Monthly Archives: January 2024

Paul gets his sight back, Peter confesses – 2024

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St. Paul’s sight being restored – after his Damascus road experience

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In “Happy Epiphany, 2024” I wrote about January 6 as the Feast of Epiphany. That feast officially ends the Twelve Days of Christmas. It also marks the start of the Season of Epiphany, a church season running up to Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn observance recalling the “40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert and enduring temptation by Satan.” And irony of ironies, this year – 2024 – Ash Wednesday comes on February 14, the same day we celebrate Valentine’s Day. But first comes two other Feast Days, the Confession of St Peter, on January 18, and the Conversion of St Paul, on January 25.

Taking the “confession” first, on January 18 we celebrate Peter “confessing” that Jesus is the Christ (the Jewish Messiah): “Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God.” In other words we recall how Peter was “led by God’s grace to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ” And we join with him – and with all other Christians – in “hailing Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior.”

[The] Apostle Peter proclaims Jesus to be Christ – the Messiah. The proclamation is described in the three Synoptic GospelsMatthew 16:13-20Mark 8:27–30 and Luke 9:18–20. The proclamation of Jesus as Christ is fundamental to Christology … and Jesus’ acceptance of the title is a definitive statement for it in the New Testament narrative.

But while January 18 recalls Peter as first apostle to confess Jesus as Messiah, on January 25 we recall how “Saul (or Paul) of Tarsus, formerly an enemy and persecutor of the early Christian Church, was led by God’s grace to become one of its chief spokesmen.” In other words, Peter came to his position of authority from “inside the church.” Paul on the other hand was pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority.

Another note: Each June 25 we have a feast day for both Apostles together. But in January each year we remember both men separately. “Or more precisely, we remember how these two ‘Pillars of the Church‘ took two completely different paths to the same destination.” 

Which is another way of saying these two Church Fathers didn’t always see eye to eye. (As shown in the painting, “Two scholars disputing” below.) The Bible tells of one such dispute in Galatians 2:11-14, especially including verse 11, where Paul said, “When Peter came to Antioch, I told him face to face that he was wrong.” On the flip side is 2d Peter 3:16, where Peter commented on Paul’s style of writing: “He writes this way in all his letters… Some parts of his letters are hard to understand.” But in the end, and as noted above, “these two ‘Pillars of the Church‘ took two completely different paths to the same destination.” That “destination” was the task of bringing people to Jesus. (The same task all “good Christians” are charged with.)

Which brings us back to the Conversion of St. Paul. That special day – January 25 – recalls “an event in the life of Paul the Apostle that led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus.” He wrote about his former life – as a devout and zealous enemy of the budding Christian church – in Galatians 1:13-14.  There he wrote about his being “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”  Accordingly, he intensely “persecuted the church of God” – that is, the newly-formed Christian Church –  “and tried to destroy it.”  

For example, at the time of the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-8:3), “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” And as Stephen was being stoned by the crowd, “the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (He later changed that to “Paul.”) But then he had his Damascus Road Experience (illustrated at the top of the post).

In other words – and as we view the term today – Paul had a “profound life-changing experience, that turned [him] from skepticism to belief.” Moving on, Paul himself was literally struck blind, for three days. And of that episode, Wikipedia notes three different accounts:

[The] third discussion of Paul’s conversion occurs when Paul addresses King Agrippa, defending himself against the accusations of antinomianism that have been made against him. This account is briefer than the others. The speech here is again tailored for its audience, emphasizing what a Roman ruler would understand: the need to obey a heavenly vision, and reassuring Agrippa that Christians were not a secret society.

So as I said, Paul was “dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority.” And from there he became “the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity.” From that position of authority, Paul noted that above all we as good Christians are called on to be “ministers of reconciliation.” In plain words, we Americans should not be as polarized as we are now. Because, as Paul said in Galatians 3:28, in Christ “there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no liberal or conservative.” (Well, that’s what he would write if he was here today.)

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Some disputes, yes, but they “mostly worked together.” (A reminder….) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Conversion of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia. The full caption:  “‘Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul’ (c.1631) by Pietro da Cortona.” See also Ananias of Damascus – Wikipedia, which noted his name means “favored of the LORD.”  The actual restoration of Saul-Paul’s sight was described in Acts 9:17-19 NIV:

Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

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

For this post I borrowed from 2016’s Peter confesses, Paul converts, 2017’s “Wouldn’t it be nice if WE could be ‘restored,” and On Saints Peter and Paul, January ’23.

On Paul as second only to Jesus: What influences did St. Paul have on Christianity? | Britannica. Paul is often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity.” Emphasis added in the main text. On “ministers of reconciliation” see 2d Corinthians 5:18.

The lower image is courtesy of Albert Bierstadt Museum: Two Scholars Disputing REMBRANDT.

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“Happy Epiphany, 2024!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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