Tuesday, December 27, 2011


For christmas I went to my church. I can't remember when I was last there - other than a few funerals. Christmas 2010? It was busy. We were forced to sit in the side aisle. Diagonally in front of me a window high with three overlapping circles.
For Christians this triquetra is the symbol for the Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Saturday I saw for the first time that two overlapping parts represent the symbol of a 'fish'. In Greek 'fish' is 'Ichthys': an acronym for 'Iesous CHristos THeou Yios Soter'. Translated in English as 'Jesus Christ God's Son and Saviour'. Do you see the 3 fish too - I coloured one of them blue? 
One image. And a lot of secrets for those who have the eyes to "see":
  • Blessed trinity. 3 circles and 3 fish
  • Message of acronym 'Ichthys'. Jesus is the son of God and our saviour 
  • Identification. Distinguish Christian friends from foes. A friend knows what the fish represents
  • Invitation. Jesus wants you to be a fisher of men
  • Plenty. Multiplication of loaves and fish to feed the multitude  
  • Trust. Follow Jesus and he will to take care for fish (with a coin in its mouth) to pay for ...
  • ... - there must be more

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Los Reyes Magos

In a few days we will celebrate Jesus' birthday. Again. [Footnote] 

Remember the story? Pregnant Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem. No place to sleep. Cold night. Jesus born in a barn. Visiting shepherds. Couple of days later the arrival of three wise kings, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In Dutch the '3 Wise Kings' are named the '3 Wijzen en/ of Koningen uit het Oosten'. Translated in English '3 Wise Men and/ or Kings from the East'. Last week I discovered something strange. Strange to me. In Spanish these 3 men are called 'Los Reyes Magos de Oriente'. Translated in English the 'Magos Kings from the East'. In Spanish these three Kings (Reyes) from the East are 'Magos': wizards, magicians or wise men. They have added a connotation of sorcery or magic. Very strange to my Dutch ears. New to me!

Back to the sources. What does the Bible say - in the New Revised Standard Version? Gospel of Matthew 2: 1-12 [bold added by JD] 
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." (...) When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

The quote above is the only source in the Bible giving an account of some 'wise men' paying homage to the new king of the Jews. There were three gifts but this source doesn't tell that there were three men. They could have been kings but that's not for sure. They were "wise men". The original Greek text speaks of 'magos'. These 'magos' visited Jesus.

What are 'Magos'? Who were they? They were Zoroastrian priests. As part of their religion these priests paid particular attention to the stars. They were astrologists. People who think that there's a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world. Their practice of predicting seasons, events and people's lives made them not only wise but wizards and magicians too.

Quote Wikipedia on 'Magi':
The word mágos (Greek) and its variants appears in both the Old and New Testaments. Ordinarily this word is translated "magician" in the sense of illusionist or fortune-teller, and this is how it is translated in all of its occurrences except for the Gospel of Matthew, where it is rendered "wise man".

Summarized. Who visited Jesus a couple a days later? 'Magos' from the East paying homage to Jesus and offering him three gifts. 'Magos' who themselves observed the star of Jesus. A star that they followed until it stopped over the place where Jesus was. I guess the translator in Dutch and English were afraid that we could not carry the (painful?) truth that young Jesus was visited by illusionists or fortune-tellers. The 'magos' had to be wise. 'Magos' as scientific astronomers and not vague astrologists.

What a lovely treasure :) to unfold. Remember my image of last week: "language is for me like a handful of stones"? Don't you think so too?

Footnote. Better: In a few days "we" - people inspired by the Christian culture - will celebrate Jesus of Nazareth's birthday. Not all individuals of species 'homo sapiens' join this party. More exact, most people on planet Earth don't celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday. Nor Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Decem rain

Language is for me like a handful of stones. Ordinary. Always at hand use. There's little treasures when we take a closer look. 

A few weeks ago I learned my two daughters could count in Spanish to 20. Next to that we rehearsed counting to twelve in English, German, French and Italian.
I showed them something special. A little treasure hidden in the way Dutch name their months. 'September', 'October', 'November' and 'December' are derived from the Latin words for 7, 8, 9 and 10. Someone has added 2.
The 9th month 'September' - of the Julian Calender - is derived from the Latin word 'Septem' = '7'.  Julius Ceasar (100-44 BC) ) added 2 in 45 BC. Why? Because his Calender starts with 'January' and not with 'March'.

Another treasure when we take a closer look at the months. Julius Caesar named the 7th month after him. So did Caesar Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD) with the 8th month. For the rest the names of the months are unchanged for more than 2,500 years.
It's raining on my part of planet Earth. December rain. Decem :) rain.

Did you find treasures lately?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The bridge the two of us cross every time is English. It's our lingua franca with which we talk and write. It's not your mother tongue. Nor it's mine.

When I started talking and writing to you years and years ago I sometimes wished your mother tongue would be Dutch too. Because we would be able to communicate deeper. With more finesse. But it's not. So let's face the facts. 

Next to that English is planet Earth's lingua franca. More exact: it's species 'homo sapiens' present day lingua franca. Since the 1750s.

For me it's sometimes tough to write in English. I cannot always find the exact words for what I think and feel. (More honest: sometimes I can't in Dutch either.) But like so many activities in my life it's something I'm getting better at by just using it every day. Using it.

Another language isn't some software or app we download and install. It's a craft we learn by doing it. Doing it a lot.