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Monday, December 27, 2021

 Monday in the Octave of Christmas

FEAST OF ST. JOHN 

Wisdom, Chapter 18, Verse 17-18

17 Then, at once, visions in horrible dreams perturbed them and unexpected FEARS assailed them; 18 and cast half-dead, one here, another there, they revealed why they were dying.

 

Egyptians had just had the tenth plague the death of the first born; all their horrible dreams and visions had come true. The day before or even the hour before they were happy; they continued to revile in their ungodly ways. They had 10 chances to change and now the last plague. 

Nightmares in Ancient Egypt[1]

The dream in ancient Egypt functioned as a liminal zone between the land of the living and the afterlife. However, the dream was also a phenomenon over which the dreamer had little control, and its permeable boundaries allowed both the divine and the demonic inhabitants of the beyond access to the visible world. Sometimes the result was a positive beneficial experience, as is attested in New Kingdom royal texts and elite hymns that relate the awe-inspiring contact a dreamer could have with a god or a goddess. But another more disturbing belief was that dreams could also allow the vulnerable sleeper to be watched or even assaulted by the hostile dead. While today we call these events «nightmares» and consider them psychological phenomena, the Egyptians blamed them on external monsters or demons crossing over from the other side. These entities included the dead, and here it appears that the line between the justified transfigured dead and the malevolent unjustified dead might not have been an immutable one. Surviving spells, prescriptions, and apotropaic devices attest to the prevalent fear of nightmares while the intricate steps one could take to ensure safety in the night emphasize the tangible nature of these fears. To protect themselves against such demons of the dark, sleeping mortals could access the same potent energies that restored order and kept at bay the chaotic enemies of the sun-god himself.

Nightmares: A Jewish Approach to Bad Dreams[2]

Humans have long pondered our need for sleep, and the physical and mental harm that sleep deprivation causes. However, ancient sages saw a spiritual reason for sleep. When the Holy One Blessed be He, created man, the ministering angels mistook Adam for a divine being and wished to exclaim “Holy” before him. What does this resemble? A king and governor were riding together in a chariot. The king’s subjects wished to greet their king with cries of “Sovereign,” but they did not know which one was the king. What, then, did the king do? He pushed the governor out of the chariot and thereby the subjects knew who the king was. Similarly said Rabbi Hoshya, when G-d created Adam the angels mistook him (for G-d). What, then, did the Holy One blessed be He do? He caused sleep to fall upon him, and thereby all knew he was a human being! (Bereshit Rabbah 8:10). According to this Midrash, sleep was created to differentiate humans from G-d. It is a sign of our weakness. For hours of the day, every human gives up complete control of themselves. This is to inspire humility. Sometimes, sleep is not so restful. We have all woken up trembling, sweating, and in fear of our lives without any hope of return to sleep. Ever wonder why this happens?

Scientists have put forward physical and psychological reasons for why we experience nightmares. Nightmares tend to occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep episodes. These REM episodes become more frequent as the night progresses, so nightmares often occur in the latter portions of our sleep, during the early morning for most people. Nightmares frequently concern being unable to escape danger, falling, or reliving a traumatic experience. Unlike night terrors, which occur soon after going to bed and are not experienced as dreams, we do remember our nightmares. Sometimes nightmares can have physical triggers, such as eating just before sleep, or taking drugs such as antidepressants or antihypertensives, or conversely, trying to stop drinking alcohol or sleeping pills. Paradoxically, sleep deprivation can also increase the likelihood of nightmares, as can sleep apnea (where breathing is impeded during sleep, causing episodes of waking while gasping for breath). Finally, nightmare disorder (often hereditary) can cause nightmares. Nightmares may have serious physical consequences, such as an increased risk for obesity and heart disease, while those suffering from depression are more likely to consider suicide. Psychological explanations for nightmares have also been offered. About 100 years ago, Sigmund Freud taught that dreams were a way to access our subconscious, and interpreting these was a key element of psychoanalysis. Nightmares would reveal thoughts and desires that we were not aware of in our daily life, but which manifested in such things as a slip of the tongue (where we might says a word that seems totally out of place, which revealed what was secretly on our mind) or a persistent thought (which could be a song or poem that included a key word or concept). Today, many psychiatrists believe that dreams serve the purpose of allowing us to work out emotional or problem-solving issues. Nightmares may thus convey an ongoing, unresolved spiritual conflict. I have argued previously that nightmares enable us to cultivate compassion for the other we do not understand. For example, I believe that nightmares are gifts from God enabling us to access a painful situation without really having to experience the pain of the experience. This helps us to cultivate empathy if we choose to consider our self-improvement after our bad dreams. In fact, Rabbi Zeira taught, “if a man goes seven days without a dream, he is called evil,” and Rabbi Huna taught that “a good man is not shown a good dream, and a bad man is not shown a bad dream” (Berachot 55b). Perhaps this comes to teach us that, on some level, we need the human vulnerability of bad dreams to remain humble, sensitive, and empathetic. We must actively choose to use our dreams as a vehicle for deepening our spiritual and ethical sensitivities. Abraham was the first to have a nightmare in the Torah. “And it happened, as the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abraham; and behold—a dread! Great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the great 18th-century German scholar, interpreted Abraham’s experience in a unique way. The answer had to experience figuratively the endless night and dread and the exulting awakening therefrom so that it could be grasped more surely and more deeply and be handed down with all the certainty of something that had already been lived through. This opens up a new way to understand nightmares from a theological perspective. Perhaps G-d provides us with experiences outside of reality in order to prepare us to handle real situations within our reality. We are more prepared for a negative life experience in our lives since we have already “encountered” it. Further, we are better able to digest a painful situation because we explored it more deeply in the unconscious realm. Sometimes, of course, nightmares can tragically terrorize someone and they may require prayer and therapy. But hopefully, we will all know as many positive things in our lives as possible, and our dreams and nightmares can be healing tools that prepare us to proceed along more difficult journeys.

