To this very day, everything I do, everything I’ve done speaks of him. It was in the silence that I heard your voice.
If we could sum up the prophetic meaning of this next Hebrew year in just one movie it’s this one. The 2016 film “Silence” directed by Martin Scorsese, based on a true story, about 17th-century Jesuit missionaries in Japan who are asked to “apostatize” their faith in Jesus Christ or suffer martyrdom has “wrecked me” (and many others) in a profound way since I first saw it in the theater. Twenty-eight years in the making, Scorsese’s “passion project,” Silence, has been lauded as “one of the best films ever made about Christian faith.” The Telegraph calls it a “plangent, scalding work of religious art . . . soul-pricklingly attuned to matters transcendent and eternal.” Time Out says it “ranks among the greatest achievements of spiritually minded cinema.” “An anguished masterwork of spiritual inquiry,” the Los Angeles Times declares, that “ponders the dogmas, riddles and anxieties of Christian faith with a rigor and seriousness that . . . has few recent equivalents in world cinema. . . . A work of insistent, altogether confounding grace.” Eric Metaxas says, “This may be the most Christian film I have ever seen—and that includes The Passion.” I believe this epic film, as well as many other creative arts, provides us with some prophetic mental pictures for what to expect in the Hebrew Year 5781 (2021 AD) The Year of Strong Silence in the Mouth.
First, a definition: apostasy means the renunciation of one’s faith. In a cruel twist, the Japanese authorities threatened that if the Jesuit priests did not apostatize, the Japanese Christians among whom they ministered would be tortured and killed. Confronted with a terrible dilemma they must choose: recant their faith by stepping on a fumi-e and set the Japanese Christians free, or hold onto their faith and let others suffer. It is an almost impossible choice. Thus, both Jesuits are forced to “discern” in a complicated situation where there are no easy answers. Fathers Rodrigues and Garupe come from a world of black-and-white and are both forced to make painful decisions in a world of gray.
[SPOILER ALERT: I am about to tell you what they decide.]
Jesuit priest, Father James Martin, provides a great explanation of why they apostatize in his article 5 Common Questions About “Silence”:
“Some critics seem to have misunderstood the inherent difficulty of the choice. “Why didn’t they just step on the fumi-e of Jesus right away?” one journalist asked me.
“This misses a key point. A Jesuit’s entire life is centered on Jesus, whom he knows through the Gospels, through the sacraments, through his ministry and through his prayer, especially through his experience of the Spiritual Exercises, a series of extended meditations on the life of Christ. Father Rodrigues is shown several times speaking aloud to Jesus, praying to Jesus and imagining Jesus’s face [an image which comes from artist depictions of Veronica’s Veil]. Jesus is central for both real Jesuits and fictional Jesuits. Expecting the Jesuits simply to throw that relationship aside—to apostatize—is wholly unrealistic.
“Only in the end, after several searing experiences that include his own physical suffering and witnessing the torture and execution of others, after long periods of agonizing prayer and, in particular, after hearing the voice of Christ in his prayer, does Father Rodrigues apostatize.”
I have to admit, when I first watched the movie, I was a bit disappointed by the outcome. My newly converted brain could not fathom why anyone of such faith could ever justify apostasy even in the face of martyrdom and suffering. Doesn’t the Scriptures tell us, If we deny Christ he will deny us before the Father?
…whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.Matthew 10:33 ESV
It wasn’t until I read Fr. Martin’s next words very carefully, that I suddenly saw the words of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel with fresh eyes, and in them, the crux of what lies ahead of us in this Decade of Pey (the next ten years):
“He apostatized not simply because he wished to save the lives of the Japanese Christians, but because this is what Christ asked him to do in prayer.” My thoughts turned immediately to Peter’s denial of Christ in Scriptures. Had I misunderstood that too?
