Friday, December 28, 2007

Estella's Christmas Cookies

This is a dream made flesh...

I give you: Estella's Magi Cookies (starring dinosaurs and Mr Men)!

The scene as depicted: the star of Bethlehem perched high in the sky; the Magi approaching from the south with their dinosaur (and elephant?) mounts, and the Holy Family awaiting that blessed hour.

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Catholic Christmas in Russia

RussiaToday offers us a glimpse of how Catholics celebrate Christmas in Orthodox Russia:

I must admit, seeing the Novus Ordo celebrated in Russian (even if only for a few seconds) is quite... unnerving.

Below is a picture of the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow; I am surprised that almost every book on the Russian capital I've read neglects to mention this fine Gothic building.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

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Orthodoxy in Comic Books

Some months ago, I blogged about a reference to the Orthodox Church from the now defunct Sticks and Stones Comics web site.

It would seem that, aside from the movies, comics are a particularly wealthy (relatively speaking, of course) source of such 'Orthodox sightings'. Here are two more I have found during the past few months:

The first comes from a Daredevil comic:
Natalia Romanova (a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow) exclaims 'Glory to God' after an attempted assassination is prevented. Now, this isn't "Orthodoxy" per se, but it is an expression heard often enough in Russia.

Also from the Daredevil series, we see an icon of (presumably) St Cyprian in the home of young Elektra Natchios (better known simply as Elektra) during a lengthy flashback sequence.

Hmm... being involved with the Black Widow AND Elektra. Matt Murdock (the Daredevil) must have a thing for Orthodox women =P

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Although... celebrate this feast according to the heretical, innovative, thrice-cursed, graceless, schism-formenting, modernist, Nicæa-defying, œcumenicalist, popish calendar...

I would like to wish all my readers on the New Calendar a very happy Christmas! =)

May you all be blessed.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why December 25th?

The following might answer a few questions about Christmas falling on December 25th :

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus' birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the 'Birth of the Unconquered Son' instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the 'pagan origins of Christmas' is myth without historical substance.

More HERE.

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Archbishop Vsevolod of Skopelos (1927 - 2007)

Блажени, яже избрал и приял еси, Господи...

It is with a profound depth of sadness that we hereby inform you of the repose, this evening of 16 December 2007 in the 80th year of his earthly pilgrimage, of His Eminence Archbishop Vsevolod, Eparch of the Western Eparchy of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Titular Hierarch of Skopelos of the Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

This beloved bishop - among this blogger's favourite - was a true ecumenist and bridge builder. As his brother bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America have written:

"Archbishop Vsevolod is well known amongst the world’s ecumenical leaders and in particular the on-going dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. He has represented our Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in all his ecumenical activities, in particular over the past ten years in repeated attempts to bring about ecclesiastical unity in his native Ukraine."

Ecclesiastical unity in Ukraine... may his efforts see fruition soon.

We'll miss you, Владыко Vsevolod.

Вечная Память!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

St Nicholas Day

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;
your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.
Holy Father Nicholas,
entreat Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

Troparion (4th Tone)

Many of you, my faithful readers, are familiar with the life and deeds of this most beloved of saints. Visitors who are not acquainted with the story of St Nicholas of Myra may find out more at this post from two years back: The Man Behind the Legend.

The tales of St Nicholas' exploits are well-known - in his most famous deed, he threw purses of gold into the home of a poor man with three daughters under the cover of night over a period of three nights (or years, depending where you hear it from), and in doing so, saved the three girls from prostitution. The second finds him at the Council of Nicaea, as a participant, where so incensed he became upon hearing Arius' heresy that he struck him down.

In addition, there are numerous folk tales that include St Nicholas as a central character - most of these come from the land of Russia, where St Nicholas is particularly well-loved; his image often appearing on triptychs with Jesus and the Mother of God. Numerous Russian cathedrals, monasteries, and churches have been dedicated to St Nicholas.

Here is one such tale:

Once upon a time, Ss Nicholas and Cassian were sent down from Heaven to visit the earth. It was fall when they came to Russia, where much of the country had turned into a quagmire of mud. The two saints, however, were dressed in white robes and floated just above the ground (and the mud).

As they walked—or floated—about, they met a farmer with a heavily loaded wagon. The load was so big that the wagon wheels had sunk deep into the mud. Horses pulled and men pushed, trying to get the wagon out.

St Nicholas said, "Let us help this poor man." St Cassian, looking at his white robe, said, "Oh, no. I couldn't possibly get into the mud — it would ruin my robe."

So St Nicholas, by himself, plunged in to give aid. With his help, the wagon was pushed right out of the mud. Everything was covered in mud: the horses, the wagon, the men, and St Nicholas, too.

The two saints went on their way, returning to Paradise with St Nicholas still covered in mud. St Peter met them at the pearly gates. He took one look at St Nicholas, asking, "Nicholas, what in heaven's name has happened to you?" St Nicholas explained about the man and the wagon.

Turning to St Cassian, St Peter asked, "Were you with Nicholas when this happened, Cassian? If so, why are you so clean?"

"Oh," Cassian replied, "I thought of Paradise and my beautiful robe and I didn't want to ruin it. Besides, I don't meddle in things that don't concern me."

"I see," said St Peter, "you, Nicholas, care deeply about the earth and helping a neighbor, while, you, Cassian, are only concerned with heaven. Is that right?" "Yes," said St Cassian.

"Ah, Nicholas," said St Peter, "you will be greatly loved by all Russia and shall have two feast days each year. And you, Cassian, will be remembered once a year, on the 29th of February."

And so it came to pass.

CAVEAT: The aforementioned story has no theological basis (being the creative product of pious Russians) and is not to be taken seriously.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The Strange World of Estella

Inspired by a conversation from last night...

Estella says:
Did I tell you what my mum just brought back tonight from Australia?
Estella says:
A 100-piece box of cookie cutters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Estella says:
I can make DINOSAURS!
Estella says:
The dinosaurs ridden by the Magi to Bethlehem

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Christ's Mass

Outside a Protestant church hangs a banner that reads, "Is yours a Christ-less Christmas?"

We ask, "Is yours a Mass-less Christmas?"

The Roman Church celebrates several feasts throughout the year which contain the -mas suffix, such as Candlemas (Presentation of Our Lord), Michaelmas (the feast of St Michael the Archangel) and the little-known Lammas (Loaf-mass Day, or the first wheat harvest of the year). The word "Christmas" is a contraction of the phrase "Christ's Mass", derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, which refers to what is properly known as the (Mass of the) Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord.

So, for this Christmas, do not stop at remembering Christ; remember the liturgy, the great gift the Church has given to us for celebration of the Eucharist!

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

We all know how terribly secularized Christmas has become, and with each passing year it seems that there is no way to cast off the materialism and return that day to what it once stood for.

So once again, Christians must go underground to preserve the true meaning of Christmas (something every holiday special on television speaks of but never really discovers). The march to secularize every symbolism and make meaningless every tradition goes ever on, but there are ways one can resist. I relate a tale of such a resistance. The story is probably apocryphal, but it is an encouraging and heartwarming one nonetheless:

During the English Reformation, Catholics in England were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law in public or private. It is said that the delightful nonsense rhyme, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written as one of the catechism songs to help young Catholics learn the tenets of the faith - as to be caught with anything in writing indicating even remote adherence to the Catholic faith would warrant serious punishment.

The gifts in the song are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song does not refer to any earthly suitor, but to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refer to every baptised person. The symbols in the song mean the following:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree = Christ as the partridge, the cross as the pear tree
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = The three gifts of the Magi, Faith, Hope, and Charity (the theological virtues), or the three Persons of the Trinity
4 Calling Birds = The Four Gospels/Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament)
6 Geese A-laying = The six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit or the seven sacraments
8 Maids A -milking = The eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = The Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping = The eleven faithful Apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = The twelve articles in the Apostles' Creed

Now, there are several flaws in this tale: the first, most obvious would be its use restricted only to Christmastime. How would such a song be useful then in aiding children to memorizing anything? Besides, these were basic articles of faith common to all denominations of Christianity; none of the aforementioned concepts would distinguish a Catholic from a Protestant.

In any case, the true meaning of this song has been lost to time. The author of this blog however, praises the anonymous one who accorded this song its meaning for his/her effort and time in reminding us once again that this holiday is a Christian one, and above all, the day "on which unseen grace is given man by the birth of the Word of God from the Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world", as it says in the Apostolic Constitutions.

Research carried out indicated that it is possible that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was perhaps confused with a song called "A New Dial" or "In Those Twelve Days", a song, which unfortunately, has been lost to time as well. Dating back to at least 1625, it assigns meaning to each of the twelve days, though it is doubtful that it was used to teach catechism. I do not know how its tune goes, but it is nonetheless a most splendid ditty to commit to memory this Christmastime.

Here it goes:

What are they that are but one?
We have one God alone
In heaven above sits on His throne.

What are they which are by two?
Two testaments, the old and new,
We do acknowledge to be true.

What are they which are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity
Which make one God in unity.

What are they which are but four?
Four sweet Evangelists there are,
Christ's birth, life, death which do declare

What are they which are but five?
Five senses, like five kings, maintain
In every man a several reign.

What are they which are but six?
Six days to labour is not wrong,
For God Himself did work so long.

What are they which are but seven?
Seven liberal arts hath God sent down
With divine skill man's soul to crown.

What are they which are but eight?
Eight Beatitudes are there given
Use them right and go to heaven.

What are they which are but nine?
Nine muses, like the heaven's nine spheres,
With sacred tunes entice our ears.

What are they which are but ten?
Ten statutes God to Moses gave
Which, kept or broke, do spill or save.

What are they which are but eleven?
Eleven thousand virgins did partake
And suffered death for Jesus' sake.

What are they which are but twelve?
Twelve are attending on God's Son;
Twelve make our creed. The Dial's done.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ecumenism Update

Relations between Rome and other Christians in a nutshell: Good progress with the Orthodox, bad with the mainline Protestants, so-so with the "evangelicals" and Pentecostals.

More HERE.

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