From time to time Wisdom and Good Deeds have always been brought to mankind by Messengers of God; in age after age have Messengers been sent by Zurvan: Shitil, Zarathustra, the Buddha and the Christ. (Gospel of the Prophet Mani 3:1)
The Bema Festival (observed annually) is by far the holiest of all festivals among Manichaeans. Besides the Bema Festival, however, various observances (holy days) are not universal. In Christian or Judeo-Christian lands some Manichaeans might celebrate Christmas, Epiphany, Easter or Jewish holy days along with those of their own (Bema, various days of the Manichaean saints, etc).
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The Arzhang or Ardahang, also known as the “Manichaean Picture Book” (sometimes referred to as “Mani’s Picture”), is a collection of artwork which depicts the various tenets of Manichaeism, adapted for various cultures. It is believed to have been lost centuries ago.
It has always been a Manichaean tradition to produce pictorial works for the purpose of teaching. In ancient times, as the books were passed on to missionaries in other lands, they were adapted for the needs of the local culture.
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The term “bema” can refer to an altar, a throne, or a platform for delivering religious talks.
A bema used as an altar is a raised platform with various steps. Within the Manichaean Church the main altar often consists of four steps leading to the top of the platform. The top of the bema is viewed as the fifth step.
The term “Bema” is Syriac Aramaic and literally refers to a throne. Both Hearers and Elect gather around the Bema to hear to Word of the Great Father because it is from the Bema, which is the Throne of Light in each local assembly of the Manichaeans, that the Truth is elucidated, by which the People of Light who reside in the earth are illumined.
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Manichaeans observe numerous days of celebration, memorials and commemorations. Some days help us remember certain saints, while others help us recall or keep in mind events that took place within the Religion of Light, either in recent years or in the distant past.
Some of holy days observed by Manichaeans include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Various Sabbaths throughout the year
- Specific days for fasting
- Birth, passing and resurrection of Jesus
- Birth, passing and resurrection of Mar Mani
- Commemoration of various Saints
- Various seasons and equinoxes
Free-will is the ability for each individual human to choose its own direction without being coerced by any angelic, godlike or celestial influence. In other words, a man or a woman has the ability to choose to do right or wrong, according to the dictates of their own mind. Manichaeans believe that there are consequences to one’s choices and if one chooses the wrong path and commits sinful acts, then one must pay for those actions.
Manichaeans understand “free-will” to be a gift from God to humanity. What this means is that when humanity was first created, it did not have much of a choice in anything. God was compassionate and through the Living Spirit, He granted humanity the gift of free-will. This way, humanity could not be controlled entirely by demoniac force. But at the same time, God Himself would not interfere with the choices humanity makes. God allows a man or woman to make their own choices, even if those choices are wrong.
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According to our faith, the act of aborting a child is forbidden. One of our sacred texts says, “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill a child that has been born.” This passage obviously condemns abortion, but it also identifies the fetus as a child.
One of our religious leaders has warned us saying: “If you vote for a political party that condones the practice of abortion, then the blood of the innocent is on your hands.”
Certain political parties in the world have as part of their agenda, the sponsorship of abortion clinics, the passing of laws to give women rights to murder the fetus, etc. Thus, voting for such parties brings judgment against a person.
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In Manichaeism the “three worlds” are also referred to as the “three ages” or “three eras.”
In the beginning the Spiritual World of Light and the Material World of Darkness were separate.
Disciples of Mani believe humanity currently exists in the Second Age which is characterized by the mixing of Light and Darkness. Manichaeans believe Light has been trapped in a physical body which was designed by the forces of the World of Darkness. According to divine revelatory texts, it is during the latter part of the Second Age that a Messenger will appear in the world of mankind to help bring a message of hope to the world. Manichaeans believe that his teaching will help individuals realise their true origin and liberate the Light within from the darkness.
The Third Age is future. The Church teaches that this age will bring about the division of Light and Darkness once again. The Light that is trapped in the physical body will be separated and return to God in the Celestial Kingdom of Light.
Manichaeans believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Saviour and Light of the world.
We believe that Christ, whom we sometimes refer to as “Yisho”, is a perfect reflection of His Father and that belief in the Lord and His Gospel, along with proper application of the same, is rewarded with eternal life.
Manichaeans believe that Mar Mani only rejected rabbinical law where it was not in harmony with the plain teaching of the Law of Israel. He also rejected much of the rabbinical interpretation of the Law. He never rejected the purity of the Law of Moses or the Old Testament. He quoted from the Psalms and based some of his own psalms on those of the Old Testament. He also quoted Paul and was in fact fond of the Apostle and his teaching style. It is also believed by Manichaeans that Paul did not reject the Law.
Continue reading “Did Mar Mani reject the Old or New Testament?”