Category Archives: Church “seasons”

On Ash Wednesday – 2022

Tuesday, March 2, is Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” Next day is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent…

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March 2, 2022, is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of Lent, and I last wrote about it on February 25, 2020, in Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020. I said the next Feast Day (after St Matthias, Apostle), was Ash Wednesday, which that year came on February 26.

Note that two weeks after that 2020 Ash Wednesday, the COVID pandemic hit:

…to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

But of course, Ash Wednesday comes right after “Fat Tuesday,” also called Mardi Gras, or “Pancake Day,” or Shrove Tuesday. (From the word shrive,* meaning “to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve.”) Which is a pretty good metaphor for the kind of absolution some people may feel we need – because of all the calamities that have befallen us since that long-ago Ash Wednesday, 2020. (That long-ago time of innocence, before “the stuff hit the fan.”)

On the other hand there’s Job 5:7, a reminder that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (And that before the COVID we had a pretty good run of “not so bad.”)

But back on topic, to wit: Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, and also On Ash Wednesday and Lent. The latter post explained a bit about the “Fight Between Carnival and Lent,” as shown in a famous painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The point is, Ash Wednesday always comes after Fat Tuesday. And as an aside, the French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which has now become a generic term for “Let’s Party!!” 

As Wikipedia said, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.” But that debauchery is always – in the church calendar – followed by Lent. Lent in turn is a season devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, almsgivingatonement and self-denial.

And by the way, you do get days off in Lent. There are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Sundays don’t count in the calculation. They’re essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” But back on topic…

As noted in My Lenten meditation – from 2016 – most people have traditional Lenten Disciplines that involve giving up something. (Preferably something they really enjoy.) On the other hand, some choose to add a discipline, a discipline that will “add to my spiritual life.”  

For example, I spent the 2016 Lenten period “contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books;” that is, the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. But this Lent I’ll be going back and revising an eBook I published in 2018, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” As you can tell by the title, it was way too militant. (As in having a “combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause.)

I’ll be writing more about such Lenten practices in the near future. But for this Lenten 2022 discipline “adding to my spiritual life,” I’ll be revising and rewriting that 2018 book. It to be less militant, less confrontational, and “more Christian.” So wish me luck, but in the meantime:

Have a Happy Ash Wednesday!

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“Book of Common Prayer.” The passage is at page 339, Holy Eucharist Rite I post-communion prayer.

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

Re: St. Matthias. See also St. Matthias, Zacchaeus, and the tough life of an Apostle.

Re, Full weeks of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020, and also On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid,” from July 2020.

Re: “Shrive.” See also SHRIVE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary, “(of a priest) to listen to someone’s confession about what they have done wrong, and offer forgiveness.”

Re: Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. See The Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”

“46 days of Lent.” See Is Lent 40 or 46 Days Long and When Does it End? – Lent.

Re: “No such thing” book. The full title, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible. But just for giggles and grins, you can also search “no such thing as a conservative Christian” for some interesting results.

The lower image is courtesy of Ash Wednesday – Wikipedia. Caption: “Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian on Ash Wednesday.”

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On the Epiphany SEASON – 2022

January 6, the day of Epiphany – with the Three Wise Men? – also starts “Epiphanytide…” 

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We are now in the Season of Epiphany. That church season runs from January 6 – the day of Epiphany (holiday) – to Ash Wednesday. This year Ash Wednesday comes on March 2, and marks the beginning of Lent. (And just as an aside, the season of Epiphanytide can last anywhere from four to nine weeks; it all depends on when Easter falls in any given year.)

The one certainty is that Epiphanytide runs from January 6 to the Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday. (And that “Tuesday before” is called Mardi Gras, discussed below.) So with Ash Wednesday – illustrated at right – coming on March 2, that means Easter Sunday comes this year on April 17. Note also that Easter is not just one day; it’s also another season, the Season of Easter. That liturgical season lasts 50 days, this year from April 17 to June 5, 2022. (Easter Season ends on Pentecost Sunday, which comes from the Latin word for “50.”) 

