The Epiphany of Our Lord | For All the Saints

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The Epiphany of Our Lord: The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

Source: The Epiphany of Our Lord | For All the Saints

Today is one of the high feasts of the Church year, and the “last act,” so to speak, of the Nativity Cycle. Christmastide, proper, ended last night on Twelfth Night; today begins Epiphanytide, the significance of which is explained below:

“The name of this Feast of our Lord is derived from a Greek word meaning manifestation or appearing. Historically, Anglican Prayer Books have interpreted the name with a subtitle, ‘The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.’ The last phrase is, of course, a reference to the narrative of the Wise Men, the Magi, who appeared in Judaea from the East in order to worship the newborn King of the Jews.”

In the Western Church, including the Anglican tradition, the Wise Men are the major focus of this feast, and its accompanying season. But in the larger Christian tradition, Epiphany has a three-fold emphasis, and celebrates not only the visit of the Magi, but also Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, and his miracle at the Wedding in Cana, when he turned water into wine:

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The Wise Men – who very likely were indeed Persian Magi – are sometimes referred to as “the Three Sacred Kings” (“Los Tres Santos Reyes,” in Spanish-speaking countries, where this is a very important feast), as in the favorite carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Neither their countries of origin or their number are known for certain; these were not details the Gospel writers thought important enough to record.

But they are typically portrayed as being three in number, and often of different ethnicities, to reflect the fact that Christ came for all peoples and all nations. Kings or Magi, three or many, and wherever they originated, these somewhat mysterious figures are witnesses that Christ’s birth was of universal, not merely local, significance. For which we should rejoice!

Here is the Biblical account:

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him… When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

— Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 (KJV)

May everyone who reads this enjoy a holy and blessed Feast of the Epiphany, and an equally blessed Epiphanytide!

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Epiphany Chalking of the Doors | The Homely Hours

The chalking of the Door is typically done on January 6th on the Feast of the Epiphany and celebrates the revealing of Christ to the world in three events…

Source: Epiphany Chalking of the Doors | The Homely Hours

From the excellent blog, “The Homely Hours” – a traditional family liturgy performed upon the Feast of the Epiphany:

“This short liturgy is a way of yearly marking our homes, usually at the front or main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols to intentionally set our homes apart as places of Christian hospitality, as safe and peaceful outposts of the Kingdom of God in the world, as habitations of healing and rest. We again invite God’s presence into our homes and ask His blessing upon all those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year.”

“C+M+B” has a dual significance: it represents the names of the Three Wise Men (Magi, or Sacred Kings), as traditionally named by the Church: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; and it also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for “Christ, this house Bless.” It is flanked by the numbers representing the year: this year, it would read

20 + C + M + B + 19

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The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas
The man who calls himself “Arthur Pendragon,” one of the more visible proponents of neopaganism in Britain, leads a Winter Solstice ceremony near Stonehenge.

Professor William Tighe argues that, actually, the pagans co-opted it from the Christians.

Source: The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

As we approach the Feast of the Nativity – “Christes Messe,” or Christmas – we begin to hear once again the complaints that Christians “stole” Christmas from Pagans, replacing an ancient pre-Christian celebration of the Solstice with the celebration of the Messiah’s birth.

It is unquestionable that many of the symbols and trappings we have adopted for our secular celebrations, from cut greenery to Christmas trees, have pre-Christian roots. And why should they not? In purely secular terms, every culture that moves into a new area adopts elements of what already existed.

And from a theological perspective, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, the religious impulse comes from God and leads toward God; by that understanding, pre-Christian religions and spiritual traditions were reaching imperfectly toward the truth that Christianity expresses perfectly.

Why, then, should not aspects of those traditions which aren’t intrinsically opposed to the Christian message – and which, as in the case of light born amidst darkness, may even help to explicate it – be “baptized” into it? The answer is obvious: of course they should. Continue reading “The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout”

Glories of the West: LUCIA – The night of light | Jonna Jinton

Sankta Lucia – the Feast of St. Lucia (“Lucy”), whose name means “Light” – is an ancient tradition in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries (although the Christian figure of St. Lucia originated in Sicily, interestingly enough). Her feast-day falls on the 13th of December, which in the Old (Julian) Calendar, would have been the Winter Solstice.

