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Jesus

St Paul exhorted us “Greet one another with holy kiss.”

And I admit, I wonder what effect it would have on society if we suddenly all decided, without exception, from coworkers to convenience store cashiers to homeless guys on the corner, if we were to greet them all with a hug and a kiss.

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Since you receive light from another source,

Since you rise high in the sky
while many people watch,

Since you receive life again
even though your body dies,

Since you remove the darkness of the world
with your light,

Since you conceal your vast form
in a round white shape,

Since you bear a blemish,

Since those who read stars seek you,

Since you are appropriate for supplicants/night blossoms,

And since the hero of my poem
the Lord born of a virgin
who is conceived through the Holy Spirit
is like you,

Moon in the beautiful sky
you should quickly agree
to play joyously and happily
with the one who is entwined with Tamil poetry,
flowing like a waterfall.

Moon, come to play.

Was reading this afternoon Religions of India in Practice, a chapter about pillaittamil, the Tamil poetic genre of addressing religious figures as playful children, and came upon this, written in the 80s by Tamil Christian poet Arul Chellatturai. It brought tears to my eyes. I found all the pillaittamil beautiful, but this one just pierced me to the heart.

I wish I could have seen this when I was seventeen. It would have been perfect for my spiritual state at that time. But it’s good to have things to discover in middle age, too.

(A explanation of the poem’s imagery can be found here.)

Let me give you an example of Predicate #5.

A few years back, I realized that when I thought of the Buddha, I saw him in my mind’s eye as a person of East Asian descent. And I was confused. Because I knew, and had known since some point in my high school years at least, that Shakyamuni Buddha was of South Asian descent, from the great Gangetic Plain.

But the vast majority of my interactions with the idea of Shakyamuni Buddha had been through a screen of East Asian history. Most of what I knew about Buddhism came through my study of Chinese & Japanese history; most of the images of Buddha I had seen were from Confuciosphere cultures. So, naturally, I thought of Buddha as East Asian.

But he didn’t look like that. He looked like this. I was grateful to have that image of Sinhalese bhiksus. Buddhism having faded from all of South Asia save Sri Lanka, they were the only model I had for a historical Buddha.

I went through a similar process with Jesus. Early on I realized that Our Lord did not look like Hippie Surfer Jesus, but like a Jewish man. I have a mental image of him of which I’m fond, of a young man with ringlet beard and classic Jewfro, laughing.

I was once told (though I never confirmed this) that the Yemeni Jewish community was the oldest and least interbred in the world, so that if you wanted to think about how Jesus truly appeared, you should look to them. Here are pictures of Yemeni Jewish men. Here we have a model for the reality of the Incarnation.