And speaking of Mardi Gras, that holiday – just before the start of Lent – is a prime example of the church calendar’s cycle of “feasting and fasting.” (See On Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020, “In other words, the Christian pilgrimage consists of both fasting and feasting.”) In further words, by reading and studying the Bible on a regular basis, the good Christian can both relish the good things that come along in life, and get through the challenging parts as well.

Then too, “Mardi Gras” – the day – is also known as Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. (The term “Mardi Gras” comes from the French words for Fat Tuesday.*) And the terms “Mardi Gras,” Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday all refer to the “practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season.”

Or as it has come to mean in some circles today, Mardi Gras translates to a chance to engage in certain debauchery – like “showing skin for beads” – or in other words, “Let’s Party!!”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Season of Epiphany – also known as Epiphanytide – is a kind of interlude between the end of the 12 DAYS of Christmas and the beginning of Lent. Epiphany Season begins with a celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, and ends with the Feast of the Transfiguration. (When “Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed…”)

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And speaking of dramatic revelations, that could include some challenging parts of life today…

Lately I’ve been looking at “this time last year,” mostly because those “last years” have involved a lot of political turmoil, not to mention various stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. (You know, the one that started back in 2020? “The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020.”)

Which pretty much squares which my calculations, that we are now past the 96th full week of the pandemic, or 24 full months.* But that’s not the only thing we have to worry about, as noted in last year’s post on Epiphany.

I noted that last January 6 (2021), we again celebrated the feast of The Epiphany. But we also went through what was supposed to be a routine political event: The day Congress (was supposed to) Count Electoral Votes. (As that count affected the November 2020 presidential election, “a whole ‘nother story entirely.”) So last year’s Epiphany was yet another “like no other” holiday in American history. (Continuing a concept in line with 2020 – A Christmas like no other?)

But back to the subject of Epiphany, the “feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” Yet another name for January 6 is Three Kings’ Day:

The observance [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; and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. [E.A.]

I put some links in the notes; deep background on the various feast days. Like January 1 being known by various names including National Hangover Day and the day we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. (But since we today are more squeamish, “modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.”) Or more information on January 6 being known as “Three Kings Day,” when the three “Magi” came to visit the infant Jesus. (And a note that in its original sense, Magi referred to “followers of Zoroaster,” and comes from the root word for “magic.”)

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Meanwhile – and speaking of Will I REALLY live to 120 – I just published a book with that title back in 2021. It’s about a bet that I made with myself, about maybe living to 120, like Moses, with “eye undimmed and vigor unabated.” (Deuteronomy 34:7.) Some chapters deal with a really old ancestor of mine, William Bradford, who lived to the equivalent of 140.* He came over on the Mayflower and served as governor of Plymouth Colony for some 30 years. He also studied Hebrew in his old age, because he wanted to read the Old Testament in it original language.

On that note – and following in Bradford‘s footsteps – I myself just started studying Hebrew. (At the age of 70.) Part of the studies include a 36-chapter set of “Wondrium” videos, Learn Biblical Hebrew. Another part is my recent purchase of the Learning Biblical Hebrew Workbook, shown below. And in the very beginning of that workbook there is this caveat: “Allow yourself space to fail … regardless of the number of errors you made in the process. If you are like our students, you may complete entire exercises without getting one problem fully correct.”

Which is pretty much what I said in comparing Bible study to “transcendent” meditation:

[T]he would-be meditator might want to give himself permission to make mistakes. “You will make them anyway and will be much more comfortable – and get along better with this exercise – if you give yourself permission in advance.” [T]he meditator [or Bible student] should treat himself as a “much-loved child … trying to keep walking on a narrow side-walk.” 

Which is a far cry from the “get it right or go straight to hell” method of Bible study that some so-called Christians seem to promote. That’s also a far cry from how Jesus wanted us to read the Bible: With an open mind. (Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”) The result of such an approach? A good Christian reading the Bible with an open mind can both “transcend the painful, negative aspects of life,” and live with a serene inner peace. In other words, a life of joy and love, along with a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life.” All of which is a pretty tall order, so it’s time to get back to work.

