Category Archives: Church “seasons”

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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On the Epiphany SEASON – 2022

January 6, the day of Epiphany – with the Three Wise Men? – also starts “Epiphanytide…” 

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We are now in the Season of Epiphany. That church season runs from January 6 – the day of Epiphany (holiday) – to Ash Wednesday. This year Ash Wednesday comes on March 2, and marks the beginning of Lent. (And just as an aside, the season of Epiphanytide can last anywhere from four to nine weeks; it all depends on when Easter falls in any given year.)

The one certainty is that Epiphanytide runs from January 6 to the Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday. (And that “Tuesday before” is called Mardi Gras, discussed below.) So with Ash Wednesday – illustrated at right – coming on March 2, that means Easter Sunday comes this year on April 17. Note also that Easter is not just one day; it’s also another season, the Season of Easter. That liturgical season lasts 50 days, this year from April 17 to June 5, 2022. (Easter Season ends on Pentecost Sunday, which comes from the Latin word for “50.”) 

And speaking of Mardi Gras, that holiday – just before the start of Lent – is a prime example of the church calendar’s cycle of “feasting and fasting.” (See On Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020, “In other words, the Christian pilgrimage consists of both fasting and feasting.”) In further words, by reading and studying the Bible on a regular basis, the good Christian can both relish the good things that come along in life, and get through the challenging parts as well.

Then too, “Mardi Gras” – the day – is also known as Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. (The term “Mardi Gras” comes from the French words for Fat Tuesday.*) And the terms “Mardi Gras,” Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday all refer to the “practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season.”

Or as it has come to mean in some circles today, Mardi Gras translates to a chance to engage in certain debauchery – like “showing skin for beads” – or in other words, “Let’s Party!!”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Season of Epiphany – also known as Epiphanytide – is a kind of interlude between the end of the 12 DAYS of Christmas and the beginning of Lent. Epiphany Season begins with a celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, and ends with the Feast of the Transfiguration. (When “Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed…”)

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And speaking of dramatic revelations, that could include some challenging parts of life today…

Lately I’ve been looking at “this time last year,” mostly because those “last years” have involved a lot of political turmoil, not to mention various stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. (You know, the one that started back in 2020? “The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020.”)

Which pretty much squares which my calculations, that we are now past the 96th full week of the pandemic, or 24 full months.* But that’s not the only thing we have to worry about, as noted in last year’s post on Epiphany.

I noted that last January 6 (2021), we again celebrated the feast of The Epiphany. But we also went through what was supposed to be a routine political event: The day Congress (was supposed to) Count Electoral Votes. (As that count affected the November 2020 presidential election, “a whole ‘nother story entirely.”) So last year’s Epiphany was yet another “like no other” holiday in American history. (Continuing a concept in line with 2020 – A Christmas like no other?)

But back to the subject of Epiphany, the “feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” Yet another name for January 6 is Three Kings’ Day:

The observance [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; and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. [E.A.]

I put some links in the notes; deep background on the various feast days. Like January 1 being known by various names including National Hangover Day and the day we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. (But since we today are more squeamish, “modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.”) Or more information on January 6 being known as “Three Kings Day,” when the three “Magi” came to visit the infant Jesus. (And a note that in its original sense, Magi referred to “followers of Zoroaster,” and comes from the root word for “magic.”)

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Meanwhile – and speaking of Will I REALLY live to 120 – I just published a book with that title back in 2021. It’s about a bet that I made with myself, about maybe living to 120, like Moses, with “eye undimmed and vigor unabated.” (Deuteronomy 34:7.) Some chapters deal with a really old ancestor of mine, William Bradford, who lived to the equivalent of 140.* He came over on the Mayflower and served as governor of Plymouth Colony for some 30 years. He also studied Hebrew in his old age, because he wanted to read the Old Testament in it original language.

On that note – and following in Bradford‘s footsteps – I myself just started studying Hebrew. (At the age of 70.) Part of the studies include a 36-chapter set of “Wondrium” videos, Learn Biblical Hebrew. Another part is my recent purchase of the Learning Biblical Hebrew Workbook, shown below. And in the very beginning of that workbook there is this caveat: “Allow yourself space to fail … regardless of the number of errors you made in the process. If you are like our students, you may complete entire exercises without getting one problem fully correct.”

