Friday, January 6, 2017

A Blessed Epiphany


Updated from the Archives....

Today the Anglican Church, along with other liturgical churches, celebrate Epiphany. For once, Epiphany lands on a Friday, so we'll be celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany at our Friday Morning Prayer and Holy Communion service at Father Acker's home. I usually attend this weekly service which includes prayers for healing and anointing with oil, but this Friday we'll be celebrating Epiphany and thus we may have some additional attendees joining us . . . even though we gathered just last night to celebrate the Twelfth Night of Christmas and the Eve of the Epiphany.

The Epiphany, January 6th, marks the close of the Christmas Season with Twelfth Night (the Twelfth Day of Christmas) on January 5th. Epiphany, then, is a kind of extension of the Christmas season as we remember the events of Matthew 2 in which "wise men from the east" come to Judea, looking for the "infant King of the Jews." Herod asks his advisers about the Messiah, and they tell him that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
--Matthew 2:1-12, ESV

The Baptism of Jesus is celebrated a week later, on the Octave (8th day) of Epiphanytide, the day in which Christ was manifested as the Son of God, as related in Matthew 3:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest upon him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
--Matthew 3:13-17, ESV

From the CRI website:
The Season of Epiphany
Dennis Bratcher

In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King's Cake as part of the festivities of Epiphany. The Season of Christmas begins with the First Sunday of Advent, marked by expectation and anticipation, and concludes with Epiphany, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. The one or two Sundays between Christmas Day and Epiphany are sometimes called Christmastide. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. In some western traditions, the last Sunday of Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.

The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. The colors of Epiphany are usually the colors of Christmas, white and gold, the colors of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year. 

As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few. 

The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian brotherhood and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.


***


Our Collect for Epiphanytide from the Book of Common Prayer 2011, to be prayed throughout the Octave of the Epiphany:

O GOD, by the leading of a star you revealed your only eternal Son to the peoples of the earth; In your mercy grant that we, who know you now by faith, may after this life behold your glory and power face to face; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
***

The lyrics to the most popular Epiphany carol, often sung at Christmas:

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Refrain
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God on high.

Refrain

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

Refrain

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia!, Alleluia!,
Rings through the earth and skies.

Refrain


Music and lyrics by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., 1857

Note: Wikipedia tells us, "John Henry Hopkins, Jr. organized the carol in such a way that three male voices would each sing a single verse by himself in order to correspond with the three kings. The first and last verses of the carol are sung together by all three as 'verses of praise,' while the intermediate verses are sung individually with each king describing the gift he was bringing."

***

So as we enter Epiphanytide, the time in which Jesus was made manifest not only to the Jews but also to the Gentiles--basically, the fact that He came to save everyone, no matter which gender, race, religion, creed--we welcome Him into our hearts with joy and grateful hearts, "for this is the day which the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118.24).

Rejoicing with you this day,

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas!

A Christmas Card featuring the characters of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, circa 1865

Revised from the Archives . . .

Tonight is Twelfth Night...the last night of Christmastide. B and I will attend the Twelfth Night celebration with the fine people of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity at Father Acker's home. We'll burn greenery (mostly from my Advent swag) as Father Acker prays the Christmas Collects and then prays that the Light of Christ would shine through our lives into the darkness and into others' lives. 

Then we'll gather back in the house to enjoy sherry and trifle and other goodies, celebrating the final night of Christmas.

