Jesus “Presented” – 2024

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This could be called the “Second Presentation” – by Pilate, as Jesus is about to be crucified

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Friday, February 2, 2024 was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It recalls Mary and Joseph presentinJesus, as a baby, 40 days after His birth. (The birthday we celebrate as Christmas.) In doing so His parents followed a thousand-year-old custom that began with Moses. In Exodus 13:2, God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male:”

Counting forward from December 25 as Day One [for Jesus], we find that Day Forty is February 2. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem.

Then there’s the painting above, of Jesus “presented” a second time. But this time it was Pontius Pilate, showing Him to the mob. A reminder that from the time of His first Presentation – at just over a month old – Jesus’ life was one long journey to that second presentation. (On the eve of making the sacrifice that would literally change history, if not “split history in two.”) 

In a similar way, February 2, 2024 marks the beginning of our own spiritual journey: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” And this year – as every church year – that journey goes through the rest of Epiphany Season, then to Mardi Gras, followed by Lent, then on into Easter Week. (A reminder that life is not all fun and games. It’s an alternating rhythm of good times and “challenges.” Put another way, an alternating rhythm of “feasting and fasting.”)

Getting back to the Presentation, it’s one of the most ancient Church feasts, dating back as far as the fourth century in Jerusalem. As to the original Presentation, where it all started:

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:1–4… Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon[, who] had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Simeon then uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus

But were Mary and Joseph really poor? Some might ask, “What happened to that gold, frankincense and myrrh that the Three Wise Men gave the parents?” (The gold could be easily spent, while the other two would be easily “hockable.”) A medieval Jesuit had this comment: “Although the three kings had offered to Christ a great quantity of gold, still the Blessed Virgin, zealously affected towards poverty, accepted but little of it, that she might show her contempt of all earthly things.” Which is as good an answer as any, but still, “Where whence those gifts?”

But that’s what people call a rabbit trail. A “convoluted discourse or tangential aside.” More to the point, could there be a deeper meaning of the Presentation in the Temple? According to the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the answer is Yes.

Aside from Mary having to be purified, all male firstborns had to be “consecrated to God in a special way.” But there were two other elements to the story. First, the parents didn’t have to go to the Temple, so Mary and Joseph were being “extra devout by going to the Temple for this special day.” (And according to Google Maps, that’s at least a 33-hour hike of over 90 miles.)

Second, according to one Pope, Luke was saying that instead of being “redeemed” and restored to his parents, Jesus was personally handed over, “given over completely to God.” Thus:

The Presentation isn’t just another boring religious ritual. On the contrary, it is a deeply symbolic moment pointing to Jesus’s divine identity, and to Mary and Joseph’s perfect cooperation with His divine mission.

And speaking of handing over a life to God, the Daily Office for February 3, 2024, added another set of saints to remember, The Dorchester Chaplains. They were four chaplains who died rescuing other passengers when a German submarine torpedoed the American troop ship Dorchester on February 3, 1943. (In what was called “the second-worst sea disaster of World War II.”)

The chaplains helped the other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

All lieutenants, the group included “Methodist minister the Reverend George L. FoxReform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD), Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling.”

Wikipedia added more detail, the gist of which is that panic set in when a torpedo knocked out the ship’s electrical system, at 1:00 in the morning in the stormy North Atlantic. The chaplains did what they could to calm passengers and organize the evacuation. They got life jackets, but when the preservers ran out the chaplains gave theirs to others. Then too, the jackets did little to protect against hypothermia in the frigid water; “hundreds of dead bodies were seen floating on the water, kept up by their life jackets.” Thus only 230 of the 940 passengers survived.

As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.

That’s according to one survivor. Others heard different languages in the chaplains’ prayers, “including Jewish prayers in Hebrew and Catholic prayers in Latin” as the ship sank. A reminder again “that life is not all fun and games,” and that we have been gifted. Despite all the troubles we see in the news, we are blessed to be alive and enjoy the upcoming church seasons.

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“Coast Guard Cutter USCGC ‘Escanaba‘ rescues ‘Dorchester’ survivors….”

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The upper image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

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 – in reverse order – On the Presentation of Jesus – 2/2/22, The “Presentation of our Lord” – 2020, and earlier, from 2017, On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord.” The 2017 post included such details as the “quaint custom [which] came to be called ‘the churching of Women,’ starting – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages, based on what Moses taught. The ritual was still offered by the Catholic Church until the 1960s, but then discontinued.” Which raised the question: “Since Mary hadn’t been ‘sullied’ in the normal manner of procreation,” why did she have to be “churched,” as Moses apparently commanded?  See also Presentation of Jesus – Wikipedia.