Confusing as it seems to some Christian viewers, Christ requests this contradictory act from his priest. We are not told, in the film, if such request was made of the other priests and martyrs. It makes little sense to anyone, least of all to Father Rodrigues, who as clearly shown in the film has assiduously resisted it for himself. Yet he does it. Because Jesus has asked him to. If we were to look again at Jesus’ words to Peter, might we see he was asking Peter too? I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me. Okay, maybe it was more of a volun-told situation – it must be hard to ask things when you already know the future. Still, could it have been more of a right of passage rather than a bad omen like so many seem to have understood it, including Peter – who immediately and vehemently denies Him this truth, Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you! And all the disciples said the same (Matthew 26:35). Yet he does it. Jesus’ silence after their boasting in denial of His truth suddenly becomes even more profound as His silence in the film was also. As it was in the movie, and likely with Peter and the disciples also, it would seem that the actions of both those who died or lived came down to a matter of grace to do the Father’s Will. Whether they lived or died they became martyrs according to the intention of their heart. Which begs the question, Is it real apostasy if we use only words of denial but do not deny Christ as Lord of our hearts? Which is greater, the mouth or the heart?
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
This year, it will appear to many the Way of Christ is contradictory and confusing…and many will deny him – by refusing to do His Will; but to those who truly know Him and not just speak His words, who do the Will of the Father (no matter how hard or seemingly contradictory), He will not let them be snatched away. Their lives laid down (living or dead) will become an abundant harvest of souls. Perhaps now we can begin to understand Jesus’ words to Peter in a new light, Do you love me? Feed my sheep. And also his first and last words to him and the disciples, Follow Me. When we are living in the Will of G-d even the most contradictory things begin to make sense.
the Aleph-Tav: I am the Alpha and the Omega
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord G-d, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”Revelation 1:8 ESV
Last year we started a new decade in the Hebrew Calendar 5780 “The Year of the Mouth” because of its attachments to the Hebrew Letters ‘pey’ and ‘fey’, which are a picture symbol of a mouth. If you have been following our annual Head of the Year Reviews then you are already familiar with the many ways the Hebrew Language can become for us a prophetic picture of the times we are in. And for those who are able to unlock the Language of Heaven, 2020 came as no surprise. If you have not yet read last year’s review, 5780 (2020) A Year to Widen Your Mouth, then I encourage you to do so now before you read any further. Developing an understanding for Hebrew as a heavenly language and its symbolism are keys to understanding the meaning behind this upcoming year and the years to follow. If we were to sum up this next decade with the phrase “Word Wars” we might then paraphrase this next year with the title “Silence of the Lambs.”
Like the Jesuit Fathers in “Silence,” we are about to enter into a period of time where black-and-white worldviews will not be so easy to uphold in a world intent on blurring the lines. Could you “discern” in a complicated situation where there are no easy answers what to do and say? We aren’t just talking masks, vaccines, and drug therapy, we’re talking matters of life and death – someone else’s and not just your own. When your religious freedoms are the reason someone else might die, how willing would you be to lay them down to save someone else’s life? Do you feel ready to make that call? These are the “hard” questions that make the film “Silence” so conflicting and why this year has been so difficult for many.
People unawares say things like, Silence is compliance. Believing if they remain quiet then they’re not doing the right thing. However, choosing to be quiet is not the same as being complicit. I would hardly call Jesus’ silence on the subject of politics in his day as complicit. In fact, it makes the case all the more clearer, Jesus chose a way of silence on politics that was far different than what many would characterize him doing today. Just as there are distinctions between one who is zealous for the faith and one who is a Zealot. Perhaps they feel like the Jesuit priests in the film, like they are apostatizing their faith by keeping silence. But is this faith or ego? How do we reconcile the silence of Jesus on the cross with the call to protest and protect freedoms. Can’t they both be the will of G-d? The Apostle Paul gives us a clue in 1 Corinthians 13:1, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. In fact, the Scriptures have a lot to say about the power of silence. In a world with lots of noise, it is often powerful protests held in complete silence that have grabbed its attention. Even in Heaven, where sounds of worship are perpetual, there is silence for the Lamb who was slain. It’s the moments of silence that become moments that last, a time to remember and to take account of what matters. It’s not the violence that History memorializes most but the silence of the martyrs which makes us bow our heads. Perhaps opening our mouths is really not the root of the issue at all. The point of preaching the Gospel is for it not to be just listened to but for it to be heard. To be truly understood we must speak from the heart. How does your heart speak? It will manifest itself in your words and actions, even in the act of silence.
