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~ Abracadabra ~

Many of our childhood sing-songs have roots in antiquity. For example, "Ring around a rosie, pocket full of posies...and we all fall down" has been attributed, with some debate, to the Black Plague of England and northern Europe that killed over twenty-five million people during the fourteenth century. We didn't know that, of course, but little kids often embrace mystery without too much concern for meaning especially if the mystery was fun to dance and play. (Though children do often ask about physical phenomenon, such as "Why is the sky blue?")

Another term you may remember using (regardless of the nation in which you grew up) was "Abracadabra." We knew it was associated with magic and the transformation of physical things from one form to another. This generation of children have been reintroduced to this incantation by the Harry Potter books and films. Even adults who perform "magic" or illusion entertainment use the term and most of them don't know its meaning or origin, used by "magicians" and stage conjurers since the third century. As early as the second century it was used as a talisman against sickness, written like a puzzle in the form of an inverted pyramid, removing letters from the ends of the word leaving "A" alone at the bottom, the "alpha" of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Actually, "Abracadabra" isn't a bad (evil) term. Yet it isn't a word to play around with either. Some sources attribute it to the Aramaic language spoken by Christ and the people of His days on earth:  "Avarah  K'Davarah," meaning "I will create as I speak." Kabbalistic and Gnostic literature refer to it also with those meanings. Other sources trace it to the Hebrew phrase “ha brachah dabarah” or “Speak the blessing”. Used as an amulet to heal afflictions and rid oneself of evil, it was chanted, each successive verse reducing the phrase letter by letter until reaching the beginning (and the end), the Alpha.

Perhaps you knew all this or are wondering why I am introducing it to you if you don't. The meaning of words, along with their sounds, contain great power and so we best be acquainted with them. A very common example is the use of "Amen." Many use it as "The End" to prayers, but it means "It is the truth" or "So be this truth." So in some scriptural translations, when Jesus begins with, "Amen, Amen I say to you..." He is, in a way, using the meaning of Abracadabra: "I am creating as I speak, for this is Truth." "Amen" is sacred language. Personally, I refrain from using that word in response to something with which I agree uttered from the mouth of say, a politician. "No new taxes!" should not be followed by an "Amen!" This is not the way Jesus used the word, nor should we. Similarly, "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah" doesn't mean, "Great news and thank you!" but rather derived from the Middle English language (Medieval Latin "alleluia" from the late Greek "allelouia" from the Hebrew "hallelujah") that literally means, "Praise Yahweh." So when we say, "Alleluia" let us remember we are invoking the very name of God, which must never be used in vain or personal vanity.

"In the beginning, God said..." (Genesis 1). Those words reflect the meaning of abracadabra: I create by speaking; I speak a blessing into physical existence." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...Through him [the Word] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1, 3).

In the physical realm we also speak into existence what we believe and embrace. How many of us pray, say the Lord's prayer, during a communal liturgy while thinking of something completely unrelated to what we are saying? These prayers will not speak anything into existence or into the heart of God who speaks into existence the prayers of our hearts. When someone prays for the healing of another while imagining the other suffering and dying instead of promoting a vision of health that coincides with our words, I suggest these prayers fall to the earth rather than ascending to Holy Spirit. God, of course, does not have human ears so He listens to the heart, the spirit, the seat of our souls. What we say with our vocal cords or think in our brains are not prayers, but rather the physical reflection of the prayers of our spirits. When we physically say or think, "Deliver us from evil," it's best not to have a picture in our minds of being shackled by evil but rather flying free, enveloped by the hands of God and resting in that imagery. It is an "abracadabra" in its original meaning.

Imagine having God's ears while listening to a worship service of any denomination or religious tradition. Imagine a large audience, which is often regarded as a "blessing" upon that church. Or imagine a small one of only 25 or so people. It doesn't really matter. Now imagine what God hears. Tons of thoughts about personal issues like problems, or how we look to others, or what others think of us, or what chores and tasks wait to be done at home when we finally get home. How many real prayers and praises of concentrated worship does God hear? Physically, the church assembly looks good. But how does it look to God? Imagine that.

The sense of time is a good measurement of our spiritual focus. You must have watched a great movie or TV show that lasted a couple of hours but seemed like five minutes. You also must have watched a movie or show that seemed like it took all day, regretting your waste of time. Haven't you also experienced the same thing in a worship service? Were there not some that you wondered where the time went and others that seemed to drag on? You must have also experienced "vacations" from "hell" so to speak, a week away that seemed like a year and you couldn't wait to get home. You probably also experienced "vacations" from heaven, wherein three weeks seemed only like a weekend. Our perception of time is intertwined with our assessment of meaning to it. The greater the meaning, the faster the time. The greater the meaninglessness, the slower the time.

There were times in a worship service when I could have remained in the church all day. I have had times when I was anxious to get home to pray in solitude or to finish what I deemed important work. I confess that those were not times I worshipped "in spirit and truth." And I regret them. I love and embrace the times I have worshipped in spirit and truth, undistracted by the earthly realm, when time just flew by, and wish so much to replicate them over and over. I will strive to do that. And it is my hope that this Reflection encourages you to do so as well.

There are churches on this earth in which everyone is focused on worshipping in truth and spirit. They are the persecuted churches in China, Cambodia, North Korea, the Middle East and other places. They don't have mega-congregations with 2000 people attending each of three services. A missionary from one of these wealthy congregations asked the pastor of one of the underground churches in the persecuted countries, "How can we pray for you?" He answered, "Pray that we don't become like you." Abracadabra! Amen! Alleluia! (In the true meaning of all of these words.)

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~

Spiritual Resource Services  © July 27, 2006

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