Re: “Today.” See Today – Wikiquote. The “rest of your life” quote is attributed to Charles Dederich, “the founder of Synanon, a self-help community for drug abusers and alcoholics, based in California.” See also And if that doesn’t work out… And about that gold, etc. It’s possible that the Wise Men arrived well after the Presentation, and so Mary and Joseph hadn’t gotten the gifts yet. They may have arrived “days, months, or possibly even years later.” What does the Bible say about the three wise men (Magi)? As to the value of the gifts, see Gold prized; frankincense, myrrh may have had more value, adding that the Gifts of Magi “foreshadowed Jesus’ life of kingship, divinity, and saving death.”

Re: “Medieval Jesuit.” Se Cornelius a Lapide (1567-1637), at the Wikipedia article about the Flemish Catholic priest, Jesuit and “exegete of Sacred Scripture.”

Also, on the February 3, see Four Chaplains – Wikipedia, with the lower image.

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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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On the real “Saint Nick” – 2023

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

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December 17, 2023 – It’s that time of year again. Time to wonder – as if we don’t already have enough on our plate to worry about – Should Parents Tell Children the Truth About Santa? The short answer: Yes, there really is – or was – a Saint Nicholas. And actually, there are several foundational figures, prototypes for today’s “Santa Claus.” One of the first was Nikolaos of Myra.

He was a historic, bond fide 4th-century saint and Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of today’s Turkey). He was also called “Nikolaos the Wonderworker,” thanks to miracles “attributed to his intercession.” See Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, and also Saint Nicholas … Britannica:

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.

To which I would respond: “He doesn’t seem to be such a minor ‘saint’ these days.”

And speaking of corruption – nothing new these days – that brings up the three innocent men sentenced to death, in the painting atop the page. It was the “corrupt prefect Eustathios” who imposed the sentence. (After accepting 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.” Accordingly, he “stormed into the prefect’s office and demanded that the charges against the three men be dropped.” Eustathios eventually “confessed … and sought the saint’s forgiveness.” Nicholas forgave him, but only after the ruler underwent a period of repentance. Which led me to think: “Boy, we could sure use him today!!!

Other stories told of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor.”  Like providing dowries for three poor unmarried daughters.  (Thus saving them from a life of prostitution.)  Or of three children killed and “pickled” by a butcher – during a time of extreme famine and cannibalism – who planned “to sell them off as ham.”  But Nicholas both “’saw through the butcher’s horrific crime’ and resurrected the three children from the barrel.”

And while it’s true that Christmas is only a week or so away, that famous festival is preceded by the Feast day of Thomas the Apostle (also known as “Doubting Thomas”), on December 21. And Thomas – in a big way – serves as a metaphor for all us “Doubters.”

That is, the term “Doubting Thomas” refers to a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.” But as I’ve noted previously, that’s just what attending church and reading the Bible is supposed to provide: A chance at a direct and personal experience with the Force that Created the Universe. See also The Bible and mysticismwhich said that Christianity is all about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.” So a mystic and a Christian both seek that “direct personal experience with God.:

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…  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….

On that note there’s the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, “a way to understand our four-sided approach to answering questions about Christian belief and practice.” Those four sides include Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. And of those four: “What Scripture teaches, tradition affirms and reason supports, must be experienced in Christian community and lives. Without authentic experience, we never move beyond the faith of the devils.” Put another way, “Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity.”

So here’s wishing you first a happy “original Doubting Thomas” day, then a happy “real St. Nick” festival day. And that if you haven’t found it already, that in the New Year coming up you can find that “direct personal experience with God.” (But not necessarily in the same way as those three “innocents condemned to death” at the top of the page…)

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Santa Claus – or “Saint Nick” – as pictured more recently…

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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. 

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

Re: Santa. See also Should Parents Go Along With the Santa Myth? – Psychology Today.

For this post I borrowed from some of my earlier posts, On the original St. Nicholas (2014), On St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas” (2015), There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia…), from 2017, and Santa saves three men, and “Doubting” shows the way (2018).

Re: Quadrilateral. See also The Wesleyan Quadrilateral – The Wesleyan Church.

The lower image is courtesy of Santa Claus – Wikipedia, captioned, “1881 illustration by Thomas Nast who, along with Clement Clarke Moore’s poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas,’ helped to create the modern image of Santa Claus.” As to the original, see St. Nicholas Center ::: Saint Who Stopped an Execution, which told of his hearing the news, then rushing to the site of the planned execution:

Informed that their execution was to be carried out that morning, he hurried to the executioner’s field. Here he 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…

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On Advent 2023 – “Happy New (Liturgical) Year!”

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The 2024 Church Year actually started on December 3, 2023 – as detailed in the text below…

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

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did. (John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Sunday, December 3, was the First Sunday of Advent. That began a four-week church season that calls us to look in four directions at once: “back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth.” It is a time of anticipation, and not just for Christmas:

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.

