Monthly Archives: December 2017

Happy New Year – 2018?!?

“In Christendom … New Year’s Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ…”

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Just in case you were wondering, Christmas is not just one day, it’s a whole season.  Not a long season, just 12 Days (Which 12 days of Christmas have been immortalized by a “host of songs and spin-offs,” including one ending with “some parts to a Mustang GT.”)  And that 12-day Season of Christmas  ends on January 6, a day known in some quarters as “Plough Monday.”  

Plough Monday was the traditional start of the English agricultural year.  That was the time when people quit partying during the 12 days of Christmas and got back to work.  (See “Here’s to Plough Monday!” – 12/28/2015.)  Of course in our present day we get “back to work” on January 2.  That’s after we’ve spent New Year’s Day watching college football and/or recuperating from all the partying we did on New Year’s Eve.

But naturally that’s not how we celebrate New Year’s Day in the Universal Church (That is, the undivided church of the followers of Jesus, including Catholic and Protestant denominations.)  In that undivided church, January 1 is known as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus(See also The Holy Name, for one set of Bible readings for the day.)  But there’s another name, for the less squeamish:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ.  Since we are more squeamish than our ancestors,* modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older.  Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life,* and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.  [By and through the aforementioned circumcision, as illustrated above left.]

See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.”  (From 1/4/2016.)  That post from last year at this time explains about Epiphany – the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as human in Jesus Christ” – celebrated on January 6.  It also explains that January 6 too has an alternate name:  “Three Kings Day.”  And we’re familiar with those three wise men today largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For a live “old-timey” version see the Kings College Choir, Cambridge.)  And just as an aside, they were also known as Magi, and in its original sense the term meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”

But we’re digressing here…

Buzz Lightyear.pngFor more on the upcoming seasons of the church, see To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  (From January 14, 2017.)    The title of that post refers to Buzz Lightyear and his catch-phrase, “to infinity, and beyond!

The point being that practicing Christians also work to go “to infinity – and beyond!”  Or in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, to “live with confidence in newness and fullness of life,” and to await “the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”

But we were talking about New Year’s Day – and Eve – and the consensus seems to be that the origins of that time of celebration – if not debauchery – go back to pagan antiquity.

Back in 2,000 B.C. – 4,000 years ago – people in Mesopotamia – modern Iraq – started the practice of celebrating the new year.  But they partied hardy “around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March.”  The early Roman calendar too designated March 1 as the new year.

But then came the Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar.  It added ten days to the prior 355-day year, and had the New Year start on the first day of January.  (Named for Janus, the “two-faced” god of gateways and beginnings.  Another BTW:  We now use the Gregorian calendar, which started in 1582.)  And finally, for a really in-depth analysis of New Year celebrations going back to “pagan antiquity,” see The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration:

New Year’s Eve has become a time for people to wallow in excesses of liquor! The modern attitude seems to be, “have a wild time on New Year’s Eve, and turn over a new leaf on New Year’s Day!”  Most people seem to have convinced themselves that God is out of the picture for good. That God is not concerned with their modern revelings, drunken parties, promiscuous behavior!  

Be that as it may, the web article on “The Truth About New Year’s” may convince you to stay home this New Year’s Eve.  (For reasons including but not limited to New Year’s Eve being “noted for its licentious, wild, and wanton partying [and] riotous pagan holiday spirits – for the most part emanating from liquor bottles – all the while calling it “Christian!”)

But heck, I was going to do that anyway.  (Stay at home this evening that is…)

Have a Happy – and Safe – New Year! 

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“New York’s famed Times Square at midnight, December 31…”

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The upper image is courtesy of New Year’s Day – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “In Christendom, under which the Gregorian Calendar developed, New Year’s Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, which is still observed as such by the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.”  Text and/or images for this post were gleaned from New Year’s Day – WikipediaThe History | Origin of New Years Day / December 31stThe Ancient Origins of New Year’s Celebrations, and/or The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration.  The latter article includes a sub-article on “The Modern Attitude of Compromise,” accepted by many ostensible Christians, with the comment that “Excessive drug use has become common at New Year’s Eve events.”

