Jun 8, 2009

Luz Maria receives her education degree

Luz Maria and me

Luz Maria received her "licenciatura" in elementary education on June 3, 2009.

In Venezuela's educational system, there are nine grades of elementary school. Then you go to the equivalent of high school, except that in only two years you receive the title of "bachiller". This is what in English we would call a "bachelor's degree", except that it is really the equivalent of a high school diploma. You need your bachiller before you can enroll in a university. But instead of four years of undergraduate coursework, you have to take six years worth of university courses before you get the licenciatura.

Luz Maria with her diplomaAs alternatives to public and private universities, there also are vocational-technical colleges that offer "technical" degrees, but these do not count toward the licenciatura. The title of licenciatura is necessary if you want to be a doctor, lawyer or some other type of professional.

After you get your licenciatura, you may, much like in the United States, earn a master's degree after two more years of postgraduate study and, two years after that, a doctorate.

Luz Maria earned her licienciatura by taking continuing education courses from la Universidad Nacional Experimental de los Llanos "Ezequiel Zamora". This translates roughly as "Ezequiel Zamora National Research University of the
Plains". It's a mouthful in either Spanish or English, so the university is commonly known by its acronym, UNELLEZ. It's pronounced "oo-nay-zhays", except the way people say it here it sounds like one syllable.

Luz Maria and her friend, AdaUNELLEZ is much like the "land-grant" universities of the United States, in that it was established as a combination of an agricultural research station and a teacher's college. In fact, the UNELLEZ motto is "La universidad que siembra" or "The university that plants". They mean this both in an agricultural sense and in the sense of teachers sowing the seeds of knowledge. It's as good a university motto as any, I suppose.

Most of Luz Maria's fellow graduates also received their degrees in education, but there was a smaller group that received licenciaturas in animal science.

UNELLEZ is located on the road from La Caramucas to Barinas. On our way into town we first pass the military base, then the prosperous suburb of Alto Barinas (where you find the big, North American-style shopping malls) and finally, on the outskirts of the city itself, the entrance to the UNELLEZ campus. This is a circle with a fountain in the center and surrounded by food stands and street vendors' kiosks.

UNELLEZ owns a large tract of land in La Caramuca, just a few blocks from us. Rumor has it that one day the university will develop this property into a branch campus. The resulting influx of jobs and people would have a great impact on the community and on our mission.

Ezequiel Zamora, Venezuelan military man of th...Image via Wikipedia

By the way, Ezequiel Zamora was a hero of Venezuela's Guerra Federal, a five-year-long civil war in the mid-19th Century. Zamora was born in 1817, in the midst of Venezuela's War of Independence from Spain. As a grown man, he became a champion of the Federalist cause. The Federalists envisioned Venezuela as a constitutional republic with a strong central government, similar to the United States. This plan was opposed by the powerful land-owning class that wanted to keep Venezuela a feudal aristocracy (but without having to pay taxes to the King of Spain).

On December 10, 1859, as a general in the federal army, Zamora led his troops to a sweeping victory in the Battle of Santa Ines, which took place only 36 kilometers (22 miles) southeast of the city of Barinas. This was one of three critical battles which led to a Federalist victory in 1863. However, Zamora was killed in 1860, less than year following the Battle of Santa Ines.

Trinity Sunday and the Athanasian Creed

St. Athanasius, depicted with a book, an icono...Image via Wikipedia

June 7, 2009, was Trinity Sunday and I took advantage of the opportunity to introduce our flock to the Athanasian Creed. They know the Apostle's and Nicene creeds. I reminded the members of our new confirmation class that the Apostle's Creed, which we will study in depth, is the shortest and simplest of the three great creeds. The Nicene Creed is a little longer and more involved,
but the Athanasian Creed is undoubtedly the longest and most complex.

Despite its length, the Athanasian Creed was always a favorite of mine. Because the congregation only recited it publicly once a year, on Trinity Sunday, I was sure that made it a very special creed. Later, as an adult, I realized that nobody was clamoring to recite the Athanasian Creed more than once a year because of its length and the use of words that you never hear in everyday conversation, like "uncreated" and "co-eternal".

Nevertheless, I hope to introduce the custom of publicly reciting the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday in La Caramuca. This year I just read it as part of the sermon, after a brief discussion of the sermon text, Matthew 28: 18-20, as one of the key passages that provide the foundation for the doctrine of the Trinity and of the life of Athanasius of Alexandria, the brilliant and courageous fourth-century theologian who defended the Trinitarian doctrine against the Arian heretics.

Without getting into the intricacies of the Arian controversy, I explained that in Athanasius' day, just like today, there are people who think that it should be enough to say there is one God and leave it at that. As Athanasius maintained, however, the Scriptures do teach the doctrine of the Trinity and without a proper understanding of the Trinity is essential to understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ. And apart from know Christ as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures (rather than some wish-fulfillment portrait of what you think Christ should be), there is no hope of salvation.

Which is, of course, why Jesus commanded His disciples, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you..."

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