Tag Archives: Christianity

Today is Epiphany/Three Kings Day(Actual)

Adoración de los Reyes Magos
El Greco (1541–1614)
Public Domain

Epiphany or Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6 by most Western Christian denominations. It is the day set aside to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem and the presentation of their gifts to Jesus. The Catholic Church decided to move its observance to the Sunday after Christmas so people would not have to take off work to attend mass.  In 2021, since Christmas fell on a Saturday, it was celebrated the next day. However the traditional Twelve.Days of Christmas are still in play.

Twelfth Day observances vary by country and some celebrate it on the evening before. Usually there are special celebrations involving foods and special cakes. If a Christmas log was lit for the season, it is now extinguished. King cake (a traditional part of the feast) is almost always present. Children often get gifts of candy or other things from the Wise Men. In Italy, the Christmas Witch La Belfana delivers  gifts on Epiphany Eve to stockings children put up before bed. They awake to the delight of treats in the stockings. In Spain, it is celebrated as Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day) where families gather to celebrate the day.

One good way to celebrate it with the family is to gather before the  nativity to remember what the holiday is all about. Christmas music should be played and a nice midday meal served. Then taking down the Christmas tree can be done together. The nativity scene can remain up until the Baptism of the Lord (Jan 9 this year) which ends the Christmas season.

 

Today is Epiphany Sunday (Observed) (2 Jan 2022)

Adoración de los Reyes Magos
El Greco (1541–1614)
Public Domai

Today is Epiphany Sunday in most Christian liturgical calendars. It is normally observed on 6 January but since Christmas fell on a Saturday, it is celebrated on the nearest Sunday which is today. Thus the 12 Days of Christmas are still in effect and will continue until the actual date when the Christmas season generally ends for many. Most Eastern Orthodox churches and Russian Orthodox celebrate it using the Julian Calendar, so it occurs 13 days later. Their Advent Season is now taking place with Christmas Day on 7 Jan 2022.

Epiphany or Three Kings Day is to celebrate the baptism of Jesus and the arrival of The Magi (Three Kings or Wise Men). During the Middle Ages, this was a major feast day (a solemnity) requiring attendance at church on that day. However, it was decided (since its popularity began to wane) to move it to the Sunday followingChristmas. Some Protestant churches celebrate the Epiphany season from January 6 till Ash Wednesday. Orthodox Christians celebrate it on January 19 as they follow the Julian calendar.

Remembering the Children Killed by King Herod

Massacre of the Innocents
Matteo di Giovanni (1435–1495)
Public Domain

The Feast of the Holy Innocents or Innocent’s Day is to remember the slaughter of male children 2 years and younger in Bethlehem and in its vicinity by Herod the Great. The story as related in the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18). Herod was angered when the Wise Men did not return to him after locating the Messiah. No one can say with certainty how many were killed. Some have doubted it happened at all, but it would be consistent with Herod the Great’s personality. He had no problems executing even members of his family if he thought they were betraying him. And since Bethlehem was a small area, the slaughter may not have been widely noticed.

Nearly all the Christian churches observe the feast day though not on the same day. The Catholic Church and most western churches observe it on December 28 but Eastern Orthodox celebrates on December 29. The slain children are treated as martyrs of the church. It is not certain when it was first observed. While the exact date of the deaths is unknown, it is kept in the octave of Christmas as it followed the birth of Jesus. However, it is believed it took place sometime after Jesus’s birth. Matthew says the Wise Men saw the child with his mother indicating he was no longer a baby. And Herod had learned from the Wise Men the approximate date of the birth.

Sources:

Feast of Holy Family (26 Dec 2021)

 

The Flight into Egypt (Albrecht Dürer 1471-1528)
Photo: Public Domain

 

Scripture tells us little or nothing at all about the early years of Jesus. We know they had to flee to Egypt when God warned Joseph about Herod’s order to kill all males 2 years old or younger. We know they returned to Nazareth and what happened when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem. Yet there is something important that is passed over in our hurry to get to Jesus’ ministry. The Holy Family-Mary, Joseph and Jesus-are important symbols about the family. You have two loving parents devoted to raising their son and obeying God by raising him in their faith. Their love and respect for one another, God, and Jesus are important components of what God wants the family to be. Towards the end of the 19thcentury, Pope Leo XII (as did other popes) became concerned that the concept of the family was being diluted and in danger. So, he introduced the Feast of the Holy Family to venerate them as a model for Christian families in 1893 and set it originally on the Sunday after the Epiphany. This was changed in 1969 when it was moved to the first Sunday after Christmas to make it part of the Christmas season.

