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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

 Introduction To Sirach[1] 

Sirach was written by a Jewish scribe who lived in Jerusalem in the early third century BC.  His name was Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach.  He is often called simply "Ben Sira."  The book has taken several different titles including "The Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira" and "Liber Ecclesiasticus" (Church book).  Ben Sira wrote in Hebrew, but his grandson later translated the book into Greek.  Most Bibles include the grandson's preface even though it is not canonical.  The Hebrew of Sirach was lost about a thousand years ago, but in the late 19th century and early 20th century Hebrew fragments of Sirach were found which comprise about two-thirds of the book.  Sirach is a deuterocanonical book of wisdom literature. 

Sirach is very similar to Proverbs in that the majority of the material is presented in short sayings.  The sayings are generally grouped by theme, so the book is loosely organized.  Ben Sira speaks in the first person, sometimes giving autobiographical details (34:11; 38-39).  In 1:1-42:14, He calls on his readers to seek wisdom and offers sayings on many issues.  42:15-43:35 is a song of praise to God the Creator, which is followed by a long section that honors the heroes of Israel's history (44:1-50:29).  The book concludes with a song of praise and thanks (51). 

Sirach addresses many issues related to human life including money, relationships, worship, business and even table manners!  Its focus is to help the reader know how to live within the covenant, how to be faithful to God even in the small things.  Ben Sira has much to say about choosing friends, dealing with practical problems of life and watching one's words carefully.  Like other authors of wisdom literature, he praises wisdom and personifies it as a virtuous woman to be earnestly sought (4; 14-15).  Much of the book is couched in terms of a father giving advice to his son.  Some scholars think that the book was used to train young Jewish men for positions of leadership.  Ben Sira wrote in a time when Jewish identity was threatened by the extensive influence of Greek culture.  His writing invites his contemporaries to return to their spiritual and scriptural roots. 

The reader faced with Sirach may get very frustrated by trying to read it too quickly, looking for an all-encompassing intent.  While the book is not organized by a central argument, it does propose a radical new idea that reinterprets the earlier wisdom books.  That is, it identifies wisdom with the Law of Moses (24:22-27).  This important idea shapes the way Ben Sira understands wisdom in relation to Israel's history and destiny.  The wisdom he offers is not simply good advice, but it is an explanation of the Law of Moses.  Like the Law, Sirach reaches its fulfillment in the life of Jesus. 

Sirach ought to be read in small doses and thoroughly meditated on.  Many of its lessons are not new or startling, but they are tried and true principles about how to live in the light of God.  Each one is meant to be food for meditation and prayer.  

 

December 29 Wednesday in the Octave of Christmas

ST. THOMAS BECKET-PEPPER POT DAY 

Sirach, Chapter 1, Verse 27-30

For the FEAR of the Lord is wisdom and discipline; faithfulness and humility are his delight. 28 Do not disobey the fear of the Lord, do not approach it with duplicity of heart. 29 Do not be a hypocrite before others; over your lips keep watch. 30 Do not exalt yourself lest you fall and bring dishonor upon yourself; for then the Lord will reveal your secrets and cast you down in the midst of the assembly. Because you did not approach the fear of the Lord, and your heart was full of deceit. 

Ben Sira uses the expression “fear of the Lord” twelve times and the noun “wisdom” seven times to emphasize the connection between the two ideas. He describes the blessings that come to those who fear the Lord, i.e., those who practice true religion by loving and serving God and keeping the Law. Attempting to serve the Lord with duplicity of heart is hypocrisy and self-exaltation, deserving of public disgrace.[2] 

St. Thomas Becket 


St. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suffered martyrdom by the king's men in 1170 on this day.  There is an excellent movie about his life “Becket” if you have time to watch tonight which stars Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Becket was a man of strength.

Things to Do[3]

·        Read more about this historical event. For some web sources see The Murder of Thomas Becket, 1170, and more information on Henry II. Watch this You Tube video of Canterbury Cathedral.

·        Some wonderful literature is based on this saint. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1342 - 1400) follows a group of 30 pilgrims traveling to the Canterbury Cathedral, the pilgrimage spot of St. Thomas Becket. T. S. Eliot wrote a play called Murder in the Cathedral based on St. Thomas' murder.

·        See Catholic Cuisine for other recipes ideas for St. Thomas Becket.

·        Today would be a good time to gather with family and friends enjoy some Christmas goodies and spend an evening singing Christmas carols.

o   The saints who are assigned immediately following Christmas are honored because of their special connection with Christ. December 29, the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred in his cathedral by the soldiers of Henry II in 1170, is the true anniversary date of his death. Because of the great shock and sensation that this martyrdom caused at a time when all of Europe was Catholic, the Roman authorities, in the thirteenth century, deemed it appropriate to assign the celebration of his feast within the privileged days of Christmas week, thus adding him to the group of "Christ's nobility."

o   In the Middle Ages, Christmas week also assumed the note of a hallowed time within the homes of the faithful. Many observances of a religious character were introduced locally and spread over large sections of the Christian population of Europe. For the farmers and their animals, it was a time of rest and relaxation from laborious work; only the necessary chores were done in stable and barn. Thus, the whole week became a series of holidays. More time than usual was spent on prayer and religious exercises. It is still the custom in many sections of Europe to light the candles of the Christmas tree every night while the whole family says the rosary or performs some other devotion, followed by the singing of carols.

