MAGNIFICENT MOSQUES

The mosque takes many forms across the Islamic world. While certain features are usually common to all —notably the prayer hall, dome and minaret—the architectural style and decoration are strongly influenced by regional traditions of the time and country where it was built. Today wealth also plays a big part in the construction of a mosque. By comparison with the very simple Muslim places of worship made of mud or palm fronds found in rural villages in Asia, are the elaborate mosques built by wealthy Arab states with no expense is spared. This said, the purpose is the same: ritualized worship especially on Friday when every male is expected to attend the jamii masjid (literally Friday mosque). Some Muslim countries do not admit non-believers in their mosques, but realizing their value as both a tourist attraction and in spreading the word, increasing numbers now allow visitors.

The Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif Afghanistan

The Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif, north west Afghanistan, has foundations from the 12th century. It was rebuilt in the 15th century by the Seljuk Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah using both Sunni and Shi’a artisans who covered the entire structure with turquoise tiles, many inscribed with verses from the holy Qur’an. Shi’ite followers believe it contains the tomb of Ali, a son-in-law of the Prophet whom they consider the Fourth Caliph.

Al AZHAR Mosque in Cairo dates from the late 10th century AD, Egypt

The al-Azhar Mosque was established by the Fatimid dynasty shortly after the founding of Cairo in 969 CE. Built by the Caliph Muizz Li-Din Allah, it opened for prayers in 972 CE. The madrassa within the complex initially spread Ismaili-Shi`ite teachings before switching to mainstream Sunni doctrine when the Ayyubid dynasty assumed power in Egypt in the 12th century. The mosque and associated university is the most revered in the Muslim world.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

The Sultan Ahmet or Blue Mosque in the Sultan Ahmet district of Istanbul is attributed to the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga who based its design on a fusion of Ottoman and Byzantine elements featuring cascading domes flanked by six soaring minarets. Commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I between 1603-17 CE,  it takes its nickname from the misty blue Iznik tiles which cover the entire building.

The Great Mosque at Djenne on the Bani river flood plain in the west African country of Mali is dated to the 13th century. The present structure dates from 1907 and it is regularly replastered with riverine mud. Ostrich egg shells on the spires indicate links with ancient pagan fertility rites. It is a UN World Heritage site.

The Great Mosque of Djenne located in the central west African country of Mali is the largest adobe building in the world. Built in Sudano-Sahelian style of architecture, it was raised in the 13thcentury. The nature of its material requires regular re-plastering with riverine mud. The present structure dates from 1907 and with other historic monuments in Djenne, it is inscribed on the UN World Heritage list.

The Badshahi Mosque, built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, dawn view

The Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb c.1673. Paved in red sandstone, both the interior and exterior are decorated with elaborate white marble carvings in a floral design common to Mughal art. At the time of its completion, the Badshahi was the largest mosque in the world. The prayer-hall and courtyard can accommodate 56,000 worshippers.

18th century mosque Yogyakarta Indonesia

The Masjid Gedhe Kauman State mosque of Yogakarta, Indonesia, was built in 1773. Its triple tiered roof design is typical of traditional Javanese religious architecture being also noted for the absence of a dome and minarets.The prayer hall features 36 columns of teak. A pavilion within the complex is for the gamelan orchestra used on various Islamic-Javanese religious occasions.

ISLAM Jaime Masjid in Dhaka, Bangla desh IS11512

The Baitul Mukkaram in Dhaka is the national mosque of Bangladesh.  Designed by the Indian architect Abdulhusein Meheraly Thariani, its unusual large cube shape is modeled on the sacred ka’abah in the holy city of Mecca. The mosque lacks the traditional Islamic dome over the prayer hall which is roofless to allow in natural light. It opened for worship in 1968.

Ubudiah Mosque in the state of Perak, Malaysia

The Ubudiah Mosque located in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar in the state of Perak, Malaysia, features the voluptuous Indo-Saracenic style of architecture popular in Asian colonies of the British Empire. Designed by Arthur Bension Hubback during the reign of the 28th sultan of Perak, it opened for worship in 1917.

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca Morocco

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the largest mosque in Morocco with the world’s tallest minaret (210 metres) whose laser beam is visible to shipping 10 kms out in the Atlantic Ocean. Standing on a coastal promontory, the huge building designed by architect Michel Pinseau, can accommodate more than 105,000 worshippers. It opened in 1993 and may be visited by non-believers.

Abu Dhabi Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the major modern mosques in Islam. In size equal to five football fields, it boasts the world’s largest dome, the biggest chandelier and the longest carpet made of 2,268,000 knots and weighing about 47 tonnes. Opened in 2007, the mosque can hold 40,000 worshippers. Guided tours are available except on Friday prayer time.

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EASTER: CENTRAL TO CHRISTIAN BELIEF

EASTER commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, three days after his death by crucifixion, is observed by all branches of Christianity. According to the teachings of the Apostle Paul, had Jesus not been resurrected, the Christian faith would be meaningless (1 Cor. 15:14-17). Plainly put, without Easter there is no Christianity. Easter — Festa Paschalia—— is preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and repentance culminating in the manifestations of Holy Week and reaching a climax on Easter Sunday.

Priest placing an ash mark on the foreheads of the congregation on Ash Wednesday

ASH WEDNESDAY, THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTIAN LENT

Palm Sunday procession with children in Ghana

CHRISTIANS COMMEMORATE PALM SUNDAY IN WINNEBA, GHANA

Maundy Thursday, foot washing, Anglican church

FOOT WASHING ON MAUNDY THURSDAY, ST SAVIOURS’ HIGH ANGLICAN CHURCH PIMLICO

Holy Week procession in Guatemala

HOLY WEEK PROCESSION IN GUATEMALA

Penitents in Seville, Holy Week

CATHOLIC PENITENTS PROCESS DURING HOLY WEEK IN SEVILLE

ZAMBIA, AFRICA . CATHOLIC CHURCH MEMBERS OF THE CATHEDRAL OF JESUS THE KINGI IN NDOLA IN MEMORY OF THE SUFFERINGS JESUS CHRIST WENT THROUGH DURING GOOD FRIDAY

MEMBERS OF THE CATHEDRAL OF JESUS THE KING IN NDOLA , ZAMBIA, RE-ENACT THE SUFFERING OF JESUS

GOOD fRIDAY service outside St Bartholomews, London

GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE OUTSIDE ST BARTHOLOMEWS, EAST LONDON

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JESUS ON THE CROSS

 

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JESUS IS BROUGHT DOWN FROM THE CROSS, PAINTING ST PUBLIUS CHURCH, MALTA

Easter light paschal candle fire

LIGHTING THE PASCHAL CANDLE ON EASTER SATURDAY

Crowds in St Peters Square for the Papal blessing at Easter

CROWDS THRONG ST PETER’S SQUARE FOR THE PAPAL BLESSING ON EASTER SUNDAY

Easter greeting card and basket of eggs

EASTER EGGS SYMBOLISING NEW LIFE AND THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

Anglican priest giving out Easter eggs to the congregation

DISTRIBUTION OF EGGS ON EASTER SUNDAY

The Resurrection of Jesus stained glass window in St James church New Delhi India. Mary Magdalene bottom right.

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST, ST JAMES CHURCH, DELHI

LOTUS, SACRED FLOWER OF THE EAST

The lotus is considered a sacred flower by many eastern religious and is regularly offered in temple ceremonies

The lotus flower is more than just a beautiful bloom, it is richly symbolic in many Eastern religions featuring not only in worship and art, but in medicine and cuisine.

In Asia where it is widespread in swamps and lakes, it is considered a sacred plant, while murals from tombs in the Valley of the KIngs in Luxor, indicate its status in Pharaonic society..

The ancient Egyptians associated the lotus with the sun and creation. Their belief stems from the way the plant sends up a flower through muddy water to blossom in the sunshine. Then closing its petals at night, it sinks beneath the surface only to rise and open its petals again at dawn. Symbolic of rebirth.

Original mural Tomb of Nakht, the royal scribe, West Bank tombs of the noble in Luxor

The national flower of India, the sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is esteemed by Hindus who use it among other puja offerings to their deities. Artists often include a lotus in paintings of the gods Brahma and Vishnu and the goddess Lakshmi.

 

As well as being offered in Hindu worship rituals, the lotus has many uses in traditional Asian medicine. The root is used to treat a variety of ailments including skin rash and diarrhoea. Its large leaves act like cooling sheets to reduce a fever.

Wet lotus leaves, China

The lotus figures prominently in Buddhism where the pure, unblemished flower is considered to symbolise enlightenment. The “Noble Eightfold Path” —the Buddha’s guidance for righteous living— is believed to have been based on the eight-fold petals of the sacred flower.

Artwork of the Buddha frequently features him seated on an opened lotus flower. Hence the term “lotus position”, a cross-legged sitting asana originating from meditative postures in ancient India.

Buddha statue in Sri Lanka with flower offerings

Lotus flowers are offered in Buddhist temple ceremonies, above. Below, a monk places a flower at the foot of a sacred Bo tree in Sri Lanka.

Monk placing lotus offering under a sacred BO Tree in Sri Lanka

In Cambodia lotus leaves are used to sprinkle holy water on a bride and groom at a Khmer wedding. An excellent source of iron and fibre, the cooked root is used in many Buddhist vegetarian recipes.

Leaf brushes used to splash holy water on the bridal couple at a Khymer wedding ceremony.

The different colours of the lotus flower all have associated symbolism:

White represents a state of spiritual enlightenment and mental purity.

Red symbolises love and compassion.

Pink is reserved for the supreme deity: Lord Buddha himself.

Lotus flowers, Lake Toba, Sumatra

Blue symbolises the victory of the spirit over the senses, significant of wisdom and knowledge.

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Purple speaks of spirituality and mysticism.

"Blue" lotus flower

Gold links the purity of the lotus with the divinity of an enlightened person.

The golden lotus in the inner courtyard of the Meenaksi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

A GOLD LOTUS FLOWER IN THE MEENAKSI TEMPLE IN MADURAI, TAMIL NADU, INDIA

VARANASI, CITY OF DIVINE LIGHT

As dawn breaks over the Ganges in Varanasi, flickering candles on banana leaf offerings drift past our boat.

Candle offerings on banana leaf boats, offerings at Varanasi

As the sun rises higher, the stepped ghats lining the riverbank become a hive of activity.

Hindu bathing ghats on the river Ganges at Varanasi, sacred pilgrimage site India

Early arrivals are flower-sellers, priests and sadhus. or holy men, who make a living from the thousands of pilgrims who visit the sacred city.

Hindu sadhu or holy man

Women wearing vividly patterned saris arrive to bathe.

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Seated on the steps of the Assi Ghat, youths lather themselves with soap.

HINDUISM bathing in the Ganges Varanasi HI114A3JW copy

Ablutions performed, prayers are said and smoke curls upwards from the first cremation of the day on the Manarkarnika Ghat, the principal burning ghat in Varanasi.

Varanasi, the holy city of India is also known as Kasi and Benares; considered as abode of Lord Shiva; situated on the banks of R.Ganges. Ganga Ghats are popular pilgrimage spot. Hindus cremate dead bodies at this ghat.

On Kedar Ghat, professional laundry men begin washing clothes, slapping them on large flat stones with such force that we can hear the echo out on the river. There is religious merit in having your clothes washed in Varanasi, but Brahmins, the upper class in Hindu society, employ their own dhobi-wallahs to avoid caste contamination.

Saris dry on Kedar Ghat Varanasi

 Varanasi is the home of  Lord Shiva, one of the three main deities in Hinduism. Not only his Shaivite followers, but every devout Hindu hopes to die here and to have his ashes scattered on the holy river.

Lord Shiva shrine on the ghats at Varanasi

Throughout the day, corpses wrapped in gold-coloured bindings are brought for cremation. Another, then another, arrives on a litter borne through Varanasi’s narrow lanes by Doms —low caste untouchables, or Dalits.

