Diary of a prodigal daughter – July 20th, 2021
My most vivid memory, back in Holland around the time of the early 1950s, is one of the most profound significance. I will elaborate more clearly on this statement shortly somewhat further along, as I just had an epiphany today that hit me right between the eye of my conscience. I had quite by chance tripped over a video on Youtube about the quest for the revival of the nation of Israel and the resurgence of bringing many Jewish worshipers back to our Christian Savior, Yeshua, or Jesus Christ as we refer to him in Western Christian society. There is apparently indeed a huge shift happening within Israel and the fact that many thousands of Israelis are becoming Christians in these last days as it has been referred to by many, clearly indicates that there is a certain ‘awakening’ happening not only in Israel but throughout the world today.
I spent a lifetime searching for ‘the truth’ as a Christian, who left behind the institutionalized teachings of Christianity, but in particular that of what the Roman Catholic Church and what its instutionalized hierarchy stood for and how it had affected my outlook on life in general. The older I became the more drawn I became to digging deeper into what I thought was the only true church under the heavens. That is, until I learned of the many atrocities that were committed in Convents and Roman Catholic orphanages and other educational institutions. Retrogressing now, a number of centuries ago there was the Holy Inquisition, etc. etc., killing innocent people robbing them of their God-given Free Will, to worship their own cultural religious faiths. Or torturing scientists who came up with new theories on laws of relativity and which, we have learned, are now known today as a standard measurement of all things physics. Or that the world was a round sphere and not a flat pancake, many intelligent explorers have suffered their fate under the oppressive rule of Church dogma at the height of its power.
Then there was and still is the debauchery and horrific deeds of paedophilia perpetrated on defenseless children and babies, and which is still going strong even unto this very day. Canada and it indiginous people is one of numerous typical examples of this when you read their history under the domination of the Catholic Church, as well as that of other religious institutions such as the Anglican or Baptists churches who perpetrated these crimes and which makes them all accountable. Much of their hellish deeds were kept under wraps and remained hidden away from judgment and scrutiny by the law and the much needed public outcry and condemnation that had remained completely naive and ignorant and had no knowledge of the atrocities that had been perpetrated on their own. Enough said.
But as I began to question all these things and graduated to studying various other belief systems of Christianity including the numerous evangelized showy churches flogging their goods and drumming as much profit and cash into their organizations all in the name of God on various global TV Channels, I began to lose faith and hope that there may indeed not be that spiritually clean and noble church the Christ came to establish, and which I had been searching for. My belief in God never waned and I still hold conversations with Him, but I became spiritually dry and very dismayed at the world.
Where to start…
My grandparents lived in a 4-story house/building right opposite a large synagogue, a Jewish gathering place of worship. They also owned one of the historic Patrician homes along one of Leiden City’s most flourishing and busy canals so well loved by tourists from all over the planet then, and even more so today. At that time I did not really understand the significance of the fact that my family lived in a predominantly Jewish, Chinese and Indonesian neigborhood. Many of my friends were in fact Chinese and Jewish kids. We never gave it a thought that this was unusual. Our extended family were Roman Catholic, and I recall being raised and educated as one. I went through all the usual conditioning and the systematic learning of my catechism, going to confession on Saturday afternoons without fail, in order to be worthy of receiving the symbolic version of Jesus’ body and his blood in the form of my Holy Communion wafer, which was placed strategically on my little tongue by a Priest. A priest who smelled after wine and tobacco. So my newly cleansed holy temple (or body) would be worthy of Christ’s presence within me. Talk went around that we were not allowed to chew on the wafer as it would begin to bleed with Christs’ blood.
I remember studying very studiously one of the church’s provided for study books, depicting pictures of heaven and hell, and a wicked mean devil with goat’s hooves and a long spiky tail holding a trident condemning to hellfire, as a form of eternal punishment and damnation and the fate of any little girl or boy, who were caught by the all-seeing eye of God; to be promptly dispatched to eternal hellfire for committing their wicked little deeds. I can still vividly remember that woman, who was of regal tall stature with dark short curly hair and those imposing dark and watchful eyes which had the power to burn into my cheek like laser beams, as I pretended to be very serious and attentive. She was one of our nearby neighbors who had been relegated to teach young catholics the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. She was also a lay teacher in one of our Catholic Convent schools, where she taught young boys and girls to become well grounded into the faith in order to become faithful and dutiful parishoners and devout members of the church. I can still see the woman now as vividly as if I had bumped into her only yesterday. Isn’t it also ironic that we were never shown a Bible, nor ever read a scripture from the Holy Book? Most Catholics would have been very disadvantaged. We were actually discouraged to read and study the bible especially back then. Only the priests and bishops and popes were privy to open the good book because of their special standing with God. I wonder if any bothered at all? They would have realized that they were withholding the Word of God from its people. That would have been a sure mandate to self destruction in God’s eyes.
