Monday, April 9, 2018

Introduction to Daniel


By the time you finish reading Daniel, you'll probably be wondering how all these Babylonian and Persian kings could be so incredibly thick. In the course of the book's opening stories, the kings keep realizing that Daniel's God is, in fact, everybody's God, or the only God—and then they immediately do something entirely disrespectful and ridiculous like drinking booze out of sacred vessels or chucking people into furnaces. But that's part of the problem posed by The Book of Daniel: how do you live under the control of people who just don't get it while still remaining true to yourself? It was an issue that the Israelites happened to be struggling with in a big way at the time the book was written. The Book of Daniel came out of a period when Israel was going through some major problems, like getting invaded, plundered, and totally devastated by different imperial armies while seeing the best-educated Jews carried away into captivity. When the book was actually written, sometime between 300 and 165 BCE, they were dealing with an unusually nasty king by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes—one of the Greek generals squabbling over the remains of Alexander the Great's empire. Not only did he try to prevent the Jews from worshipping in their temple and practicing their religion freely, he made owning a copy of the Torah punishable by death. He even attempted to install a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies, the very place where God was supposed to reside. (See the Apocryphal Biblical book 2 Maccabees for more details.) Naturally, none of this went down well with the Israelites, and eventually a rebellion led by the heroic warrior, Judah Maccabee, overthrew Antiochus' reign. But before that happened, the Israelites were debating exactly how they should react—whether with violent revolt, or by waiting patiently for God to overthrow Antiochus, just as the Babylonian tyrants had been overthrown by the Persians earlier. The Book of Daniel was evidently written by people from the "Let God Do It" camp. The book keeps telling stories about how Daniel and his friends are saved by God whenever the light seemed like it was about to go out and the wicked kings were about to do something horrible. Daniel fits into the Bible in an interesting way, too. Christians put Dan in with the books by and about the Prophets, but the Hebrew Bible places his book in with the Writings, alongside works like Esther and the Song of Solomon. Both of these ways of placing Daniel make sense. He has prophetic visions of the future and the end of the world and tries to counsel kings toward justice. But the Book of Daniel is similar to the Writings in that it contains plenty of classic short stories. Some of the Bible's best yarns are in here, like the tale of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the lion's den.
 
Why Should I Care?

Ever had a weird dream? We mean, like, classically weird? Like the ol' forgot-to-wear-clothes-to-math-class dream? Well, Daniel, the prophet and seer, would have rushed to your aid and explained—provided you had just threatened the lives of all the wise men in Babylon, that is. We can't suggest what he would've made of the "naked in math class" thing, but we do know that he was an expert on dream interpretation. Of course, he usually interpreted the dreams of kings, and those dreams typically involved some sort of broad historical lesson or a prophecy of personal catastrophe. Like Joseph in Genesis before him, Daniel was an ace dream-analyzer, sort of the Sigmund Freud of his era (except much more religious and probably lacking a cigar). But what the Book of Daniel gives to readers today is much more significant than a glimpse into the slumberous visions of ancient Babylonian royalty. For instance, the entire second half of Daniel offers up a fairly detailed account of the future history and final end of the world; it's not quite as far out as Revelation, but it's some Grade A Head Candy, nonetheless. And as you may have noticed, quite a few people today are way anxious about the world ending and believe that we're living in the last days. That's something Daniel can shed some light on. Perhaps most importantly, Daniel is the story of a guy who stuck to his guns. He had to deal with a succession of thick-headed and unpredictable kings who, on different occasions, try to kill him, his friends, and all the wise men of Babylon. But Daniel never takes the easy way out. He and his friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—don't collaborate with things that strike their conscience as being wrong. Somehow, miraculously, this totally works out for them.

In a way, Daniel's like Dr. Jennifer Melfi from The Sopranos. She also tries to talk some sense to and interpret the dreams of a bad guy, a ruthless mobster and sociopath (though she's a lot less successful than Daniel). She's trying to "speak truth to power," to the worst kind of power, too: power controlled by evil. But Daniel is dealing with a slightly different kind of villain. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar isn't evil. He's just deluded and confused. He's not willfully ignoring the truth or what's right. He just doesn't know any better. And in a lot of ways, it is the patience and honesty of Daniel that help him to recover. That's where the essence of the book lies: the main character's struggle to endure the most horrible trials and terrors out of a desire to demonstrate an act of mercy towards the king. It's an example that can inspire anybody. Although the king has more earthly power than Daniel, it is ultimately Daniel who takes pity on the king because Daniel, at least, can see the truth. 

FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION

Daniel, Chapter 1, Verse 9-10
9 Though God had given Daniel the favor and sympathy of the chief chamberlain, 10 he said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who allotted your food and drink. If he sees that you look thinner in comparison to the other young men of your age, you will endanger my life with the king.”

The chamberlain was afraid because the king had taken Daniel and other sharp, young Hebrews (as well as other defeated nations youth) to groom them as leaders to ensure the subservience of those defeated nations by developing them as devoted protégés of the king and should the Daniel and the others appear sickly the chamberlain would suffer disgrace. The king's reasoning was sound but good treatment by the king would not dislodge Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah's faith and trust in the God of Abraham. They refused to eat the rich food which most likely included pork and other banned foods noted in the Torah. Daniel proposed a test to reduce the chamberlain’s fear which was to let them eat just vegetables and water for ten days. After the ten days Daniel and his friends features appeared healthier than those who ate rich fair. Daniel and his friends never lost their faith and trust in their God.

Men are fickled things for when faith and trust in God leave; fear and pride enter. We see this type of response of the Jew’s to Pilate’s plea for Christ.

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:13-15)

Again in the Acts of the Apostles we see the same lack of faith and trust in God’s fullness through Christ by the Jews in their martyring of Stephen.

“Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

Feast of the Annunciation[1]

The feast commemorates the most sublime moment in the history of time, the moment when the Second Divine Person of the most Holy Trinity assumed human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Thus it is a feast of our Lord, even as it is of Mary, although the liturgy centers wholly around the Mother of God. — The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”


The words “Hail Mary” indicate that profound veneration for the Blessed Virgin which was felt by the archangel Gabriel, and which we, in imitation of his example, ought also to cherish. The words full of grace remind us that God bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin greater graces than upon all men and angels together; and that not for herself alone, but for us also; they therefore encourage us to pray to Mary with fervor and confidence, that by her powerful intercession she will obtain for us the graces necessary for our salvation. “The Lord is with thee” these words express the peculiar complacency with which God has regarded her, on account of which He wrought in her special miracles of wisdom, omnipotence, and benignity. Let us rejoice with Mary over these prerogatives, and implore her to intercede for us, that God may be with us also, to sustain us by His almightiness, to govern us by His wisdom, to incite us to all that is good by the fire of His infinite love. Finally, the words Blessed art thou among women are as much as to say: Thou art the happiest of all women, since thou alone of them all hast no stain of sin on thee; thou art chosen to be the Mother of God; thou shalt conceive Him by the Holy Ghost, and shalt bring Him forth without losing thy virginity. Thus it was that the angel saluted the most blessed Virgin, and yet there are men who are ashamed thus to salute Mary, and to give praise for the graces which God conferred upon her. (Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896)

Things to Do[2]

·         This feast is very important in the defense of the life of unborn children. Even with small children, this is a good day to begin teaching about the high value God places on human life. He loved us so much that he became one of us, took on our human nature and became an innocent, completely dependent infant.

·         This is a Solemnity, so when this feast falls during the Lenten season, our Lenten penance obligations are lifted. We should celebrate by some special food or dinner. This feast day forecasts the blessed event of Christmas, and illustrates how the liturgical year is an endless circle of days. To celebrate this circle or cycle, serve a cake, coffee rings, or wreath-shaped cookies, or foods shaped in ring molds for this feast day. A perfect symbolic food would be an angel food cake for the archangel Gabriel, baked in a tube pan for the endless circle, decorated with the frosting highlighted with blue for Mary.

·         A traditional food for this day is waffles. "Lady Day" or Annunciation is the only feast of Mary that Sweden still celebrates since the Lutheran faith became the state religion in 1593. In most of Europe, waffles are a traditional feast day food, but on the feast of the Annunciation in Sweden this is THE "Waffle Day" (Vaffeldagen), where waffles are served either for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with lingonberries or cloudberries.

Incense[3]

Catholic tradition engages the whole person; all the senses and has been called at times the religion of “bells and smells.” God created us as a unity of body and soul, and we return ourselves entirely to him in worship. We worship him is spirit and truth and in our worship we present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Thus, the Churches worship engages all that we are both body and senses. We contemplate during worship the mysteries of God using our total selves; our hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smells. We ring bells to herald the Lord’s appearance and we burn incense before his altar. Our worship is good and true but it is also beautiful.

The Mass is a reenactment of the death of our Lord. It is thought-provoking to contemplate that Pilates notice above Christ’s head, was printed in three languages Hebrew, Latin and Greek. These three cultures in a sense represented the characteristics of God. The Hebrew’s were Gods people and represented the good of man and brought the idea that the person was created by God and is more valuable than the universe. Latin the language of the Romans brought the idea that truth is the highest value and the Greek culture brought the idea of beauty being the greatest value. In Christ’s death is represented all three values. That a good God died for man; true to the end; and His shame was turned by love to beauty.

Via the Masses worldwide we live out the words of the prophet Malachi 1:11, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations; Incense offerings are made to my name everywhere, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.”

The offering of incense was an essential duty of the priests of the Old Covenant, and the ancient law took special care to prescribe its fragrances, vessels, and rites. Jesus’ kinsman Zechariah was performing his priestly duty, burning incense in the Temple, when the angel Gabriel appeared to him. This was the hour of incense. Incense was the most emblematic form of worship; it was an outward sign of the inner mystery that is true prayer. Incense is so closely associated with worship that, it became the very image of infidelity to burn incense to idols. To burn incense was and still is a richly symbolic act of worship.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Manhood of the Master-Day 2 week 11
·         Please pray for me and this ministry



[1]http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2017-03-25
[3] Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 23. Incense.

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