o   Carol singing from house to house is an ancient tradition in central Europe on the twelve nights between Christmas and Epiphany. The Poles call these nights the "Holy Evenings" (Stoiete Wieczory). Another widespread practice is the performance of religious plays portraying events of the Christmas story (such as the Nativity, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, and the massacre of Bethlehem). In southern Germany and Austria many such plays are still performed in rural communities. Among the northern Slavs (Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks) a puppet theater (szopka) is in vogue; its religious scenes alternate with secular dramatic exhibits. In the cities of Poland children put on Christmas dramas (jaselka). A similar performance (Bethlehemes jatek) is done by children in Hungary; a representation of the manger is carried from house to house, little dramatic plays are enacted, and carols sung.

Christmas Calendar[4] 

Read about St. Thomas Becket, once a royal chancellor of England. He was slain in his own cathedral for defending the Church from interference by King Henry II. 

Reflect: Christ's kingdom is already present, but it is not yet fulfilled. The destruction of the last enemy, death, is still to come, and then, says St. Paul, God will "be all in all." This is why we pray "Thy kingdom come." When we pray "Thy kingdom come," we are praying for a kingdom of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love, and peace. Yet, let us also remember that for the sake of this kingdom many of our sisters and brothers are suffering persecution. 

Pray: Becket gave up his life for the sake of justice. Pray today for the many Christians who still face persecution and death because of their faith. 

 Act: Take time to pray the Rosary for justice and peace today.

Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas - Day Five[5]

Given the tempo of the liturgical season with its feasts it is easy to overlook that one saint who for many centuries was, after Mary and Joseph, the most venerated person in European Christendom.

Devotion to him spread like wildfire. He was enshrined in the hearts of men, and in their arts. In statues and stained glass, in song and story this good bishop was everywhere to be found France, Italy, Spain, Sweden. Many miracles were attributed to his heavenly advocacy. — Excerpted from Days of the Lord

Five Golden Rings 

Today is the 5th day of Christmas the Five Golden Rings represent the five books of the "Pentateuch" [Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy].

Pepper Pot Day[6]

Pepper Pot, a thick and spicy soup that is an American staple dish, especially in the southern regions of the United States. What is Pepper Pot? Well, it’s a soup that contains twelve different ingredients. Now that we know the ingredients for the Pepper Pot, let us look into the history of the day named for it, Pepper Pot Day, shall we? In the modern world of today, Pepper Pot Soup has many, many variations to it. But the soups true origins began on December 29th of 1777 during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army had been experiencing an exceptionally harsh winter during the battle of Valley Forge. The soldiers were low on food because the farmers in the area had gone and sold all their supplies to the British Army for cash rather than the weak currency that the Continental soldiers could offer them for their crops. Christopher Ludwick, a baker general of the Continental Army, gathered whatever food he could scrounge together to feed the cold and frail soldiers. The chef was able to find scraps of tripe, meat, and some peppercorn. He then mixed the ingredients together with some other seasonings and created the hot, thick, and spicy soup we now know as pepper pot soup. It quickly became known as “the soup that won the war.” The soup gave the soldiers the warmth and strength that they needed to push the enemies back through the harsh winter weather.

How to celebrate Pepper Pot Day

In order to celebrate this holiday, all we have to do is gather the necessary ingredients to make our own Pepper Pot Soup and share it amongst our friends and family. Pepper Pot soup is a great way to warm up on a cold and dark winter’s night, huddled around the fireplace and listening to stories narrated by family members who always have interesting stories to be told to everyone they can tell them to. Want to make your own? The ingredients are four cups of water, four tablespoons of chicken bouillon powder, two medium grated potatoes, two medium sized carrots which are also grated, two finely chopped celery stalks, one finely chopped onion, one and a half cups of finely chopped green, red, or yellow peppers, one half cup of all-purpose flour, two teaspoons of salt, one teaspoon of pepper, one more cup of water, and finally, six cups of milk.

Every Wednesday is Dedicated to St. Joseph

The Italian culture has always had a close association with St. Joseph perhaps you could make Wednesdays centered around Jesus’s Papa. Plan an Italian dinner of pizza or spaghetti after attending Mass as most parishes have a Wednesday evening Mass. You could even do carry out to help restaurants. If you are adventurous, you could do the Universal Man Plan: St. Joseph style. Make the evening a family night perhaps it could be a game night. Whatever you do make the day special.

·       Devotion to the 7 Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph

·       Do the St. Joseph Universal Man Plan.

 

Daily Devotions

·       Today's Fast: Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: The Sick Afflicted and Infirmed.

·       Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus

·       Total Consecration to St. Joseph Day 9

·       Offering to the sacred heart of Jesus

·       Drops of Christ’s Blood

·       Universal Man Plan

·       Rosary

 



[1] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resource/56236/sirach

[2]http://www.usccb.org/bible/sirach/1

[5]https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2020-12-29

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