This is a time to be vigilant about the words we use, the stories we tell and the narratives we live by. This is an opportunity to wonder about the words we want to place upon our hearts and before our eyes to guide our efforts and actions.Rabbi Yael
Aleph and Alpha Are Strong, Silent Types
This year is characterized by the Hebrew letter “Aleph”, whose symbol we will explore here more deeply and in Part2 and Part 3 to follow, one of which is a pictogram of an ox. Aleph is characterized by strength and leadership. It is also characterized by its sound, which is completely silent. This next year is 5781 in the Hebrew calendar: 7 for 300+400 which is the letters “Shin (crown)” + “Tav (truth)” , and 8 for 80 which is the letter “Pey (mouth)”, and 1 which is the letter “Aleph (ox)”. The letter 5 is for 5×1,000 which is actually also “Aleph” as it also represents the number 1,000. In Hebrew, the years are said with focus on only the century, decade, and year because it is redundant to lack understanding of the times one lives in according to the millenniums, which each have their own significance. To understand the meaning of Aleph then we must look at it in the context of the decade it is in.
This next year Aleph is in Pey, symbolically the Ox is in the Mouth. A translation of the understanding of the symbols would be “strong silence in the mouth.” To understand this saying, we need look no further than the Lamb on the Cross. What sound is heard more loudly in all the acts of Scripture than when the Lamb was slain upon the cross? It is in our weakness that the Lamb is made strong like the ox. The silence of the cross is the Sound of Heaven heard round the world. Even Able’s blood cried out and G-d heard it. More than words in our mouth, the profound silence of the blood speaks loud and is heard by all those who can hear it. With this in mind, it’s better to be the Strong-Silent type this year than to be the gossip or weak-minded, loud activist who might be mistaken for an egotistical bully – religious folks are not immune. Like the priests in “Silence”, we must prepare our mouths to speak the silence of the Lamb, be like the saints who knew when to hold their tongue and let their actions speak louder than words. Thy Will be done and not my own.
I plan to write another post about the context of all the Hebrew symbols together that comprise the year 5781 and the years ahead, as they are really quite profound, but the short version is this: Right now, we are in the times where strong silence in the mouth is a crown of truth in the Divine Will of the Father. Briefly, Shin represents the Will of G-d (kindness, justice, mercy) which is symbolized in the crown (Scriptures say are given to the righteous) and personified best in the humility of Mothers (or one Mother in particular, Mary) and is also silent at times and likened to the humility of sheep led to the slaughter for the sacrifice; Tav represents Truth, Life, A Sign (Jesus, the Last Truth) which is symbolized and personified in the tribe of Dan (known for its opportunities to return to Truth by way of humility) and a reflection that Truth is often not fully known until the end; combine Tav with Shin and you see how this last century has been marked with the manifestation of G-d’s Divine Will to reveal Truth of His Son Jesus through the sacrifice of humility expressed in humanity’s most humble creature, the Mother of Jesus, wherein the lack or presence of his Son’s Wisdom received through her to the world dictates the flow of either His justice or mercy. No other century in history has seen more manifestations of the Virgin Mary than the last 100 years (see From Fatima to Medjugorje|What Every Believer Ought to Know). And, what is the Mouthpiece of Christ speaking? The intentions of her heart, which are for all men to know her Son Jesus (see also Messages from Medjugorje). In a particular way, she calls all her Apostles of Love to pray. She asks believers to pray for the Shepherds, the priests, and for the Church that they might know what is the Will of G-d and have courage to follow it in the days ahead.
Naturally, I understand that many will find this reflection a bit conflicting. I am very aware of the conflicting theology surrounding prayers to the dead, veneration of saints, and even apparitions. I have even heard it preached by some that Saint Corona is to blame for this pandemic, merely because her name is Greek for “crown” and the word corona also means “crown”. Some have gone even further as to encourage believers to make declarations in their prayers to “break the crown”, as if such a declaration might dispel the demonic intentions of the saint over this pandemic or break the power of Mary as representative of the spirit of the Queen Jezebel. Truly, such notions are foolish and at best reveal only the ignorance of the shepherds and the need all the more to heed the words of Christ’s mouth piece at this time to pray for our sheperds. Which is why, I am going to challenge you to consider the Hebrew meaning for this year and the conflicts presented in its metaphorical prophetic picture from the film “Silence” and consider that the Truth you believe you know is not, perhaps, fully formed, as yet; but it is the Divine Will of G-d in this next decade that it would be.
Consider for a moment that any misunderstandings about saints and the intercession of the Heavenly Church (the Church Triumphant) might be for us a mere “revelation” away (or a movie, 2020 Fatima Film). The Scriptures do tell us Truth comes like lightening. In that instance, What do you suppose they might reveal about those who would call the works of Jesus through His Mother the works of Jezebel or even Beelzebul (Mark 3:22-24)? How about Jesus’ words about sowing division (Mt. 12:30; Lk. 11:23)? Even the Jewish people have a tradition of revering deeply their mothers, they honor them with a crown – and they would not dare to break it. Be careful friends, in a time that is full of confusion, where things are not so black-and-white, that you do not find yourself in denial of Christ’s Will. His Kingdom Will Come and it will not be divided – and the righteous will be crowned. If anyone is breaking crowns, they are breaking the crowns of the righteous – they are scattering and not gathering.
Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.John 19:25-34
This year, it will appear to many that the lambs are being slaughtered and masked into silence; but take heart, Jesus has heard the cries of their hearts, which are groans too great for words, and He is strengthening them in the way to walk peacefully – strong and silent – into the Silence of the Lamb, strengthened by the arms of His own Mother. If He could strengthen His own Mother to share in His Passion, He will surely strengthen us to persevere and receive also a crown. He is asking us to follow Him to the Cross and to receive His Mother’s example into our home. She was His gift to us that day at the foot of the cross, and she is our gift again now. May we draw from her example the courage to pray and ponder quietly all things in our heart. Do you have a place for her in your home or will you keep her outside your inn? Ponder that.
Something else to ponder: Consider again the image at Knock above and the persons represented there, next to Christ, they are the epitome of “strong, silence in the mouth crowned in the splendor of Truth in complete humility to the Divine Will of the Alpha and the Omega.” What might they be revealing to us about the Father’s intentions for us now? As it was in the Beginning, so it will be in the End.
In the Beginning – Aleph-Tav
In Or Torah, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, explained the first words of Torah: Bereshit Bara Elohim Et – “In the beginning G-d created et” (Gen 1:1). Note that et is an untranslatable word used to indicate that “a definite direct object is next” (thus there needs to be an et before the heavens and the earth). But Dov Ber points out that et is spelled – Aleph-Tav, an abbreviation for the Aleph-Bet. In short, Aleph is “the Father” and is completely silent, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And, Tav the last, so, he reasoned, in the beginning G-d created the Aleph-Bet. Since G-d did this before creating the heavens and the earth, the letters are considered to be the primordial “building blocks” of all of creation. Christians understand this as the thoughts of the Father made manifest in the Word of the Son. Thought proceeds before words are spoken, occurring in unity.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi stated that if the letters were to depart even for an instant, all of creation would become absolute nothingness. The Son cannot depart from the Father nor the Father from the Son. Our thoughts and words are conjoined. When they are not in alignment there is dissonance and chaos.
In the classical Hebrew script (ketav Ashurit) used for writing Torah scrolls, Aleph is constructed with two Yods (pronounced “yud,” one to the upper right or dot above; the other to the lower left or dot below) that are joined by a diagonal Vav, or line suspended in between. Ketav Ashurit was the script that Jesus would have read. The yod above represents G‑d, Who is above (or beyond) our comprehension. In comparison to His true essence, our understanding is a mere dot. The yod below represents a Yid or Yehudim—Jewish people who dwell here on earth. The only way that we can grasp G‑d’s wisdom, His Divine Will—to the extent that a person is capable—is by being humble. This is another reason why many theologians agree Mary became the seat of Wisdom here on earth by offering her total humility to the Divine Will and quite literally giving Wisdom itself, Yeshua, a place to rest. When we realize that we are but a dot or a speck compared to the All-Mighty and All-Powerful G‑d, we become a vessel to receive His Divine wisdom. The Vav, whose meaning is “hook” and in some translations “nail” or “connecting pin,” shows connectedness between the two realms. Vav is also thought to represent humanity, since Adam was created on the sixth day. Vav is diagonal since it is humbled in the face of G‑d’s mystery and His revelation and can represent our faith – which unites us to G‑d. The two Yods also indicate the paradox of experiencing G‑d as both hidden and close, far and near.
