Monthly Archives: December 2015

“Here’s to Plough Monday!”

January 6 – last of the 12 Days of Christmas – leads to “Plough Monday…”


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

For more on expanding your mind and horizons, see the Introduction.  For more on the theme here – exploring the “mystical side of Bible reading” – see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Here’s a corrected version of an earlier post confusing January 6 and Plough Monday.

For starters, Christmas Day has come and gone.  But that doesn’t mean the Christmas season is over.  As noted last year at this time, the 12 Days of Christmas are “both a festive Christmas season” and the title of a “host of songs and spin-offs (including one on a Mustang GT):”

The Twelve Days of Christmas [begin] on Christmas Day (25 December)[, celebrate] the birth of Jesus [and are] 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.

The post also said that technically this holiday season really started back on Halloween.

The thing is, winters back in the really old days – when life was nasty, brutish and short – were really long and really boring.  So folks back then looked for any good reason to throw a party and get sloshed.  (Which explains why the “party season” started on Halloween.)

In one sense you could say the end of that extended holiday season comes on January 6.  But in another sense you could say the season extends to the Monday following January 6.  That’s the Monday known as Plough Monday.  Which is another way of saying some of the post-Christmas holidays and/or Feast Days can be extremely confusing.

For example, another name for January 6 was Twelfth Night.  That in turn was the name of famous play by William Shakespeare.  The play “expanded on the musical interludes and riotous disorder expected of the occasion,” to wit: the “occasion of the ‘drunken revelry’ of 12th Night.”

And January 6th has yet another name.  It’s perhaps best known as the Epiphany, the Christian feast day celebrating “the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.”  And yet another name for the Day is The Presentation of Our Lord.

But getting back to Plough Monday:  In England it marked the start of the new Agricultural Year.   (And thus – in a sense – the end of the “old” agricultural year.)  Anyway, the Church of England had a long church service to mark the occasion.  The service included prayers for a bountiful harvest, and both a blessing of the seed to be planted and a “blessing of the plough” – as illustrated at right:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:  for in your abundant care you have given us fertile land, rich soil, the seasons in their courses…  By your blessing, let this plough be a sign of all that you promise to us.  Prosper the work of our hands, and provide abundant crops for your people to share.

In turn, Plough Monday was preceded by Plough Sunday.  Plough Sunday was seen as a way of celebrating farming and the work of farmers, in church.  But since you weren’t supposed to work on Sundays – back in the good old days – the new agricultural year didn’t really start until the next work day:  “work in the fields did not begin until the day after Plough Sunday.”

Put another way:  Since the the date of Epiphany always came on January 6, Plough Sunday came on the Sunday after the Epiphany.  (The Sunday between January 7 and January 13.)  Thus Plough Monday is usually the first Monday after Twelfth Day (Epiphany), 6 January.

The point of all this – January 6, Plough Sunday, Plough Monday, etc. – was to have one more big blast before getting back to work.  (Resuming farm-work after the extended holiday season.)  As such it was one more occasion for general tomfoolery, as shown in the top picture:

In some areas, particularly in northern England and East England, a plough was hauled from house to house in a procession, collecting money.  They were often accompanied by musicians, an old woman or a boy dressed as an old woman, called the “Bessy,” and a man in the role of the “fool.”

In turn it may  help to remember that one big reason for all this general tomfoolery was that – otherwise – life back then was indeed “nasty, brutish and short.”

And finally, people usually celebrated Plough Monday by eating Plough Pudding, as seen at left:  A “boiled suet pudding, containing meat and onions.  It is from Norfolk and is eaten on Plough Monday.”

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In other news – and in preparation for 2016 – I’ve been tweaking the “pages” above.  (Pages including The basics, The Blog, and The Scribe.)  But I’ve been working especially hard on the INTRODUCTION and CONTENTS.

Part of that work included updating post-links, including the one on how reading the Bible on a regular basis can by like an ongoing “transcendental meditation.”

You try to do what you know you can’t do, yet you try anyway…  It’s as impossible a goal as – say – as trying to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

(See Matthew 22:36-40, on the Two Great Commandments.)  But there are rewards from this “impossible meditation” – reading the Bible on a daily basis, with an eye to “being one” with God and your neighbor.  Those rewards include but are not limited to:

1)  Greater personal efficiency in everyday life;  2)  The “comprehension of a different view of reality than the one we ordinarily use;”  3)  A capacity to transcend the painful, negative aspects of life;  4)  The ability to live with a serene “inner peace;”  and 5)  The ability to live  with “a zest, a fervor and gusto in life...”