A past devotional from The High Calling is worth remembering on this day, the Twelfth Day of Christmas:
Jan 5, 2013
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...
by Mark D. Roberts

[P]raise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe. Psalm 150:4
Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas. For many of us, the notion of Christmas as a twelve-day season is quite foreign…except for the song. Almost all of us are familiar with "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and its collection of unusual gifts, including maids-a-milking, swans-a-swimming, gold rings, French Hens, Turtle Doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree. According to the song, on the twelfth and final day of Christmas, the singers "true love" gave "twelve drummers drumming." 
You won't find any drummers in Scripture, at least not in most English translations. But you will find people dancing while playing timbrels (for example, Exodus 15:20). In fact, Psalm 150:4 calls God's people to praise him "with timbrel and dancing," or, as some translations prefer, "with tambourine and dance" (ESV). The Hebrew term behind "timbrel, tambourine" is tof, which was a small percussion instrument held and struck by one's hand. It was, in effect, a small drum.
Psalm 150 exhorts us to praise the Lord with all sorts of musical instruments: trumpet, harp, lyre, timbrel, strings, pipe, and loud cymbals. The sense of the text is that we are to praise God with everything we have at our disposal. Thus, this is a fitting conclusion for our celebration of Christmas, which began with a great company of angels praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:13-14).
Praise is something we do, not only with our lips and our instruments, but also with our whole lives. You may recall that a few months ago we examined Ephesians 1:12, which says that we exist "for the praise of God's glory." We are alive for the purpose of praising God. But this does not mean we ought to put down our work and hurry to a worship service. On the contrary, we can and should praise God in all we do, including our work. So, if you happen to be a drummer, then by all means drum for God's glory. And if you happen to be a lawyer, then practice law for God's glory. And if you're a teacher, then teach for God's glory. And if you're a contractor, or a mother, or a banker, or a window washer, or…do it all for God's glory. 
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you live for God's praise? How might you praise God in your work? Your community? Your family? Your friendships? Your political activity? Your volunteer work? 
PRAYER: Lord, as we come to the end of the Christmas season, we end where we started…with praise. Today, we join the twelve drummers by praising you with all that you have given us. We offer our lives to you, so that we might exist for the praise of your glory. Amen. 

So as we celebrate the Twelfth Day of Christmastide and Twelfth Night tonight, may we worship the Light who shines through the darkness with the gift of salvation for all who believe.

A Joyous Twelfth Night to you and yours,


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Very, Very Last Book Reviews of 2016

From the BBC North and South miniseries, 2004 (currently available on Netflix)

Here are my final book reviews of 2016. The first two are variations of Elizabeth Gaskell's wonderful Victorian novel, North and South, and the third is a beloved Christian classic. Enjoy!


No Such Thing As Luck: A North and South Variation No Such Thing As Luck: A North and South Variation by Nicole Clarkston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, No Such Thing as Luck follows Margaret Hale after she has left Milton for London and receives an urgent note from her brother, Frederick, who lives in exile in Spain. Their dear friend, Mr. Bell, collapsed at Frederick's home while visiting him, and Frederick encourages Margaret to come to Spain to say her goodbyes to her beloved godfather.

At the same time, facing ruin after the strike at the mill, John Thornton hears of a possible partner for him who can obtain a fresh source of cotton that will make the mill profitable for the future, and he decides to sail to Spain to meet with this possible partner.

At the docks, Margaret, who left a note for her cousin and her family detailing her trip to Spain, plans to put herself under the protection of the captain as women do not usually travel alone on ships. But on the docks, Margaret is rammed and is injured, falling back on the man behind her who happens to be . . . John Thornton, the man she regrets refusing in Milton.

And the story proceeds from there . . . .

This is a stellar first novel by the uber-talented Nicole Clarkston, and her second variation of North and South is just as good. Fans of the book and/or the miniseries will definitely enjoy No Such Thing as Luck.


Northern Rain: A North & South Variation Northern Rain: A North & South Variation by Nicole Clarkston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just as with her first novel, No Such Thing as Luck, Nicole Clarkston captures the style and characters of Elizabeth's Gaskell's beloved novel North and South in her newest variation, Northern Rain.

