Thursday, December 26, 2019

feast of st. stephen-Kwanzaa



Proverbs, Chapter 24, Verse 21-22
21 My son, fear the LORD and the king; have nothing to do with those who hate them; 22 for disaster will issue suddenly, and calamity from them both, who knows when?

Proverbs chapter 24 comments on the fates of the wicked and foolish—it begins with a warning not to take the foolish as role models. The faithful are encouraged “to be jealous, zealous; to emulate.” Christ; for—the wicked have no future.[1] If Christ is real to you every day of your life then rendering to God what is God's is not a sacrifice. No, we are compelled by the Holy Spirit and we must give ourselves up entirely to Him; as did the first martyr Steven.



Feast of Saint Stephen[2]



THE epistle of to-day contains a short account of the life and sufferings of this saint. It only remains to be added that, on account of his virtues, his wisdom, and his zeal for the faith, the apostles thought him worthy to be chosen the first of the seven deacons, whose office it was, in addition to the preaching of the word of God, to serve the poor, and properly to dis tribute the alms of the faithful. The Introit says: Princes sat and spoke against me, and the wicked persecuted me; help me, O Lord my God, for Thy servant was employed in Thy justifications. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Prayer.

Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to imitate what we honor, that we also may learn to love our neighbors, as we celebrate the feast of Him Who knew how to beseech even for His persecutors. Amen.
EPISTLE. Acts vi. 8-10; vii. 54-59.

In those days: Stephen full of grace and fortitude did great wonders and signs among the people. Now there arose some of that which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. Arid they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke. Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But he being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Be hold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking, and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord.

Instruction.

Stephen is unjustly persecuted; yet he prays for his persecutors. Can we excuse ourselves if we do not love our enemies? Were not Stephen, and others who have imitated him, men like ourselves? With the grace of God, could not we do what they have done? Could we call ourselves Christians were we 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.

GOSPEL. Matt, xxiii. 34-39.

At that time Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees: Behold I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes : and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not! Behold your house shall be left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall not see Me henceforth till you say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Those in our days who stone and kill the prophets and preachers are those who, by their evil backbiting, defame their pastors, who mock at and despise preachers and sermons; for to the servants of God this is a great torment and source of grief; it destroys their courage and paralyzes their efficiency. On this account it provokes the anger of God, as through the prophets He often told the Jews.

Supplication to St. Stephen.

O St. Stephen, first of the martyrs, who wast filled with fortitude, grace, and love, whose guiltless face shone like the face of a pure angel, I beseech thee, by the grace which rendered thee worthy to see heaven opened and Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, that thou wouldst, by thy prayers, procure for me from God a pure conscience, and a holy, meek love, that like thee I may readily forgive those who injure me; may pray for them; may not only desire for them whatever is good, but may do them good indeed, and thereby merit the grace of a happy death. Amen.

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.


Feast of St. Stephen - Day Two[5]

Saint Stephen is the first martyr of the Church, and is the patron of stonemasons, masons, bricklayers, deacons, headaches, and horses. His story comes from the Acts of the Apostles. He is usually pictured in deacon's vestments, holding the symbol of martyrdom, a palm branch. Sometimes he has a stone in his left hand, to indicate his death by stoning. He is depicted in many images wearing a wreath, which refers to the origin of his name, the Greek word Stephanos meaning "wreath."
"If you know what witness means, you understand why God brings St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents to the crib in the cave as soon as Christ is born liturgically. To be a witness is to be a martyr. Holy Mother Church wishes us to realize that we were born in baptism to become Christ — He who was the world's outstanding Martyr." — Love Does Such Things, by Rev. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O.

·         Day Two activity (Boxing Day) (Christmas Drama)
·         Day Two recipe (St. Stephen's Horns)

Kwanzaa[6]

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.
·         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.


Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Iceman’s 40 devotion

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