on a future Jerusalem which has been rebuilt in great magnificence. These ancient Jewish mythologies all went to reinforce the great emotional significance which Jerusalem possessed for medieval Christians. When, a generation after the event, a monk composed the appeal which he imagined Urban to have made at Clermont, he made the Pope speak of the Holy City not simply as the place made forever illustrious by the Advent, Passion and Ascension of Christ, but also as the navel of the world, the land fruitful above all others, like another paradise of delights… the royal city placed in the centre of the world, now held captive, demanding help, yearning for liberation. Even for theologians, Jerusalem was a ‘figure’ of the heavenly city like unto a stone most precious, which, according to the Book of Revelation, was to replace it at the end of time. In the midst of simple folk, however, the idea of the earthly Jerusalem became confused with and transfused by that of the Heavenly Jerusalem, so that the Palestinian city seemed a miraculous realm, abounding both in spiritual and material blessings. When the masses of the poor set off on their long pilgrimage, the children cried out at every town and castle: Is that Jerusalem?

A ‘Vagabond’ Army:

A large part, if not the larger part, of the People’s Crusade, perished on its journey across Europe; but enough survived to survive in Syria and Palestine a corps of vagabonds, which is what the curious word ‘Tafur’ seems to have meant. Barefoot, shaggy, clad in ragged sackcloth, covered with sores and filth, living on roots and grass and also at times the roasted corpses of their enemies, the Tafurs were so ferocious a band that any country they passed through was utterly devastated. They wielded clubs weighted with lead, pointed sticks, knives, hatchets, shovels, hoes and catapults. When they rushed into battle they gnashed their teeth as though they wanted to eat their enemies alive as well as dead. Though the Muslims faced the crusading barons fearlessly, were terrified of the Tafurs, whom they called no Franks, but living devils. The Christian chroniclers themselves, clerics or knights whose main interest was in the acts of the princes, while admitting the effectiveness of the Tafurs in battle clearly regarded them with misgiving and embarrassment. Yet one vernacular epic written from the standpoint of the poor portrays the Tafurs as a Holy People and ‘worth far more than the knights’.

The Tafurs had a king of their own, le roi Tafur, a Norman knight who had discarded his horse, arms and armour in favour of sackcloth and a scythe. It was precisely because of their poverty that the Tafurs believed themselves destined to take the Holy City:

The poorest shall take it: this is a sign to show clearly that the Lord God does not care for presumptions and faithless men.

Yet the Tafurs were not averse to parading their booty captured from the infidel, which they claimed was a sign of divine favour. After a successful skirmish outside Antioch, the Provencal poor galloped amongst the tents to show their companions how their poverty was at an end. Some of them dressed in silken garments and praised God as the bestower of victory and of gifts. As King Tafur led the final assault on Jerusalem he was alleged to have cried:

Where are the poor folk who want property? Let them come with me!… For today with God’s help I shall win enough to load many a mule! 

Later, when the Turks carried their treasures around the walls of the captured city in an attempt to lure the Crusaders out into the open, the Tafur King was unable to hold back:

Are we in prison? They bring treasure and we dare not take it!… What do I care if I die, since I am doing what I want to do?

Calling on ‘St Lazarus’ of the parable of Dives and Lazarus, of whom the poor in the middle ages made their patron saint, he is said to have led his horde out of the city into catastrophe. In each city the Crusaders captured, the Tafurs looted everything they could lay hands on. They raped the Muslim women and carried out indiscriminate massacres. The official leaders of the Crusade had no authority over them at all. When the Emir of Antioch protested about the cannibalism of the Tafurs, the princes could only admit, all of us together cannot tame King Tafur. On the other hand, when we read the sources which tell the story from the standpoint of the poor we find the Tafur King being treated with humility and reverence by the princes and barons. We also find him urging on the hesitant barons to attack Jerusalem:

My lords, what are we doing? We are delaying overlong our assault on this city and this evil race. We are behaving like false pilgrims. If it rested with me and with the poor alone, the pagans would find us the worst neighbours they ever had!