After her refusal of John Thornton's hand in marriage, Margaret comes across John at his father's grave during a steady rain. They talk a bit, quite awkwardly in fact, and Margaret offers John the protection of her father's umbrella. Thus a friendship of sorts is kindled between them. Mr. Hale, however, is not doing well health-wise after the death of his wife, his mind often wandering, and one afternoon he inadvertently reveals the name of his exiled son, Frederick, to John Thornton during their lessons. John is thrilled to discover that the man with Margaret at the train depot was her brother. But between problems at the mill and the machinations of others who try to befriend both Margaret and John, their reputations are soon on the line. Will their budding romance be able to bloom in the Northern Rain, or will both fail, John in business and Margaret in reputation?

I read most of this book in a single day--Yay, Christmas vacation!! It was absolutely enthralling. Anyone who loves either the North and South book or the miniseries (or both!!) will thoroughly enjoy Nicole Clarkston's Northern Rain.



My Utmost for His Highest My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Christians are to read only one book *ever* on Christian formation, this book is the one to read. The wisdom of Oswald Chambers' famed My Utmost for His Highest is spread out over 365 daily readings. I started this journey on the first day of 2016 and finished it today, the final day.

Written in 1935, the language is a bit archaic, but at the same time, the old-fashioned words and wordings raises this book out of the ordinary into the extraordinary. It's an otherworldly book--there's no other way to describe it.

I've read parts of this book over the years, but never cover-to-cover, on a daily basis throughout the entire year. It's inspiring and convicting at the same time. Oswald pulls no punches, and there were definitely times when I felt a bit bruised. (And more than a bit at times!) But that's a good thing. Oswald rips through any pretensions to complacency, and while it's an uncomfortable journey at times, it's definitely a necessary one.

How else can we put forth our utmost for God's highest?


View all my reviews and here also is the link to my Goodreads Year in Books 2016 (I wish I could download this wonderful infographic of my Year in Books 2016 right into this blog, but it only shares to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sigh...).

This year (2017), I plan to post a monthly collection of book reviews from Goodreads. I love having the option to save my reviews directly onto my blog as a draft, so I just cut and paste them all into a single post. Easy-peasy. And all of these reviews are also posted on Amazon as well. I think that reviewing books, especially those of fairly new authors, is one way to give back for the enjoyment of reading their work. I am strict with my ratings; my ratings average for 2016 was 4.2 on Goodreads, and my overall Goodreads average is 3.8. So when I give a "5," I truly mean it!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Last Book Reviews of 2016...Well, Almost.


Okay, here are my final set of book reviews from 2016. I have thirteen books left from my 2016 reviews on Goodreads, but I'm going to try ("try" is the operative word!) to cull them down to my favorites.

I have saved three outstanding books for a final post tomorrow because they are not variations or continuations of Jane Austen's novels. And all three received 5's on my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. Plus, the reviews are longer and more thoughtful than usual, so they deserve their own post.


All Hallow's Eve All Hallow's Eve by Wendi Sotis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice was one of the most intriguing and memorable of the hundreds of variations I've read over the last few years, and the reason is the theme of paranormal/fantasy that weaves its way into the romance of Darcy and Elizabeth. There is a very different plot here than Austen's original, and it goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Elizabeth is the Druidic High Priestess, and Darcy finds that the family sword over the main fireplace at Pemberley is meant for the High Priestess' protection. Thus, he is destined to be the Soul Mate of the High Priestess.

Each All Hallow's Eve, the High Priestess admits the spirits of those passed to eternity a visit with their descendants. But hundreds of years ago, an evil spirit managed to stay behind when the spirits are gathered to return, and its presence may wreak havoc upon earth. And it is up to the High Priestess and her Soul Mate to stop his wicked plans.

This book was nearly unputdownable. (Yeah, yeah, it's not a word, but it describes this book's compelling qualities perfectly.) Especially if one enjoys paranormal suspense, this variation of Pride and Prejudice will be a page-turner!

I rarely give "5" scores to books that are not classics, but this variation was simply outstanding. Extraordinary. I was up until 3:00 AM, trying to finish it. It's really, truly, seriously *that* good.


Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet by Marilyn Brant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting modern take on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is a social worker with a young son who is talked into trying Lady Catherine's Love Match website. Meanwhile, physician William Darcy is also talked into trying the site by a fun-loving Charles Bingley who dangles funding for Darcy's proposed clinic as the carrot.

And thus the clash of two worlds begins, with much deception on both sides, many misunderstandings, and finally . . . acknowledgment that Lady Catherine's Love Match site had indeed set them up for their Perfect Match.

I like modern adaptations of Austen's works well enough, but the 19th century Brit Lit fangirl that I am usually prefers period variations. This was definitely one of the better modern takes; it was definitely entertaining and amusing. Well done, Ms. Brant!!


Mr. Darcy's Letter: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Mr. Darcy's Letter: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth elects to not read Darcy's letter at Hunsford, and thus Elizabeth returns to Longbourn with no idea that Wickham is a cad, placing her family in harm's way. She also still thinks the worst of Mr. Darcy as well. But then circumstances--and Darcy--intervene, and Elizabeth finally understands the truth. But will it be too late?

Abigail Reynolds is one of the best of the many, many writers of Austen variations, continuations, sequels, vagaries, adaptations, or whatever else one wants to call the proliferation of books based on Austen's novels. And this book, read in fleeting moments between the grading of MLA research essays, was a delightful diversion from parenthetical citations and the new Works Cited formatting. I cannot recommend reading her books highly enough.

If anyone were to want to begin reading books based on Austen's novels, Abigail Reynolds is the author with whom to start. The first Austen variations I ever read were written by her and obtained through our county library (via the statewide [California] service called LINK+), and I've been hooked ever since, as my Goodreads "Read" page indicates.


A Merry Christmas Chase A Merry Christmas Chase by Monica Fairview
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(NOT an Austen variation this time!) Cherry, daughter of the village rector, is devoted to the people of her father's parish, many of whom live on the brink of starvation due to the profligate ways of the Earl. But when the Earl dies and a new Lord Carsdale takes his place, Cherry, disguised as a lad, is caught poaching with her bow and arrow. Knowing that she is facing a hanging offense, Cherry knocks out Carsdale with a branch and escapes.

Because Lord Carsdale is determined to find the young poacher, Cherry's father sends her to her aunt's manor house where she is presented to society. But when Lord Carsdale appears at her aunt's manor as a guest for the Christmastide celebrations, Cherry must use all of her ingenuity to avoid his recognizing her as the young poacher, leading him on a very merry chase.

A fun and light read, I quite enjoyed the break that this book provided as I read snippets here and there between grading MLA research essays. A wonderful way to escape reality for an afternoon and/or evening!


This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Christina Morland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Elizabeth is informed the very afternoon of the Meryton Assembly that her father is dying of cancer, she has quite the burden to bear, especially knowing that her family must leave Longbourn after her father's death because of the entail on the estate. Mr. Darcy is also struggling with familial problems in that Georgiana has been removed from his care following the debacle at Ramsgate and is extremely unhappy at Rosings Park with Lady Catherine. But being married would give Darcy the legal standing needed to gain back custody of his sister.

After several frank conversations at and following the Meryton Assembly where they meet and talk on the balcony, Elizabeth and Darcy decide to marry, thus providing for the Bennet family after Mr. Bennet's demise and hopefully regaining custody of Georgiana. But when all does not go to plan, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves happier than they ever thought could result from a marriage of convenience.

A very different variation, focusing as much on Georgiana's growth and decisions as it does on Elizabeth's family as her father's health fails. Nothing seems to go as planned, yet This Disconcerting Happiness gives them both the strength to carry on while grieving with one another.