When you awake from a nightmare give thanks; that the evil did not overtake you; give thanks for the many blessings you have been given; think, remember His goodness.

Feast of St. John, the Apostle[3] 

DECEMBER 27. 

JOHN, the brother of St. James the Greater, was a son of Zebedee, a fisherman of Galilee, and of Salome, a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Matt. iv. 21). He was the youngest of the apostles, and, with Peter and James, was the most trusted of the disciples of Jesus, by Whom he was most tenderly loved, on which account he is called the Disciple of Love. Of this Jesus gave the most convincing evidence when, at the Last Supper, He allowed that disciple to lean upon His breast, and when, from the cross, He committed to the care of John His own Mother. After the ascension John preached the Gospel in Palestine; afterwards went to Asia Minor, fixed his residence in Ephesus, and established many churches there. He was, with the other apostles, taken prisoner and scourged by the Jews, and in the year 95, under the Emperor Domitian, before the Latin Gate, at Rome, was thrown into a vessel of boiling oil. Having endured this torture without injury, he was then banished to the island of Patmos, where, by command of the Lord, he wrote the Apocalypse, or Revelation, concerning the fortunes of the Church. On returning from his banishment, he again governed the churches of Asia Minor as chief pastor, as he had done before, and, at the age of nearly one hundred years, died at Ephesus a peaceful arid natural death. 

The Introit of the Mass reads: “In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth, and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and clothed him with a robe of glory. It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to Thy name, O Most High.” 

Prayer. 

Mercifully illustrate Thy Church, O Lord, that, enlightened by the doctrines of Thy blessed apostle and evangelist St. John, she may arrive at gifts everlasting. 

EPISTLE. Ecclus. xv. 1-6. 

He that feareth God will do good: and he that possesseth justice shall lay hold on her, arid she will meet him as an honor able mother and will receive him as a wife married of a virgin. With the bread of life and understanding, she shall feed him and give him the water of wholesome wisdom to drink: and she shall be made strong in him, and he shall not be moved: and she shall hold him fast, and he shall not be confounded: and she shall exalt him among his neighbors, and in the midst of the Church she shall open his mouth, and shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and shall clothe him with a robe of glory. She shall heap upon him a treasure of joy and gladness, and our Lord God shall cause him to inherit an everlasting name. 

ON PURITY. 

“He that loves wisdom,” saith the Holy Ghost, “will obtain it, for it will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins” (Wis. i. 4). St. John was from his childhood an angel of purity, on which account he was particularly be loved by Jesus, and endowed by the Holy Ghost with such wisdom and knowledge that, as St. Augustine has remarked, he begins his gospel in a manner more lofty and sublime than the other three evangelists. For while they walk with the God-man upon earth, speaking comparatively little of His divinity, St. John, as if despising the world, soars beyond the vault of heaven, above the hosts of angels, and comes to Him by Whom all things are made, saying, “In the beginning was the Word.” At the Last Supper he was permitted to lean on the bosom of Jesus, but what he there drank in secretly he imparted openly. Apply thyself, therefore, to purity of heart, and thou shalt be like St. John, a beloved disciple of Jesus, and shalt be filled with heavenly wisdom. 

GOSPEL. John xxi. 19-24.

At that time: Jesus said to Peter: Follow Me. Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on His breast at supper, and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray Thee? Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So, I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? follow thou Me. This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did riot say to him: He should not die; but so, I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 

Feast of St John[4] 

The Feast of St. John the Apostle commemorates his life.  He was one of Jesus' 12 disciples.  He was one of the three disciples, which included Peter and James, who were involved in some of the most important events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, including Jesus' crucifixion and transfiguration. 

