Message for Oscar: Chanukkah

My dear Oscar,

In these days Jewish folks around the world are celebrating Chanukkah (or as it is also known by the majority of people the “Festival of Lights”): each year for eight days between late November and the month of December, families gather to dine together, exchange little gifts and of course to light the candles placed on specific nine-branched candleholders (or menorrahs). The Festival takes origin from an episode told in the First and Second Book of Maccabees (although Jews preferably refer to other sources such as the Talmud), when the Jewish people, who had just been set free from the Seleucid domination, returned to their land and reconsecrated the Temple in Jerusalem that, in the meanwhile, had been partially devastated and used for pagan rituals. The Law required that candelabra should be lit permanently, but everything the Jews could find at their return to Jerusalem was a single flask containing a small amount of oil sufficient to light up the lamps just for one day. Miraculously the little oil contained in the flask lasted enough to light up the lamps in the Temple for eight days and left them time to find a new supply.

As many other biblical and holy texts, the episode giving origin to Chanukkah teaches us many things: first of all it gives us an amazing example of the value and importance of hope. Clearly, the Jews who lit the lamps using the little oil they had found in their half-destroyed temple couldn’t know (nor even imagine) about the miracle that was about to happen; but they hoped wholeheartedly that God would have never abandoned them and would have provided His people with all the means necessary to fulfill the law.
Hope is undoubtedly a key-concept within Judaism; nonetheless, it’s a central notion in Christian ethics too, to the point that, along with Faith and Compassion, Hope is the first of the three theological virtues and often intended as a presupposition of Faith, which in turn has to express itself through good deeds and compassion or love to others (as it is in the original concept of the word “charitas”, deriving from the Greek “charis” which means, among other things, God’s grace: when we are touched by God’s Love, we get “graced” and enabled to spread this love around us towards other people). On the opposite side, as Dante reminds us in his Divine Comedy the door to Hell carries the inscription “Abandon all hope you who enter there” (Inferno, canto III, line 9), to suggest that, where there is no divine Love or Grace, also Hope can’t be found; yet, the very same door is depicted broken after Christ’s descent to the infernal underworld to signify that Love and Hope prevail over the most absolute darkness. God’s Love rules everywhere even in the depth of Hell, bringing compassion and hope in the spiritual desolation.

The second important teaching the episode of Chanukkah gives us is about Law: God always give us what we require to abide by His Law. Still in the transition from Hebraism to Christianity the concept of law gets radically reshaped to the point that it’s often said that Christ came to have the law (to wit the whole complex of Jewish mitzvot) replaced by love. But the Law  is not nullified in Christianity: when Jesus Christ was asked which commandment (mitzvah) was the most important of all, he answered:  “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Matthew 22, 34-40).

To paraphrase the Scriptures this means that according to Jesus to comply with God’s Law only two things are required: to love God above everything else and with all our energies and to love our neighbour. Nevertheless, if we carefully look at the Gospel verses, Jesus doesn’t simply say to love our neighbours, but to love them as much as we love ourselves; in other words, self-love is not necessarily the opposite of selflessness and compassion, but their precondition. Only if we love ourselves, we are able to spread this love outside and to be compassionate and caring towards other people.

Thus, dear boy, not unlike those Jews that lit the lamps in the Temple with the little oil they had found and with a great dose of hope and trust in their Lord, use every inspiring word, every tiny gesture of love and everything that makes you smile to kindle the hope in your heart and keep it lit. And every time you feel that loving yourself is too hard, remember that God loves you endlessly and He is always ready and willing to give you His love to allow you to love yourself by reflex and be able to love other people too.

dalai-lama-quote

Serena
(Olcpfriends)

Compassion

Eastern religions hold that god is in everything that surrounds us. A human being, an animal, a rock, even a blade of grass each holds the spirit of the divine, for everything created by god represents a part of that god. Therefore to be cruel to another is to hurt oneself, for all things are connected. Compassion is our common ancestor. It reminds us that we should treat others how we ourselves wish to be treated. It’s the gold medal of human attributes and we should all strive for its glory.

At the heart of compassion is acceptance. Enter Oscar Pistorius, stage right. Oscar has confronted prejudice and injustice not through angry words or soap-boxing but by living the dream simply, openly, without fuss or preamble, utilising every single scrap of talent that god gave him, not leaving one flake of it unused, living not as a man with disabilities, but just as a man. Leading through the power of example and education, he has changed the world, challenging people with disabilities to cast aside any feelings of inadequacy, showing them to not accept limits or be constrained by the opinions of bigots but to rise up and challenge stigma and stereotype. He has encouraged people to become more of who they already are, to claim every human right for themselves, to enjoy the sacredness of merely being. And in doing so, made the world an easier, more hospitable, place for future generations.

