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Monday, January 7, 2019


Plough Monday
ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS-DISTAFF DAY


Psalm 2, verse 11
Serve the LORD with fear; exult with trembling, accept correction lest he become angry and you perish along the way when his anger suddenly blazes up. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!

To fully understand this verse, we must know who the writer is referring to. In verse 10 the writer states “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear.  Our God is a just God and to “those who have been given much; much is required”; to quote the spider man movie. Kings (and the 1 percent’ers) to be wise must humble themselves. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle then for a rich man to get into heaven. The "Eye of the Needle" has been claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed.[1] 

I also with this verse picture Mary Magdalene. Mary who by many accounts was a very rich woman financed our Lord’s ministry. We see in this verse the shadowing of her kissing of His feet and at the same time the hardening of Judas’ heart: who on seeing her act of love and wanting riches refused to humble himself and died in his pride.

Does Christ desire us to serve with Fear and trembling? I noticed the other day that my two dogs when I come in are so excited about seeing me that they tremble with excitement. I think our God wants our hearts and our desires. I think we should have the humble fear that a loved child has for his or her parents, full of love and respect and that we should be excited too. So, let us approach each day with the kind of excitement that makes us tremble ready to do the will of God? 

Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year. While local practices may vary, Plough Monday is generally the first Monday after Twelfth Day (Epiphany), 6 January. The day traditionally saw the resumption of work after the Christmas period.

As we begin our working year let us remember that our primary work in the world as a follower of Christ is to do his will for us putting our hand on the plough and looking forward to the year; may all of our days and rows be straight.

No man, having put his hand ... - To put one's hand to a plow is a proverbial expression to signify undertaking any business. In order that a plowman may accomplish his work, it is necessary to look onward - to be intent on his employment - not to be looking back with regret that he undertook it. So, in religion; He that enters on it must do it with his whole heart, He that comes still loving the world - still looking with regret on its pleasures, its wealth, and its honors - that has not "wholly" forsaken them as his portion, cannot be a Christian, and is not fit for the kingdom of God. How searching is this test to those who profess to be Christians! And how solemn the duty of all people to renounce all earthly objects, and to be not only "almost," but "altogether," followers of the Son of God! It is perilous to tamper with the world - to look at its pleasures or to seek its society. He that would enter heaven must come with a heart full of love to God; giving "all" into his hands, and prepared always to give up all his property, his health, his friends, his body, his soul to God, when he demands them, or he cannot be a Christian. Religion is everything or nothing. He that is not willing to sacrifice "everything" for the cause of God, is really willing to sacrifice nothing.[2]

Distaff Day[3], 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.


Orthodox Christmas[4]

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.

Orthodox Christmas Top Events and Things to Do[5]

·         Attend an Orthodox Christmas service.  Orthodox Christianity is popular in Greek and Slavic-language communities, including Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Macedonian communities.
·         Go on a fast or diet leading up to Orthodox Christmas.  Try eliminating meat and animal foods from your diet.
·         Go for dinner at the Russian or Greek Restaurant.  Many will serve specials to commemorate this holiday.



Complete My Joy[6]
Marital Love is Free, Total, Faithful and Fruitful

From this simple definition, “Love is willing the good of the other,” let us now look at the love specific to marriage which, well-lived, spills over into the children, the extended family, and the surrounding community. The words of the Catholic

marriage rite beautifully express four qualities of marital love: free, total, faithful and fruitful.
29. This revisitation of a wedding, dear married couples and those of you called to marriage, I hope will resound in its beauty, its profound meaning, and its call to be vulnerable to this love and to avoid the deadly state the Sacred Scriptures call hardness of heart. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” wrote CS Lewis. This is why real love can cause awe and even a paralyzing fear. Love is risky! Is it really necessary to take such risks? Yes. For the alternative to the risk of love is self-enclosed hell. Lewis’s striking passage on love continues: “…Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

30. Do not be afraid of love! We need love in all of its necessary vulnerability and sacrifice because we are made in the image of Love itself! In the story of creation found in Genesis 1, we read:

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…”

31. Love is the natural language inscribed in our bodies and souls, made male and female. The male body and soul is created to complement the female body and soul at all levels—biological, psychological, and spiritual—and vice-versa.

32. At the key moment of the Catholic marriage ceremony, in front of God and their invited family and friends (who represent the whole world), the priest or deacon, official witness for the Church, asks the man and the woman to publicly assent to three important questions, which contain the four fundamental qualities of authentic marital love.

33. The first is this: “Have you come here to enter Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”

34. “Are you truly free?” the Church is asking, and, “Are you here in front of this altar of sacrifice—willing to give a total gift of yourself to this other person?” The man and the woman reply, “Yes.”

35. This love requires your freedom, your free willing of the good for your spouse! And it requires your total gift, holding nothing back out of fear. It requires that you consider this promise irrevocable, never to be taken back despite the inevitable challenges that accompany love in a fallen world.

36. The second question speaks to faithfulness: “Are you prepared, as you follow the path of Marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as you both shall live?” The man and woman each reply, “I am.”

37. True love is faithful. Living this faithfulness requires a constant exercise of “willing the good of the other” in marriage such that a powerful force in the world is increased. St. John Chrysostom said, “The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together.” Therefore, the Church and wise nations and communities recognize and support even at great cost the need for families to be based on marriage, the committed, life-long covenantal bond with all of its necessary rights and duties.

38. Think here of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Contemplating with awe and gratitude the mystery of a God who is eternally and reliably a fire of never-ending love, we best understand the nature of marital love and the demands that flow from it. Would there be “cheating” among the members of the Trinity? Obviously not, and therefore the marital covenant which images the Trinity must be faithful through all the storms of life. Can we imagine a “breakup” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Certainly not, and therefore a valid, sacramental marriage is indissoluble. Nothing but death can break the bond of such a marriage. Would the three Divine Persons opt for sterility, or does their love bear constant and abundant fruit? Hence marital love requires the rejection of any chosen option for sterility, whether it be contraception use or surgical sterilization.

39. This brings us to the third question of intent. The priest or deacon asks, “Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?” “I am,” the man and woman each reply.

40. Love is fruitful. Usually, though not in every case, acts of sexual intercourse proper only to marriage give rise eventually to the gift of children.

41. Despite the cultural propaganda against children being a good for their parents, those who experience children learn that what the Second Vatican Council beautifully stated is true: “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”


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."


The Way[8] Mortification

"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."

Anything that does not lead you to God is a hindrance. Root it out and throw it far from you.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Universal Man Plan
·         Day Fourteen activity (Legend of the Little Girl)
·         Day Fourteen recipe (Christstollen)




[2] Barnes' Notes on the Bible
[6]https://family.dphx.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2018-Complete-My-Joy-Apostolic-Exhortation-English.pdf
[7]http://graceonlinelibrary.org/home-family/christian-parenting/49-godly-Tcharacter-qualities/
[8]http://www.escrivaworks.org/book/the_way-point-1.htm

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