Category Archives: Church “seasons”

More Lenten meditation – 2024

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One of many thought-provoking ideas – I hope – for this Lent 2024…

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As part of my ongoing 2024 meditation, Lent as Pilgrimage, I went back and checked some older posts on the subject. I typed “Lent contemplation” in the search box above right, and found this post from December 2015: Develop your talents with Bible study.

I’m not sure what the connection was between that near-Christmas 2015 post and Lenten contemplation, but maybe it was the theme, “opening your mind with Bible study and developing your talents.” And those two subjects certainly seem worthy of contemplation during this Lent.

The post started with Matthew 25:14-30 and the Parable of the talents. The lesson?

Develop your talents! That’s the point: That you can’t be a “good and faithful servant” unless you give back to God more than what He originally gave you. And you can’t do that by being too literal, too focused on “avoiding sin.”

It went on to talk about how humans will always make mistakes and that maybe “the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us.” Also about not developing a “holier than thou” attitude, and not becoming just another “Carbon Copy Christian.” (Instead, “Sing to the LORD a new song.”)

But mostly it was about developing your talents, as a way of “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.” In other words, becoming someone “who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute.”

Which is the definition of a mystic, one who “attempts to be united with God through prayer.” I also noted the term “mystic” seems to throw Southern Baptists and other conservatives into apoplexy, adding, “Try it sometime!!!” But of course, that was only joking…

The post also noted the story of Shadrach and the Fiery Furnace. That’s when he and his buddies – Meshach and Abednego – were about to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Those three men knew that God could save them if He wanted to, but they also knew that might not fit in with His (God’s) purpose. Thus their response to the king in Daniel 3 (16-18):

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar…  If our God …  is able to deliver us, he will deliver us…  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Note the emphasized “But if not…” The three men were really saying something like this: “O Nebuchadnezzar, it’s up to God Himself to decide if He’ll deliver us… God certainly has the power to save us, but even if He decides not to, we will still believe in and follow Him…”

Definitely a great lesson for this 2024 year of political turmoil and polarization.

And finally, the Notes in that 2015 post had a link to an earlier post, from May 2014, The Bible as “transcendent” meditation. That post also talked about “so-called Christians” who focus on sin – usually someone else’s – rather than all the positive things that regular Bible-reading can give you. (A discipline like the one Paul mentions in Hebrews 12:11, that “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.”) And it should be a gentle but persistent discipline. As one writer said, the would-be meditator (or “work-in-progress” Christian) should give himself permission to make mistakes. “You will make them anyway and will be much more comfortable – and get along better with this exercise – if you give yourself permission in advance.”

Or as Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Which may not always seem true, especially when you’re going through a trial. However, with faith you’ll know, “God will save us. He will see us through this trial, so we come out stronger when it’s over.”

Another not-bad set of lessons to ponder this Lent…

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The upper image is courtesy of

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: “Carbon copy Christian.” The link is to “Another brick in the wall,” from February 2015. Which is another term for such a Christian, and that post was pretty close to Lent in 2015.

On singing new songs. Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 98:1 and 144:9, from [S]inging a NEW song to God.

Re: The discipline of Bible-reading producing “a harvest of righteousness and peace.” It can also give your life structure and purpose, things many people seem to be missing these days.

Re: Matthew 11. For the full reading see Matthew 11:28-30. In the King James Version (the one God uses), it reads, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (For some reason I remember the first part reading, “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden…” Travail meaning “work especially of a painful or laborious nature.”)

The lower image is courtesy of Jesus Yoke Is Easy Burden Is Light – Image Results. It comes with a page, My Burden Is Light – Love, Grief and Healing, worth reading.

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On Lent as a Pilgrimage – 2024

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A visual metaphor of Lent – for example – as a pilgrim path toward Jesus, per John 6:37… 

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Not long ago I published an eBook, 30 Years’ Feedback from God. Which has nothing directly to do with this post, but finishing it up freed me to start on my next book. For now I’m calling it, “My 2023 Hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.” (What the French call the GR 70.) Which got me thinking about past pilgrimages I’ve made – like hikes on the Camino de Santiago.

Which also got me thinking about “Lent as a Pilgrimage.” That’s when I found out I wasn’t alone in that thought. I’ve included four links in the Notes – from which I’ll borrow here – and they all point to the wisdom of Psalm 84:5, that happy are those whose “hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.” And here are some nuggets from those links: First, that “pilgrimage” is not some abstract idea or concept. Instead it’s a “deeply fitting idea for this time of Lent:”

A pilgrim is someone on a journey – a journey away from a place of comfort and familiarity on the way toward unknown places of both possibility and challenge. 

For many of us, Lent is definitely a time of challenge, discomfort and the unfamiliar. (Though for some reason I’ve come to enjoy the idea of Lent.) On that note, in Lent we “intentionally break away from our normal routine of daily life” – with all its trivialities – and focus on the spiritual. “In other words, Lent is a pilgrimage – a spiritual pilgrimage to the Cross.”

Which you could say describes every Christian pilgrimage.

Which brings up some of the Christian-pilgrim hikes that I’ve done so far; five of them now. (The latest was that 2023 hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.) So for this installment of “Lent 2024” I offer up the following past posts, in reverse order, On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey,” from July 2023, St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage,” from August 2019, and I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, from September 2018.

The first post said James, son of Zebedee – also called “St. James the Greater” – is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And he is the St. James – Sant Iago – whose remains (“relics”) are the focus for thousands of peregrinos who hike the Camino de Santiago. Here’s what Satucket said:

Tradition has it that [James] made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried [at] Compostela… His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries.

Which is another way of saying that James’ name itself had magical powers in the past. And speaking of a pilgrim path, you could say every Christian uses some of that magic in following John 6:37, where Jesus said He would never turn away anyone who comes to Him. Meaning that from the time you “take the pledge,” your life is one long journey on the road toward Jesus.

On a related note see Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain –

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25.  Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The article noted that July 25 is a public holiday in “Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.”  (A side note: The “autonomous community” – or province – of Galicia, is in northwestern Spain, and that’s where Santiago de Compostela lies, as the “provincial” capital.) 