We were being prepped in readiness to receive our confirmation and we’d walk up the isle to the alter on that most important day in our lives, donned in our pretty silk white dresses and white knee high socks to become new brides of Christ as it were. I remember mostly that we were being taught all the fearesome rules and regulations learned through the church’s dogmas drummed into us. That preoccupation of my past still sends chills through my bones, as I recall those times even at such a young impressionable age. I admit, I have always felt a sense of resentfulness to authority, and the Catholic church conveyed that sense of fear and subjugation rather than sent me vibes of ‘love’. I am all for discipline but don’t turn it into an act of masochism to bring a child into line. I was under the impression that those Nuns of the day were really covertly advocates of the devil himself. I much preferred to play with my two little Jewish friends, and the brothers whose parents owned the synagogue.
They lived in a large house built in the late 1700’s and was obscured at the back from the street behind a tall brick wall that concealed a large beautiful garden filled with exotic plants, flowers and herb beds, enough to send you on a high. The living quarters was annexed to the synagogue. To the Left of the establishment level with the street front side, there were two tall black and very imposing heavy doors adorned with chunky brass handles that shone brilliantly in the midday sun, which were periodically flung open wide to welcome worshipers. This then would usher the welcomed parishoners who came to pay homage to their Creator, straight into a grand entrance voyer which had a small fountain in the center of the hall. Beyond that part was the inner sanctum and the tabernacle with its usual Jewish religious paraphernalia, and the eyecatching Temple Menorah. I remember also looking up with big open eyes of wonderment when I set foot in the place for the first time, and my little friends gave me an impressive tour of the temple, and I was so overwhelmed and impressed by the ceiling above me which was entirely covered by large flash skylights with vines growing randomly across it. Of course as I matured in life and did finally come to study the Bible I realized that vines projected a symbolic meaning also. Every object and adornment is presented with a symbolic religious connotation.
At the left side in front of the Tabernacle for examples was a large Arc Basket (looked more like a small boat) made of reeds but seemed large enough to hold the three of us. We would pretend to be rowing down the Nile just like Moses, when he was placed in the Basket as a mere babe and the current had carried him away to a safe haven out of the clutches of his enemies. I can still smell the scents of recently dispersed incense wafting about still hanging languorously upon the air bewitching us in that very holy and reverent place, whilst we giggled and played so very innocently in that reed basket . That is when my mind had flipped as instantaneous as flicking a lightswitch into the past. That strange feeling of elation had aroused in me a certain acute wareness; a feeling which has never left me as I still today every so often recall those images of us as children at play in God’s own house.
How I would interpret that feeling today would be akin to having being cradled in God’s own giant outstreched hands to safety as we were carried along on the currents of the mighty Nile. Because what I felt that day when we sat in Moses’ basket was an extraordinary experience that had touched my young sensibilities, and the fact I was a little bit of a drama queen and had a very fertile imagination, this feeling had been real and not imagined. I can’t speak for the brothers, as they had momentarily become obscured from my vision but could still faintly hear their giggling and mucking about while trying to push each other out of our imaginary boat. Today however reading about the restoration of bringing many Israelis back to the Davidic Messianic belief system, I felt thoroughly elated – as if a spiritual bridge had miraculously spanned itself across the millenniums of time to finally allow me passage, so I could reclaim my roots.
While watching this video, my mind travelled back immediately to that restful and peaceful place where we played in Moses’ basket. I felt as if I had come home. Perhaps my roots were surfacing and calling. Who knows? This is why I was prompted today to begin my new journey and write my story. The reason is more significant also, because clearly something very powerful has been tugging and pulling at me, and calling me to where I really belong. Yet I have tried to ignore and circumvent these emotions for over 20 years now, and today July 20th, 2021 is when I had a true epiphany that time is running out for me both figuratively in a spiritual sense and literally. Now well passed my mid-life years, I need to know more and find that peace that has todate eluded me in the religious and spiritual sense. The words that jumped out at me of this video’s presentation were the words…”Dig Deeper” which felt to me almost like an Omen. I have been procrastinating for so many years, as if running away from that activity to dig deeper as this meant that when I get to the ‘fork’ of the road, that I would need to make a ‘commitment’. Commitment comes with diligent dedication and follow up on all that committing oneself to one’s new found faith, means.