All of which means that starting – or continuing – the meditation of Bible-reading is a great way to ring in the New Year!  (Not to mention reading this blog for color commentary…) 


Baby New Year 1905 chases old 1904 into the history books…”

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Re:  The theme of this blog.  It is that taking the Bible literally is a great place to start.  (That is, to start the process of evolving on your earthly pilgrimage.)  But if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”

That’s what this blog is about.  Exploring that mystical side of the Bible.

Which is another way of saying the blog is all about “evolving.”  On that note see You Want Pies With That, on the quote by “Nick,” the character in The Big Chill played by William Hurt.  Asked about his “coming home from Vietnam a changed man,” Nick answered, “What are you getting at?  I was e-VOL-ving.”   (As we all should be…)’s another way of saying that exploring the mystical side of the Bible can help you “be all that you can be.”  On that note see Slogans of the United States Army – Wikipedia, re: the Army recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  In  turn, the related image at  left is courtesy of: “”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As first used, the term 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!”)

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

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Re: Mustang GT.  See also Jeff Foxworthy – Redneck 12 Days Of Christmas lyrics.

Re: “Nasty, brutish and short.”  That’s a quote from the book Leviathan, written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651.  Hobbes described the natural state of mankind as a “warre of every man against every man,” a life which was in turn “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. See Wikipedia, and also Nasty, brutish and short – meaning and origin.

The lower image is courtesy of New Year – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:  “Baby New Year 1905 chases old 1904 into the history books in this cartoon by John T. McCutcheon.”  See also ‘Ringing’ Or ‘Bringing In The New Year:’ A History.


Develop your talents with Bible study

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The teachings of Jesus: The Parable of the Talents, as etched by Jan Luyken.

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December 21, 2015 – This post continues the theme of Bible study to open your mind and develop your talents. On that note, the Daily Readings for Friday, December 18, with Zechariah 7:13: “Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the Lord.” Which makes sense. If you don’t pay attention to God, chances are “He” won’t  pay attention to you! And it’s a pretty good summary of the theme of this blog.

The goal here is to help you – and me – get a better feel for communicating with the Force that Created the Universe. On that note, the Gospel for that Friday, December 18, was Matthew 25:14-30. It told the Parable of the talents, shown above. In that parable, a master gave some “talents” to three servants. (Taken literally, a “talent” was worth 50 or 60 shekels, and so was a good chunk of change.) Then the master went off on a long journey. When he got back home, he took stock of his “investment.” The servant with 10 talents gave back the 10 “invested,” plus 10 talents more. (A return of 100%.)  The servant who got five talents did the same. (Returned the original five and another five more, another 100% return.)  

Then came the “wicked and slothful” servant.

That servant didn’t develop his talents. He just buried the money in a hole. (Metaphorically, he – the slothful servant – fit his talents into a pre-formed, pre-shaped cubby-hole.)  So what the master got back on his investment was nothing more than the original talent he’d given out.

So here’s the moral of the story. (Per Aesop – at left – giving the parable its “plain meaning.”) 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.”

Doing that just makes you another carbon copy Christian.

Put another way, many Christians seem to think their whole job here on earth is: Avoid sin. And that is important. It’s certainly important to avoid really stupid mistakes, which tend to have really bad consequences. But is that the main job of a Christian?

Isn’t the main job of a Christian to “develop his talents.” Which in turn means a real Christian is bound to make mistakes. Which could be a good thing, keeping him or her from developing a “holier than thou” complex. On that note see Sin and cybernetics: “Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us, to wit:  to ‘live life in all its abundance.'” (John 10:10; the second part.)

On the matter of carbon copy Christians, see “Another brick in the wall” and Reflections on Volume 3. And since we’re looking back on posts from this past year, here are some more:

The Bible and mysticism said Christianity is about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.” And that fits in with the original meaning of mystic. (One “who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute.”) Also this:

The terms “mystic” or “mysticism” seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (Try it sometime!!!)

But of course I was only joking… (About the apoplexy.) On a related note, see The True Test of Faith. It imagined two Christians who both learned at the end of their lives that The Faith was a hoax. The guy who spent his life “avoiding sin” was really mad. But the guy who used the Bible to develop his talents said, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.” (Thus “True Test of Faith…”) And finally, see Shadrach and the Fiery Furnace on three other “good and faithful servants.” They were about to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. And they knew that God could save them if He wanted. But they also knew that that might not fit in with His purpose.