The article added that according to Christian tradition: 1) this James the Greater may have traveled to the area now called Santiago;  2) this James was beheaded in Judea in 44 CE, but also; 3) that his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón, on the Galician coast. Then they  buried his body “under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.”

Then there’s the Back from Rideau pilgrimage post from 2018. For the unfamiliar, the Rideau Canal is a 125-mile canoe route, in our case from Kingston, on the shore of Lake Ontario, up to Ottawa. But it’s not really a “canal.” There are canals and locks to go through, but mostly it’s a bunch of “big-ass lakes,” as one wag put it. Including but not limited to Newboro Lake, Upper and Lower Rideau lakes, and Big Rideau Lake. (With the emphasis on Big.)

Colonel By Island is somewhere in the middle of Big Rideau Lake, and my brother Tom and I reached it the afternoon of Tuesday, August 21, 2018, after “paddling through a veritable monsoon.” That morning we had paddled 10 miles, but in the afternoon we made a mere four miles. (After leaving Narrows (Lock 35.)) Which is why we decided to camp at ”Colonel By” instead of proceeding further. “But wait, there’s more!” We got up the next morning, after trying to sleep through another violent rainstorm, only to find that raccoons had broken into our food containers and taken much of our supplies of breakfast bars, crackers and trail mix. 

Which leads to it being said that all true pilgrimage calls for “discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.” More to the point, a pilgrimage – like our 11-and-a-half-day canoe trip on the Rideau canoe trail – “may be described as a ritual on the move.” Further, through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – not to mention veritable monsoons and raccoon raids – we quite often find a sense of our fragility as “mere human beings.” And finally, such a pilgrimage – like such a true Lenten discipline – can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I’ve experienced some definite “chastening” on past pilgrimages, but I’ve also experienced a whole lot of beautifully liberating moments too. Like getting up at 4:00 in the morning – to avoid contrary winds – and getting to see the sun rise in the east over a nice calm “big-ass lake.”

Here’s wishing you both a chastening and a liberating Lenten pilgrimage…

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Resultswhich led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or sacred endeavor, making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”

One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. 

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feedback.” The full title, 30 Years’ Feedback from God: Or “A Look Back at FSU’s 1993 Championship Season – and Its Impact on 2023.” 

The full reading of Psalm 84:5, “Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.”

Other past posts of interest, and for possible in a future “Lent 2024” post: An update – “Feast Days in France,” from September 9, 2023, and my February 2015 post, On donkey travel – and sluts. Those four links supporting the idea of Lent-as-pilgrimage: Lent as a pilgrimage on which we are not alone – Catholic Philly, The Pilgrim Way of Lent – Washington National Cathedral, Our Pilgrimage Through Lent | Christianity Today, and A Reflection on Lent as Pilgrimage – Verso Ministries.

More on ritual, and pilgrimage as “ritual on the move:” In one definition a pilgrim is someone on a quest to “find himself.” (See Self-discovery – Wikipedia.)  And one way of finding yourself is through a healthy sense of ritual, as noted in the book Passages of the Soul:  Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans. That book provided the “all true ritual” quote It also noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

I took the lower-image photo, on one of those early-morning paddles:

[T]o avoid the often-contrary prevailing winds, we started getting up at 4:00 a.m. (Which would be – to most people anyway – a “raw experience” in the form of a lack of the usual number of hours of sleep. Not to mention having to stumble around in the dark while breaking camp.) On the other hand, getting up that early led to the picture … of one of the benefits of getting up at 4:00 a.m. Aside from the fact that the water is usually much smoother at that hour – especially important on those “big-ass lakes” in the first half of the trip – it also led to us seeing some beautiful sunrises. 

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“Welcome to Lent – 2024”

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An alternate version of that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the Lord…”

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I started to call this post, “Whatever you do, can be done to you.” I wanted to do that because of the upcoming presidential election, with its promises of lots of payback and throwing political opponents in jail. (Not to mention “dictatorship.”) But I figured the more Christian thing to do was focus on Lent – and hope that maybe some Lenten discipline might keep such bad things from happening. Besides, doesn’t the Bible say “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord?”

Well yes, but some wag added, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but sometimes it’s hard not to get a jump on it yourself.” Which brings up a more earthly incentive, for anyone tempted to throw people in jail for having a different opinion. “Whatever you do, could be done to you in return.” (With a possible addendum, “Once you leave office.”)

Some people call that karma, while others call it the Goose-Gander theory. (“What’s good for the goose,” etc.) But Jesus put it this way, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (In the King James Version, the one God uses.) But that might be too subtle for some people, which leads to the more direct, “Whatever you do could be done to you in return.” But that’s enough of a Rabbit Trail.

It’s time to get back to this year’s Lenten discipline. And maybe look back at some of my past disciplines? For example, in 2016 I noted that while most people see Lent as giving up something, others choose to do something positive, to “add to my spiritual life.” Then too:

For my part, I’ve always wondered just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  So I’ve decided that – aside from Bible-reading on a daily basis, which I already do anyway – I’ll spend this [2016] Lent “meditating” on this topic.

You could also say I was contemplating about when, where and how Moses wrote the Torah. “Profoundly thinking about something.” Which led me to phrase the question this way: “What did Moses know, and when did he know it?” For example, did Moses know the full story of that “big bright thing in the sky?” Did he know – far in advance of his fellow Israelites – that the “earth” revolves around the “sun?” And if he did know that, would he want to share that information with the newly-liberated, largely-illiterate former slaves?

My own theory came to be that if Moses did know the earth revolved around the Sun, he’d be wise not to share that information. He could have been stoned – and not in the good way – for “heresy.” As it was, he’d already come close to being killed by the tribe of unwashed habiru he was supposedly leading. That’s a subject I explored in On Moses getting stoned.