However in 2021, since Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, it will be celebrated on Sunday, 26 December. Normally this would be the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, but it has been bumped off the liturgical calendar for Catholics and other Christian denominations. In countries where it is a public holiday, it will be celebrated on Monday. Boxing Day in the UK (and other countries that observe it) will take place according to the local calendar (the UK celebrates it as a bank holiday on 28 Dec 21).

Sources:
Britannica.com
Catholic Culture
Churchyear.net
Teaching Catholic Kids

Merry Christmas

Titanic News Channel wishes everyone a blessed and joyous Christmas season.

 

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst 1590–1656)
Image: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

….And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

 

Christmas Eve: Silent Night

Silent Night (Stille Nacht in German, Silens Nox in Latin) is perhaps the most beloved Christmas Carol. It was composed in 1818 by Franz Guber, an organist and schoolmaster, to lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr of the St. Nicholas parish in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 and since the organ was broken, the only musical accompaniment was the guitar. The popularity of the song spread and the version commonly used today comes from a translation in 1859. John Freeman Young, serving as an Episcopal priest at Trinity Church in New York City, translated and changed the tempo of the song. The original rendition by Gruber was more like a dance tune and sung faster. Young made into a slower lullaby style that is the most common version today. Because it has been so widely translated, it is the one Christmas carol that is known worldwide.

In Austria, Silent Night is not heard until Christmas Eve, usually around 9 p.m. Then it is played on the radio once an hour and of course during church services.  Enjoy this wonderful carol. Merry Christmas!

 

Today is the Feast of Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)

Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)
Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and eye disorders and her feast day used to coincide with the Winter Solstice which is the day often celebrated as a festival of light in many places. Many stories and legends have become associated with her but research has failed to substantiate many of them. It is known she lived in Sicily early in the fourth century and was persecuted and executed for her faith. One story that is likely true is that she was denounced as a Christian by a suitor after she turned him down because of her faith. She faced torture and death for her beliefs. Because it is believed she was blinded during Roman torture, she is the patron saint of the blind.

Her feast day is celebrated in Scandinavian countries as a festival of light during the long winter night. A young girl in a white dress and red sash carries palms and wears a wreath of candles on head. Special rolls or cookies are made for the day and often handed out to the elderly. It is also celebrated in parts of Italy particularly in Sicily and in many places of the world today. There are many churches dedicated to her and the island of Santa Lucia in the Caribbean is named for her.

 

Information:

 

Today is the First Sunday of Advent

Advent Wreath (1st Sunday)
Photo :Micha L. Rieser(Wikimedia)

What Is Advent?

Advent on the Christian calendar is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a season of joy leading up to Christmas Day and also a time of preparation similar to Lent. Prayer, fasting and penance are part of the Advent season. The rules are not as strict as Lent but a time of self-preparation. The color purple is associated with penance. Each Advent Sunday is meant to ready oneself for rejoicing at the birth of Jesus that is to come. The Third Sunday of Advent is the anticipatory celebration and the color rose is used to represent joy.

The Advent wreath

Many homes and churches will have an Advent wreath to symbolize the season, and to mark each Sunday as it happens. The practice began by German Lutherans in the 18th century as a means of teaching Advent to children. The practice began to spread to Catholics and other Christian denominations as well.

Advent wreaths are circular to show that God’s love is infinite and is made with evergreen leaves. It used to be a family event to gather the leaves and make the wreath. The practice has resurfaced in recent years as many families now do this again. Advent wreaths made of artificial evergreens are available in a wide series of designs. Handmade ones can be made to last many years.

Advent: Dates, Traditions, and History(Infoplease.com)
The Catholic Encyclopedia

All Saints Day

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24)
Public Domain

All Saints’ Day (Solemnity of All Saints, All Hallows, Hallowmas or All Saints’)is celebrated on 1 November by most Western Christians and is to honor all saints known and unknown. In some Catholic countries, it is a holiday. It is a holy day of obligation for most Catholics except when it falls on a Saturday or Monday. In that case it is celebrated on Sunday. Eastern Orthodox is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost and is called All Saints’ Sunday.