Thus the “real kicker in the story” came in Daniel 3 (16-18). There the three men – on the cusp of being thrown into the fiery furnace – gave their answer to King Nebuchadnezzer:

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…”  So 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…”

Now that is a true test(ament) of faith

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Another guy – Daniel – who gave a “true test(ament) of faith…”

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Parable of the talents.

Re:  God as “He.”  See Anthropomorphism, an “innate tendency of human psychology.”  (Wikipedia.) In other words, human thought tends to limit “God” to its ability to comprehend “Him.”

Re: “To help you – and me – get better…” See Why teachers learn as much as their students. (Which may also apply to bloggers and their readers.)

Re” investment.” See Amount Considered a Good Rate of Return on Investments: “Burying cash in coffee cans in your yard is a terrible long-term investing plan.  If it manages to survive the elements, it will still be worthless given enough time.” See also What rate of return should you expect … on your investments, indicating that as of 2014, a return between 10 and 15% was extremely good.

Re: cubby hole. See Cubby-hole – Wikipedia, on a “small, snug place, which may be considered and used as a place of safety for children.” But see also 1st Corinthians 3:2: “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready…” Thus you might say this blog is designed for people who are ready for “something stronger,” to wit: exploring the mystical side of the Bible. See also 1st Peter 2:2.

Re: making mistakes. See The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, on “so-called Christians who seem … to focus on sin – usually somebody else’s – rather than all the positive aspects that the discipline of regular Bible-reading can provide.” On that note, one writer said of meditating – which I thought like the Christian path – that the “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.’”

The Aesop image is courtesy of Wikipedia. And in case you were wondering, Aesop is the one on the left. The cute babe on the right is “the beautiful Rhodope.” (The complete caption is “The beautiful Rhodope, in love with Aesop; engraving by Bartolozzi, 1782, after Kauffman‘s original.”)  

The point being that Aesop’s ability to have “the beautiful Rhodope” find him attractive offers hope to those gents physically “lacking,” but with an ability “give good story.” (Aesop was said to be not just old, but extremely ugly and a hunchback.)  

 Re: “carbon copy Christians.” See How to Break the Cookie-Cutter, Carbon Copy Christian Cycle, and The Carbon Paper/ Carbon Copy Christian | JUGGERNAUT.

Re: making mistakes. See also Make Mistakes—The Importance Of Failure – Vanseo Design.

The lower image is courtesy of Daniel and the Lions Den – Hebrew Bible and Art. The painting itself is by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), “the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim. He moved to Paris in 1891 to study, and decided to stay there, being readily accepted in French artistic circles. His painting entitled Daniel in the Lions’ Den was accepted into the 1896 Salon.” The painting itself “uses light to symbolize God’s presence. It is simple and there is not a lot of detail but it gets the point across.” See also Wikipedia.

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On “’tis the season…”

From this time last year:  “Paul Writing His Epistles,” shown “sans amanuensis…”  


Tis the season…  The season to think about getting and giving gifts, avoiding the Holiday Blues, the New Year coming up … and other things.  (That’s what et alia means:  “and others,” or as expanded, “and other things.”  See et alia – Wiktionary.)

Which means that aside from Christmas coming up, it’s “that time of year again.”  Time to recall the real meaning of the holidays, along with highlights of 2015.  (Now drawing to an end.)

Part of that involves remembering things we did at this time last year.  (As 2014 was drawing to a close.)  But first, a look at today’s Daily Office Readings.  Highlights from those readings include Psalm 119:71Psalm 49:15, and Matthew 24:51.

Psalm 119:71 reads (in the GWT):  “It was good that I had to suffer, in order to learn your laws.”  On that note, we don’t like to think suffering is good for us.  (Or that we have to suffer to grow spiritually.)  But being both human and stubborn, that’s often the case.

Put another way:  Getting good stuff from God should be at least as hard as shooting the head off a match from 90 yards away.  (See On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.”)

Psalm 49:15 reads (in the BCP):  “But God will ransom my life; he will snatch me from the grasp of death.”  This follows and goes along with verses 6 and 7:  “We can never ransom ourselves, or deliver to God the price of our life; For the ransom of our life is so great, that we should never have enough to pay it.”

Which is another way of saying, you can’t go it alone.  And that’s especially true when you die. (When you definitely need some help, and a big part of what religion is all about.)

And finally, Matthew 24:51 reads (in the GWT):  “Then his master will severely punish him and assign him a place with the hypocrites.  People will cry and be in extreme pain there.”

