~ 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
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
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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