Mr. Darcy's Proposal Mr. Darcy's Proposal by Susan Mason-Milks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somehow, I've read a lot of variations of Pride and Prejudice which start with an illness or the death of Mr. Bennet. In Mr. Darcy's Proposal, Darcy arrives at the parsonage, ready to propose marriage to Elizabeth, only to find her reading a letter from Jane reporting on her father's grave illness. Saving his proposal for later, Darcy, along with Colonel Fitzwilliam, offer to take her home the very next morning in Darcy's carriage. On their way to Longbourn, Darcy discovers Elizabeth's true feelings for him and wisely decides to work on helping her and building a friendship before he pursues her romantically. So how does Darcy do? Will Elizabeth indeed think better of him once she sees his kindness and compassion in action?

Another delightful Austen variation by one of the authors frequently featured on the website Austen Variations, Mr. Darcy's Proposal is a terrific read, indeed!


Sway Sway by Melanie Stanford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A modern take on Jane Austen's Persuasion, Sway takes us into the life of Ava, the middle sister of three who has returned to Los Angeles after eight years in New York at Juilliard, studying piano. Her former-soap star father and elder socialite sister, Beth, aren't terribly welcoming when she arrives home, but her Aunt Rose does her best to welcome Ava. And Beth's clingy friend Shelby is an immediate concern as she's obviously a star-struck hanger-on. But her father's and sister's overspending on designer clothing forces them to lease their beautiful Hollywood Hills home and "retrench" by moving to the Malibu beach house. Ava is surprised to discover that the people leasing Kellynch are related to her old boyfriend (and former fiance) from high school, Eric Wentworth, who is now a fairly successful rat-pack style singer. After leaving him eight years ago, Ava is now faced with his hatred. And thus the story goes from there....

A very parallel modern updating of Persuasion, Sway is definitely entertaining; it's a compelling read that had me turning pages (or, in the case with my Kindle, tapping pages) quite rapidly.

View all my reviews


Wishing you all a healthy and blessed 2017 and a joyous Ninth Day of Christmas,

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!! Welcome, 2017!


Updated from the Archives....

As we ring in the New Year of 2017, I thought this lovely poem which floated quietly in my e-mail inbox, courtesy of Poets.org, a few years ago which perfectly expresses the New Year's cliché of "out with the old, in with the new." After all, Tennyson wasn't one for cliches, thank goodness!

2016 has been a rough year for many others besides us. We nearly lost our home. Keith had little to no work for much of the year. I was overworked, trying to keep the family afloat with working from home while homeschooling our youngest. Those of us with genetic mutations (E, T, myself, and likely B) had a very rough year, both physically and emotionally. Our household has been far less than peaceful. And then there's the election and the loss of many talented people this year, both the famous and the "ordinary." (Not that anyone is truly ordinary...)

So we pray for a fresh, new year with a fresh, new outlook, mindset, and love for God and others.

So as we return soon from the rush and exhaustion and joy and pain that make up the Holy Days with a selection from one of my favorite Tennyson poems, one which always brings to mind my beloved Brit Lit professor, Dr. Arthur Seamans, who used to quote this poem in an appropriately ringing voice:

From In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (published 1849)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
So as we ring out all that was evil, injurious, sad, wrong, unjust, hurtful, grievous, and sinful in 2016, may we welcome all that is brave, true, right, courageous, beautiful, holy, lovely, sacred, and godly in 2017!!

From the Book of Common Prayer 2011:
For Guidance
O GOD, by you the humble are guided in doing right; Your light illumines the darkness for those who trust in you; In our doubts and uncertainties, give us grace to ask what you would have us do, so that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices; In your light may we see light, and in your straight path may we not stumble; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Sources: Psalm 26.9; 36.9; John 1.5; Jeremiah 17.7)
May God grant us all a healthy and blessed New Year of 2017 as we strive to follow the example of Christ our Lord as we live, serve, and love in His ways.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! And a Happy Eighth Day of Christmastide as well!!

Praying to follow the Light, this year and always,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Fourth Day of Christmas: The Holy Innocents

Massacre of the Holy Innocents by Antonio Visconti, courtesy of AmericanCatholic.org

Collected from several archived posts plus new material...