All of which is part of Jesus telling of the “Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times,” followed by “The Day and Hour Unknown.”  Jesus illustrated that by contrasting two servants waiting for their master.  One was faithful and wise, but the other got drunk and beat his fellow servants.  One point?  Being a hypocrite is as bad as being that nasty servant:

The hypocrites are the faithless and deceitful, who, while pretending to do their lord’s work, are mere eye servants, and really neglect and injure it.  The remissful steward shares their punishment in the other world.

Another point being:  Take care that you don’t end up a hypocrite.  (Or put another way: Practice what you preach.)  Now, about what I was doing this time last year.

Among other things, I did a post on The psalms up to December 21.  (Directly related to On the readings for December 21.  That was when I did separate posts on psalms…) the same time I did On Amanuenses.  (Featuring the image at right.)  This was based on 2d Thessalonians 3:17, a DOR from December 13, 2014:  “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.”

I then added a note from the Pulpit Commentary:

The apostle [Paul] usually dictated his Epistles to an amanuensis, but wrote the concluding words with his own hand.  Thus Tertius was his amanuensis when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:22).  [See also (Galatians 6:11), (Philemon 1:19), (1 Corinthians 16:21), and Colossians 4:18)…]   Such authentication was especially necessary in the case of the Thessalonians, as it would seem that a forged epistle had been circulated…

Then came a discussion of pseudepigrapha – relating to a possible “forged epistle” – and amanuenses in general.   The post also noted those who focus on the “minutiae of ritual,” as opposed to the real followers of Jesus.  (Those who justifiably seek a higher ethical code of behavior.)  The conclusion?  “Who knows?  In a sense we may all be God’s ‘amanuenses.'”

And finally, I did a post On the 12 Days of Christmas.  (Which for reasons explained below, didn’t get posted until January 4.)  That was an ode to “both a festive Christian season and title of a host of songs and spin-offs (including one on a Mustang GT):”

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season, beginning on Christmas Day (25 December), 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.

See Twelve days of Christmas.  I noted that all these holidays at this time of year were part of an  “old-time winter festival” that started on Halloween and ended on January 6.

January 6th in turn is known as Plough Monday,” and also “12th Night.”  And Twelfth Night was one of many mid-winter occasions for drinking and carousing around.  As one example, Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night “expanded on the musical interludes and riotous disorder expected of the occasion.”  (That is, the “occasion of the ‘drunken revelry’ of 12th Night.”)

All of which is illustrated by the King drinks painting below.


 “Twelfth Night (The King Drinks)…”


The upper image is courtesy of Epistle to the Romans – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “A 17th-century depiction of Paul Writing His Epistles. [Romans] 16:22 indicates that Tertius acted as his amanuensis.”  See also Romans 16:22.

Re: The reason 12 Days of Christmas didn’t get posted until January 4:

The Scribe left town at 5:00 on the afternoon of Sunday December 21, thinking that he had already published this post on the “12 Days of Christmas.”   But somewhere along the line he dropped the ball – metaphorically or otherwise – and here it is, Sunday, January 4th.

The lower image is courtesy of The Twelve days of Christmas, with caption, “Twelfth Night (The King Drinks) by David Teniers c. 1634-1640.”


On St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas”

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Saint Nicholas” – the bearded guy in the middle – “saves three innocents from death…”

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The next major feast day – not counting the Hanukkah “festival of lights” – is December 21, for St. Thomas, Apostle.  (The link is to the day’s Bible readings.)  He’s known as the original Doubting Thomas, because he initially refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But there is one big problem.  December 21st falls right in the middle of the Season of Advent.

LHS sunstones.jpg(Not to mention it’s the shortest day of the year, as shown at right.)

So to avoid conflict, his day got changed to July 3.  (Though us traditionalists still celebrate his day on December 21.)  And of his four readings, John 20:24-29 gave the nutshell:

Thomas … was not with the other disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails … I will not believe…”  A week later [Thomas was there when  Jesus came and said], “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side.  Do not doubt but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!

Jesus then noted that while Thomas believed because he had actually seen Him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Which of course means us.

(And BTW, I covered Hanukkah in “Ordinary?” Maccabees?  That festival of light “commemorates the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian Greek army.”  Those Israelites were the Maccabee family and followers, “Jewish Freedom Fighters, a century or two before Jesus was born.”)