Because, when I finally came into possession of family papers after my parents had both passed on by the early 90’s, I discovered that on both my Father’s and my Mother’s side and extended family our roots go all the way back to Israel. No one in my lifetime, not even my grandparents, who had swarthy dark olive skinned complexions and in particular to bluntly call it had those glorious Jewish noses, unlike my own little nose which is slightly tilted rather than hooked, ever gave me any indication especially as a child, that we were of Jewish descent. My parents, I and my brother migrated to Australia in 1960 when I had just turned 11. We never returned to Holland since so extended family once so close to us became distant memories. I also found that strange in hindsight as we truly lost touch with them all. But I do remember they all believed in the Messiah, but suspected when they migrated to Holland, and first WWI started they all converted to Roman Catholicism. When WWII started, they had by then changed their identities and their religion. I do know my father did once confide in me that he had helped many Jewish people escape from the clutches of the Nazis, often using the canals around the city by night in an attempt to evade interrogation by the evil gestapo. I guess this is how he met my Mother.
The missing pieces to my puzzle of life and where I came from are all becoming much more lucid and validated. But that wondrous feeling and emotion that washed over me that day in Moses’ reed basket resurfaces whenever I hear the sound of traditional Jewish Temple chantillations or hear the soulful heralding sounds of the Ram’s Shofar bellowing across the mountains and gullies, echoing and beckoning its people to prayer, truly provides a deep emotional attachment, and is something not to be ignored anymore.
The menorah (/məˈnɔːrə/; Hebrew: מְנוֹרָה Hebrew pronunciation: [menoˈʁa]) is described in the Bible as the seven-lamp (six branches) ancient Hebrew lampstand made of pure gold and used in the tabernacle set up by Moses in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fresh olive oil was burned daily to light its lamps. The menorah was a symbol of both Judaism and Christianity since antiquity; in modern times it is considered solely a symbol of Judaism and is the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel.
I would have been just 5 or 6 years old at the time when I lived in Leiden, which is a famous landmark in The Netherlands if not the world, and is a city known for its grand University and student lifestyles, The Leiden University credits its high international rankings in science to the freedom it continues to give to its scientists to pursue excellence. Leiden University aims to maintain its internationally recognised position as a leading research-intensive university within the European area.
Leiden’s cosmopolitan atmosphere with its multicultural ethic groups, from Chinese, Spanish, Indonesian and other European nationalities could be found there roaming its busy streets, shops, spicy restaurants, business and market places, and has not changed since then, unto this day. My grandparents owned a large 4-story Patrician home further outside of Leiden, and they rented the many rooms out to students of all social backgrounds, and so I grew up within that social structure which to me was the ‘norm’. I had many uncles in becoming thoroughly acquainted with all the students in the house, as I proved to be a very precocious but charming child, whose curiosity knew no bounds, I was told once by my grandmother. Some became doctors and lawyers, and others became classically trained orchestral musicians It is a strange realization as I write this down, but I don’t remember ever seeing any female students at that time in my grandparents student rooms. Perhaps they only took in male students. How odd is that? When the students went on leave to spend time with their families at Christmas time and New Years, our entire family slept in those rooms normally occupied by the students. We had many aunties and uncles and many cousins, nephews and nieces who came to this wonderful family reunion time, and coming together to celebrate that special magic time of the year. Christmas trees smelled so good, and we used real life candles, as electric coloured Christmas lights were not yet invented or may have been an expensive novelty. But you can’t beat real candles and that wonderful smell of fresh candlewax dripping and milting across the trees’ branches so it did take some care and attention and we always had a bucket of water next to the tree in case of a fire.
Christmas trees also had its religious and symbolic meaning and significance to us Christians. But as I learned about its Pagan origins I felt disillusioned. But as far as those wonderful students were concerned they were very ok with our entire extended family using their beds for just a couple of days. Consider that my mother’s sisters and one of her brothers both produced 7 children each. What else would you expect from a good Catholic family put on earth by God to proliferate yet more catholics. Many of these students had become like family too ofcourse and I remember that some of the students would often venture downstairs to the ground floor and headed straight for my grandparents private section of the house, where my grandmother was busy cooking lunch for us in the kitchen, and they’d be shyly knocking on the door begging for a feed or the leftovers. They knew they could get anything from my doting grandmother. The best lunches were made of fried bread sandwiches with garlic butter and covered with fried tomatoes and caramelized onions, topped with a fried egg. The Dutch quisine was and still is extremely rich, and today and as it was back then promoted all these most prevalent and modern diseases that are with us today to get us in the end. So in hindsight as it turned out it was just as bad in the 50’s and there is nothing new in the world when it comes to human decadence. Indulgence had certainly left its legacy in us children and no wonder I had a gallbladder removal when I turned 52.
Those New Year’s celebrations however were magical. Much has changed over time I imagine as I have not yet been back to the country of my birth , but it is on my bucket list. But as I grow older and more unsure of life, I do feel very nostalgic as I am writing down my notes.
To be continued…