Here’s wishing you a happy and prosperous Season of Epiphany!

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This post was “gleaned” from past posts, including “Gleaning” on the Epiphany – 2021, along with – from 2016 – Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and in 2017, To Epiphany – “and BEYOND,” followed by Happy Epiphany – 2018. See also Epiphany marks end of Christmas season, beginning of Mardi Gras, for an update from St. Frances Cabrini Church. See also Epiphany season – Wikipedia.

Re: Fat Tuesday. “Mardi” is French for Tuesday, and “gras” can mean fatty, oily or greasy. Example: “des cheveux gras” means greasy hair. French-English dictionary | English translation | Reverso.

Re: The term Mardi Gras coming to mean “Let’s party.” See The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras, from February 2017. Which included this:

The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”  Or as Wikipedia put it, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”  That “debauchery, etc.” has come to include “showing skin for beads” as part of an “alcohol-fueled, nudity-filled bacchanal.” 

Re: The COVID pandemic. Wikipedia further noted that as of 10 January 2022, the pandemic had caused more than 307 million cases and 5.49 million deaths” – five and a half million deaths – “making it one of the deadliest in history.”

Re: Full weeks of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that to me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “stuff really hit the fan” – on Thursday, March 12. “That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off… So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st,” 2020.

Re: Living to 120. The full title is Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come.” (Written and published under my Nom De Plume, “James B. Ford.”) You can read more about it in the post, For a book version.

Re: William Bradford living to the equivalent of 140. He died at 67, when the average life expectancy was almost half that, or 36 years. That works out to a 1.86 factor, so multiplying today’s average life expectancy – say 75 years – leads to 140 years being the equivalent of Bradford’s living to 67.

The full cites to the Hebrew instruction are Learning Biblical Hebrew Workbook: A Graded Reader with Exercise, and Learn Biblical Hebrew – Understanding Sacred Hebrew | Wondrium. Also, the “allow yourself to fail” quote is at page ix, “Introduction: How to use this workbook.”

Re: “Permission to make mistakes.” See The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, from May 2014.

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On the 12 DAYS of Christmas – 2021-22

Technically, “Christmas” isn’t over until January 6, Epiphany, when Three Wise Men came… 

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I’ll talk about the 12 Days of Christmas in a bit, but first a note about 1st Kings 17:21. There’s a story there about the prophet Elijah bringing back to life a boy who had died. The interesting part is where he prays, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”

That was the Old Testament reading for Thursday, December 30,* and when I read that it raised some questions. Like, “Where did the boy’s soul go? Where did it come back from? And does that passage have an effect on any of the pressing hot-button political issues of today?” Note too that many translations say “let this child’s life come back to him.” However, the King James Version – the one God uses – has the term “soul,” and that’s good enough for me.*

Another good passage I just ran across – in the readings for Christmas Day – was 1st John 4:8. The translation I like best is the Contemporary English Version, “God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him.” Which can be a good response to those Facebook users who seem to revel in spreading hate. (“Are you acting out of love? Like Billy Graham?”)

But enough of that. Back to the 12 days of Christmas.

For starters, let’s go back before the Covid to The 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019. That post noted that those 12 days of Christmas don’t end until “next year,” on January 6:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season [including “Twelfth Night”] 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 overlap.

Then there’s the post from January 2015, on the same 12 Days of Christmas, which also noted that people apply a number of different names to this 12th day, January 6. For example, aside from The Epiphany, it and those days close to it are also known as Plough Monday. Three Kings Day (as in, “We Three Kings of Orient are”), and Twelfth Night.

The latter feast day was immortalized by artists including Jan Steen, whose painting “The King drinks” is shown below. In fact, the custom of eating and especially drinking too much became such a problem it was banned in some places: “Twelfth Night in the Netherlands became so secularised, rowdy and boisterous that public celebrations were banned from the church.”