Which is pretty much what I said in comparing Bible study to “transcendent” meditation:

[T]he would-be meditator might want to 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.” [T]he meditator [or Bible student] should treat himself as a “much-loved child … trying to keep walking on a narrow side-walk.” 

Which is a far cry from the “get it right or go straight to hell” method of Bible study that some so-called Christians seem to promote. That’s also a far cry from how Jesus wanted us to read the Bible: With an open mind. (Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”) The result of such an approach? A good Christian reading the Bible with an open mind can both “transcend the painful, negative aspects of life,” and live with a serene inner peace. In other words, a life of joy and love, along with a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life.” All of which is a pretty tall order, so it’s time to get back to work.

Here’s wishing you a happy and prosperous Season of Epiphany!

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This post was “gleaned” from past posts, including “Gleaning” on the Epiphany – 2021, along with – from 2016 – Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and in 2017, To Epiphany – “and BEYOND,” followed by Happy Epiphany – 2018. See also Epiphany marks end of Christmas season, beginning of Mardi Gras, for an update from St. Frances Cabrini Church. See also Epiphany season – Wikipedia.

Re: Fat Tuesday. “Mardi” is French for Tuesday, and “gras” can mean fatty, oily or greasy. Example: “des cheveux gras” means greasy hair. French-English dictionary | English translation | Reverso.

Re: The term Mardi Gras coming to mean “Let’s party.” See The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras, from February 2017. Which included this:

The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”  Or as Wikipedia put it, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”  That “debauchery, etc.” has come to include “showing skin for beads” as part of an “alcohol-fueled, nudity-filled bacchanal.” 

Re: The COVID pandemic. Wikipedia further noted that as of 10 January 2022, the pandemic had caused more than 307 million cases and 5.49 million deaths” – five and a half million deaths – “making it one of the deadliest in history.”

Re: Full weeks of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that to me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “stuff really hit the fan” – on Thursday, March 12. “That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off… 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,” 2020.

Re: Living to 120. The full title is Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come.” (Written and published under my Nom De Plume, “James B. Ford.”) You can read more about it in the post, For a book version.

Re: William Bradford living to the equivalent of 140. He died at 67, when the average life expectancy was almost half that, or 36 years. That works out to a 1.86 factor, so multiplying today’s average life expectancy – say 75 years – leads to 140 years being the equivalent of Bradford’s living to 67.

The full cites to the Hebrew instruction are Learning Biblical Hebrew Workbook: A Graded Reader with Exercise, and Learn Biblical Hebrew – Understanding Sacred Hebrew | Wondrium. Also, the “allow yourself to fail” quote is at page ix, “Introduction: How to use this workbook.”

Re: “Permission to make mistakes.” See The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, from May 2014.

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On the 12 DAYS of Christmas – 2021-22

Technically, “Christmas” isn’t over until January 6, Epiphany, when Three Wise Men came… 

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I’ll talk about the 12 Days of Christmas in a bit, but first a note about 1st Kings 17:21. There’s a story there about the prophet Elijah bringing back to life a boy who had died. The interesting part is where he prays, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”

That was the Old Testament reading for Thursday, December 30,* and when I read that it raised some questions. Like, “Where did the boy’s soul go? Where did it come back from? And does that passage have an effect on any of the pressing hot-button political issues of today?” Note too that many translations say “let this child’s life come back to him.” However, the King James Version – the one God uses – has the term “soul,” and that’s good enough for me.*

Another good passage I just ran across – in the readings for Christmas Day – was 1st John 4:8. The translation I like best is the Contemporary English Version, “God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him.” Which can be a good response to those Facebook users who seem to revel in spreading hate. (“Are you acting out of love? Like Billy Graham?”)

But enough of that. Back to the 12 days of Christmas.

For starters, let’s go back before the Covid to The 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019. That post noted that those 12 days of Christmas don’t end until “next year,” on January 6:

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.