The princes were so impressed with this that they asked him to lead the first attack; and when, covered with wounds, he was carried from the battlefield, they gathered anxiously around him. When, in the story edited for the poor, Godfrey de Bouillon became King of Jerusalem, the barons chose King Tafur as the highest one to perform the coronation. He did so by giving Godfrey a branch of thorns and Godfrey responded by swearing to hold Jerusalem as a fief from King Tafur and God alone. And when the barons hastened back to their domains, King Tafur pledged himself to stay in Jerusalem with his army of the poor, to defend its new king and his kingdom. In these mythological incidents, the beggar-king became the symbol of the immense, unreasoning hope which had carried the pauperes through unspeakable hardships to the Holy City.

The Attempted Annihilation of ‘the Race of Cain’:

The realisation of that hope demanded human sacrifice on a vast scale, not only in the self-immolation of the crusaders but also in the massacres of the ‘infidels’. Although the Pope and the princes intended a campaign with limited objectives, in reality, the Crusade constantly became what the common people wanted it to be: a war to exterminate the sons of whores, or the race of Cain, as King Tafur called the Muslims. It was not unknown for crusaders to seize all the peasants of a certain area and offer them the choice of being either immediately converted to Christianity or immediately killed, having achieved which, our Franks returned full of joy. The fall of Jerusalem was followed by a great massacre in which every Muslim man, woman and child was killed. Only the governor and his bodyguard managed to buy their lives and were escorted from the city. In and around the remains of the Temple…

the horses waded in blood up to their knees, nay up to the bridle. It was a just and wonderful judgement of God that the same place should receive the blood of those whose blasphemies it had so long carried up to God.

As for the Jews of Jerusalem, when they took refuge in their chief synagogue the building was set on fire and they were all burnt alive. Weeping with joy and singing songs of praise the crusaders marched in procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

O new day, new day and exultation, new and everlasting gladness… That day, famed through all centuries to come, turned all our sufferings and hardships into joy and exultation; that day, the confirmation of Christianity, the annihilation of paganism, the renewal of our faith! 

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A handful of the infidel still survived: they had taken refuge on the roof of the al-Aqsa Mosque.  Promised their lives by the celebrated crusader Tancred in exchange for a heavy ransom, and given his banner as a safe-conduct, they were beheaded by common soldiers who had scaled the walls during the negotiation. No man or woman escaped, except for those who threw themselves off the roof to their death.

Millenarian Monks and the Massacres of European Jewry:

Bearing these events in mind, it is not surprising that the first great massacre of European Jews also occurred during the First Crusade. The official crusading army, consisting of the barons and their retainers, had no part in this massacre, which was carried out entirely by the hordes who followed in the wake of the prophetae. As the Crusade came into being, one chronicler wrote that peace was established very firmly on all sides and the Jews were at once attacked in the towns where they lived. At the very beginning of the crusading agitation, Jewish communities in Rouen and other French towns were given the choice of between conversion and massacre. But it was the episcopal cities along the Rhine that the most violent attacks took place. Here, as along all the trade routes of Europe, Jewish merchants had been settled for centuries, and because of their economic usefulness, they had always enjoyed the special favour and protection of the archbishops. But by the end of the eleventh century in all these cities tension between the townspeople and their ecclesiastical lords was already giving rise to a general social turbulence.

At the beginning of May 1096, crusaders camping outside Speyer planned to attack the Jews in their synagogue on the Sabbath. They were foiled in carrying out this plan and were only able to kill a dozen Jews in the streets. The Bishop lodged the rest in his castle and had some of the murderers punished. At Worms, the Jews did not escape so ‘lightly’. Here too they turned for help to the Bishop and the well-to-do-burghers, but these were unable to protect them when men from the People’s Crusade arrived and led the townsfolk in an attack on the Jewish quarter. The synagogue was sacked, houses were looted and all their adult occupants who refused baptism were killed. As for the children, some were killed, others were taken away to be baptised and brought up by Christians. Some Jews had taken shelter in the Bishop’s castle and when that too was attacked the Bishop offered to baptise them and to save their lives, but the entire community preferred to commit suicide. In all, some eight hundred Jews are said to have perished at Worms.