For more on these topics, check Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!” The “Three Wise Guys” posted noted that in its original sense – circa 600 A.D. – the term Magi meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.” Also, the tradition that there were three kings started because they brought three gifts: Goldfrankincense, and myrrh.

Then there’s the tradition that the Three Wise Men got to the manger-scene just after Jesus was born, but the truth seems harder to pin down. Some say they arrived the same winter Jesus was born, while others say they came two winters after his birth. That would explain Herod’s order – see Matthew 2:16–18 – that his soldiers kill “all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.” (Known to history as the “Massacre of the Innocents,” noted every December 28.)

Finally – recalling events from this past year – there’s “Gleaning” on the Epiphany – 2021. For the calendar-challenged, that was 11 months ago, when Epiphany coincided with the day Congress (was supposed to) Count Electoral Votes. (The link is to an article dated January 5, 2021.) Which made 2021’s Epiphany “yet another ‘like no other’ in American history.”

In that post – from last year near this time – I picked “three earlier posts to glean from,” along with a reflection on how “gleaning” came to have multiple meanings. Along with a reflection on a mid-winter trip I took the year before, three months before the Covid pandemic “hit the fan.” Referring back to a post from January 17, 2020, My recent Utah trip noted this:

[T]he end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to JerusalemOn my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

Which is another way of saying that 2019 was a “pilgrimage-filled year,” ending with a 15-day solo road trip “out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.*” All of which brought back fond memories – of “before Covid” – with recalling that “This too shall pass.”

I ended that “Gleaning” … 2021 post with this thought: “Here’s hoping for a much better 2021.” So now I’ll close this post by saying, “Here’s hoping for a much better 2022.” And I’m going to keep saying it, updating it every year, until that much-better year finally happens…

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“Twelfth Night,” on the evening before the Epiphany, a time to revel and celebrate…

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany – Image Results. See also Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.

Re: Old Testament reading for Thursday, December 30, 2021. That’s according to the two-year course of daily Bible readings set out at pages 934 to 1000 at the back of the Book of Common Prayer. See Daily Office Lectionary – The Online Book of Common Prayer, and/or What’s a DOR?

Re: The King James Version of 1 Kings 17:21 using the word “soul.” The Revised Standard Version also uses the term “soul” rather than “life.”

Re: Acting out of love “like Billy Graham.” I wrote about him in the post, A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!” I first listened to a book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. (Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.) Then I got a copy of the book itself, through which I learned that as he grew in age, Graham “also grew in grace.” (See 2d Peter 3:18.)

In fact, Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to say that God loves all people – even Liberals. Which led some Fundamentalists to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’” 

I recently started re-reading portions of the book, which convinced me that I should try to be more like Billy, in the purity and inclusiveness of his faith. (Instead of referring to Right-wing Wackos as – well, “Right-wing Wackos.”) On a related note, in 2018 I published an eBook, There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible. In light of my determination to be “more like Billy,” I’ll be revamping that book for a new version tentatively titled, “There ARE still some open-minded, tolerant and caring Christians… (‘You know, the REAL ones?’)” Or something less confrontational like that. And toning it down a bit.

Re: January 6 having many names. See also Happy Epiphany – 2018, which noted this Feast Day‘s names include Epiphany proper, which “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it’s the evening of January 5 that’s called Twelfth Night.)  

A note: 2019 included, in September, a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Way (of the Camino de Santiago), from Porto to Santiago. The mid-winter road trip to Utah included “getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of a near-frozen North Platte River,” but which also included “a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door.”

The lower image is courtesy of File:A Twelfth Night Feast – ‘The King drinks’, by Jan Steen.

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Welcome to Christmas, 2021!

For way too many people anyway. (2021.) Although for me the past year wasn’t all that bad*…

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Like the headline says, “Welcome to Christmas, 2021.” Which means – among other things – that it’s time to look back on this past year. I suppose the biggest and most heartbreaking news is that – as of last December 5 – our version of the COVID and its variants has claimed the lives of some 803,045 Americans. Which leads us back to this time last year.

