Monthly Archives: November 2019

On Thanksgiving 2019

 The Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving behind their homeland – for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. See On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, along with Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

Keep America Beautiful’s famous 1971 Ad Campaign, featuring Iron Eyes Cody, the “Crying Indian”

For one thing, I got hired back as a supervisor at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. (Supervising mainly young folk working off community service hours.) For another thing, I got back from Portugal in the middle of the “High Holy Season.” (I.e., the season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”)

Which means that – since the regular college season is now nearing an end – it’s time to get back to posting more regularly. And next Thursday’s Thanksgiving is a great place to start. But first a couple passages from today’s Daily Office Readings.

For starters, there’s the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25. It tells of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: “when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:”

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

Lamassu from “Sargon II…” 

The problem? The Assyrians and Egyptians were at the time arch-enemies, both with each other and with Israel, which they took turns conquering. Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.

That theme got mirrored in the New Testament reading, Romans 15:5-13, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of which could be very good news indeed, giving us hope for the future.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving. I covered the subject in On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, and On Thanksgiving – 2017. The caption for the Mayflower Pilgrim image at the top of the page – borrowed from “Part I” – alludes to a song from the movie Aladdin.  See Aladdin – A whole new world – YouTube.  Also Aladdin – A Whole New World Lyrics:  “A whole new world, A new fantastic point of view, No one to tell us no, Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…” 

All of which – I noted – could describe the feelings of any pilgrim who is setting out for any “new world,” before reality sets in and the real work begins. And which might be said of any “baby Christian” just starting out on his or her spiritual journey…

Which brings up a key point to remember. See for example the post Thanksgiving 2015, which noted this reality check on that much-celebrated First Thanksgiving:

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

Which reminds us that any true pilgrimage – or any spiritual journey worth its salt – involves a lot of disciplined, persevering work. And that “stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor” isn’t the real purpose of Thanksgiving. (Any more than “getting presents” is the real purpose of Christmas.)

We should be thankful – above all – for the right to explore our own spiritual pilgrimage – our own spiritual journey – in our own way and at our own pace. Which means that – if we choose – we can follow the lead of Luke 24:45 and read the Bible “with an open mind.” 

All of which is another way of saying that once you start reading the Bible on a daily basis – with an open mind – you can find an exciting “whole New World out there.” 

You can become – in your own way – like an old-time explorer whose main job – it often seemed – was to push past grim warnings and superstitions:

In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world.  At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again…   For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one.  (E.A.)

That’s from the INTRODUCTION. Then there’s Thanksgiving – 2016, referring to a quote from William Bradford (Plymouth colony) on the difficulties inherent in all great and honorable actions. (“Like trying to maintain a true democracy after the kind of heated-rhetoric election we just went through.”)  Which could be summed up this way:  “If it was easy, anybody could do it!”

Which brought up the topic of “dormancy, darkness and cold,” referring to the Dark Ages, that period of intellectual darkness between the “light of Rome,” up to the rebirth or “Renaissance in the 14th century.”  (Not that there was any connection to current events or anything…)  

Which in turn serves as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age” you may be going through, during this fine but politically-hectic November of 2019:

“This too shall pass…

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The “First Thanksgiving,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia, captioned, “The Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.”

The “lamassu” image is courtesy of a link n Assyrian captivity – Wikipedia. It refers to “an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings.” Sargon II began his reign in 722 BC, then “conquered the Kingdom of Israel, and, in 710 BC, conquered the Kingdom of Babylon, thus reuniting Assyria with its southern rival, Babylonia.”

The lower image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

The Halloween Triduum – 2019

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

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Here’s a news flash: Halloween isn’t just one day, October 31st. It’s part of what are called the “three days of Hallowe’en.” More precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (Or Allhallowtide. And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”)

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgYou can get a more complete story from prior posts like – from 2018 – On the THREE days of Hallowe’en, and from 2016 On “All Hallows E’en” – 2016. Including an explanation of how the term “Hallowe’en” developed from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.

Wikipedia noted this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead. That, includes martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.” The main day of the three is November 1, now “All Saints Day,” previously referred to as Hallowmas. It was established some time between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

Halloween started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter. And those “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another idea was to build bonfires. Literally bonefires.  (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”) That idea came from the thought that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire. Which evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

You can see more on Halloween in those prior posts, including details of that strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That is, the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Or about traveling on All Hallows E’en. If you hiked from 11:00 p.m. until midnight, your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.” (The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches…)

But next comes November 1, All Saints Day, which honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  I.e., special people in the Church. (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”) On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

That is, that third day of the Halloween Triduum – November 2 – is All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the following Sunday service includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

All of which makes for the Good News of Halloween.  Accordingly, here’s wishing you:

A Happy “All Hallow’s E’en!”

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

The “Three Days of Halloween” end November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

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The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

See also the 2017 version of On the THREE days of Hallowe’en., which came just after…

My last post was “Hola! Buen Camino!”  It described some of my just-finished five-week trip to Spain (I was hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago.)  I’ll be writing more about that trip later, but now it’s time to focus on the upcoming three days of Halloween.  That set of three feast days is called the Halloween “Triduum,” or in the alternative Allhallowtide.

As to that 2017 Camino trip, I wrote that on October 3 (207) and in Puente La Reina, in Spain – “about eight miles shy of León” on reaching Leon – “we will have hiked 250 miles from Pamplona, in the 21 days since we left on September 13.”  Then there was this:

The first 10 days after [Pamplona] – on the hike – were pretty miserable.  My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough.  But the day off in Burgos helped a lot.  And since then we’ve made good progress.  Still, we had to implement a Plan B, which involves renting bikes in Leon and cycling the remaining 194 miles.

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”   See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.