So anyway, for more on Thomas, see Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”  That post noted that “even to this day many people still don’t believe,” in Jesus or the Faith.  (To such people, “the tale of the resurrection must be put down to legend.”)  But if the story had ended without the Resurrection, the Christian Faith wouldn’t have grown as it did:

[E]ven if we take the rationalist view that there was no resurrection in reality, it cannot be denied that there was one in the belief of the disciples and, eventually, of hundreds of millions of men – and that made all the difference. (E.A.)

In other words, if it hadn’t been for the millions upon millions of people who came to believe, “the history of the world would be ‘enormously different.'”  On that note, “even some atheists admit that – taken as a whole – Christianity has had a positive influence on history.”

As for how Thomas ended up:  Tradition says he got sold into slavery, in India.  (Like Saint Patrick, he became a literal slave.)  But despite the setback, he ultimately got free and carried “the Faith to the Malabar coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas:'”

St. Thomas is especially venerated as The Apostle in India [and is]  upheld as an example of both doubter and a staunch and loyal believer in Christ…   After all, each of us has both of these characteristics residing deep within ourselves – both moments of doubt and those of great spiritual strength…

And then of course there’s good old “Santa Claus.”  He was originally “Nikolaos the Wonder-worker.”  See The original St. Nicholas.  (From which the upper image was borrowed):

Saint Nicholas, also called Nicholas of Bari or Nicholas of Myra [is] one of the most popular minor saints commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches and now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas.  In many countries children receive gifts on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day.

In other words, our Santa Claus is based on a “historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra.”  (“Original St. Nicholas” also explored the question why we celebrate Christmas on December 25, “if Saint Nicholas Day is December 6.”)

As to the image at the top of the page, here’s how the original St. Nicholas saved three innocents from death:

Nicholas was visiting a remote part of his diocese [when he heard of the “three innocents.”  He set out for home and] found a large crowd of people and the three men kneeling with their arms bound, awaiting the fatal blow.  Nicholas passed through the crowd, took the sword from the executioner’s hands and threw it to the ground, then ordered that the condemned men be freed from their bonds.  His authority was such that the executioner left his sword where it fell…

So like St. Ambrose of Milan, the original “St. Nick” was both a real person and personally brave. (See An early Advent medley.)  And that’s not to mention generous.

So for today’s post we remember both St. Nicholas and “Doubting Thomas.”  (Who apparently lived to a ripe old age, as shown in the image below…)

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Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas

St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting by Ilya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).”   See also St. Nicholas Center … Saint Who Stopped an Execution:

Re: “Hanukkah.”  See also Hanukkah 2015 – My Jewish Learning, which noted that Hanukkah 2015 began at sunset on Sunday, December 6, and ended – at sunset – on Monday, December 14.  That’s because a Jewish “day” begins and ends at sunset, not midnight.  See Judaism 101.

Re:  Thomas the Apostle.  See also “Doubting Thomas” Sunday, and Wikipedia:  

When the feast of Saint Thomas was inserted in the Roman calendar in the 9th century, it was assigned to 21 December.  The Martyrology of St. Jerome mentioned the apostle on 3 July, the date to which the Roman celebration was transferred in 1969 [to avoid interference with] Advent.  3 July was the day on which his relics were translated from Mylapore [to] Mesopotamia.  Traditionalist Roman Catholics …  and many Anglicans … still celebrate his feast day on 21 December.

Re: Other readings for his day.  They are Habakkuk 2:1-4, Psalm 126, and Hebrews 10:35-11-1

The image below the winter solstice “miniature” is courtesy of Resurrection of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Chi Rho” – one of the earliest forms of christogram – “and with a wreath symbolizing the victory of the Resurrection, above Roman soldiers, ca. 350.”

The lower image is courtesy of Thomas the Apostle – Wikipedia.

An early Advent medley

Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew,” by Caravaggio… 

Following up on Advent – 2015, this post continues the Season of Advent theme:

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.”

One problem:  Even Scrooge recognized that “Christmas is a very busy time for us.”

So to keep you abreast of your Bible-readings and Feast Days, I present this “Advent Medley.”

For one thing, note that last Monday – November 30 – was the Feast of St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.”  And that 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 Andrew 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.”

Turning to the readings for Sunday, December 6:  They include Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6.  (For the full readings see Second Sunday of Advent.)  For an overview of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, see On the readings for September 21.  (From 2014):

The letter was written to the church at Philippi, one of the earliest churches to be founded in Europe.  They [the Philippians] were very attached to Paul, just as he was very fond of them.  Of all the churches, their contributions (which Paul gratefully acknowledges) are among the only ones he accepts.  (See Acts 20:33–35; 2 Cor. 11:7–12; 2 Thess. 3:8).