Those comments were from a blogger back in 2020, and he was right. That year was filled with bad events that presented a host of problems, old and new. They included a just-new COVID epidemic and the Election That Seemed Like It Would Never End. (And looks to continue – “Part Two” – later in the calendar year 2024.) But then again, “man is born to trouble as as sparks fly upward. So it seems like this upcoming year too will present even more daunting problems.

But rather than opening up that can of worms, let’s get back to the start of Advent.

For one thing, Advent actually starts with the Feast of St. Andrew. He’s the disciple who met Jesus first, then brought his brother Peter along to meet Him too. As such he is called the “First Apostle,” and this year his feast day came on Thursday, November 30. The National Catholic Register said he was “one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.” Which is another way of saying he was pretty important, but often 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.”

See also Who Was Andrew the Apostle? The Beginner’s Guide. See the notes for cites to past posts, with a host of information on things like Advent Calendars, and also tradents. (They helped the men with the pen understand those “cheat sheets” that were the earliest Bible scrolls.) But for now it’s enough to repeat that Advent as a church season has been around a long time. For example, starting about 300 A.D. Advent was “kept as a period of fasting as strict as in Lent.” But then around 1917 the Catholic Church “abolished the precept of fasting …  but kept Advent as a season of penitence.” But it’s also a time of “joyful anticipation.”

Another thing to note is that for three of the four Sundays of Advent, the Old Testament readings – in many churches – will be from the prophet Isaiah, shown below:

Isaiah is the prophet who guides our journey through Advent as we prepare for Christmas. Advent is a season of joyful anticipation, and Isaiah invites us to look forward to the coming of the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord.

Beyond that, Isaiah urges us to straighten out our crooked ways, tear down our mountains of misdeeds, and fill in the valleys of our bad habits.” Which sounds a lot like lyrics from Handel’s Messiah, a fixture of the Christmas season: “Woe to the concert hall in the United States or Britain that fails to schedule the piece around the holiday, when, as well, CD sales and Web downloads of the oratorio soar.” So have a Happy Advent, full of joyful anticipation…

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The prophet Isaiah, featured in this season’s Advent O.T. readings…

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The upper image is courtesy of Happy New Year 2024 – Image Results. The full link in the caption is Calendar of the Church Year – The Episcopal Church, noting Advent as the “first season of the church year, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas.” See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia.

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, On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning,” Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself…”,” and On Advent 2022 – and St. Andrew, from December 7 of that year, with information on Advent Calendars, including a cite to Advent calendars are raking it in while counting it down. Also, On Advent ’22, Tradents, and “Scriptio continua.” (12/21/22)

“Advent calls us to look back.” See the post by Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig. And the “man is born to trouble” quote is from Job 5:7.

The Old Testament reading not from Isaiah – on December 24, the last Sunday of Advent – is 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. (Where David and the prophet Nathan discuss building a house for God, and God responds, in essence, “Did I ask you to build a house for me?”)

The full “Handel’s Messiah” link is The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah – Smithsonian Magazine.

The lower image is courtesy of Isaiah – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceilingVatican City).” See also, on “the prophet who guides our journey”: Isaiah: Old Testament prophet for the Advent season.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “”

Re: “mystical.” Originally, 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!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

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

Thanksgiving 2023 – and an “epileptic Rabbit Trail…”

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“Jesus heals an epileptic” – But did Matthew really know that “modern medical term?”

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I’ll get to Thanksgiving in a bit, but first want to say something about a tendency to go down Rabbit Trails. I do a lot of that in my writing. That’s why my family and others say my writing “goes all over the place.” Like, sometimes I go “off on a crazy tangent” or make crazy turns in writing. But I like rabbit trails, even as I try to follow that rule about Unity and Coherence in Writing. Which brings up a Bible passage I saw in Monday morning’s Daily Office Readings.

The Gospel was Matthew 17:14-2. In the Lectionary – Satucket version, Matthew 17:15 reads, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly.” That made me wonder. I’ve been doing the Daily Office since 1992, and am now on my 15th trip through the Bible. But this is the first time in those 31 years that that passage caught my eye. “Is that how it’s written in Greek? Did the Hebrews or Greeks know that much about epilepsy?”

Which turned out to be another rabbit trail, which is nothing new for me.

Like some time ago my Daily Office reading included Psalm 46:9, “He makes wars cease… He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” That made me wonder. Why specifically burn shields, those broad pieces of “defensive armor carried on the arm?” So I “rabbit trailed” and learned that in the original Hebrew, the word – translated “shields” – refers to “Something revolving, a wheeled vehicle.” More precisely, a chariot, the offensive tank of its day. Which means going down rabbit trails can be educational, so here’s the latest one.