Although today is the Fourth Day of Christmas, it is not a particularly joyful day. December 28 marks the remembrance of the Holy Innocents, the male children aged two and under, who were ordered to be killed by the paranoid King Herod "the Great." Most Biblical historians seem to believe that only about twenty children were murdered as a result of Herod's inhumane order, but even the death of one child would make this day one of sorrowful remembrance.

Yet this event was foretold in the Old Testament as Saint Matthew tells us in his gospel, Matthew 2:13-18 (ESV), which is also the Gospel reading for this day:


13 Now when they [the Wise Men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted,
because they are no more.”



The Collect for this day, the Holy Innocents, from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

ALMIGHTY God, whose innocent children cried out in suffering at the hands of Herod; Remove from us all evil desires, and by your grace, may we be innocent in our lives and constant in our faith, even at our death, so that our voices may glorify your holy Name; Through Jesus Christ who suffered for us, and now lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always. Amen. (References: Psalm 8.2; Matthew 2.16-18; Philippians 3.13-14)


* * *

From AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day e-mail:

Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.
Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.
Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

Reflection

The Holy Innocents are few, in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth—a human person, destined for eternity and graced by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
* * *
The "Coventry Carol" of the 15th century also reminds us of the slaying of the Holy Innocents which we recall today:Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child
By by, lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By by, lully lullay

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling
For whom we do sing
By by, lully lullay?

Herod, the king
In his raging
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might 

In his own sight,
All young children to slay

That woe is me
Poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting
Neither say nor sing
By by, lully lullay! 

Entrance to the "old" cemetery at the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California

On the occasions that I have visited the lovely San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside, one of the original California Missions that remains an active parish to this day, I have found myself drawn to the cemetery. (I love cemeteries,especially old ones; I find them to be places of great peace and wholeness.) When we visit San Luis Rey where our dear friends' daughter is resting in peace, I always stop to pause at the marker inside one of the entrances to the old portion of the mission cemetery (pictured above) which remembers the Holy Innocents who have died via abortion and their mothers who have suffered as a result. whether one supports or opposes abortion, most women who have undergone the process, whatever their reasons may be, suffer greatly as a result. So we pray peace for them and for a happy reunion with their children in heaven. I can't help to be touched by these sacred places and glimpse the grief of the Rachels of this world.  

If you live in the San Diego area, stop by there sometime. Enjoy the gorgeous architecture, the amazing church, the wonderful history. Then stroll around through the cemetery and give a thought and a prayer for those Innocents who have perished, both 2000 years ago in Bethlehem as well as daily in our country and around the world, from both abortion and from the scourge of genocide.


Lord, grant them eternal rest; 
May your everlasting light shine upon them.

In His peace,


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Third Day of Christmas: The Feast Day of St. John

Saint John the Evangelist attributed to Flemish artist David de Haen, 1621

Updated from the Archives....

Today is the Third Day of Christmas and also the Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist. 

Following is the Collect for the Day from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

MERCIFUL Lord, let the bright beams of your light shine upon your Church; By the teaching of blessed John, the apostle and evangelist, may we be enlightened and walk in the light of your truth, so that we may finally come to everlasting life; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (References: 1 John 1.3-6; John 8.12, 12.35; Revelation 21.23-24)

The Bible Readings for today are from the First Epistle of St. John 1:1-10, and from the Gospel according to St. John 21.19-25.  

Allow me to share the Epistle reading, quoted from the English Standard Version of the Bible:

1 John 1:1-10, ESV:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

St. John's is my favorite Gospel, perhaps my favorite book in the New Testament. John's Gospel reveals Jesus the Divine so wonderfully as it focuses on Christ's last week on earth as the Son of Man. His prayer for unity among His followers in the 17th chapter is perhaps my favorite chapter, with the sixth chapter a close runner-up. I love how St. John refers to himself throughout the Gospel as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and that he relates how Jesus, hanging on the cross, entrusted His Mother to St. John.