Then there’s the post from January 2015, on the same 12 Days of Christmas, which also noted that people apply a number of different names to this 12th day, January 6. For example, aside from The Epiphany, it and those days close to it are also known as Plough Monday. Three Kings Day (as in, “We Three Kings of Orient are”), and Twelfth Night.

The latter feast day was immortalized by artists including Jan Steen, whose painting “The King drinks” is shown below. In fact, the custom of eating and especially drinking too much became such a problem it was banned in some places: “Twelfth Night in the Netherlands became so secularised, rowdy and boisterous that public celebrations were banned from the church.”

For more on these topics, check Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!” The “Three Wise Guys” posted noted that in its original sense – circa 600 A.D. – the term Magi meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.” Also, the tradition that there were three kings started because they brought three gifts: Goldfrankincense, and myrrh.

Then there’s the tradition that the Three Wise Men got to the manger-scene just after Jesus was born, but the truth seems harder to pin down. Some say they arrived the same winter Jesus was born, while others say they came two winters after his birth. That would explain Herod’s order – see Matthew 2:16–18 – that his soldiers kill “all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.” (Known to history as the “Massacre of the Innocents,” noted every December 28.)

Finally – recalling events from this past year – there’s “Gleaning” on the Epiphany – 2021. For the calendar-challenged, that was 11 months ago, when Epiphany coincided with the day Congress (was supposed to) Count Electoral Votes. (The link is to an article dated January 5, 2021.) Which made 2021’s Epiphany “yet another ‘like no other’ in American history.”

In that post – from last year near this time – I picked “three earlier posts to glean from,” along with a reflection on how “gleaning” came to have multiple meanings. Along with a reflection on a mid-winter trip I took the year before, three months before the Covid pandemic “hit the fan.” Referring back to a post from January 17, 2020, My recent Utah trip noted this:

[T]he end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to JerusalemOn my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

Which is another way of saying that 2019 was a “pilgrimage-filled year,” ending with a 15-day solo road trip “out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.*” All of which brought back fond memories – of “before Covid” – with recalling that “This too shall pass.”

I ended that “Gleaning” … 2021 post with this thought: “Here’s hoping for a much better 2021.” So now I’ll close this post by saying, “Here’s hoping for a much better 2022.” And I’m going to keep saying it, updating it every year, until that much-better year finally happens…

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“Twelfth Night,” on the evening before the Epiphany, a time to revel and celebrate…

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany – Image Results. See also Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.

Re: Old Testament reading for Thursday, December 30, 2021. That’s according to the two-year course of daily Bible readings set out at pages 934 to 1000 at the back of the Book of Common Prayer. See Daily Office Lectionary – The Online Book of Common Prayer, and/or What’s a DOR?

Re: The King James Version of 1 Kings 17:21 using the word “soul.” The Revised Standard Version also uses the term “soul” rather than “life.”

Re: Acting out of love “like Billy Graham.” I wrote about him in the post, A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!” I first listened to a book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. (Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.) Then I got a copy of the book itself, through which I learned that as he grew in age, Graham “also grew in grace.” (See 2d Peter 3:18.)

In fact, Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to say that God loves all people – even Liberals. Which led some Fundamentalists to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’” 

I recently started re-reading portions of the book, which convinced me that I should try to be more like Billy, in the purity and inclusiveness of his faith. (Instead of referring to Right-wing Wackos as – well, “Right-wing Wackos.”) On a related note, in 2018 I published an eBook, There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible. In light of my determination to be “more like Billy,” I’ll be revamping that book for a new version tentatively titled, “There ARE still some open-minded, tolerant and caring Christians… (‘You know, the REAL ones?’)” Or something less confrontational like that. And toning it down a bit.

Re: January 6 having many names. See also Happy Epiphany – 2018, which noted this Feast Day‘s names include Epiphany proper, which “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it’s the evening of January 5 that’s called Twelfth Night.)  

A note: 2019 included, in September, a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Way (of the Camino de Santiago), from Porto to Santiago. The mid-winter road trip to Utah included “getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of a near-frozen North Platte River,” but which also included “a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door.”

The lower image is courtesy of File:A Twelfth Night Feast – ‘The King drinks’, by Jan Steen.