Or think if you could go back in time – say, back to 1963 and your 7th-grade home room class – and started trying to explain what comes in 50 years. “For one thing, cash will become passé. You’ll have these plastic cards, see, and when you buy something you’ll just stick this card in a machine. Also, you’ll have a phone with no cords, that you can take anywhere, even out driving. Also, you’ll see people walking around who seem to be talking to themselves, but they’re actually chatting – by phone – to people miles away, through this thing they stick in their ear..”

And remember that scene in Back to the Future? Where Marty tells Doc that in 1980 Ronald Reagan will be president? Only you’d tell your fellow 7th-graders that Donald Trump will be elected president in 2016. And if you told your 7th-grade classmates all that – along with copy machines and home computers – you’d be lucky just to wind up in the local psych ward.

But all this is just another way of saying there are some things beyond our ability to comprehend. For example, “our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God.” Or as one professor put it – about our inherent inability to understand God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend [God] than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature. (E.A.)

In plain words, there was a vast difference between what Moses knew – from 40 years as a highly-learned Prince of Egypt, with all the “scroll learning” that meant – and what he could reasonably share with his largely illiterate audience of former slaves.  

In plain terms, Moses was forced by circumstances beyond his control “to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.” 

To sum up, Moses was well advised not to write the “learned treatise” that some people expect of the Bible. If he had presented such a learned treatise to his fellow Hebrews – if he had mentioned dinosaurs, or the earth being billions of years old, or the earth revolving around that “big bright round thing in the sky – his “people” would have thought him crazy, or worse. Just like there were about to do in Numbers 14:10, when “all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” (Moses, along with Joshua and Caleb, who tried to defend him.)

For that matter, just like if you went back in time to 1963 and tried to tell fellow 7th-graders of “50 years from now:” Of buying things without cash, of wandering around talking to yourself but really talking with someone miles away, or of typing out words on a small plastic device and sending out information literally over the world – and all with the touch of a button!

Hmmm. Not a bad set of meditations to start out Lent 2024 with…

Happy Contemplating!

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In 1955, Marty McFly tells Doc that Ronald Reagan will be president in 30 years…

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The upper image is courtesy of Vengeance Is Mine Sayeth The Lord … Image Results. (And by the way, I would have capitalized the “He.”) The link included the “get a jump on it” quote attributed to Robin Brande. The “vengeance is mine” comes from Romans 12:19, with cross-references to Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 32:35, and Proverbs 20:22.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: “Judge not.” See Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you will be judged. – Bible Hub.

Re: Lent. See also Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?

For this post I borrowed from – in no chronological order – My Lenten meditation (2016), On Ash Wednesday – 2022, On the beginning of Lent – 2018, and from 2019, OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

“Habiru.” Basically, “desert cutthroats.” See the “Stoned” post, which also includes my take on why Moses didn’t write out the “learned treatise” that some scoffers think the Torah should have been.

The “scroll learning” link is to Book Learning Definition … YourDictionary, on knowledge “gained from reading or study rather than from practical experience.” But Moses seems to have had both…

The lower image is courtesy of Image Back To The Future Ronald Reagan President – Image Results. For a “live” version see Videos for Image Back To The Future Ronald Reagan President Youtube. Which includes quotes that Reagan “loved the movie.”

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“Happy Epiphany, 2024!”

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“Twelfth Night Merrymaking” – on a day we celebrate as the Epiphany sometimes got out of hand…

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I last posted on December 17, 2023. It’s now January 6, 2024.

Since that month-ago post I’ve gone through two family Christmases. One involved driving a thousand miles up to Massachusetts and back. The second came a week after the real Christmas, and both involved lots of pre-celebration preparation. (To get just the right gifts.) Then too, that first one involved catching some kind of nasty bug up in Wilkes-Barre PA, on the drive home. Which got me a “sore throat of Biblical proportions,” and had a dramatic impact on the second celebration as well. Which also means I’ve been going through lots of recuperation time, a recuperation helped in large part by generic NyQuil, DayQuil, and lots of new-discovered Vicks VapoCOOL Severe cough drops. (And by the way, “Those things work great!“)

But now it’s time to get back on track, with “Happy Epiphany, 2024!” And by the way, the Feast of Epiphany – celebrated each January 6 – officially ends the “12 days of Christmas:”

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season beginning on Christmas Day … that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. This period is also known as Christmastide… The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus. In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day [or “Twelfth Night”] overlap.

Another tidbit: Aside from being called The Epiphany, it and the days close to it – and sometimes those days overlap – also include Plough MondayThree Kings Day (as in, “We Three Kings of Orient are”), and – as noted above – Twelfth Night. And speaking of “12th Night,” the custom of eating and especially drinking way too much became such a problem that it was banned in some places. For example, “Twelfth Night in the Netherlands became so secularised, rowdy and boisterous that public celebrations were banned from the church.”

There’s more information – on “Three Kings of Orient” and other holidays in the 12 days of Christmas – in the links in the notes below. But getting back to Epiphany, the Epiphany is the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as human in Jesus Christ:”

The observance [of Epiphany] was a general celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi [and] all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist

One of those “childhood events” in the life of Jesus was His having to undergo circumcision. (A subject “good Christians” don’t like to talk about much.) That event is celebrated each January 1, as the eighth day after Jesus was born. (Assuming that happened on Christmas Eve.)

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. Since we are more squeamish than our ancestors, modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older. Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. It is a fit close for a week of martyrs, and reminds us that to suffer for Christ is to suffer with Him. (E.A.)

See also Luke 2:21:  “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.” That in turn was in accordance with Genesis 17:12:  “For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised.” And by the way, squeamish is defined as “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.” But unfortunately, such Unpleasant Things are a big part of life these days, and so something a Good Christian needs to get used to.

One other thing: January 6 also marks the start of the Season of Epiphany. That church season runs from the day of Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. In 2024 that comes on the same day as Valentine’s Day. (How’s that for irony?) And Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.