Paul began this Sunday’s reading, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”  And in Philippians 1:9, he echoed Psalm 119:66.  In the NLT, Paul prayed “that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.”  Psalm 119:66 asks of God:  “Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.”

Turning to the Gospel, Luke 3:1-6 recalled the prophesy of Isaiah 40:3:  “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'”  Not to mention Isaiah 40:4: and 40:5:

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

All of which served to introduce John the Baptist, the “son of Zechariah.”

And which brings to mind Handel’s Messiah. (Especially popular this time of year.  Handel is shown at left.)

For more on John – shown “preaching” in the lower image – see The Nativity of John the Baptist.  And finally, next Monday – December 7 – is the Feast Day of Ambrose of Milan.

In the Catholic Church, Ambrose is one of “Eight Doctors of the Church” and four “Fathers of the Western Church.” His day is unique because most saints are remembered on the day they died.  But Ambrose died in April 397.  (1,618 years ago.)  And his death-date falls so often in Easter that his feast day got moved to the date he got consecrated as bishop.  (To avoid conflict.)

Another note:  At a time of dispute and faction, he appealed to the “better angels.”  (A skill we could use today.)  When the time came to elect a new bishop, rioting was in order.  (“The city was evenly divided between Arians and Athanasians.”)  But then:

Ambrose went to the meeting where the election was to take place, and appealed to the crowd for order and good will on both sides.  He ended up being elected bishop with the support of both sides.

Note also that after he got elected bishop, he gave away his considerable wealth and “lived in simplicity.”  Beyond that, he was personally brave.

The Roman Emperor Theodosius I once had his soldiers kill a defiant crowd of people, then showed up for church.  But Ambrose blocked the way:  “You may not come in.  There is blood on your hands.”  Theodosius finally gave in and did public penance.

But perhaps his greatest work was converting St. Augustine of Hippo.  (Whose writings “influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy“):

He [St. Augustine] is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era.  Among his most important works are The City of God and Confessions.

For that and more we celebrate the life of St. Ambrose.

And in so doing, maybe we can work on finding that true meaning of Christmas:  “discovering your humanity and connecting with humanity around you.” 

“St. John the Baptist Preaching…”

The upper image is courtesy of Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew – Art:

A beardless Jesus gestures Peter … and his brother Andrew to follow him…  Caravaggio gives his own interpretation. Because of his prominence, the man on the left is thought to be Peter…  One of the details that shows this work must be the original is a carving in the ground layer under Peter’s ear.  Caravaggio often used such incissions [sic]…

See also, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew – Wikipedia.

Re: Scrooge.  He expressed his sentiment to “Bob Cratchit.”  See also This time of year is busy and hectic for all of us, an apparent take-off, delving into the true meaning of Christmas.

The final quote – on “discovering your humanity,” etc. – is from “hectic for all of us.”

Re: the Feast of St. Andrew, “First Apostle.”  (From which the upper image was borrowed.)  That post noted that the church I attend is named after St. Andrew.  But like St. Ambrose, Andrew’s Feast Day is often superseded – by the First Sunday of Advent – or transferred to what would normally be the Second Sunday of Advent.  Note also that Andrew is often shown holding a saltire – or x-shaped cross – on which he was “martyred.”  

Re: John the Baptist.  According to Luke, he began preaching “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee…”

Re: Handel’s Messiah.  See for example, Messiah Every Valley & Hallelujah.  Or for a live version see Messiah (Handel) … “Every valley.”

For more in St. Ambrose see Ambrose – Wikipedia:  “Ambrose was one of the four original doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan.  He is notable for his influence on St. Augustine.”  See also Doctor of the Church and Church Fathers – Wikipedia.

The date of Ambrose’s death – in April – “so often falls in Holy Week or Easter Week” that his feast day is celebrated on the date he got consecrated as bishop.

See also Massacre of Thessalonica – Wikipedia, referring to “an atrocity carried out by Gothic troops under the Roman Emperor Theodosius I in 390 against the inhabitants of Thessalonica, who had risen in revolt against the Germanic soldiers.”

The lower image is courtesy of John the Baptist – Wikipedia.  The caption:  St. John the Baptist Preachingc. 1665, by Mattia Preti.”

See also, on the beheading of John:  “The subject is from the New Testament [Mark 6, verses 14-29].  Salome had danced so well for King Herod that he swore he would grant her any request.  Her mother, Herodias, who sought revenge on John the Baptist, persuaded Salome to ask for his head.  The old woman behind Salome may be Herodias.”