Pope Boniface IV formally started All Saints’ Day on May 13, 609 AD. He also established All Souls’ Day to follow All Saints Day. Pope Gregory III (731-741 AD) moved it to 1 November as that was the day the foundation of a new chapel (St. Peter’s Basilica) was being laid. He wanted to dedicate the new chapel to All Saints. Halloween then became part of a three-day period called ‘Days of the Dead” which it is the first day of (the vigil), then followed by All Saints and then by All Souls (those in purgatory). During the reign of Pope Gregory IV (82y-844 AD), he decided to make the feast of All Saints (just celebrated in Rome at that point) universal meaning all dioceses had to observe it.

All Saints  Day is a public holiday in Ireland where all schools, businesses and government is closed.

Halloween

Halloween Decoration In Fall
Vera Kratochvil (publicdomainpictures.net)

October 31st is set aside as Halloween. It is not an official holiday (meaning government shuts down, banks closed, and many professional offices closed) but is celebrated nearly as one these days. There are really two separate Halloweens, one is secular and the other religious. The secular one most people easily understand. Kids dress up in silly or scary masks and go to homes asking for candy by yelling “trick or treat” to those who open their doors. Pumpkins have become associated with the day along with all kinds of scary decorations as well. Horror movies get shown during this time. Halloween has a religious meaning to that goes back to how the Catholic Church set the day up.

The original meaning of Halloween was All Hallows Eve that got contracted over time to Halloween. All Hallows Eve is the vigil of All Saints Day, a solemnity (meaning a major feast in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar). All Saints Day honors all the saints we know by name and any saint in heaven whose name is unknown to us. Originally this feast was celebrated 0n 13 May, but Pope Gregory III (731-741 AD) moved it to 1 November as that was the day the foundation of a new chapel (St. Peter’s Basilica) was being laid. He wanted to dedicate the new chapel to All Saints. Halloween then became part of a three-day period called ‘Days of the Dead” which it is the first day of (the vigil), then followed by All Saints and then by All Souls (those in purgatory).

All Souls’ Day by Jakub Schikaneder(1855-1924)
National Gallery Prague
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

During the reign of Pope Gregory IV (82y-844 AD), he decided to make the feast of All Saints (just celebrated in Rome at that point) universal meaning all dioceses had to observe it. This meant that people with their own cultures would celebrate in their own ways. It was customary in Europe back then (and still is) to have vigils the night before a major feast day, so All Hallows Eve became the time for observant Catholics to hold the vigil for All Souls. The purpose of celebrating these holy days is to remind us about heaven and hell. We remember the saints and honor them, and we pray for the souls that are in purgatory that they may soon go to heaven. It reminds us of  that we have choices to make in this life that can lead to one of two outcomes: heaven or hell. By striving to live good lives by following God’s teachings, we want to go to heaven rather than the other place.

The roots of Halloween are not founded in any pagan celebration (such as Samhain or Druid festivals), and it is just coincidence that it occurs during the same time frame. If you study what those festivals were about, they had nothing to do with Christianity and followed a different belief system. However, some Protestants have made that case (that Halloween was a pagan festival coopted by the Catholic church for All Saints and All Souls) to deny celebrating those holy days. The Puritans of New England forbade those to be celebrated along with Christmas and Easter. When Catholics from Europe began arriving in America, Protestants denounced such customs (celebrating Halloween, Christmas, and Easter) as pagan.

The English, French and Irish all brought their customs with them. The Irish loved carved Jack-o-Lanterns in turnips (changed to pumpkins since they are easier to carve!). The English had a custom of knocking on doors on Halloween for Soul Cakes and promising to pray for the departed of those who gave them these treats. All of these traditions began to meld here in America  becoming the basis of much what is called Halloween today. It was also combined with harvest celebrations as well making it time of fun, spooky tales, bobbing for apples, and enjoying good company. Sadly, All Hallows Eve has been hijacked by those who use it for darker things such as violence, horror, and sexuality. Someone dressing up in sexually explicit garments or glorifying horror is not what Halloween was meant for (either religious or secular).

That and the over commercialization of Halloween (it is a major marketing season for candy, apparel, haunted houses, and scary movies) has caused many faithful and concerned parents to shun those events and do things differently. That is why you are seeing more family friendly Halloween events and parties where those elements are not present. And doing some prayer in preparation for the feast of All Saints as well. Watching vulgar movies that glorify evil are avoided for ones that show good over evil or just plain fun (like the original Ghostbusters, the Good Witch movies). And telling some excellent ghost stories can also be fun as well.

Suggested Reading

Rossetti, Steven J. 2021. Diary of an American Exorcist: Demons, