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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany Sunday

ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS


Sirach, Chapter 15, Verse 1
Whoever fears the LORD will do this; whoever is practiced in the Law will come to Wisdom.

Practiced in the law means to follow the commandment of God and the commandment of God is love. Your freedom is a gift from God but with it comes human responsibility. God, who sees everything, is neither the cause nor the occasion of sin. We have the power to choose our behavior and we are responsible for both the good and the evil we do.

Deceivers are those who hold the Lord responsible for their sins.

We can choose to harm or we can choose to heal.

As the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu became a leading human rights advocate who has championed causes such as poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, HIV/AIDS and war. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In his newest work, The Book of Forgiving (co-authored with his daughter, Mpho Tutu), he offers four steps to forgiving and healing:

1.      Telling the Story
2.      Naming the Hurt
3.      Granting Forgiveness
4.      Renewing or Releasing the Relationship

Here, we discuss this process, how his experiences with apartheid relate to it, and how he answers those who’ve criticized it.

·         Your first step to forgiveness and healing is to “admit the wrong and acknowledge the harm.”

Doesn’t that just dredge up old pain? For both the offender and the victim, the pain is there, often unacknowledged and that is when it can cause harm through festering. When I ignore a physical wound, it does not go away. No, it festers and goes bad. It may be initially painful to open up a wound, but then it can be cleaned out and cauterized. And you can pour a healing balm.

·         Another step you list is “asking for…and granting forgiveness.”

How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong? That is a very important issue. If forgiving depended on the culprit owning up, then the victim would always be at the mercy of the perpetrator. The victim would be bound in the shackles of victimhood. That is why forgiving is a gift to the forgiver as well as to the perpetrator. As the victim, you offer the gift of your forgiving to the perpetrator who may or may not appropriate the gift but it has been offered and thereby it liberates the victim. Jesus prayed that His Father should forgive the men who were nailing Him to the cross even as they were doing so; He even found an excuse for them and so really offered His forgiveness thereby. He did not wait until they asked for His forgiveness. Of course, it would have been far better if they had been penitent and asked for His forgiveness. It was a gift He was giving to Himself as well, which released Him from being filled with self pity, an unhealthy psychological state. It would be grossly unfair to the victim to be dependent on the whim of the perpetrator. It would make him or her a victim twice over. The gift has been given. It is up to the intended recipient to appropriate it. The outside air is fresh and invigorating and it is always there. If you are in a dank and stuffy room you can enjoy that fresh air if you open the windows. It is up to you.

·         RNS: In a post entitled, “Why Desmond Tutu is Wrong,” Lesley Leyland Fields suggests that your notion that we forgive “for ourselves” is “killing biblical forgiveness.” She says, “Biblical forgiveness is a gift first to the offender and to Christ.” How do you respond?

I have already pointed how it is important, very important to give oneself that gift, of letting go of resentment and anger which diminish oneself. The self is quite important in who we are. Jesus quoting the Torah answers the question, “Which is the greatest law?” by saying, “The first is Thou shalt love The Lord thy God with all….” And then He adds, “The second is, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. That is the highest approbation one can hope for about a proper self-love. We know the havoc that has been caused by those with a feeble self image, weak self esteem. They will usually throw their weight around trying to fill the hollow inside them. Offering forgiveness prevents us from being destroyed by a corrosive resentment. It helps us grow in being magnanimous.

·         RNS: Fields also says that Biblical forgiveness is “not about letting go of the past, but about redeeming the past.

If “redeeming the past” means “not allowing the past to haunt you, to have a stranglehold on you” then I’m happy to let her use her phrase.

·         RNS: You mention that sometimes the final step is “releasing” rather than “renewing” the relationship. How do you know which is the right path?

There are the fairly obvious ones: an abusive relationship should be easy to identify though often one of the most difficult to end; or one where you are likely to be misled into risky behavior–like excessive drinking, experimenting with dangerous substances, etcetera. But there are other more subtle ones such as friendships that can lead to infidelity and other things.. In the end, we know the relationships we should end.[1]

Catechism of the Catholic Church


III. THE LOVE OF HUSBAND AND WIFE

2360 Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.

2361 "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. Tobias got out of bed and said to Sarah, "Sister, get up, and let us pray and implore our Lord that he grant us mercy and safety." So she got up, and they began to pray and implore that they might be kept safe. Tobias began by saying, "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers. You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support. From the two of them the race of mankind has sprung. You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.' I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together." And they both said, "Amen, Amen." Then they went to sleep for the night.

2362 "The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude." Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure: The Creator himself established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation.

2363 The spouses' union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity (faithful & fruitful).

Catholic Calendar[2]

Read: The Epiphany marks the arrival of visitors, identified in Scripture as magi, to the place where Jesus was born. Although we know virtually nothing about them, we do know they brought three gifts:

·         Gold, a symbol of wealth and power, identifies the recipient as a king.
·         Frankincense, the crystalized resinous sap of a tree used as incense and as an offering, is symbolic of prayer.
·         Myrrh, another resinous tree sap, was used in healing liniments and as an embalming ointment. Myrrh is an odd gift for a child—so, even at the beginning of Jesus' life on earth, this gift foreshadows his death.

Reflect: Practice the ancient art of Lectio Divina today and reflect on the readings on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.


Act: Did you wish someone a Merry Christmas today? The Christmas season continues until tomorrow, which is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. An easy way to evangelize is to wish someone a Merry Christmas during the Christmas season after December 25 and explain why. The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The Three Kings[3]

The Gospel of Matthew mentions only that several Magi -- respected priestly scholars from Persia and other neighboring countries -- came to worship the Christ Child from the East. Tradition, however, has added a few details: that there were three of them, that they were kings, and that their names were Gaspar, Melchior, and Baltasar. Devotion to the three kings is a marked feature of Epiphany and was traditionally encouraged in a number of ways. From Christmas onward, for example, the figurines of the Magi, which had been kept a distance from the crèche, were brought closer and closer until it reached the crèche on Twelfth-night. Another traditional observance was the solemn blessing of a home on the Feast of the Epiphany, after which the initials of the Magi would be written on the frame of the door, together with the year and several crosses that connected all of the letters and numbers. There is even a special blessing for the chalk in the Roman ritual.

Magi Plays and Feasting[4]

Like Christmas, epiphany was a favorite time for caroling; and like all great solemnities from the middle ages, epiphany encouraged mystery plays. These were called magi plays and featured the story of the Nativity, the slaughter of the Innocents, and the visit of the Magi. They were also quite boisterous: the character of Herod was portrayed as a raving lunatic, wreaking havoc with his wooden spear: hence Shakespeare's line about overacting-- "it out-herods Herod!" (Hamlet III.ii). Variations of these mystery plays have survived into the present day. And also like all great solemnities, Epiphany was a day for great feasting. Though the dishes varied, one consistently popular customs was Kings' or Twelfth-night cake, which included a small object that identified its finder as the "king" for the day. Many countries also use this occasion for the exchange of gifts.

Orthodox Christmas[5]

Well if you have not got enough of the Christmas Season you can always celebrate with the Orthodox Catholics.

Some Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but others mark the birth of Jesus on a variety of dates including January 7th and January 19th. It depends on which calendar the particular church follows - while western Christendom has adopted the Gregorian calendar, some Orthodox churches use the older Julian calendar to calculate the dates for holy feast days. December 25th on the original Julian calendar falls on January 7th of our calendar. Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on this date; however some churches, including Armenian orthodox Christians use the revised Julian calendar and their Christmas falls on January 19th of our calendar. While Christmas is a very important religious celebration for Orthodox Christians, it falls second to Easter which they consider to be the most important date in the religious calendar.

Religious Observance of Orthodox Christmas

Most believers in the Eastern Orthodox Church prepare for Christmas with 40 days of fasting, continuing right up until late on Christmas Eve Jan 6th.

·         Traditionally, when the first star appears on Christmas Eve Eastern Orthodox Christians will break their fast with a celebratory meal.
·         Also on Christmas Eve, traditionally Orthodox Christians will cut a branch from a tree and bring it into their home, as a symbol that Jesus is entering their house and their hearts.
·         A prayer and blessing will be said before the Christmas Eve feast begins, and the head of the family will greet each person present with the traditional Christmas greeting of 'Christ is born' to which the response is 'Glorify him!'. Then the bread will be torn by hand and shared with all present. Some families will have straw scattered around the table, as a reminder of Jesus's birth in the manger.
·         On Christmas Day, Orthodox Christians will attend Divine Liturgy, which will usually be a little longer than usual due to being an exceptional religious holiday. It is traditional to light candles in honor of Jesus, as light of the world.
·         Afterwards people walk in procession to a sea, lake or river. The water will be blessed as part of an outdoor ceremony, and some people will take the blessed water back to their homes.

Distaff Day[6], also called Roc Day, is 7 January, the day after the traditional feast of the Epiphany. It is also known as Saint Distaff's Day, one of the many unofficial holidays in Catholic nations. The distaff, or rock, used in spinning was the medieval symbol of women's work. In many European cultural traditions, women resumed their household work after the twelve days of Christmas. Women of all classes would spend their evenings spinning on the wheel. During the day, they would carry a drop spindle with them. Spinning was the only means of turning raw wool, cotton or flax into thread, which could then be woven into cloth. Men have their own way of celebrating this occasion; this is done through Plough Monday. It is the first Monday after Epiphany where men are supposed to get back to work. Every few years, Distaff Day and Plough Monday falls on the same day. Often the men and women would play pranks on each other during this celebration, as was written by Robert Herrick in his poem "Saint Distaff’s day, or the Morrow After Twelfth Day" which appears in his Hesperides.

49 Godly Character Traits[7]

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:

Self-Control vs. Self-indulgence

Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)

736 By this power of the Spirit, God's children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear "the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." "We live by the Spirit"; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we "walk by the Spirit."

Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God "Father" and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.

1765 There are many passions. The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it.

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Christmas Calendar
·         Nineveh 90 Day 7
·         Please pray for me and this ministry




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