Although she is a Christian saint, with a Christian story, “Sankta Lucia” can also be translated “Holy Light,” and the folksy, homey rituals surrounding St. Lucia’s Day – in which the girl or young woman chosen to portray St. Lucia for that year, wearing a crown of candles, brings gifts of steaming-hot coffee and sweet rolls to her family (or village), while her attendants sing traditional songs – is a beautiful and moving enactment of the rebirth of light in the midst of the darkest time of the year.

This video was created by the incomparable Jonna Jinton, who writes,

“Lucia is a tradition in Sweden where we bring light to the darkness. Since many years back I have always gone out in the middle of the Lucia night to light up hundreds of candles in the forest, with the intention to spread light into the world.

“Maybe you have seen my earlier lucia-films here on my YouTube. But this year was special. Just as the other lucia-nights I prepared to get out and light up my candles. But this night, the forest surprised me.

“This film is for all the world. For all of you wonderful people out there ♥ I hope to be able to spread some light into your hearts. Thank you for taking the time to watch it.”

Do yourself a favour, and watch this in full-screen… and allow yourself to get lost in it. Magical!

Feast of St. Nicholas – December 6th

St. Nicholas Icon

A contemporary icon, in traditional style, of St. Nicholas, whose feast-day is the 6th of December. This is not the “jolly old St. Nick” of the secular mythos, mind you, but the passionately-dedicated orthodox Christian bishop of Myra, who reportedly got into a physical altercation with the presbyter Arius, who taught that Jesus Christ was not of the same substance as God the Father, but rather the first of all created beings, during the Council of Nicaea. However, it is he who evolved, in the public imagination, and by many steps and stages, into the “St. Nicholas” we all – even the most secular – know and, usually, love.

St Nicholas Day – cover pic

Today marks one of the steps in that evolution, for in Holland, traditionally, on the eve of St. Nicholas’ DAy, the children would put their wooden shoes outside the door of their room, in hopes of finding them filled with fruit, candy, and coins (today usually foil-covered chocolates), on the morning of December 6th. Why? Well, St. Nicholas quickly became known as the patron saint of children, after a legend in which he saved three daughters of a poor man from slavery (or worse – forced prostitution) by tossing a small bag of gold into their house each of three successive nights (in Europe “down the chimney,” but in Myra in Anatolia – now Turkey – it is more likely to have been through a roof-top entrance), to serve as their dowries.

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From that it is not far to the image of a saint (or in later, secular interpretation, a sort of magical being who embodies “the spirit of Christmas”) who comes down the chimney with toys for good little boys and girls! He also became known as the patron saint of Holland, probably as an extension of his older status as patron saint of sailors: Holland was for a long time quite a sea-power. The Dutch – who settled part of the Eastern seaboard of what is now the U.S. – called him “Sinter Klaas.” And it is from that name that we now know him as “Santa Claus.” An interesting historic and linguistic transformation!

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December 6th: Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342 | For All the Saints

Source: Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342 | For All the Saints

“Nicholas is famed as the patron of Russia and Greece, the guardian of virgins and poor maidens, the protector of travelers, sailors, and merchants. He is also the patron of many towns and cities, including Bari, Venice, Freiburg, and Galway. In modern times he is perhaps best known as the protector and benefactor of children.”

When I was spending a semester studying abroad in Galway, Ireland, in 1990, I attended St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, Church of Ireland (Anglican). I was greatly comforted by the clergy there, and by John, Anglican Bishop of Galway, following the death of my beloved Jeanne.

The Sunday Next Before Advent: “Stir-Up” Sunday!

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Good morning, folks, and a joyous Sunday to you! For those of us who are Christians, today is the Sunday Next Before Advent (Propers follow, below): since the Church’s calendar begins on Advent Sunday, then in a sense I suppose one could think of this as the Christian “New Year’s Eve.” Although if we become intoxicated, let it be with the Holy Spirit, and not with more carnal potions! At least not this early in the day…

Today is also known as “Stir-Up Sunday,” from the opening words of the Collect for the day: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…” – a most apt petition, on this last Sunday before the beginning of the season of both penitent preparation and joyous expectation that is Advent! Indeed, just as the “Gesima” Sundays in late Winter prepare us for the coming of Lent, so “Stir-Up” Sunday gives us the opportunity to prepare to keep a holy Advent.

It is also the day on which many in England (and some here in the States, if of English heritage and affections) “stir up” the traditional Christmas pudding. The lovely “Full Homely Divinity” blog recounts the matter thus: Continue reading “The Sunday Next Before Advent: “Stir-Up” Sunday!”