 It seemed to me – Monday morning – that the term “epilepsy” sounded way too modern for Matthew to use. So first off I went to the Bible Hub website. I wanted to see how the verse got translated in the King James Bible. (You know, the one God uses?) There the passage reads, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed.” And most other translations read that the son had “seizures.” So I wondered, was this one of those new, updated translations that conservatives call “undignified?” (As departures from the “real” Bible, as noted by Garry Wills?) As for example, 1st Corinthians 14:6, where the original Greek reads, “Now brothers…” But some updated modern versions read, “Now brothers and sisters.” To that I’d say, “Use ‘brothers and sisters’ now, as long as we know how the original version read.”

Be all that as it may, that Matthew 17:15 rabbit trail led me to “something new under the sun:”

The ancient Greeks also began to speculate on the causes of epilepsy at this time – in fact the word ‘epilepsy’ comes from the Greek word for ‘to seize’ or ‘to attack’ because they believed seizures were caused by demons grabbing or attacking people. Some … also believed that epilepsy was a divine gift and a sign of genius and they called it the ‘sacred disease.’

None of which I knew, but learned about – just this past Monday morning, for the first time – from The history of epilepsy – the ancient world | Epilepsy blog. The article said that Hippocrates – who died in 370 BC, “father of medicine” – took issue with the idea that epilepsy was a “sacred disease ” idea. He said, of “the disease called ‘sacred[:]’ It is not, in my opinion, any more divine or more sacred than any other diseases, but has a natural cause … the fact is that the cause of this affection … is the brain.” The article concluded, “This is arguably when epilepsy was discovered.” In other words, some time around 400 B.C., or almost 500 years before Matthew wrote his Gospel, some Greeks knew about epilepsy. (Though the article added that “Hippocrates’s beliefs were not widely understood at the time and most people in the ancient world still thought seizures were caused by demons.”)

Which means there’s no clear cut answer to the question, “Was ‘epilepsy’ too modern a term for Matthew to use?” Or it could be said the answer “lies somewhere in between.” Maybe Matthew didn’t know the full technical term “epilepsy” as we understand it today. On the other hand the general term used back then did cover a lot of linguistic territory. It mostly referred to “seizures,” as generally translated in most Bibles. Which also is nothing new.

That is, the situation also resembles the faulty translation of “leprosy” from the Hebrew word ẓaraʿat. While traditionally translated at “leprosy,” the Greek translation for this word too “covers a wide range of diseases that produced scales.” And the original Hebrew word ẓaraʿat too embraced “a variety of skin ailments, including many non-contagious types.” Which also means, “There he goes again, going down one of those dang rabbit trails!”)

Which means in turn that it’s about time we got back to Thanksgiving 2023. Put another way, “What do all those rabbit trails have to do with the American holiday every November?” I’ll get to that in a minute, but first a note: “Thanksgiving” in America actually started a long time before 1863, when that day was made a nationwide holiday by Abraham Lincoln. And for that matter even long before 1621, with the first “Pilgrim Thanksgiving” in Plymouth Massachusetts.

For Native Americans – the first inhabitants – “gathering to give thanks was already a familiar custom, taking place not just annually, but 13 times throughout the lunar, calendar year – a cycle known as the Thirteen Moons. As one Wampanoag said, “Thanksgivings are a big part of our culture. Giving thanks is how we pray.” (The Wampanoags were the tribe who helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter, when half of them died.)

In other words, special days of thanksgiving have been around a long, long time. And as it also turns out, for a very good reason: “As more researchers dig into the science of gratitude, they’ve found the feeling likely played a key role in helping our ancestors band together and survive.” Which turns up another rabbit trail. “Who knew there was a science of gratitude?”

But there is, and it has a definite healing effect: “Thanking others, thanking ourselves, Mother Nature, or the Almighty[,] gratitude in any form can enlighten the mind and make us feel happier.” Which is why our annual Thanksgiving and all its other forms have stuck around so long: “That legacy continues today, as being in the mood for gratitude shapes who we are as a species and how we connect with the people around us.”

Which could be another rabbit trail, but it’s time to bring this post to an end. To end with the custom in many families for each member, around the table, to say specifically what he or she is thankful for this Thanksgiving 2023. So I’ll start: I’m thankful for the chance to go down all those rabbit trails, and keep on learning new things, every day, through the magic of blogging.

Now, if I could just make those blog-posts all unified and coherent.

Happy Thanksgiving – 2023!

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

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The upper image is courtesy of Epilepsy Images Bible – Image Results. The image is attributed to “Wilhelm Tell,” not William Tell. (Which is the name I usually got in my Google Search.)

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

The full link to the Rabbit Trail comments is Today’s Idiom Is … Rabbit Trail.

For more on my tendency to go down Rabbit Trails see On Halloween 2023 – and a Sheol “rabbit trail,” which in turn borrowed fromthe lower part of the text in On Eastertide – and ‘artistic license,’ from 2016.Also on the topic of epilepsy see Is epilepsy mentioned in the Bible? |

Re: Garry Wills. In his “What Jesus Meant” Wills noted a general conservatism in Bible translations, as for “reverential archaisms.” The result? Whenever a new translation comes out “it is almost always called undignified,” in that it departs from the King James Version. He added that the original Koine was a rough-hewn, “pidgin” marketplace Greek, often clumsy and muddled so much that translators invariably “try to give more churchiness to the evangelists.” Pages xi to xii, “Note on translation.”

Re: “Something new under the sun.” See contra, Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Re: “Brothers,” or “brothers and sisters.” The Bible Hub commentary to 1st Corinthians 14:6 said the Greek brothers (ἀδελφοί (adelphoi) – “Vocative Masculine Plural” – referred to a “brother, member of the same religious community, especially a fellow-Christian. A brother near or remote.”

As for Thanksgiving itself, see past post I borrowed from, like On Thanksgiving 2019, On Thanksgiving – 2021, and from 2022’s On Thanksgiving 2022 – and an Unknown American Icon. They detail things like the story of John Howland, who came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant, who was swept overboard in mid-Atlantic and almost drowned, but who went on to populate America with 2 million of his descendants. And how less than half the original Pilgrims survived the first year, and how of the 18 women, only four survived. (And other juicy details.)

The “giving thanks” quotes are from Thanksgiving is a year-round practice of giving thanks : NPR, and Giving thanks isn’t just a holiday tradition. As Wikipedia also noted, Days of Thanksgivng were celebrated quite often in England. One such nationwide day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed in 1588, after the victory over the Spanish Armada. Another “unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving” began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, but that day then evolved into Guy Fawkes Day

The Wampanoag taught the first Pilgrims “how to cultivate the varieties of corn, squash, and beans (the Three Sisters) that flourished in New England, as well as how to catch and process fish and collect seafood.” (Wikipedia.)

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

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Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – 2023!

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If these Men had compared notes – not argued – they’d have a better understanding…

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November 11, 2023 – I’ve been lax. Today is Veterans Day, and I just checked the Search box at the upper right to see what I’ve posted about that holiday. Nothing. Nothing at all, which means it’s time to correct that omission. And talk about how a strong military can keep all of us free to practice our religion as we see fit. And at the same time to welcome the competition that comes from our ongoing dialectic, a process that tends to strengthen everyone’s Faith.

Like the Blind men and the elephant – pictured above – if they had excluded “subjective elements such as emotional appeal and rhetoric” – and not argued so much – they might have come up with a far better understanding of just what an “elephant” is. But back to Veteran’s Day and how a strong military can keep all of us free to begin that process of “comparing notes.”

Some of which ties into last year’s post about this time, Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – [November 15,] 2022. That post said the one major the Feast Day “between” Halloween and Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday. Which was true last year, when we celebrated that day on November 20. But this year it comes on November 26, three days after Thanksgiving.

That 2022 post harked back to the 2015 post, Hitler and Mussolini help create Christ the King Sunday. It came in 1925, a year that started – on January 3 – with Benito Mussolini promising “to take charge of restoring order to Italy within forty-eight hours.” In Russia things were moving toward the creation of the NKVD, which later became the KGB(Of Vladimir Putin fame.) In July 1925 Adolf Hitler published Volume 1 of his manifesto, Mein Kampf. Also, in the United States, July 1925 featured a show of strength by the Ku Klux Klan. Thus the Pope’s reaction:

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 [after] the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe…  These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church [and] the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning…  (Emphasis added.)

Which brings up the need for Veterans – past, present and future – and the need to honor them. (And not just on November 11.) Defined as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service,” a Veteran has put the interest of our country above “their” own self-interest, and often put their lives on the line as well. And as such they are the surest guarantee against all foreign would-be dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. (While keeping in mind Lincoln’s warning that “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we lose our freedoms it will be because we have destroyed ourselves from within.”)

Which brings up Christian nationalism. As noted in Between, from 2022, such “nationalists” tend to become “authoritarian and oppressive.” Which makes that term an oxymoron, a self-contradiction. “Christianity is grounded in Christian scriptures where Jesus teaches love, peace, unity and truth. Christian nationalism preaches hatred, violence, separation, and disinformation.”

See the Between post from 2022 for more detail, but it also pointed out another problem. Today’s Christian Nationalists get political power from the fact that their political opponents don’t know that much about the Bible. They can’t tell when the Bible is being misquoted, misused or abused. “But that ‘problem’ is also the Achilles’ heel of Christian nationalism. Mostly because Jesus opposed all such ‘Nationalism.’” See for example, Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly.” So if you think a political opponent is “ungodly,” that’s exactly who Jesus died for.