That’s when I posted 2020 – A Christmas like no other? It asked bluntly, “Is our Christmas Day in this crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 truly one ‘like no other?’” As it turned out, the answer was “No.” There was that Christmas celebrated during the 1918 Spanish Flu:

To help curb its spread, health departments [in 1918] ordered the closures of schools, theaters, bars, and churches. Christians were unable to celebrate Christmas by gathering to worship, to hear or participate in choir concerts, and other well-loved and important traditions used to mark the holiday by many.

But of course, we thought we’d be over all that by now…

That is, many Americans during Christmas back in 2020 no doubt figured that by now – a full year later – we would have the Covid problem largely fixed. Then too, I noted that the Spanish Flu pandemic started in February 1918, and lasted two years and two months, until April 1920. On that note, according to my calculations, we are now in the 93d full week of COVID, or 23 months and one week.* Which might have meant that the end of this plague was near, except for that new and more-transmissible “Covid in town,” the Omicron variant.

Getting back to “2020 Christmas,” that post noted that 1918 people had some advantages over us today. For one thing, Americans then were “much more familiar with epidemic disease:”

[E]pidemic disease was very familiar to the early 20th century public. Families, many of which had lost a child to diphtheria or watched a loved one suffer from polio, were generally willing to comply with some limitations on their activities. Most public health departments wore badges and had police powers, and this was generally uncontroversial. “They could forcibly quarantine you or put you on a quarantine station on an island.”

That willingness to comply with “limitations on their activities” is a lesson some Americans today seem unwilling to learn. Then too – aside from describing the progress of that plague (from “where it started”) – that 2020 post talked about the pandemic’s “waves.” For example, the number of cases went down in mid-1918, only to rise again when – in November – Americans gathered in large numbers to celebrate the end of “The Great War.”

There was also a note on “bad things happening to good people,” with one silver lining:

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter… When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

Which I thought was pretty much what Christians are supposed to do anyway. (Show empathy, and try to alleviate the suffering of others.) And which was pretty much the point of my post, Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000. That rather than waiting on God to perform miracles, we should get to work on the problems ourselves. Which brings up the “Christmas spirit.”

Googled “what is the Christmas spirit” and got 4,180,000 results. And here’s one answer that I really liked, from What is Christmas Spirit? – Scientific American Blog Network:

The code of generosity, kindness, and charity toward others is enforced by no one other than ourselves. There are places where this code is strong, and these places (or people) are said to have strong Christmas spirit… After all, we are the sum of the individuals around us who generate the collective force that governs and organizes our social structure… When we “act out” Christmas spirit, we’re making visible this collective force, and we give it power.

Meanwhile, for a view of what Christmas used to mean, pre-Covid, see On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019. One note: Christmas is not just a day, it’s a season. See 12 Days of Christmas, which end on January 6, with The Epiphany.

For a brief summary, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and ends on “Twelfth Night.” The season is also known as Christmastide, which ends on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. And a head’s up: January 6 is also known as Three Kings Day. (As in, “We Three Kings of Orient are.”) I hope to write more on the full Season of Christmas after this weekend, but in the meantime, it’s almost time to make that leap of faith into 2022…

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The upper image is courtesy of Christmas 2021 Images – Image Results. It came with an advertisement – touting the unique Christmas ornament – but when I clicked on the link I got this notice: “Sorry, this item and shop are currently unavailable.” Maybe they sold out?

As for 2021 being “not all that bad” for me, among other things – and for most of this past September – I got to travel to France and Spain, for another hike on the Camino de Santiago. See I just got back from “Camino 2021.”

Re: My “93d full week of COVID” calculations. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

Re: People back in 1918 having some advantages over us. See A Look Back at Christmas During the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

Re: Bad things happening to good people. See December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?” With a link to Bad Things to Good People? | Psychology Today. One “scientific” answer: “The universe has no inherent purpose or design.” With which I took issue…

The lower image is courtesy of New Year Images 2022 – Image Results. It came with another advertisement, “Happy New Year 2022 Picture, Images and Wallpapers HD Download.”