At Mainz, home to the largest Jewish community in Germany, events took a similar course. The Jews were at first protected by the Archbishop who was also the chief lay lord in the area, together with the richer burghers. Despite their resistance, the Crusaders, supported by the poorer townsfolk,  forced the Jews to choose between baptism and death. The Archbishop and all his staff fled in fear of their own lives, and more than a thousand Jews perished, either at the hands of the crusaders or by suicide. From the Rhine cities, a band of crusaders moved on to Trier. There the Archbishop preached a sermon demanding that the Jews be spared; as a result, he himself had to flee from the church. Although some of the Jews accepted baptism, the vast majority perished. The crusaders then moved on to Metz, where they killed more Jews. In mid-June, they returned to Cologne where the Jewish community had gone into hiding in neighbouring villages; but they were discovered by the crusaders and massacred in their hundreds. Meanwhile, other bands of crusaders, making their way eastwards, had imposed baptism by force on the Jewish communities of Prague and Regensburg. In all the number of Jews who perished in May-June 1096 has been estimated at between four and eight thousand.

It was the beginning of a tragic tradition. When in 1146 the Second Crusade was being prepared by Louis VII and the French nobility, the populace of Normandy and Picardy killed Jews. Meanwhile, a renegade monk called Rudolph made his way from Hainaut to the Rhine, where he summoned the masses to join him in a People’s Crusade and to make a start by killing the Jews. As at the time of the First Crusade, the common people were being driven to desperation by famine. Like every successful propheta, Rudolph was believed to perform miracles and to be favoured with divine revelations; and hungry crowds flocked to him. Again, it was the episcopal cities of Cologne, Mainz, Worms, Speyer, together this time with Strasbourg and Wurzberg, which, with their bitter internal conflicts, proved the most fertile ground for anti-Jewish agitation. From them, anti-Semitism spread to many other towns in Germany and France. The Jews continued to turn for protection to the bishops and prosperous burghers, who continued to do what they could to help, but the pauperes continued to be undeterred. In many towns, the populace was on the verge of open insurrection so that it seemed that another overwhelming catastrophe was about to descend on the Jews. At that point, St Bernard intervened with the full weight of his prestige and insisted that the massacres must stop.

Even St Bernard, with all his extraordinary reputation as a holy man, was scarcely able to check the popular fury. When he confronted Rudolph at Mainz and, as an abbot, ordered him back to his monastery, the common people threatened to take up arms. Thereafter, the massacre of Jews was to remain a feature of popular crusades (as distinct from knightly ones), and it is clear enough why. Although the pauperes looted freely from the Jews they killed, as they did from Muslims in Syria and Palestine, booty was not their main object. It is a Hebrew Chronicle that records how during the Second Crusade the crusaders appealed to the Jews:

Come to us, so that we become one single people.

There seems to be no doubt that a Jew could always save both life and property by accepting baptism. On the other hand, it was common doctrine, however heretical, that whoever killed a Jew who refused baptism had all his sins forgiven him; and there were those who felt unworthy to start on a crusade at all until they had killed at least one. Some of the crusaders’ own comments have been preserved:

We have set out to march a long way to fight the enemies of God in the East and behold, before our very eyes are his worst foes, the Jews. They must be dealt with first.

You are the descendents of those who killed and hanged our God. Moreover, God himself said: “The day will yet dawn when my children will come and avenge my blood.” We are his children and it is our task to carry out his vengeance upon you, for you showed yourselves obstinate and blasphemous towards him… (God) has abandoned you and has turned his radiance upon us and has made us his own.

It is therefore evident that the mass movements of the pauperes attempted to turn the Crusades into an annihilation of both Muslims and Jews. Their prophetae, mostly renegade, itinerant monks, drew on their limited understanding of the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, which they interpreted literally, to preach intolerance and hatred of the infidel, be he Muslim or Jew. In their terms, the people of these faiths could therefore only be spared from divine retribution at the End of Days if they converted to Christianity. The popular crusaders saw themselves as instruments of that retribution as part of the restoration of  Jerusalem both in heaven and upon earth. The fact that most of these crusaders were drawn from the masses of the poor, and that anti-Semitism was a key element in their radicalism, is perhaps another warning from history which should continue to resonate in collective popular consciousness.

Source:

Norman Cohn (1970), The Pursuit of the Millenium. St Alban’s: Granada.    