Put another way, Epiphanytide runs from January 6 to the Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday, which we know as Mardi Gras. All of which means Easter will come early this year, on March 31. And as if all that wasn’t enough, 2024 is also a Leap Year, meaning we get an extra day, on Thursday, February 29. And finally, there’s an election coming up in November, which “may determine the future of the Free World.” Here’s hoping for a happy and prosperous 2024…

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This year Ash Wednesday comes on Valentine’s Day. (A day after Mardi Gras…) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Twelfth Night (holiday) – Wikipedia. The full caption: “‘Twelfth Night Merry-Making in Farmer Shakeshaft’s Barn,’ from Ainsworth‘s ‘Mervyn Clitheroe,’ by Phiz.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

For this post I borrowed from 2016’s Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” 2017’s To Epiphany – “and BEYOND,” Happy Epiphany – 2018, and On the Epiphany SEASON – 2022. Also from On the 12 DAYS of Christmas – 2021-22, and – on a sadder note – Epiphany ’23, the end of Christmas and “farewell Mi Dulce.”

Re: 2024. See 2024 is a leap year. Here’s what to know and when Easter, other holidays are next year.

The lower image is courtesy of Mardi Gras – WikipediaCaptioned: “Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street.”

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On Advent 2023 – “Happy New (Liturgical) Year!”

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The 2024 Church Year actually started on December 3, 2023 – as detailed in the text below…

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did. (John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Sunday, December 3, was the First Sunday of Advent. That began a four-week church season that calls us to look in four directions at once: “back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth.” It is a time of anticipation, and not just for Christmas:

The first Sunday of Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, and yet there is a continuity with the end of the liturgical year just finished… One does not have to be a prophet of doom to recognize that this year [2020] has been filled with terrible events… We need God to come and fix a broken world. The season of Advent is about [the] “devout and expectant delight” that God will do that.

Those comments were from a blogger back in 2020, and he was right. That year was filled with bad events that presented a host of problems, old and new. They included a just-new COVID epidemic and the Election That Seemed Like It Would Never End. (And looks to continue – “Part Two” – later in the calendar year 2024.) But then again, “man is born to trouble as as sparks fly upward. So it seems like this upcoming year too will present even more daunting problems.

But rather than opening up that can of worms, let’s get back to the start of Advent.

For one thing, Advent actually starts with the Feast of St. Andrew. He’s the disciple who met Jesus first, then brought his brother Peter along to meet Him too. As such he is called the “First Apostle,” and this year his feast day came on Thursday, November 30. The National Catholic Register said he was “one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.” Which is another way of saying he was pretty important, but often overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

See also Who Was Andrew the Apostle? The Beginner’s Guide. See the notes for cites to past posts, with a host of information on things like Advent Calendars, and also tradents. (They helped the men with the pen understand those “cheat sheets” that were the earliest Bible scrolls.) But for now it’s enough to repeat that Advent as a church season has been around a long time. For example, starting about 300 A.D. Advent was “kept as a period of fasting as strict as in Lent.” But then around 1917 the Catholic Church “abolished the precept of fasting …  but kept Advent as a season of penitence.” But it’s also a time of “joyful anticipation.”

Another thing to note is that for three of the four Sundays of Advent, the Old Testament readings – in many churches – will be from the prophet Isaiah, shown below:

Isaiah is the prophet who guides our journey through Advent as we prepare for Christmas. Advent is a season of joyful anticipation, and Isaiah invites us to look forward to the coming of the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord.

Beyond that, Isaiah urges us to straighten out our crooked ways, tear down our mountains of misdeeds, and fill in the valleys of our bad habits.” Which sounds a lot like lyrics from Handel’s Messiah, a fixture of the Christmas season: “Woe to the concert hall in the United States or Britain that fails to schedule the piece around the holiday, when, as well, CD sales and Web downloads of the oratorio soar.” So have a Happy Advent, full of joyful anticipation…

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The prophet Isaiah, featured in this season’s Advent O.T. readings…

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The upper image is courtesy of Happy New Year 2024 – Image Results. The full link in the caption is Calendar of the Church Year – The Episcopal Church, noting Advent as the “first season of the church year, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas.” See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

For this post I borrowed, from 2016, On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning,” Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself…”,” and On Advent 2022 – and St. Andrew, from December 7 of that year, with information on Advent Calendars, including a cite to Advent calendars are raking it in while counting it down. Also, On Advent ’22, Tradents, and “Scriptio continua.” (12/21/22)

“Advent calls us to look back.” See the post by Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig. And the “man is born to trouble” quote is from Job 5:7.

The Old Testament reading not from Isaiah – on December 24, the last Sunday of Advent – is 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. (Where David and the prophet Nathan discuss building a house for God, and God responds, in essence, “Did I ask you to build a house for me?”)

The full “Handel’s Messiah” link is The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah – Smithsonian Magazine.

The lower image is courtesy of Isaiah – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceilingVatican City).” See also, on “the prophet who guides our journey”: Isaiah: Old Testament prophet for the Advent season.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “”

Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR

On “Black Saturday” weddings in Lent – and other matters…

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I last did a post on February 27, On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2023, a little over two weeks ago. I had just finished up a five-day, four-night adventure, canoeing into the Okefenokee Swamp. In recovering from that adventure I missed Ash Wednesday. But I figured I did some good penance by enduring the butt-numbing discipline of paddling a canoe for hours and hours on end. (Not to mention mosquitoes and watching out for curious gators.)

On the other hand – kind of an Alpha and Omega – it looks like I’m going to miss Easter Sunday as well. My grandson is getting married this spring, and guess what date he and his fiance picked? April 8. It took me awhile to figure out, but that’s the day before Easter Sunday. That’s Holy Saturday to some people, while other devout people call it Black Saturday.

BTW: I’ll miss Easter Sunday – or at least going to church – because it’s 450 miles down to Tampa. After the weekend “party time” with one extended family, one I haven’t seen in awhile, I’ll want to get home quick. (“Forgive me, Lord, but I’m not up to drinking that much any more.”)

And just as an aside, I also had to change a long-sought doctor appointment. The doctor I’ve seen for years moved to a distant city. My new doctor – the one my brother and his wife picked after the same move – is very popular. She’s so popular that when I tried to make an appointment back in the middle of 2022, the earliest appointment I could get was April 7. But because I’ll be driving down to Florida for the wedding, I had to make a new appointment. The date for my new appointment? October 31, Halloween Day.

At least it’s in 2023, but I figure all this rigmarole is worth some good Lenten points.

For one thing, it led me to do more research on Holy Saturday. It’s the final day of Holy Week, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Specifically, the day “commemorates the Harrowing of Hell while Jesus Christ’s body lay in the tomb.” In some places it’s also called “Black Saturday.” That would seem – at first blush – not to be an auspicious day for a wedding.

Then there’s the article, Good Friday and Holy Saturday: Getting Married During Lent. It noted that as holy sacraments, “Catholic weddings during Lent [are] allowed except on two days.” Those two days are Good Friday and Holy Saturday. “If one were to ask a priest to allow a wedding on any of the two above-mentioned days, the immediate response is going to be a no.” But then, the young couple is not going to get married in a Catholic church – on April 8.

As to the “why,” Holy Saturday is a day of mourning. It reminds us of “Christ’s laying in the tomb.” Accordingly, the Catholic church says that “merrymaking, noise, and activity” must be kept to a minimum. No sacraments are allowed, including marriage and holy communion. There are some limited exceptions. Holy communion can be given as a Viaticum, to one who is dying; in other words, as part of Last Rites. Then too, “When there is an imminent threat to one’s life, such as death knocking on one’s door, lifting matrimonial restrictions is a possibility.”

In other words, a couple can get married if one partner has one foot in the grave. Which is not just an idiom meaning one is on the verge of death. (Close to death or in terrible condition.) It’s also the name of a British sitcom series that ran from 1990 to 2000. As for the idiom itself, “This picturesque hyperbolic phrase was first recorded in 1566.”

None of which I knew before researching for this post.

There’s one more thing. Hotels in the Tampa Bay area are a lot more expensive than I’m used to. I used to live across the Bay in Pinellas County, for 50 years, up until 2010 or so, so I never paid much attention. But trying to book a reasonably-priced room down there turned out to be a wake-up call. Not least of all because they all want hefty deposits, starting at $100 a night.

I finally found a room – a swanky Hilton – for $250, and thought that wasn’t too bad for two nights. But “through my own fault, my own grievous fault,” that turned out to be the price for one night. I’d been trying to book a room for some time, was tired, and seem to have been swayed by the fact that they didn’t charge a deposit. I also found out that it’s difficult to exercise that “free cancellation” option. So I’ll spent the evening of Good Friday at a swanky Hilton in the resort area that is Tampa and the Gulf Coast. But I learned some valuable lessons.

For one thing, from now on I’ll use the “pay at the hotel” option. As for those disgusting deposits, I’ll read through the fine print when booking online. (Or I could just reduce my visits to the Tampa Bay area to an absolute minimum.) As for learning valuable lessons, I’ve mentioned before that some people choose not to give up things as part of their Lenten Discipline. Some choose – as I have done in the past – to spend Lent in contemplation. That’s the spiritual discipline that “seeks a direct awareness of the divine which transcends the intellect.”

As Wikipedia explained, contemplation also means “profound thinking about something.” And in a religious sense, “contemplation is usually a type of prayer or meditation.” Then there’s this:

Within Western Christianity contemplation is often related to mysticism as expressed in the works of mystical theologians such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross as well as the writings of Margery KempeAugustine Baker and Thomas Merton.

I’m sure I’ll find other spiritual matters to contemplate between now and the end of Lent, 2023. (And do a future post or two on.) But until then, I’ll go ahead and ponder the spiritual lessons already mentioned. Then too, I’ll ponder the lesson about “whenever a relative or good friend schedules a spring wedding.” From now on I’ll be sure to check the date, just to make sure no such future wedding happens during Holy Week, and especially not on “Black Saturday.”

And in so “contemplating,” I’ll be in pretty good company. Just like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, and the nice lady “contemplating” below

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The upper image is courtesy of Black Saturday Holy Week – Image Results.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

For more on contemplation as a Lenten discipline, see 2016’s My Lenten meditation. I borrowed the lower “nice lady contemplating” image from that post. It also included Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip? The 2016 post noted that for that Lenten period I contemplated “just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)”

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On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2023

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This past February 22, 2023 was the Feast Day called Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent, and Wikipedia said this about Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

Lent in turn is a season devoted to “prayerpenance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.” But getting back to Jesus “wandering in the Wilderness” for 40 days, those 40 days mirrored the 40 years the Hebrews also spent “wandering around.” (Led by Moses.) But here’s the good news: Eventually those wandering Hebrews found the Promised Land. In much the same way, after 40 long days of penance, Lent leads us to the much-anticipated celebration of Easter, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. (“The Lord is risen … Indeed!”)

And here’s another bit of good news. It’s not 40 straight days of self-denial.

That’s because there are actually 46 days of Lent. 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. And why is that? Because Sundays don’t count. Sundays in Lent are basically “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” For example, if you’ve given up chocolate for Lent, you can still enjoy some chocolate treats on Sundays during Lent.

And by the way, somehow that little nugget of Bible wisdom got overlooked by the people who made the 2002 romantic comedy, 40 Days and 40 Nights. In that film the main character had to not have sex – to refrain “from any sexual contact” – for the duration of Lent. But as noted above, he “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which again just goes to show:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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And speaking of wandering Hebrews who eventually found the Promised Land: The link above connects to an article, The Promise of the Promised Land | My Jewish Learning. It explains why possession of this Promised Land depends so much on continuing “moral behavior:”

Those who live in the land are tempted to take part in the struggle between the powers as a way to aggrandize power for themselves. But the only way to live in the Land peacefully and to bring a vision of peace to the world is by refraining from participation in those pagan power struggles and by liv­ing a life of justice and truth in accordance with the Torah.

On that note, America has also been seen as the Promised Land by many, but I’d say that in view of today’s backstabbing politics – not to mention ongoing natural disasters – we Americans have been weighed on the balances and found wanting. But I’m not talking about restoring that balance through so-called Christian nationalism. (Which is anything but Christian.) Instead today’s “Christian nationalists” are more like the Pharisees and other too-conservatives who plagued Jesus in His time, and who continue to plague real Christians “even to this day.”

But as Garry Wills and others have noted, Jesus was above politics. “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36.) And as I explained in Garry Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant.” Jesus simply never got involved in politics. He focused instead on healing the divisions so prevalent during His time on earth, not making them worse. (As some politicians do today.)

In other words, true Christians today should – to the extent possible – refrain from participating in today’s “pagan power struggles.” But instead, too many identify themselves as “Conservative Christian” or “Liberal Christian.” In plain words they place their political beliefs before their Christian faith. In plainer words, “Don’t place politics over your Christian faith.”

In turn, if one party believes it’s the “more Christian,” it’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time for them to show they’re part of the Ministry of Reconciliation. (2d Corinthians 5:18.) But getting back to the Garry Wills post, for him – along with Johnny Cash and Billy Graham* – Jesus was all about love. And that’s not to mention the Apostle Paul, who gave us 1st Corinthians 13:4-7.

The main theme of Wills’ book is that Jesus was “radical” in his love for all people. (Even – gasp – for liberals! And for that matter, even for those people [who] are a real pain in the ass.) Wills noted that Jesus spent little time with the well-to-do, and seemed to prefer the company of whores, lepers and outcasts of all types. As Wills put it, Jesus “walks through social barriers and taboos as if they were cobwebs.” 

Which is also the Christian love Johnny Cash showed. In Cash’s Religion and Political Views, the author wrote, “I like to think that Johnny was above politics and more about people and peace and happiness and cooperation.” Or as Cash’s daughter Rosanne said, her father “didn’t care where you stood politically.” He could “love all stripes, and that’s why all stripes claim him.”

Something to contemplate during this Lent 2023, when we look ahead to Easter.

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Lent leads to celebrating Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The upper image is courtesy of Ash Wednesday Images – Image Results. It goes with an article at the website, Classical Astronomy – Home of the Signs & Seasons Curriculum, including this:

People often wonder why the dates of Easter and Ash Wednesday and other feasts are different each year. These are “moveable feasts” that are fixed by the cycle of the Moon’s phases. Easter (or properly, Pascha) is essentially defined to be the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the first day of spring, which is different every year. Ash Wednesday is defined to be 40 days ahead of the pre-calculated date of Easter.

I based this post on past posts on the subject, including On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, On Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020, and On Ash Wednesday – 2022. Also, I borrowed the “from any sexual contact” observation from OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

America also “Promised Land.” The full link cite is America as the Promised Land | Museum of the Bible.

“The Lord is risen … Indeed.” The link is to Paschal greeting – Wikipedia, noting that in many churches this is part of the traditional greeting on Easter morning and throughout Easter week: “Christus surréxit! – Surréxit vere, allelúja.” (“Christ is risen” – “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”):

This ancient phrase echoes the greeting of the angel to Mary Magdalene, to Mary the mother of James, and to Joseph, as they arrived at the sepulchre to anoint the body of Jesus: “He is not here; for he has risen, as he said” (Matt 28:6). [1] It is used among Catholics when meeting one another during Eastertide; some even answer their telephones with the phrase.

Billy Graham. He so believed in Jesus’ message of loving all people that some too-conservatives called him either “False Shepherd” or “Antichrist.” See Billy Graham – Ecumenicalist and False Shepherd and BILLY GRAHAM: SERVANT OF CHRIST OR OF ANTICHRIST? His “crime” seems to have been that he could get along with people like Muslims and the Pope. (Heck, he probably even got along with “whores, lepers and outcasts of all types.“)

The lower image is courtesy of Lent – Wikipedia. The caption:  

Lent celebrants carrying out a street procession during Holy Week [in Nicaragua.] The violet color is often associated with penance and detachment. Similar Christian penitential practice is seen in other Catholic countries, sometimes associated with mortification of the flesh.

The article added that Lent’s “institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus … which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

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On Advent ’22, Tradents, and “Scriptio continua…”

As he grew in grace (and age) Billy Graham believed the Bible is inerrant “in all that it affirms…

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I just published a book, On Mystic Christians: (You know, the REAL ones?). One theme involves the difficulties in considering the Bible inerrant in every “jot and tittle.” Without error of any kind, grammatical, scrivener’s, whatever. And that every Bible “fact” must be accepted as literally true, even to the point of accepting the earth as only 6,000 years old. That view seems flawed,* but the short and simple answer is that the Bible is inerrant “in all that it affirms.”

That was good enough for Billy Graham (see the Notes) and it’s good enough for me.

Of course we are nearing the end of Advent – Christmas Day is next Sunday – and I did just promise to write more about “Andrew, Advent and The 12 DAYS of Christmas.” I’ll say more about those later, with links in the notes for more information. But getting back to the difficulties in translating the Bible, one big difficulty involves translating from the original Hebrew. For one thing ancient Hebrew, the kind used to write the original Old Testament (or at least the Torah), had no vowels. It had only consonants, and all the consonants in a sentence were strung together. Also, there was no punctuation, so sentences too were just “strung together.” 

That style of writing is called Scriptio continua. It has no spaces or other distinguishing marks between either words or sentences. The letters – all capitals – are simply strung together, page after page. Take for example a sentence in English, “The man called for the waiter.” In Biblical Hebrew the sentence would read, “THMNCLLDFRTHWTR.” But that sentence could also read, when translated into English, “The man called for the water.” And again, that sentence would have no period to mark its end, or space to mark the beginning of the next sentence coming up. That next sentence would start right up without any “break in the action.”

Another point: When the Torah was written only a very few people could read at all, and fewer still could write. So what they ended up doing was relying on a trained mentor. A mentor who had memorized what all those strung-together letters actually meant. Which brings up Tradents. And that’s something I only learned about recently, by watching a course lecture taught by Professor Gary A. Rendsburg, on The Dead Sea Scrolls.

In Lecture 11 of the course – “Biblical Manuscripts at Qumran” – Professor Rendsberg made some interesting points. For one thing, he said that back in Old Testament time, “texts were produced in two versions: oral and written. Scribes copied the text over and over again, while tradents transmitted the text orally from generation to generation (though most likely they held a text in their hands as a guide).” This was after noting again that at that time, Hebrew had only consonants: no vowels or punctuation marks. (See also TRADENT English Definition and Meaning.)

So, what’s the point? Just that when Moses wrote the Torah he had no vowels or punctuation marks to work with. (Which raises another question: When and where did he learn to write Hebrew?) And in the years after Moses died, the scrolls he worked with got worn out, and so they had be copied, over and over again. And that was a two-step process, involving tradents and that person or persons doing the actual writing. So basically the written version – with no vowels or spacing between words and sentences – operated as kind of a “cheat sheet.”

But only in the sense of a paper with “summarized information used for quick reference.”

In otber words, Tradents worked with the actual writers, the scribes. They kept the oral tradition alive by telling the person copying the ancient texts – as they wore out – just what all those jumbled-together consonants and sentences actually meant. So in the original, the books of the Torah especially were handed down from generation to generation using a two-part process. The person copying the original worked with a tradent. The tradent knew the text from memory, and he – again – passed on just what those strung-together symbols actually meant.

So according to this theory, the person copying down the words had to use the original writing as kind of a “cheat sheet,” and needed a “tradent” to fill in the blanks. So “writing” the Old Testament was originally a two-step process. One person transcribed but needed both the original written text and an “elder” to give that text its full meaning.

Beyond that, all that information had to be passed on to whoever was going to read this scriptio continua, out loud, in a synagogue every Sabbath. That was because up until at least a thousand years after Jesus – to the time of Gutenberg – precious few people could read at all. And other information about scriptio continua – as detailed in the notes – indicate the reader of such a strung-together text was more of a “trained performer.” And such a trained performer had a lot more room for subjective ambiguity than would be possible in reading the Bible today.

Which is enough of “giving a Southern Baptist apoplexy,” for now. As for St. Andrew, the end of Advent and Christmas, see the links in the notes. But some things to point out: 1) Andrew was the “First Apostle,” the one who first brought Peter to meet Jesus. 2) It wasn’t just Guy Lombardo who said “it’s later than you think,” back in 1949.* The same view was expressed in Ecclesiastes 5:18, “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good … all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.” And 3) Christmas isn’t just one day:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season [including “Twelfth Night”] beginning on Christmas Day … that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God.  This period is also known as Christmastide…  The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus.  In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.

Which means the Three Wise Men didn’t visit Jesus in the manger on the night He was born. (Christmas Eve.) Instead they came some time later, as I’ll explain in the next post. Also in a later post I’ll explain how the original “Christian Mystic” was Jesus Himself. Stay tuned!

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The upper image is courtesy of Young Billy Graham Images – Image Results. See also Billy Graham – Wikipedia. The “grace and knowledge” refers to 2d Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!”

“Mystical” and “corporate.” See The Online Book of Common Prayer, at page 339, the post-communion prayer in The Holy Eucharist:  Rite One.

Re: Age of the earth. According to How Old Is Earth? | Britannica, it’s more like 4.4 billion years old, while Age of Earth Collection | National Geographic Society says “4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years.”

Re: Billy Graham. He agreed the Bible was inerrant in all that it affirms when he took part in shaping the Lausanne Covenant. (The July 1974 manifesto promoting active worldwide Christian evangelism.) See Billy Graham, Evangelism, Evangelicalism, and Inerrancy:

We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. (Emphasis added.)

That was also the view of John R. W. Stott (1921-2011), the Anglican cleric who Time magazine ranked among the world’s 100 most influential people. In his book, Understanding the Bible, and on pages 140-143, made three key points. His first point was that the process of God’s inspiring the Bible “was not a mechanical one. God did not treat the human authors of Scripture as dictating machines or tape recorders.” He said God spoke to the Bible writers in different ways, sometimes through dreams and visions, “sometimes by audible voice, sometimes by angels.” 

Re: “Scriptio continua,” the writing style with no spaces or other distinguishing marks between words or sentences. “The role of the scribes was to simply record everything they heard to create documentation. Because speech is continuous, there was no need to add spaces.” In turn, the person who read the scroll-text out loud – most people were illiterate – was a “trained performer.” He would memorize the “content and breaks of the script.” In turn, during such “reading performances, the scroll acted as a cue sheet:” Also, the “trained performer” had the liberty to insert pauses and dictate tone, which made the act of reading significantly more subjective.

Re: St. Andrew, Advent and the coming Christmas season. See On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, from 2016, and from last year, Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself.” Because – in the midst of a new COVID variant – “it’s later than you think.” For some views on Christmas see On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019, and On the 12 DAYS of Christmas – 2021-22. As to Guy Lombardo, the Advent 2021 post led off with a picture of an album cover of his, featuring the “Enjoy yourself” song. This was after noting that at the time of posting there was a “new Covid in town,” the Omicron variant, and that as of December 5, 2021, “COVID that has already claimed the lives of 803,045 Americans.” 

I got the image of the “Mystic” book from the Kindle bookstore. As to Jesus as the first Christian Mystic, see the Penguin paperback version of What Jesus Meant: [by] Wills, Garry, at pages 22-23 and 110-111. See also the “mystical body” of Jesus quote from the Book of Common Prayer, above.

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On Advent 2022 – and St. Andrew…

St. Andrew – Protoklete or “First Apostle” – brought his brother Simon Peter along with him…

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November 30 is the Feast day for St. Andrew. And depending on the year, the First Sunday of Advent falls either just before or just after that November 30 Feast day. This year the First Sunday of Advent came on November 27, three days after Thanksgiving 2022

There’s more on these two events below – the First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Liturgical year – but first I wanted to check out something called Advent Calendars. Some nice ladies at my local church are extolling the virtues of such calendars, so I thought I’d explore the topic further. (Instead of my usual, “Nah, I’m not interested!”) So here goes:

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count down to December 25: The celebration of the Birth of Jesus. The Advent calendar tradition evidently dates back to the 1850s and typically includes 24 doors or boxes to open, one for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day.