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference further explained in this “notes” section. Thus as to the definition of squeamish – as to the full meaning of January 1 in the Christian calendar – the term means “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.”  The painting to the left of the paragraph in question is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “The Circumcision of Jesus Christ, by Ludovico Mazzolino.”

Also, as to every Jewish boy being circumcised “on the eighth day of his life,” modern readers are sometimes confused by the Jewish method of counting days.  To us, the eighth day of Jesus’ life would be January 2, by starting the count on December 26.  But the ancient Jews – in effect – counted “inclusively,” meaning they started their eight-day count on December 25.  The main reason for such counting-of-days was that they had no way of determining “midnight” with any precision.  (The first “clocks” as we know them didn’t appear until the 1400s.)  Thus the Jewish day started “with the onset of night,” or dusk, or the setting of the sun.  See e.g.  Jewish Time –

Note also:  This is why the Bible says Jesus was raised from the dead “on the third day,” Sunday, when He’d been crucified the previous Friday.  (See e,g, Acts 10:40.)  According to modern time, Jesus was raised on the second day, but that method is different from “Bible time.”  

As to the web article, The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration:  I’m pretty sure the authors of that site don’t agree with the premises of this blog, to wit:  That God will accept anyone;  That God wants us to live lives of abundance;  That God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus; and:  That the “only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.”    

The lower image is courtesy of The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration.  The full caption:  “New York’s famed Times Square at midnight, December 31, as thousands gather to usher in the pagan Roman New Year.  The undampended [sic] spirits of the crowd bring to mind the ancient Roman Saturnalia.”  Also note, “Photo by Countdown Entertainment LLC.”


On “Saint Doubting Thomas” – 2017

Thomas the Apostle, as envisioned in El Greco‘s “dramatic and expressionistic style…”

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The year 2017 is rapidly drawing to a close.  At the same time, Christmas is only a few days away.  But first comes the Feast day of Thomas the Apostle, on December 21.  And Thomas – in his own way – serves as a metaphor for all us “Doubters.”

(At least until we saw the light that is, and came to Jesus…)

Incidentally, after his “doubting episode” with the risen Jesus, Thomas traveled at least as far as India in his missionary journeys.  (The image at left shows the “Shrine of Saint Thomas in Mylapore,” where legend has it that he was martyred.)

You can read more about Thomas at St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas,” and On “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017.  The latter post noted that basically this “Saint Doubting Thomas” has two special days:  One in December right before Christmas, and one on the Sunday right after Easter.  That is, the first Sunday after Easter – officially the second Sunday of Easter – is known as  “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  (In 2018, it falls on April 8.)

That Doubting Thomas Sunday – in Easter – is so called because it always features the Gospel reading from John 20:19-31:

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them 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 and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

But the second Sunday of Easter is also called the “Sunday of Many Names.”  Those names include the “Octave of Easter,” and “Quasimodo Sunday.”

(The “octave” in question is the eighth day of Easter, or Sunday right after Easter Sunday.  And “Quasimodo” doesn’t refer to the guy shown above right, better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  It refers to the Latin for the beginning of First Peter 2:2, also read that day.  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes.”  A rough translation:  “As if in the manner of newborn babes…”)

But we’re digressing here…

The point is that according to Wikipedia, the term Doubting Thomas refers to a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”

But that’s exactly what going to church and reading the Bible is supposed to provide:  An opportunity to have a direct and personal experience with the Force that Created the Universe (See Develop your talents with Bible study and The Bible and mysticism, which said Christianity is about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.”) 

The latter post on mysticism included the definition of a mystic as “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute…”  In other words, a person who seeks a direct personal experience with God.

The post also included a reference to page 339 of the Book of Common Prayer, which says that “by sharing Holy Communion we are assured ‘that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son…’”  (Emphasis added.)

Which – to my way of thinking – is what Christianity is all about:  Obtaining a mystical unity with God, through Christ, by and through direct personal experience,  just like “Doubting Thomas.”