St John Facts

 

·       John was a fisherman before he began following Christ.  He was the brother of St. James the Greater.  Jesus gave the brothers the name, sons of thunder. (Mark 3:17)

·       When Jesus was dying on the cross, he asked John to take care of his mother (John 19:25-27).

·       In the Gospel of John, he frequently refers to the most beloved disciple. Some theologians believe he is referring to himself, while others believe the reference is used for the reader to insert himself into the role.

·       Besides Paul, John was the most prolific writer in the New Testament.  His body of work includes 'The Revelation of John' and three epistles.

·       The Feast Day for St. John the Apostle is held in the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations on December 27, the third day of Christmas.  In the Orthodox Church, it is called the Feast of the Holy and Glorious Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, which is held September 26.  This feast shouldn't be confused with the Feast of St. John the Baptist, which is held in both faith traditions on June 24. 

St John Top Events and Things to Do

 

·       Read the Gospel of John.  It is different than the other three Gospels and was thought to be the last written of the four books in the New Testament.



·       Read the Revelation of John, thought to be written by the apostle.  The rich symbolism has been thought to foretell the end of the world, but many biblical scholars believe it was written to offer hope to Christians persecuted by Rome.

·       St John is the Patron Saint of Turkey.  Consider visiting this beautiful country - or take a virtual tour with Google Maps.

·       St. John answered the call to be an apostle of Jesus. Have you listened for Jesus's call in your life?

·       Pray today to know your own vocation.

·       Bless your wine for the new year. 

Blessing of the Wine[5] 

Traditionally wine is blessed on the Feast of St. John. Wine if used in moderation is a good thing. Yet sometimes it may cause an increase in our fears or make us fool hardy when speaking, giving us a false sense of courage. So, blessing our wine is a good idea to dedicate its use for our good and not our detriment. 

St. John's Day[6] (December 27) 

Saint John was the only Apostle who did not suffer martyrdom, though several attempts were made on his life. One of these involved giving him a glass of wine that had been poisoned. The saint, however, suffered no harm because he blessed it before he drank. It is in honor of this deliverance that the blessing and drinking of wine on St. John's Day was once a popular custom. People had a bottle of wine blessed after the Saint's Mass and then drank it at the family dinner (notice how easily this can still be done). The special blessing for this occasion from the Roman ritual sums up the meaning of this custom: 

%  Blessing for the 1st Cup

 

Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God! You willed that Your Son, equal to You in agelessness and substance should descend from heaven and in the fullness of time be born of the most holy Virgin Mary. Thus, He could seek the lost and wayward sheep and carry it on His shoulders to the sheepfold, and could cure the man fallen among robbers of his wounds by pouring in oil and wine. Deign now to bless and sanctify this wine which You produced for man's drink. Whoever drinks of it on this holy feast, grant him life in body and soul. By Your goodness, let it be to him strength to prosper him on the way, that his journey may come to a blessed end. Through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

%  Blessing for the 2nd Cup

 

O Lord God deign to bless and consecrate with Thy right hand this cup of wine and of whatever drink: and grant that through the merits of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, all who believe in Thee and who drink from this cup may be blessed and protected. And as blessed John drank from the cup of poison and remained completely unharmed, may, through his merits, all who drink from the cup on this day in honor of blessed John be rescued from every sickness of poison and from every kind of harm; and, offering themselves up body and soul, may they be delivered from all fault. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

%  Blessing of the 3rd Cup 

Bless, O Lord, this creature of drink: that it may be a remedy of salvation for all who consume it: and grant through the invocation of Thy holy name that whoever will have tasted of it may, through Thy giving, experience health of the soul as well as of the body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

%  Blessing of the 4th Cup 

Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit descend upon this creature of wine and of whatever drink and remain forever. Amen. 

Today, on the day honoring the disciple who lay closest to Christ the High Priest during the first Mass, was the festival for priests.

The wine drunk or blessed on this day is called "St. John's Love" (Johannesminne) or St. John's Wine. When the wine has been blessed by a priest, it becomes a sacramental, and is kept in the house throughout the year as a good thing for a newlywed couple to drink on their return from church, as an aid for travelers before a long trip, and as succor for the dying after they have received the sacraments. In the Catholic Cookbook, William Kaufman includes a recipe for St. John's Wine:

1-quart red wine

3 whole cloves

1/16 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 two-inch cinnamon sticks

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup sugar

Pour the wine into a large saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Boil for 5 minutes (after which point the alcohol is virtually evaporated). (Serve hot. 8-10 servings).[7]

Three French Hens 

Today is traditionally the third day of Christmas and the Three French Hens from the song the 12 days of Christmas represent the three cardinal virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.  Let us talk to the Lord today and ask Him how we are doing in these three virtues and how we may improve in them.  


Daily Devotions

·       Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: Protection of Life from Conception until natural death.

·       Monday: Litany of Humility

·       Drops of Christ’s Blood

·       Universal Man Plan

·       Rosary

 


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