One article I ran across said Advent calendars are raking it in while counting it down. It noted that liturgically, advent is the period of preparation for Christmas, and “can be a serious time for reflection, prayer and even fasting.” And indeed, the first advent calendars “from 19th-century Germany offered up a Bible verse each day.” But modern commercialization of Christmas “brought mass-produced calendars for children and enhanced the tradition with chocolate.”

Eventually the calendars evolved into boxes of “delayed-gratification chocolates to help children count down to Santa,” then transmogrified into calendars offering a wide variety of luxury goods like beer and winejewelry“healing” crystalsdog treats, and “Ariana Grande perfume.”

Because that’s what this is really about: Getting people to buy a product that will get them to buy more products. “Having sampled new products in the run up to the holiday, consumers are likely to follow up on their new treats post holiday” [including] “anticipation calendars” to turn every occasion into a prolonged opportunity for multiple gifts, “from graduations to birthdays and anniversaries

Another site – Everything to Know About Advent Calendars – said the most common type is one that has “paper calendar doors and a little piece of chocolate behind each door.” And that the concept “dates back to the 19th century, when German families would mark their doors or walls with a tally mark in chalk to count the days until Christmas.” In the United States, “the popularity of the Advent Calendar didn’t really take off until 1954, when Newsweek published a photo of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandchildren holding one,” as shown below.

But now we’re getting really far afield. I hope to write more about Advent in a week or so, and there’s some detail in the Notes, but in the meantime you could check out a post from 2017, On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology.” Then from the past two years, December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning,” and Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself.” For starters, St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but few people know much about him.  Which is another way of saying he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four… That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[. In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

I’ll write more later about Andrew, Advent and The 12 DAYS of Christmas, but for now:

Happy Advent!

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President Eisenhower‘s grandchildren hold up an Advent Calendar in 1954…

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The upper image is courtesy of Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Saint Andrew the Apostle’by Artus Wolffort.” 

Re: More on Advent. See On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology.” Then December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning,” and Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself.” One note:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas….”  The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah…  (E.A.)

One of the three posts talked of human life being always risky, filled with wars, pestilence and disaster. But “modern folk” got spoiled a bit, which brought up a review of “The Plague” by Albert Camus:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

Thus the “Enjoy yourself.” (It’s later than you think…)

The lower image is courtesy of Everything to Know About Advent Calendars. The caption: “President Eisenhower’s three grandchildren join in an appeal for sales of ‘Little Christmas Town’ Advent calendars by the national Epilepsy League. Holding one of the calendars at Fort Leavenworth are (left to right) Susan, 3; David, 6; and Barbara, 5; children of Major John Eisenhower.
‘Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

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On Ash Wednesday – 2022

Tuesday, March 2, is Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” Next day is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent…

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March 2, 2022, is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of Lent, and I last wrote about it on February 25, 2020, in Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020. I said the next Feast Day (after St Matthias, Apostle), was Ash Wednesday, which that year came on February 26.

Note that two weeks after that 2020 Ash Wednesday, the COVID pandemic hit:

…to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

But of course, Ash Wednesday comes right after “Fat Tuesday,” also called Mardi Gras, or “Pancake Day,” or Shrove Tuesday. (From the word shrive,* meaning “to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve.”) Which is a pretty good metaphor for the kind of absolution some people may feel we need – because of all the calamities that have befallen us since that long-ago Ash Wednesday, 2020. (That long-ago time of innocence, before “the stuff hit the fan.”)

On the other hand there’s Job 5:7, a reminder that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (And that before the COVID we had a pretty good run of “not so bad.”)

But back on topic, to wit: Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, and also On Ash Wednesday and Lent. The latter post explained a bit about the “Fight Between Carnival and Lent,” as shown in a famous painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The point is, Ash Wednesday always comes after Fat Tuesday. And as an aside, the French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which has now become a generic term for “Let’s Party!!” 

As Wikipedia said, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.” But that debauchery is always – in the church calendar – followed by Lent. Lent in turn is a season devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, almsgivingatonement and self-denial.

And by the way, you do get days off in Lent. There are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Sundays don’t count in the calculation. They’re essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” But back on topic…

As noted in My Lenten meditation – from 2016 – most people have traditional Lenten Disciplines that involve giving up something. (Preferably something they really enjoy.) On the other hand, some choose to add a discipline, a discipline that will “add to my spiritual life.”  

For example, I spent the 2016 Lenten period “contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books;” that is, the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. But this Lent I’ll be going back and revising an eBook I published in 2018, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” As you can tell by the title, it was way too militant. (As in having a “combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause.)

I’ll be writing more about such Lenten practices in the near future. But for this Lenten 2022 discipline “adding to my spiritual life,” I’ll be revising and rewriting that 2018 book. It to be less militant, less confrontational, and “more Christian.” So wish me luck, but in the meantime:

Have a Happy Ash Wednesday!

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“Book of Common Prayer.” The passage is at page 339, Holy Eucharist Rite I post-communion prayer.

The upper image is courtesy of Mardi Gras – Wikipedia. Captioned: “Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street.”

Re: St. Matthias. See also St. Matthias, Zacchaeus, and the tough life of an Apostle.

Re, Full weeks of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020, and also On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid,” from July 2020.

Re: “Shrive.” See also SHRIVE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary, “(of a priest) to listen to someone’s confession about what they have done wrong, and offer forgiveness.”

Re: Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. See The Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”

“46 days of Lent.” See Is Lent 40 or 46 Days Long and When Does it End? – Lent.

Re: “No such thing” book. The full title, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible. But just for giggles and grins, you can also search “no such thing as a conservative Christian” for some interesting results.

The lower image is courtesy of Ash Wednesday – Wikipedia. Caption: “Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian on Ash Wednesday.”

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