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Welcome to Christmas, 2021!

For way too many people anyway. (2021.) Although for me the past year wasn’t all that bad*…

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Like the headline says, “Welcome to Christmas, 2021.” Which means – among other things – that it’s time to look back on this past year. I suppose the biggest and most heartbreaking news is that – as of last December 5 – our version of the COVID and its variants has claimed the lives of some 803,045 Americans. Which leads us back to this time last year.

That’s when I posted 2020 – A Christmas like no other? It asked bluntly, “Is our Christmas Day in this crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 truly one ‘like no other?’” As it turned out, the answer was “No.” There was that Christmas celebrated during the 1918 Spanish Flu:

To help curb its spread, health departments [in 1918] ordered the closures of schools, theaters, bars, and churches. Christians were unable to celebrate Christmas by gathering to worship, to hear or participate in choir concerts, and other well-loved and important traditions used to mark the holiday by many.

But of course, we thought we’d be over all that by now…

That is, many Americans during Christmas back in 2020 no doubt figured that by now – a full year later – we would have the Covid problem largely fixed. Then too, I noted that the Spanish Flu pandemic started in February 1918, and lasted two years and two months, until April 1920. On that note, according to my calculations, we are now in the 93d full week of COVID, or 23 months and one week.* Which might have meant that the end of this plague was near, except for that new and more-transmissible “Covid in town,” the Omicron variant.

Getting back to “2020 Christmas,” that post noted that 1918 people had some advantages over us today. For one thing, Americans then were “much more familiar with epidemic disease:”

[E]pidemic disease was very familiar to the early 20th century public. Families, many of which had lost a child to diphtheria or watched a loved one suffer from polio, were generally willing to comply with some limitations on their activities. Most public health departments wore badges and had police powers, and this was generally uncontroversial. “They could forcibly quarantine you or put you on a quarantine station on an island.”

That willingness to comply with “limitations on their activities” is a lesson some Americans today seem unwilling to learn. Then too – aside from describing the progress of that plague (from “where it started”) – that 2020 post talked about the pandemic’s “waves.” For example, the number of cases went down in mid-1918, only to rise again when – in November – Americans gathered in large numbers to celebrate the end of “The Great War.”

There was also a note on “bad things happening to good people,” with one silver lining:

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter… When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

Which I thought was pretty much what Christians are supposed to do anyway. (Show empathy, and try to alleviate the suffering of others.) And which was pretty much the point of my post, Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000. That rather than waiting on God to perform miracles, we should get to work on the problems ourselves. Which brings up the “Christmas spirit.”

Googled “what is the Christmas spirit” and got 4,180,000 results. And here’s one answer that I really liked, from What is Christmas Spirit? – Scientific American Blog Network:

The code of generosity, kindness, and charity toward others is enforced by no one other than ourselves. There are places where this code is strong, and these places (or people) are said to have strong Christmas spirit… After all, we are the sum of the individuals around us who generate the collective force that governs and organizes our social structure… When we “act out” Christmas spirit, we’re making visible this collective force, and we give it power.

Meanwhile, for a view of what Christmas used to mean, pre-Covid, see On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019. One note: Christmas is not just a day, it’s a season. See 12 Days of Christmas, which end on January 6, with The Epiphany.

For a brief summary, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and ends on “Twelfth Night.” The season is also known as Christmastide, which ends on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. And a head’s up: January 6 is also known as Three Kings Day. (As in, “We Three Kings of Orient are.”) I hope to write more on the full Season of Christmas after this weekend, but in the meantime, it’s almost time to make that leap of faith into 2022…

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The upper image is courtesy of Christmas 2021 Images – Image Results. It came with an advertisement – touting the unique Christmas ornament – but when I clicked on the link I got this notice: “Sorry, this item and shop are currently unavailable.” Maybe they sold out?

As for 2021 being “not all that bad” for me, among other things – and for most of this past September – I got to travel to France and Spain, for another hike on the Camino de Santiago. See I just got back from “Camino 2021.”

Re: My “93d full week of COVID” calculations. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, 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.”