The Jalasayin Ghat, the pricipal burning ghat of Varanasi, with a body laid out ready for cremation

Mourners stand watching the funeral pyres being built by other Dalits who perform all the unsavoury jobs at Varanasi.

Only male relatives attend a funeral. Normally the eldest son carries out the obsequies. He lights the pyre after first placing a burning stick in the mouth of the deceased.

Not everyone is cremated however. Sadhus, pregnant women and children under two are considered pure and do not need to be cleansed by the sacred fire.

They are either buried or set adrift on the river.

Old man worships the river Ganga

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Photography by Julian Worker, Nick Dawson and Prem Kapoor.

SACRED FOODS IN WORSHIP

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CHRISTIAN HOLY SACRAMENTS

Food has always played a significant role in worship. Probably the best known sacred foods are the bread and wine of the Christian Eucharist, but puja offerings in Eastern religions are equally blessed.

Hands preparing a puja tray offering to a god in a temple in India

SIMPLE BUTTER LAMPS HINDU PUJA

While rooted in tradition and religious texts, the choice of sacred foods is clearly dependent on climate, availability and financial status. Hence a poor Hindu will light a simple butter lamp for a favourite deity while a wealthy Daoist family orders roasted suckling pigs for a grand send-off at a Chinese funeral.

Roasted suckling pigs for sale for Chinese funeral in Cambodia

ROAST SUCKLING PIGS FOR A CHINESE FUNERAL IN CAMBODIA

Edible offerings from temple ceremonies are not wasted being distributed among the less well off. Animals and birds also receive a share as do sacred eels in certain cultural beliefs.

Moon Vake festival Hokkien Temple

MOON CAKE FESTIVAL OFFERINGS AT A HOKKIEN TEMPLE

Special status is accorded some foods such as the honey used in Jain purification rites.

Jain priests bathe an effigy of Lord Mathavir with honey in a Jain temple in India

JAIN PRIESTS BATHE A STATUE OF LORD MATHAVIR WITH HONEY

The seder plate, displayed on the dining table at the Jewish Passover, contains seven symbolic foods recalling the Exodus.

JUDAISM Seder plate with shank, eggs, herbs JU1358 PG copy

A SEDER PLATE WITH SYMBOLIC FOODS

Simple water becomes sanctified in Christian baptismal ceremonies, sacred water from the River Ganga is flown to Hindu festivals far from its source.

Baby being baptised in a church Anglican

CHRISTIAN BAPTISM USING SANCTIFIED WATER

Beans are thrown during Khmer wedding rituals, eggs are offered to Taoist temple gods, milk is poured on Shiva linga.

Boy pouring milk onto Shiva lingam

HINDU BOY POURING SACRED MILK ON A SHIVA LINGUM

Once sacrificed on Aztec altars and pre-Islamic shrines, human beings were the ultimate in sacred offerings to the Divine.

Marae Arahurahu sacrificial site on the island of Tahiti

ANCIENT MARAE ONCE USED FOR HUMAN SACRIFICES IN POLYNESIA (TAHITI)

 

PSALM 23: STILL WATERS

Jabal in spring, Dhofar province of Oman

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness  for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

For Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff  they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence  of mine enemies:

Thou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Cross overlooking the Dead Sea in Jordan

 

Psalm 23, from the Old Testament, often just referred to as “The Lord is My Shepherd,” is the most loved of all the psalms,  revered by Christians and Jews alike.

But while the language is soothing and as musical as a Shakespearean sonnet, one must look beneath the lines in order to discover their meaning.

Foremost is to accept the Lord as our guide to shepherd us through the undercurrents of life.

The green pastures and still waters symbolise the things He will teach us on the journey to set our spiritual lives in order.

Essentially to love one another and though at times we may walk through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” to fear no Evil.

And if we believe, and follow His example for righteous living during out time on Earth, at the end of life there will be a place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Read more:

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/bible/story/the-23rd-psalm/latin-vulgata-clementina