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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

feast of st. Stephen


John, Chapter 7, verse 13:
Still, no one spoke openly about him because they were afraid of the Jews.

As soon as Christ was born he was spoken of in whispers. The people were divided over Jesus and he was either loved or hated. Even today you must decide to follow Christ or follow the world for there is no middle ground.

Steven Spoke Openly[1]

Stephen, todays Saint, like Jesus is unjustly persecuted; yet he prays for his persecutors. Can we claim ourselves Christ like if we do not love our enemies? Was not Stephen, and others who have imitated him, men like ourselves? With the grace of God we do what they have done? Indeed can we call ourselves Christians were we do not to do this? No; for the love of our neighbor, and of our enemy also, is the chief token of the Christian; since it is only by this love that we become like Christ, and resemble our heavenly Father, Who makes His sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rains upon the just and upon the unjust (Matt. v. 45). Let us, therefore, imitate the love of God, of Christ, and of St. Stephen, and then we may one day be able to give up our souls with calmness into the hands of our Maker.

Feast of Saint Stephen[2]

The deacon Stephen, stoned in Jerusalem two years after the death of Christ, has always been the object of very special veneration by the faithful. He is the first martyr. The account in the Acts of the Apostles relating his arrest and the accusations brought against him emphasize the parallel with our Saviour's trial; he was stoned outside the city wall and died, like his Master, praying for his executioners. Stephen belongs to the group of seven deacons whom the Apostles associated with their work in order to lighten their load. He was "filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit," "full of grace and strength" he showed himself as a man of God, radiating divine grace and apostolic zeal. As the first witness to Christ he confronted his opponents with quiet courage and the promise made by Jesus (Mark 13.11) was fulfilled: ". . . Disputing with Stephen they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke." In St. Stephen, the first martyr, the liturgy emphasizes the imitator of Christ even to the extent of the complete gift of self, to the extent of that great charity which made him pray in his suffering for his executioners. By establishing the feast on the day after Christmas the Church draws an even closer comparison between the disciple and the Master and thus extends his witness to the whole mission of the redeeming Messiah.

St. Stephen's Day[3]

Though there is no historical connection, St. Stephen is considered the patron saint of horses. Scholars speculate that this has something to do with the relief from work that domestic animal enjoyed during Twelfth-night; in any case, horse parades or horse races were always held on this day. One custom in rural areas was for the horses to be decorated and taken to the church, where the priest would bless them. Afterwards, they would be ridden around the church three times. Horse's food (hay or oats) is also blessed on this day.

NOTA BENE: In the eleventh century, the Church instituted special feast days during the Christmas Octave for various ecclesiastical ranks. Today, on the day in which one of the first seven deacons was martyred, was the festival for deacons.

The Twelve Days of Christmas[4]

But what exactly are the Twelve Days of Christmas? They are the days between Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany that constitute an unbroken period of joy and celebration. Epiphany is considered the twelfth day of Christmas (in fact it is sometimes called "Twelfth Day") while the Eve of Epiphany is called "Twelfth Night." Shakespeare's play, "Twelfth Night," takes its name from the Vigil because during this period festivals (such as the Feast of Fools or the Feast of the Ass) used to be held in which everything was turned upside-down -- a little like the reversed identities of the characters in the play. These "preposterous" observances, incidentally, were a joyful mimicry of the inversion of almighty God becoming a lowly man, of the King appearing as a humble infant. The twelve nights of Christmas were primarily a time of rest from unnecessary labor and joyful prayer. On each of these nights the Christmas tree lights and the Christmas candle would be lit, while the family would gather around the manger to recite prayers and sing carols and hymns. Similar services are held in some churches during these nights as well. Several saints' days which fall within the Octave of Christmas are also a part of the Twelve Days.

Two Turtle Doves



Today is the second day of Christmas: Two Turtle Doves from the song the 12 days of Christmas represent the two parts of the Sacred Scriptures: the old and new testament.

Also, today is another pagan, culturally correct day, designed to minimize the true meaning of Christmas and confuse children about the good news of the season.
Kwanzaa[5]

Kwanzaa is an African-American and Pan-African celebration of family, community and culture. Kwanzaa, a week-long cultural festival from the 26th of December to the 1st of January that climaxes in feasts and gift giving, was initially established to unite African-Americans with their African roots and heritage.  Nguzo Saba, the seven principles that guide the holiday, is central to Kwanzaa as a different principle is emphasized every day during the celebration. Celebrants often dress in traditional Pan-African clothing and decorate their homes in African artwork. Kwanzaa was created in 1965 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a major figure in the Black Power movement, with the intention of providing African Americans with a link to their ancestral heritage. Karenga aimed to bring together African-Americans as a community through the combination of various aspects of other celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and African Yam Festivals. Since Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one; it can be celebrated by Africans from all religious backgrounds.



Kwanzaa Facts & Quotes

·         The name Kwanzaa is derived from Matunda ya kwanza, which in Swahili means first fruits.  Kwanzaa is based on the Ashanti and Zulu traditions of first fruit harvest celebrations.
·         Each day of Kwanzaa celebrates one of 7 principles, known as Nguzo Saba.  These include Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green.  Each color carries an important meaning to unify those of African descent.  Black is for the people, red for the noble blood that unites all people of African descent and green for the land of Africa. A candle holder, called a Kinara, holds the seven candles that represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa Top Events and Things to Do

·         Read about the seven principles of Kwanzaa with your family.  These principles teach about working together, learning from the past and strengthening bonds.
·         Attend a Kwanzaa celebration event.  In 2015 the most popular events were the Energize, Recognize! event at then American Museum of Natural History (NYC), Regeneration Night at the Apollo Theater (NYC) and the Celebration at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit, MI).
·         Prepare a festive Kwanzaa dinner.  Include Kwanzaa foods include:
1) Shisa nyama (meat cooked over a hot wood fire).
2) Kapenta with sadza (kapenta is a freshwater fish and sadza is a maize porridge).
3) Nyama na irio (mashed potatoes, peas, corn and onion served with spicy roast meat).
·         Give festive Kwanzaa gifts to your friends and family.  Some traditional gifts include a food basket, kinara candle holder, books about African culture and handwoven items like gloves and scarves.
·         Watch The Black Candle (2008).  This is a vibrant and powerful documentary that illuminates the African-American experience from the perspective of Kwanzaa.  Narrated by Dr. Maya Angelou (poet), the documentary won the award for best full-length documentary at the Africa World Documentary Film Festival in 2009.



49 Godly Character Traits[6]

During this Christmas season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:

Love vs. Selfishness

Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)

219 God's love for Israel is compared to a father's love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother's for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son."

Jesus said to his disciples: "Love one another even as I have loved you."

2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         30 Days with St. Joe
·         Christmas Calendar
·         Please pray for me and this ministry



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