Re: People back in 1918 having some advantages over us. See A Look Back at Christmas During the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

Re: Bad things happening to good people. See December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?” With a link to Bad Things to Good People? | Psychology Today. One “scientific” answer: “The universe has no inherent purpose or design.” With which I took issue…

The lower image is courtesy of New Year Images 2022 – Image Results. It came with another advertisement, “Happy New Year 2022 Picture, Images and Wallpapers HD Download.”

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Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself…”

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There’s a “new Covid in town,” the Omicron variant. That’s the new and more-transmissible variant of the COVID that has already claimed the lives of 803,045 Americans. (As of December 5, 2021, when I first started this post. Which gives you an idea how busy this pre-Christmas month has been so far, for me.) And which also means the old tune noted above is turning out to be pretty timely, if not prescient. See Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later than You Think) – Wikipedia:

The song, recorded by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, was made on 27 November (some sources give 28 November), 1949. The recording was released by Decca Records [and] first reached the Billboard record chart in the US on 13 January 1950, and lasted 19 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 10.

The tune’s lyrics comment on our tendency to be constantly busy, while always making travel plans for “some time in the future.” Then comes the kicker: “how far can you travel when you’re six feet underground. (Along with this thought: If your “ravishing brunette” leaves you for another man, don’t fret. “You’ll have more fun by reaching for a redhead or a blonde.”)

But we digress…

You can find similar views in the Bible. I especially like the New King James Version of  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.” (Many versions focus on “the few days of life” or “the short life” God gives us. But at 70 years of age now I’m not too crazy about those “negative” translations. Though I do like the part about redheads and blondes.)

And that’s not to mention the fact that – with good diet, supplements and healthy exercise – I hope to live another 50 years. To 120, like Moses, with “eye undimmed and vigor unabated.*”

Then too there’s a post from April 2020, St. Mark, 2020 – and today’s “plague.” It talked about how human life has always been risky, filled with wars, pestilence and disaster. But we “modern folk” seem to be spoiled a bit, which brought up the 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.

So I thought – back in 2020 – that the “current [COVID] pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life.” Like a general and sweeping “softening of the heart” in America. That hasn’t happened yet, but we started off this post talking about Advent, 2021.

And speaking of last year at this time, here’s December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning.” The post talked about Christmas always “coming up” in December each year, but being always preceded by a Season of Advent. Which this year started last November 28, the First Sunday of Advent. And about that “First Sunday,” see Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig: 

Advent … calls us to look back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth. It is a time of anticipation… 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.

So the Season of Advent is mainly about looking ahead and New Beginnings. And speaking of beginnings, the Season of Advent frequently begins at or near November 30, the Feast Day for Saint Andrew the Apostle. See also my post, On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent.

That post noted that even Ebenezer Scrooge recognized that “Christmas is a very busy time for us.” And that this time of year – in the church calendar – can also be very confusing. “That’s because both the Season of Advent and the church-year itself actually begin with St. Andrew, the ‘First Apostle.'” There’s more on St. Andrew in the notes, but the point is that it’s okay to feel “busy,” confused, and even overwhelmed at Christmas time, and especially at this Christmas time, of 2021. (When “we thought the Plague was finally over!”)

But through it all you have the knowledge that if you “play your cards right” – and keep reading the Bible – you’ll end up with the peace of God which passes all understanding.

Have a happy Advent and a VERY Merry Christmas…

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The upper image is courtesy of Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians Later Than You Think – Image Results. For a YouTube version see Guy Lombardo — Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think. There’s also a (British) ska version by The Specials: “Their music combines a ‘danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk’s energy and attitude.’”

Re: Me living to 120. See For a book version:  “I just published another new E-book … Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking ‘The Best is Yet to Come,’” with the citation to Deuteronomy 34:7.

Re: “More on St. Andrew.” According to the National Catholic Register, “St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.”  Which is another way of saying that 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.”

Re: Christmas being overwhelming. The link in the text is to How to Deal with Overwhelming Christmas Stress – Toot’s Mom. See also 3 Reasons You Need Advent This Year—And Every Year.

Re: “The peace of God.” The reference is to Philippians 4:7.

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