So in plain words there are two sides of the Christian experience:  The “corporate” or business side, and the “mystical” side.  The problem is that so many Christians get hung up on the “business side” of the Christian faith.  Mainly because it’s so much easier to work on.

But it’s only the mystical side that can lead to a direct personal experience with God, and Thomas the Apostle is a reminder that – hard as that may be – it can be done….

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The “Mystic marriage of Christ and the Church…

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The upper image is courtesy of Apostle St Thomas by GRECO, El –  For more on Thomas and his missionary journeys, see Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”

For more on “Quasimodo Sunday,” see The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary.

Re: I Saw the Light.  According to Wikipedia, this was a “country gospel song written by Hank Williams.”   While Williams’ version “did not enjoy major success during its initial release,” it was “soon covered by other acts and with time became a country gospel standard.”

The lower image is courtesy of Christian mysticism  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  

There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia…)

The REAL Saint Nicholas – of Myra – “saved three innocents from death.”  (“Inter alia…”)

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Virginia O'Hanlon (ca. 1895).jpgAside from the ongoing Season of Advent – from December 3 to 24 – there’s another Feast day to celebrate in early December.  Wednesday, December 6, was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  He was Saint Nicholas of Myra, and he lived from 270 to 340 A.D.  So when Dr. Philip O’Hanlon told his daughter Virginia – at left – “Yes, there is a Santa Claus,” he was telling the truth.

Or at least the truth as that term is defined in today’s politics.

But seriously, on December 6 each year Nicholas of Myra is celebrated as a friend of children, giver of gifts and climber of chimneys.  (“Etc.”)  And as noted in the painting atop the page, he was brave enough to “save 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…

Location of Demre in Antalya province, Turkey.Incidentally, the three innocent men had been sentenced to death by the ruler of Myra – today’s city of DemreTurkey – “the corrupt prefect Eustathios [who] had accepted bribes to bring about the deaths of three men.”  This first St. Nicholas “was not one to be intimidated by the power of others, especially the power of the corrupt.”  He “stormed into the prefect’s office and demanded that the charges against the three men be dropped.”

That corrupt official eventually “confessed his sin and sought the saint’s forgiveness.  Nicholas absolved him, but only after the ruler had undergone a period of repentance.”

Which leads to this thought:  “Boy, we could sure use him today!!!

Then there were the stories of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor:”

The best-known story involves a man with three unmarried daughters, and not enough money to provide them with suitable dowries.  This meant that they could not marry, and were likely to end up as prostitutes.  [This was in “the good old days.”]  Nicholas walked by the man’s house on three successive nights, and each time threw a bag of gold in through a window (or … in colder climates, down the chimney).  Thus, the daughters were saved from a life of shame, and all got married and lived happily ever after.

Another story was more gruesome, but also had a happy ending.  During a time of famine, a butcher “lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham.”  But Nicholas of Myra both “saw through the butcher’s horrific crime” and resurrected the three children from the barrel.

And it was from that “first St. Nicholas” that the jolly old elf at right evolved from.  (Even if some stories about him may lessen your appetite for pickled goods this holiday season…)

But then there’s the question:  “Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25, if St. Nicholas Day is December 6?”  There are a number of theories, but the most reasonable says that December 25 is nine months after March 25, by tradition the date of The Annunciation(I.e., the date of the “announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.” See On the Original St. Nicholas.)

You can see more at St. Nicholas [the] Saint Who Stopped an Execution, and Celebrating St. Nicholas: the Story of the Three Condemned Innocents.  Or from this blog, On the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick,” and On St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas.”  But in the meantime you can meditate on the image below of St. Nicholas “transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus…”

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St. Nicholas … “transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 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.

The upper image is courtesy of saint nicholas church st nicholas church is the most outstanding …, which added:  “The protective personality of St. Nicholas and desire of helping children in difficult situations have been transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus … appearing on Christmas Eve to make everybody happy.”