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Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself…”

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There’s a “new Covid in town,” the Omicron variant. That’s the new and more-transmissible variant of the COVID that has already claimed the lives of 803,045 Americans. (As of December 5, 2021, when I first started this post. Which gives you an idea how busy this pre-Christmas month has been so far, for me.) And which also means the old tune noted above is turning out to be pretty timely, if not prescient. See Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later than You Think) – Wikipedia:

The song, recorded by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, was made on 27 November (some sources give 28 November), 1949. The recording was released by Decca Records [and] first reached the Billboard record chart in the US on 13 January 1950, and lasted 19 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 10.

The tune’s lyrics comment on our tendency to be constantly busy, while always making travel plans for “some time in the future.” Then comes the kicker: “how far can you travel when you’re six feet underground. (Along with this thought: If your “ravishing brunette” leaves you for another man, don’t fret. “You’ll have more fun by reaching for a redhead or a blonde.”)

But we digress…

You can find similar views in the Bible. I especially like the New King James Version of  Ecclesiastes 5:18, “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good … all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.” (Many versions focus on “the few days of life” or “the short life” God gives us. But at 70 years of age now I’m not too crazy about those “negative” translations. Though I do like the part about redheads and blondes.)

And that’s not to mention the fact that – with good diet, supplements and healthy exercise – I hope to live another 50 years. To 120, like Moses, with “eye undimmed and vigor unabated.*”

Then too there’s a post from April 2020, St. Mark, 2020 – and today’s “plague.” It talked about how human life has always been risky, filled with wars, pestilence and disaster. But we “modern folk” seem to be spoiled a bit, which brought up the review of “The Plague” by Albert Camus:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

So I thought – back in 2020 – that the “current [COVID] pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life.” Like a general and sweeping “softening of the heart” in America. That hasn’t happened yet, but we started off this post talking about Advent, 2021.

And speaking of last year at this time, here’s December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning.” The post talked about Christmas always “coming up” in December each year, but being always preceded by a Season of Advent. Which this year started last November 28, the First Sunday of Advent. And about that “First Sunday,” see Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig: 

Advent … calls us to look back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth. It is a time of anticipation… 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.

So the Season of Advent is mainly about looking ahead and New Beginnings. And speaking of beginnings, the Season of Advent frequently begins at or near November 30, the Feast Day for Saint Andrew the Apostle. See also my post, On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent.

That post noted that even Ebenezer Scrooge recognized that “Christmas is a very busy time for us.” And that this time of year – in the church calendar – can also be very confusing. “That’s because both the Season of Advent and the church-year itself actually begin with St. Andrew, the ‘First Apostle.'” There’s more on St. Andrew in the notes, but the point is that it’s okay to feel “busy,” confused, and even overwhelmed at Christmas time, and especially at this Christmas time, of 2021. (When “we thought the Plague was finally over!”)

But through it all you have the knowledge that if you “play your cards right” – and keep reading the Bible – you’ll end up with the peace of God which passes all understanding.

Have a happy Advent and a VERY Merry Christmas…

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St. Andrew, called “the first Apostle,” who led Peter to Jesus…

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The upper image is courtesy of Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians Later Than You Think – Image Results. For a YouTube version see Guy Lombardo — Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think. There’s also a (British) ska version by The Specials: “Their music combines a ‘danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk’s energy and attitude.’”

Re: Me living to 120. See For a book version:  “I just published another new E-book … Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking ‘The Best is Yet to Come,’” with the citation to Deuteronomy 34:7.

Re: “More on St. Andrew.” According to the National Catholic Register, “St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.”  Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

Re: Christmas being overwhelming. The link in the text is to How to Deal with Overwhelming Christmas Stress – Toot’s Mom. See also 3 Reasons You Need Advent This Year—And Every Year.

Re: “The peace of God.” The reference is to Philippians 4:7.

The lower image is courtesy of St. Andrew Apostle Feast Day – Image Results, which led me to St. Andrew Apostle El Greco Painting – Image Results. Also, the link in the main text is to Saint Andrew the Apostle – Feast Day – November 30 – Catholic Daily Readings.

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