Understanding the meaning of language is analogous to words spoken from the heart. When you have understanding of the intention behind someone’s words you better know them, even if you speak different languages. All words have meaning, spoken or silent, because they too are just symbols of the greater intention. If you’re a movie evangelism buff like me, you may enjoy the simplicity of this 5 minute video from our friends at Logos Made Flesh to help better explain the importance of symbolism and meaning: “Symbolism: Ex Machina and the Key to Reading Other Minds.” For further reading on Hebrew as a heavenly language and “The Meaning of Aleph” click here.
This year, is a year to align your mouth with your heart. Take time in the silence of your prayer closet to search for the meaning of your life. Reflect on the thoughts G-d has for you. Pray for the courage to both act and speak in accordance with the Father’s thoughts over your life. Refuse to speak against your heart and His. Ask Jesus to show you the Father’s heart for your family and the world around you. There is meaning and purpose for us to discover in everything. Take some time to discover and understand the Language of Heaven…discover the true beauty and goodness of the Divine Will, it is unchanging and the meaning behind all life.
Continue Reading, Part 2: Aleph in Pey|Silence in your Mouth… what we can expect this next year in culture, faith and politics.
Want to Go Deeper?
I have written before on the effects of movie evangelism on culture and agree with popular theologians like Christopher West and Bishop Robert Barron who offer their critiques of art in music, books and movies, even secular ones, as a way of drawing closer to the Logos who became flesh. If I could suggest another movie that sums up the challenge of the year ahead it would be the movie “A Quiet Place.” Whether you have seen it already, want to see it or don’t, I recommend checking out this 8 minute review from Logos Made Flesh. Another visual metaphor might be the film “Silence of the Lambs”, wherein the effects of naivety can be quickly seen as a detriment to uncovering Truth when we are too trusting of the narcissism prevalent around us.
If you enjoy reading, below is a list of sources I used and other recommended reading.
And then, there’s pop-culture icon Madonna’s Quavo – Eurovision Song Contest 2019 music video inculturation which might suggest she is a bit more of a musical prophet than her name suggests. She begins with her hit song from the past “Like a Prayer” and combines it with the futuristic dance moves of the Quavo dancers who, ironically, are all wearing masks to create what people are calling a “Dark Ballet” as she sings repeatedly, Not everyone is coming to the future. Click the link above to watch and hear.
The signs of our times are all around us, in art, tv, books, music, movies and even politics, if we’ll only open our ears and see what the Spirit is saying – we too could see and hear what’s coming…and who.
❤️💙💛 Until the Day Dawns – Love the ones you’re with and keep Jesus close, in the silence of your heart. Silence is about Love.
Continue Reading, Part 2: Aleph in Pey|Silence in your Mouth… what we can expect this next year in culture, faith and politics.
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Resources and Recommended Reading
Letters of Light by Aaron L. Raskin
The Letter Aleph by Torah for Christians
The Warning: Testimonies and Prophecies of the Illumination of Conscience by Christine Watkins
Lord Renew Your Wonders: Spiritual Gifts for Today by Damian Stayne
My Heart will Triumph by Mirjana Soldo, visionary from Medjugorje
Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Sister Faustina Kowalska
33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley
A Time to Advance: Understanding the Significance of the Hebrew Tribes and Months by Chuck Pierce and Robert & Linda Heidler
Deliverance Ministry by ICCRS Doctrinal Commission
Baptism in the Spirit by ICCRS Doctrinal Commission
Biblical Foundations for the Role of Healing in Evangelization by Matthias D. Thelen
The Spiritual Gifts Handbook: Using your gifts to build the Kingdom by Randy Clark & Mary Healy
Fulfillment of All Desire: Study Guide by Ralph Martin