‘Just give me five minutes’ peace!’ – The Anxiety Scale.   Leave a comment

HOLY SPIRIT - FOIX

Fruit of the Spirit:  Peace:  Isaiah 43 vv 1-7: An Interactive Study

’Just give me five minutes peace and quiet!’ This is probably the most frequent, everyday use of the word peace that you’ll hear in English-speaking homes and schools! Even in the religious context, the word is usually used in a collocation, a group of words, like  ’grace, mercy and peace..’, in a way in which faith, hope and love are not. On the international ’stage’, peace is seen as the absence of war or, to be more cynical, ’the period of cheating between battles’, rarely as ’the presence of justice’. Similarly,  in our day-to-day lives, a period of ’peace’ is the antidote to stress and anxiety, which is nearly always seen as a temporary respite from ongoing conflicts at home, school, work or in the local church and community. It’s a state we are given by someone else, either by our family or, if we are religious, by God. It’s a passive state, not an active one, not one which we create for ourselves.

So, where are you on the Anxiety Scale? Where would you put your life? In general? At present?

0-2 Very peaceful

English: An anxious person

English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3-4 Quite peaceful

5-6 Relatively peaceful; a little worried

6-7 Anxious

8-9 Very Anxious

10 Tearing your hair out!

What are your deepest  fears? Can you put a name to them for yourself and in a private conversation with God?

In the Book of Isaiah, chapters 40-55 are concerned with the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The message is a comforting one: God is about to do something new and the punishment of the past is over. They are about to experience a period of peace, or ’reconciliation’.

 

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading: Isaiah 43 vv 1-7:

But now, this is what the LORD says –

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

And when you pass through the rivers,

They will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

You will not be burned;

The flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;

I give Egypt for your ransom,

Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honoured in my sight,

And because I love you,

I will give men in exchange for you,

And people in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

I will bring your children from the east

And gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’

And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’

Bring my sons from afar

And my daughters from the ends of the earth –

Everyone who is called by my name,

Whom I created for my glory,

Whom I formed and made.”

Reflections:

Franklin D. Roosevelt after giving one of his ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt after giving one of his fireside chats. The predecessor to the Weekly Address. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When President Roosevelt came into office during the Great Depression of the 1930s, he told the American people ’we have nothing to fear but fear itself’. He went on to speak about how fear can paralyse and debilitate us, but that it could also energise us into action. In his first hundred days in office, he energised the American people through a series of reforms known collectively as ’the New Deal’. In the passage above, this is what God is offering the people of Israel and, by extension, ourselves: A New Deal, both in our private lives and our public relationships.

How do you deal with fear and anxiety? Flight or fight?

What does God promise us? If not freedom from adversity and persecution, then what?

So, what is Peace? The Hebrew ’Shalom’ in the Old Testament implies health and well-being, welfare and ’wholeness’ .  It is externally given, which is why the word was used as a traditional greeting – ’peace be with you’, or, to paraphrase, ’may the Lord grant you safety and security’. Of course, an obsession with this ’state’ is what can give rise to an extreme ’Zionism’, the belief that God has given a timeless guarantee of the right of the Jewish people to security above all other Peoples.

However, Isaiah is also looking forward to a more inclusive, universal  definition, reconciling all who are called by his name from every part of the known world. In the New Testament, the word becomes transformed and redefined as ’peace of mind, spirit and heart’, an internal condition, or ’inner peace’. This is Paul’s meaning in Galatians 5:22, where he lists it as one of the fruits of the spirit, a ’divine’ quality which becomes intrinsic in the believer through the action of the Holy Spirit.In all,  there are eight references to ’peace’ in Isaiah, all referring to the ’external’ idea;  the passage above refers to testing by fire and water and to God being with us in this testing, protecting and providing us with security. Written after Babylonian exile, it is a promise of reconciliation.