The daily email from AmericanCatholic.org relates this information about St. John the Divine (as he is called to distinguish him from the many other Johns who became saints):


It is God who calls; human beings answer. The vocation of John and his brother James is stated very simply in the Gospels, along with that of Peter and his brother Andrew: Jesus called them; they followed. The absoluteness of their response is indicated by the account. James and John “were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21b-22).

For the three former fishermen—Peter, James and John—that faith was to be rewarded by a special friendship with Jesus. They alone were privileged to be present at the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemane. But John’s friendship was even more special. Tradition assigns to him the Fourth Gospel, although most modern Scripture scholars think it unlikely that the apostle and the evangelist are the same person.

John’s own Gospel refers to him as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2), the one who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, and the one to whom he gave the exquisite honor, as he stood beneath the cross, of caring for his mother. “Woman, behold your son....Behold, your mother” (John 19:26b, 27b).

Because of the depth of his Gospel, John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter. But the ever-frank Gospels reveal some very human traits. Jesus gave James and John the nickname, “sons of thunder.”

On the first Easter, Mary Magdalene “ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him’” (John 20:2). John recalls, perhaps with a smile, that he and Peter ran side by side, but then “the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first” (John 20:4b). He did not enter, but waited for Peter and let him go in first. “Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8).

John was with Peter when the first great miracle after the Resurrection took place—the cure of the man crippled from birth—which led to their spending the night in jail together. The mysterious experience of the Resurrection is perhaps best contained in the words of Acts: “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they [the questioners] were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The evangelist wrote the great Gospel, the letters and the Book of Revelation. His Gospel is a very personal account. He sees the glorious and divine Jesus already in the incidents of his mortal life. At the Last Supper, John’s Jesus speaks as if he were already in heaven. It is the Gospel of Jesus’ glory.

Comment:
It is a long way from being eager to sit on a throne of power or to call down fire from heaven to becoming the man who could write: “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

He wrote what may be called a summary of the Bible: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16).



So I wish you all a joyous Third Day of Christmastide and a blessed remembrance of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist! 

With warmest Christmastide wishes,

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Second Day of Christmas: St. Stephen and Boxing Day



From the Archives....

"Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen...."

Many, if not most evangelicals, have no idea when the "Feast of Stephen" referenced in the above carol occurs. For many, the day after Christmas is the day to clean up the detritus of Christmas and to pack away the tree and other decorations as Christmas is now over. Some head to malls to return gifts or to take advantage of "After-Christmas" sales. Until about twelve years ago, I was one of them, although our family tradition was to pack up the Christmas decorations on New Year's Day.

But as I've learned more about liturgical worship, specifically Anglican traditions, I've unearthed several joyful surprises. The first, and most important, is that Christmas Day is only the FIRST Day of Christmas, which lasts for twelve days, finishing with a wonderful Twelfth Night feast. Thus today is merely the Second Day of Christmas, and we have much more celebrating to do over the next ten days or so!

I also discovered the uniquely English tradition, also practiced in Australia and Canada, of Boxing Day. I found this explanation on 
the British Shoppe website:

Boxing Day takes its name from the ancient practice of opening boxes that contained money given to those who had given their service during the year. It was also the day when alms boxes, placed in churches on Christmas Day, were opened. The money was then given to the priest or used to help the poor and needy. Another name for Boxing Day used to be Offering Day.
The earliest boxes of all were not box shaped, as you might imagine, nor were they made of wood. They were, in fact, earthenware containers with a slit in the top (rather like piggy banks.) 
During the seventeenth century it became the custom for apprentices to ask their master’s customers for money at Christmas time. They collected this money in earthenware containers, which could be opened only by being smashed, and on Boxing Day the apprentices would eagerly have a ‘smashing time’, hence the expression, seeing how much they had collected. 
A later tradition, and the one which has survived to this day, was the distribution of Christmas ‘boxes’, gifts of money to people who had provided services throughout the year – the postman, the lamp-lighter, parish beadles, parish watchmen, dustmen and turn-cocks – which happened on the day after Christmas Day. 
Thus, we have a lovely gift bag of toffee to deliver to our lovely postmistresses at the Pine Valley Post Office. With Elizabeth utilizing their services frequently for her doTERRA business, they have been extremely helpful. Plus, in a town too small for home mail delivery, the post office becomes a hub for neighbor meeting neighbor and for visiting with our postmistresses who seem to resemble the Three Graces of yore as they problem-solve and assist us so kindly.