But more importantly, Oscar has helped to turn compassion into a proactive adjective, showing us that it should be a relationship between absolute equals. Compassion demands equality and inclusion, not pity or patronisation. It’s rather like JFK’s infamous rallying cry: ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. Oscar has not waited to see what society can give him, he has instead given IT what HE has to offer. He’s used all of his abilities to shake the world and change it for the better, chipping away at the dual scourge of discrimination and condescension. He’s shown that our differences can unite us as fully as our similarities, for variety enriches life for everyone. And ultimately, it will take all of us, working together, compassionately, equally, to bring about the lasting betterment of humanity.

An ancient Vedic text says, ‘May all beings look at me with a friendly eye, may I do likewise and may we look at each other with the eyes of a friend’. Because until you learn to see the oneness of all existence, you’ll never find the divine truth, nor will you know inner peace. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you have two legs or no legs, eyes, arms, fingers, toes, voice or hearing; it only matters that you have a heart.

And that you use it wisely.

***

‘If we have no peace it’s because we’ve forgotten that we belong to one another’
– Mother Theresa

Love Carly

magic-fantasy-girltext[3]

Message for Oscar: Make the little things count

“Die höchste Form der Hoffnung ist die überwundene Verzweiflung.”
“The highest form of hope is desperation left behind.”

~ Albert Camus

Dear Oscar,

I can barely imagine how hard it must be for you to think positive. But as a fighter, as an overcomer, surrounded by your loving family, you can for sure see that your journey isn’t over yet. Make the little things count, make them big things – that’s what you perfected in an approachable, kind and gentle manner. The world is longing for such inspirational people like you Oscar. My hope is that you find peace and equilibrium in thinking of your purpose in life and what more is to come for you. Meanwhile, as long as it may take, your global family stands by your side, with love and prayers.

Stay strong xx

Svenja

166184.SP.0607.dwyre.WJS

Message for Oscar: Even in darkness light dawns for the upright

Dear Oscar,

On 22 November, you were in my thoughts and prayers as always and even more so because it was your special day. It was lovely to see all the beautiful, lovingly prepared birthday messages for you on this blog.

You have given so much to South Africa and to the world. You have spread so much joy, kindness, acceptance, love and hope. You have had a positive impact on so many lives. Many people all over the world have not forgotten all this and they know that you are a good man of good character!!

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.”

~ Psalm 112:4 (NIV)

May God give you a peaceful, healing sleep tonight.
Much love in Jesus,
Avril Brandt, Gloucestershire, UK

The Pearl of Great Price

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it’

~ Matthew 13: 45-46.

God gives us wonderful lessons through nature, and the pearl is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. It is truly one of God’s miracles. A natural pearl starts its life as a foreign object, a piece of grit that embeds itself into the oyster’s soft inner body. The oyster is irritated by the foreign object but can’t rid itself of it, so it cleverly does the next best thing – it eases the effect of the irritant by secreting a smooth, hard substance, called ‘nacre’ around the piece of grit, in order to protect itself. This nacre is built up layer by layer and over time; the foreign object becomes completely encased by the silky smooth coating. The result of this ingenious natural process is a beautiful, lustrous pearl, hidden within the heart of the oyster.

This world contains a wealth of beautiful gemstones, indeed many are found in your own country, such as the amethyst, emerald and the much coveted diamond. In order to reach these, they have to be mined from the earth. But the pearl is unique, unlike any other precious stone, for it is the only gem to be formed within a live creature, buried in the depths of the world’s great oceans. In the scriptures, the Hebrew word translated ‘hidden ones’ has a dual meaning – ‘to hide’ and ‘to treasure’ and the pearl with its hidden jewel is used to symbolise the treasure of God’s truth. The hidden gems in God’s word are limitless, but we must earnestly seek them to truly benefit from the wealth of treasures contained within; “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” ~ Jeremiah 29:13.