However, in  vv 3-4, there is a ’foreshadowing’ of what Jesus would do; we are as precious as Seba or Cush, the fertile areas of the Upper Nile, but Christ’s ransom will be paid once and for all. The Red Cross says they don’t pay ransoms on the basis that ’once you give in to kidnappers, they always come back for more’. ’Appeasement’ is the same. We might gently give in to our children when they ask for sweets or toys, though we know the eventual cost may be far higher. However, we rely on their ’gacefulness’ to respond by not continually demanding more. Dictators are not graceful, however, and view ’generosity’ as a sign of weakness, which is why people are rightly suspicious of supporters of ’peace

at any price’. They are never satisfied.  The Price paid by God on Calvary was so high that no more could be asked. However, Christians continued to die by all manner of fearful methods, so God doesn’t promise safety, security, freedom from persecution or suffering. In fact, tells disciples that they must be prepared to ’take up their cross’. But he does promise that his peace will be with us, through the Spirit.

So, how can we accept God’s Peace in our lives?

  • we can’t understand it, we just have to accept it – it passes all our understanding in this life;
  • we can’t equate it with any kind of worldly peace, though it is offered and will be given in/ to this world – but ’not as the world gives…’;
  • Isaiah chapters 52-56 make it clear that Justice and Peace are two sides of the same coin. Peace not the absence of conflict, but presence of justice. If we treat others justly, we are ourselves put right with God; but we cannot be ’at peace’ with God if we ’at war’ with others;
  • God will ’gather in’ all areas of Earth, none of which are excluded from God’s grace, which is universal and available to all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexuality (56 vv 3-8);
  • The ’whole created order,’ the entire universe, is reconciled by the cross; the Greek word here is ’oikoumene’ which gives us our words for ’economy’ and ’ecology’. The gospel is also about ecological balance, about ’Green Peace’. We are called to respect God’s purpose for his creation, since we are only tenants.

How can your relationship with God produce a spirit of peace within you?

This state is not the same as ’being cool’, or ’keeping calm’ and ’carrying on’ regardless. It’s certainly not behaving passively or with total tranquility, as if we’re on valerian.  In ’turning the other cheek’ we are called to witness non-violently to the truth. Even in the eye of the storm, we need to hold firm to our anchor and God will calm the wind and the waves.  Peace begins when we stand still and face our fears, bringing our anxieties to God in prayer and it continuing as we seek God’s transformation of our conflicts through his reconciling love.

So, what is Reconciliation?

To reconcile: to cause a relationship to be harmonious, peaceful and righteous.

  1. Used of what the disciples must do for one another (Mt 5:24; Lk 12:58);
  2. Used of what God has achieved through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus (Ro 5: 1-10; 2 Cor 5:18)
  3. Used of the duty of a sinner towards God – to accept forgiveness and be in a right relationship (2 Cor 5:20).

So how does this change our definition of peace?

Peace is the sound of children playing, and a father’s voice singing…(author unknown).

Psalms 27, 46, 49, 56 and 91 speak peace to our fears.

Prayers:

For Inner Peace:

Lord, I know that you have heard the prayers of my heart. I have described for you my deepest fears and concerns, and it is my desire to relinquish them to you. You have created my mind, Lord, with the amazing capacity to dream with you. In my silence I sense your powerful presence.

I picture your arms around me, assuring me that all is well. In my heart I hear you whisper. ’You are my precious child and I love you. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your saviour.’

Lord, thank you for taking my fears and concerns. You are in control – your will be done.

 (Hazel Offner)

 

For Peace in the World:

O God of power and love, look in mercy upon our war-torn world, which is still your world;

You have made it; in it you delight to work; you have redeemed its people.

Grant reconciliation, we ask, between man and man, nation and nation, through the power of that great peace made by Jesus your Son;

May your servants not be troubled by wars and rumours of wars, but rather look up because their redemption draws near; and when our king returns, may he find many waiting for him, and fighting with his weapons alone;

We ask it in the King’s name, Jesus Christ your son our Lord. AMEN.

(Christopher Idle)

Song: Tom Paxton, Peace Will Come:

My own life is all I can hope to control,

Let my life be lived for the good of my soul,

And may it bring peace,

Sweet peace,

Peace will come,

Let it begin with me.

 

St Columba’s Prayer of Benediction:

Deep peace of the running wave to you,

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,

Deep peace of the shining stars to you,

Deep peace of the son of peace to you.

 

AJC, 3/5/12, updated for reading, 10/6/12

 

 

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