So we need a strong military – our Veterans, past, present and future – to protect us against foreign powers. But we also need more people more familiar with what the Bible and Jesus really say, to protect us against “nationalists” who would distort the Bible to advance their own political agenda. In sum, have a Happy Veteran’s Day and a happy Christ the King Sunday, even though this year it doesn’t come between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

And work toward getting more people to understand the real message of Jesus. Especially among those “ungodly” Jesus expressly died for. (“The harvest is plentiful…”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Blind Men And The Elephant – Image Results. See also Blind men and an elephant – Wikipedia, for more on the parable. For another “between” post see Psalm 137, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem” – 2021, from November 12, two years ago.

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

The full link to this year’s Christ the King Sunday is When is Christ the King 2023? – CalendarZ. As such it is “considered one of the latest incorporations to the Western Liturgical calendar,” as noted above.

Note: A Veteran is fully defined as one who has been discharged “other than dishonorably.”

Re: The Lincoln quote. See Fact check: Abraham Lincoln quote is fabricated – USA TODAY. It said there was “no record of Lincoln actually uttering that statement,” but that he did “speak to the spirit of the quote well before he ran for president in 1860, and well before he served his one term in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847-49.” See the link for more details.

Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Veterans Day.

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On Halloween 2023 – and a Sheol “rabbit trail…”

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An image of Sheol, from the Old Testament. Is this just another word for Netherworld?

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October 29, 2023 – Halloween isn’t just day. (This year coming this Tuesday.) It’s actually one of “three days of Hallowe’en.” More precisely, October 31 is the first of the Halloween Triduum. It’s also called Allhallowtide, and Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpg

According to Wikipedia, this triduum is a time to remember the “dear departed.” And not just martyrs and saints, but all faithful departed Christians. The main day of the three is November 1, now called “All Saints Day.” It used to be called Hallowmas, and was established some time between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.” Hallowe’en – literally the “Eve of All Hallow’s” – started with an old-time idea that evil spirits were strongest during the long nights of winter. And that the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their most permeable – the barrier was lowest – on the night of October 31. And by the way, the term “Hallowe’en” developed from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.

Which brings up the masks and costumes that are a big part of Halloween. In the old days – when people thought the barrier between this world and the next was at its lowest – people wore masks or costumes to disguise their identities. The idea was to keep the ghosts or spirits – coming from the netherworld world – “from recognizing live people in this ‘material world.’”

The same is true of bonfires. Literally bonefires, fires where bones were burned. One idea behind that? Evil spirits could be driven away with noise and fire. Also, old-timers thought the fires brought comfort to “souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.” And in Merry Old England there were three types of bonfire:

…one with only clean bones (“bonys”) and no wood called a “bonnefyre”, one with clean wood and no bones called a “wakefyre”, and the third with both bones and wood, called “Saynt Ionys Fyre”. Apparently the original [custom] fell into “lechery and gluttony”, so the church deemed it instead as a fast.

Of course there are other types of bonfire as well, not falling into lechery and gluttony. For example, garden bonfires which – if done right – are a “useful source of potash and may be beneficial in improving the soil structure of some soils.” (While “managed with safety in mind.”)

The day after Halloween, November 1, is All Saints Day. It honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.” A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.” But actually, we should distinguish “Saints,” with a capital “s” from those with a lower-case “s.” Briefly, all living Christians are called to be saints, with a small “s.” A Saint with a capital “s” is usually one who has passed on. (But that too is “another whole can of worms.*)

Be that as it may, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’” Observant Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the service on the following Sunday includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

With all that in mind: “Have a Happy Halloween Triduum!”

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A prayer for All Souls Day, this year on Thursday, November 2…

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The upper image is courtesy of Sheol: The Grave or so Much More? – The Israel Bible. An interesting article, citing (for example) Psalm 89:49, or 89:48 in the Bible Hub translation. In the ESV, “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” Or in the NLT, “No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” (You get the point.) I was looking for an image I’ve never used before to put in this latest Halloween post, and found the Sheol article. Good, but it opens up a whole new can of worms: Described as the opposite of heaven, Sheol is “a place to reluctantly pass time after dying,” and where the person has “no memory of his life nor the ability to praise God.” Sounds like Hell to me, but like I said, “a whole new can of worms.” (Meaning I’ll have to address the question – Is this just another word for Netherworld?in a future post.) “Which [also] brings up the topic of rabbit trails.” See the lower part of the text in On Eastertide – and “artistic license,” from 2016. All this stuff on Sheol was definitely a “rabbit trail.”