Gemstones mined from the earth must be cut and polished to bring out their beauty, but the pearl needs no such treatment to expose its loveliness. Open the oyster and the pearl is revealed, complete, in all its shimmering, iridescent beauty. And its soft, lustrous glow is like no other gem to be found on God’s earth, for the nacre is not just a balm to soothe the creature which bears it, it also contains microscopic crystals which allow light to be reflected and refracted. Cut a pearl in half, if you have the heart, and you will be treated to a glorious rainbow of light and colour and a myriad of shimmering hues. And like the pearl, we too can absorb and reflect back the glory of God’s truth. If we seek His word with eagerness and sincerity, he will bind us in His truth and love, as soothing nacre for our souls.

Gemstones are not usually the natural beauties we adorn ourselves with. Most are born with rough surfaces and natural blemishes or flaws which affect the clarity and value of the stone. It is only through a process of polishing, cleaning and faceting that the blemishes are removed and the true beauty and purity of the stone is revealed. And whilst pearls too can be polished and treated, the pearl is softer and more forgiving, so the blemishes are often easily removed by simply buffing the pearl. And such is God’s mercy and the totality with which he will remove our blemishes from us, for we are told that when God forgives us for our wrongdoings, our past sins are forgotten to Him; “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” ~ Isaiah 43:25. Thus, when we are judged by the things we have done in this lifetime, it will be remembered that we repented of our sins and that God forgave us.

Like us, pearls come in different shapes and sizes. Whilst we commonly see the smooth, round pearls, the beautiful baroque pearl come in all shapes and sizes, irregular, uneven, neither round nor symmetrical. The most valuable of these are the South Sea and Tahitian pearls. The amount of time that these are cultured dramatically increases the depth of the nacre and the likelihood of producing a baroque pearl. Pearls also come in a range of different colours; black, white, blue, gold and the shimmering turquoise of peacock pearls. Each of these colours has significant meaning in the scriptures. Black represents humanity and blue denotes the law of God. Turquoise signifies sanctification and healing and white symbolises purity and righteousness. Gold exemplifies the value of a pure faith which is refined by fire and it is the Golden South Sea pearl that is deemed to be the most desirable and valuable as they have the richest natural colour and the most unblemished surfaces.

Oscar, God is offering you the pearl of great price; keep it within your sights always. Like the baroque pearl, you are beautiful and unique but human nature generates natural imperfections. Seek the hidden treasures of truth contained in His Word and like the most beautiful of pearls, formed through suffering in the heart of the oyster, you will absorb His light, you will reflect it back and shine forth His glory as a rainbow of colours from within you, as a beautiful and humbling testimony to His covenant grace. Stay strong and hold fast to your faith, for your suffering is immense and like gold refined in the fire, yours will be a faith most valuable. When you need comfort from those things in the world that make you fearful, distressed or that threaten to harm you, then turn to Him and like soothing nacre, he will enclose you, soothe you and protect you. And never let go of the awesome nature of His forgiveness; remember that with true repentance he has promised to wholly blot out your actions, even those that will be forever etched in your memory will be wiped from His. Like the pearl, buffed and cleaned, you will be unblemished in His sight and worthy to receive from his hand, that most precious of gifts, the pearl of great price.

Pearl

With love from Heather x

Benedizione per Oscar – Blessing for Oscar

Benedizione per Oscar

“La strada ti venga sempre dinanzi e il vento ti soffi alle spalle e la rugiada bagni sempre l’erba su cui poggi i tuoi passi,
E il sorriso brilli sempre sul tuo volto e il pianto che spunta sui tuoi occhi sia solo pianto di felicità.
E qualora dovesse trattarsi di lacrime di dolore o sofferenza ci sia sempre qualcuno pronto ad asciugarle.
Il sole entra a brillare prepotentemente nella tua casa a portare tanta luce, speranza e calore.”

~ Don Tonino Bello

Oscar queste parole sono dedicate a te, anche se le distanze chilometriche ci dividono io ti sono e ti sarò accanto con il cuore e con la mente sempre,un abbraccio forte forte ti voglio bene

Anna Lucia, Italy

English translation:

Blessing for Oscar

“May the road always lie in front of you and the wind blow behind you, may the dew sprinkle the grass you step on and a smile shine upon your face and may the tears flowing from your eyes be tears of joy and, if they are tears of sorrow, may you find someone ready to wipe them away. May the sunlight enter to light up your house and bring a lot of light, hope and warmth”

~ Don Tonino Bello

Oscar, these words are for you; despite the great distance separating us, I am and I will always be close to you with my mind and my heart. A very strong hug! I love you