So today is a three-fold day: the 2nd Day of Christmas, Boxing Day, and the Feast of St. Stephen. As Stephen's assignment as Deacon in the early church involved caring for the poor, we also ought to remember the story told in the carol, "Good King Wenceslas." One of my favorite Christmas devotional books, Christ in the Carols, tells of King Wenceslas:
"King Wenceslas the Holy, who ruled Bohemia from A.D. 1378 to 1419, was known for his good works and his care of the poor.... Rather than order his servants to leave a few morsels for the underprivileged peasant or send his page out to find the man and deliver some seasonal gift, Wenceslas chooses to take action himself. Leaving the warmth of his castle, the king braves fierce wind and bitter cold to search out the man. Whether factual or myth, Wenceslas' great compassion in this song reflects God's heart for the lost and the poor.
"Jesus said that he came to seek and save the lost. This is the primary reason that God chose to become man. Not content to send others in his place, the King of glory left heaven and came looking for us. Braving hostile elements, even unto death, he personally sought us out.... Like the page, we are to follow in our Master's footsteps as He continues to pursue the abandoned, the orphaned, the poor, and the lost...."
All we know about Saint Stephen is taken right from the Acts of the Apostles, written by Saint Luke. In the sixth chapter of Acts, Stephen is named as one of the deacons, "men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (v. 3) to make sure that all of the widows were adequately cared for. In the eighth verse, we read: "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the peoples," for which reason Stephen was arrested, falsely accused of blasphemy. As Stephen heard the false charges laid upon him, "all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel" (v. 15). At that point, Stephen speaks before the council, relating the history of Israel from Abraham to Jacob to Moses to Solomon, and he finished his "defense" with these words: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye always did resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye" (v. 51). Their response can be read in the Epistle written below. 

The Epistle reading for today from the Book of Common Prayer 2011 is from the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, relating the martyrdom of Saint Stephen:

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him [Stephen]. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice,“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. --English Standard Version 

The Gospel reading for Saint Stephen's Day is from the 21st chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, starting at the 34th verse:

34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes,some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,[a] whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” -English Standard Version
Jesus' words of condemnation to Jerusalem which mentioned the murders of the righteous, from A to Z (Abel to Zechariah). Christ's Words to Jerusalem often makes me tear up; His sorrow is palpable as he cries out to those He loves enough to sacrifice His life to save.


And today is also the Feast Day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Here is the Collect (collective or public prayer) for this day from The Book of Common Prayer 2011:
GRANT, O Lord, that in our earthly sufferings in witness to your truth, we may always look to heaven, and by faith see the coming glory that shall be revealed; And, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may we learn to love and bless our persecutors, following the example of your first martyr Stephen who called to you, blessed Jesus, our only Mediator and Advocate, who stands at the right hand of God, helping all who suffer for your sake; Who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (References: Acts 7.56; John 15.20; 1 Peter 4.13-14; 2 Corinthians 4.17-18)

Saint Stephen was the first martyr of the Church, and his feast day, falling on the Second Day of Christmas, reminds us that in the midst of the joys of Christmastide is also the cross, borne by Christ and His devoted followers.

Here is the closing of the familiar carol, "Good King Wenceslas": the end of the fifth verse:


"Therefore Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,

Ye who now will bless the poor,

shall yourselves find blessing."

May we follow the advice of the final stanza of this familiar carol, especially on this, the Second Day of Christmastide!

Celebrating Christmastide with you,

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