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

I based this post on past posts including: The Halloween Triduum – 2019, On Halloween 2020 – “Scariest ever,” On the Hallowe’en “Triduum” – 2021, On Halloween 2022 – and a “Samaritan” update, and Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – 2022.

On “Saints” versus “saints.” See What are Christian saints according to the Bible: “All Christians are considered saints. All Christians are saints – and at the same time are called to be saints.” Also Saints, big and small – U.S. Catholic, and Saints with a Capital S – Covenant. See also the note above on rabbit trails and “whole new cans of worms.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls Day Image – Image Results.

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On St. Luke’s day – 2023

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A sentiment especially appropriate in these days of polarization and open warfare…

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Wednesday, October 18, is the Feast Day for St. Luke. He wrote the third-of-four Gospels, and also wrote the book Acts of the Apostles. (The “fifth book of the New Testament.”) And some scholars have called Luke’s Gospel the most beautiful book that ever was.”

Luke wrote the longest of the Gospels, and so – with Acts – his two books make up a full quarter of the New Testament. (According to Garry Wills in his What the Gospels Meant. He added that Luke’s two books are longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.) And Luke’s Gospel is considered the most humane of four gospels. Dante said that Luke was the “scribe of Christ’s gentleness.”

Which we could use a lot more of these days.

Isaac Asimov said Luke wrote his Gospel “for the ears of Gentiles who are sympathetic to Christianity and are considering conversion.” (Something to consider in this age of shrinking church membership.) Then too Luke treated Roman authorities “more gently than in the first two gospels, and Jesus Himself is portrayed as far more sympathetic to Gentiles” than in Matthew or Mark. And speaking of polarization, we could use a lot less of that these days. (Polarization that is.) You may be Conservative and think Liberals are “the ungodly,” or vice-versa. But the “ungodly” are just the people Jesus died for.

(That’s Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly,” in case you missed it.) So if Jesus died for the Ungodly, and since “There is none who is righteous, no, not one,” where do we get off being polarized? And Luke includes some distinct accounts showing Jesus loving just those “ungodly:”

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy… Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.

And besides all that Luke was a historian OF THE FIRST ORDER. That’s according to scholars like archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, who said in his accounts Luke accurately described towns, cities and islands, “as well as correctly naming various official titles.” Accordingly (he said), Luke is a “historian of the first rank [and] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Then there’s E.M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University:

“For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides. The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record… it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth.”  

But Luke wasn’t just a writer and historian, he also painted: “Christian tradition states that he was the first icon painter,” and that he “painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child.” He is said to have painted some 600 icons, including the “Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Vladimir. He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to illustrate a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.“ So here’s to the multi-talented Luke the Evangelist, and Apostle, and historian of the highest order, artist and premier “scribe of Christ’s gentleness.”

We could use his example and his prayers over the upcoming weeks and months.

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Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child, by Maarten van Heemskerck

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Luke Apostle Image – Image Results. It goes with a page, “Catholic Prayers.” Also, in writing this post I borrowed from these past posts: From 2014, On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, On St. Luke – 2015, 2018’s On Luke and the “rich young man,” and from 2022, On Luke, James the Just and Halloween. (Which included notes “for a later post” on topics like how to read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and welcoming “aliens.”) Also, from 2019, On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, which I posted after hiking the Portuguese Camino, from Porto back up to Santiago.

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

Luke as “scribe of Christ’s gentleness.” See also St. Luke: The Scribe of Christ’s Gentleness | Loyola Press, which added that he “was the only Gentile to write books of the Bible.”

The Asimov quotes are from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 912-15.

Re: “None who is righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10, citing Psalms 14:1, Psalm 53:1, and 143:2.

Luke as a historian: New Testament scholar Colin Hemer also attested to the historical nature and accuracy of Luke’s writings.

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

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An update – “Feast Days in France…”

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For 15 days this September I hiked “in the footsteps” of the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail…

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October 12, 2023 – My last post said I’d add updates – to that September 10 post – as I hiked the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, in France. But alas, I never got the chance. The days were just too hectic, the “free” French WiFi was iffy at best, and most days it was enough just to shower, wash that day’s clothes for the next day, and get a good meal – at the end of the day. I also said I’d put those updates between two sets of asterisks (below), which is what I’ll do now, now that I’m back home in God’s Country, safe and sound. (As this first week back moves along. It’s taking some time to get over the jet lag and get back up to speed, like understanding what people around me are saying…)

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September 10, 2023 – The next major Church Feast is Holy Cross Day, Thursday, September 14. Just before – in the Daily Office – come for readings for the Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 46871 Kings 8:22-30Ephesians 2:11-22. Next up is the Feast day for St Matthew, Evangelist, Thursday, September 21. Then Friday, September 29 comes the Feast for St Michael and All Angels.

The thing is, I’ll be in France from September 11 through October 8, mostly to hike the GR 70, also called the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. But I’ll only have a tablet, not a laptop, so covering those feast days will be problematic to say the least. So I’ll do this: Write up this post beforehand, then update it as I hike along the Trail. (After enjoying sights in Paris and Lyon.)

“As far as traveling in France goes, I’ll put updates in between these two sets of asterisks:”

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And now for the delayed updates: For starters, doing the Daily Office readings every hiking day was challenging. In previous hikes I’ve packed an actual printed Bible, but by the time I finished packing for this trip – and some anticipated heavy rain and maybe hail – my pack weighed 20 pounds. (Five pounds over the recommended 10% of body weight. In my case, 15 pounds.)

One less-weight option was the online Lectionary – Satucket. However, that required a good WiFi connection, and as noted, French WiFi was “iffy.” Sometimes non-existent, and sometimes I got the message, “connected, no WiFi.” So quite often I ended up using the PDF King James Bible I’d downloaded onto my tablet. (Which I also used to take pictures and post them on Facebook, and along with commentary for the folks back home.) In the end that worked when necessary, but it was way different reading that Bible with all its Shakespearean English.

As far as those Feast days, explained further below, on September 14 – Holy Cross Day – I was in Lyon, at a hostel called Ho36. I wanted to hike over the two bridges connecting my room to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, said to offer a spectacular view of the city. I ended up hiking Rue Marseilles, parallel to the rivers, but later corrected that error. I finally got to the Basilica, but learned you could only climb up to the top of the tower as part of a tour group. (“Not interested.”) But the hill itself offered a good view.

On September 21, the day for St. Matthew, we ended up in a cute little hamlet, Brugeyrolles, east of Langogne, which we thought was our final destination that day. (With some footsore backtracking.) But the first of many four-course late French meals made up for that “misdirection.” And on September 29 and St. Michael and All Angels, I finished the morning’s DORs in “St. Julian d’Arpaon, a kind of campground.” That day we hiked 13.68 miles, up and over a mountain, “Signal du Bouges.” Which may have been the toughest hike of the whole 15 days of hiking.

So, so much for my experiment of thinking I could post updates while on an actual “Camino hike.” Which I define as a hike where you don’t have to pack a tent, sleeping bag and all your food. Instead, at the end of each day you look forward to a room with a warm bed, hot shower and cold beer. Now it’s time to get back to the original post, which will cover me until I can get over my jet lag and back to my at-home rhythm. And hopefully I can do some more instructive posts in the near future. After all, this Stevenson Trail hike was a pilgrimage:

A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life

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Returning to the original September 10 post: So be on the lookout. Meanwhile, for those September feast days, see Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel” for starters, from 2018: “I wrote in 2016’s St. Matthew and ‘Cinderella‘ that two major feast days in September are Holy Cross Day (9/14) and St. Matthew, Evangelist.” A third major feast is September 29, for St. Michael and All Angels. (Followed by more detail on those feasts…)

The first is one of several Feasts of the Cross, recalling the cross used to crucify Jesus:

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

As for Matthew, he was a tax collector, and in Jesus’ time they were hated. A lot. A “tax farmer,” like Matthew, was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.” And so – in Jesus’ time – devout Jews avoided them at all costs.

They were fellow Jews, but worked for the Romans as tax collectors. Also because they were “usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).” Which led to this lesson from Jesus:

[T]hroughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all us “sinful and despised.”

As for Michael, he’s mentioned most prominently in Revelation 12:7-10:

[T]here was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. And prevailed not… [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

See also Michael (archangel) – Wikipedia, which noted that in the New Testament “Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces … where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.” Also, he’s mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people.” So like I said in earlier posts, “I’ll take all the help I can get!”

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In the meantime, if you’re interested you could check out Walking the GR70 Chemin de Stevenson – I Love Walking In France. And finally, about those pilgrim hikes I go on each year. Check out On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey,” from last July 29. (Back then I was planning this trip to France. Now it’s today when I fly out.)

I listed some reasons there, but mostly I do it for the adventure, and to get away from the rut of ordinary, everyday life. But I’ll probably add some more reasons in those updates from France, between the two sets of asterisks above. In the meantime, wish me Happy Hiking!

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The hiking was mostly happy, but challenging, as I hope to detail in future posts. (While also commenting on upcoming Feast days, like October 18’s remembering St. Luke – physician, historian, artist. See also On Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021.) The food was great, as were the many spectacular views from the tops of all those hills in the Cevennes. Which is another way of saying I’m still looking for an answer for people who ask, “Why would anyone want to do that?

The upper image is courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Walking in France. See also On donkey travel – and sluts, my post from February 2015.

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

The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Resultswhich led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or “sacred endeaver,” making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”

One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. 

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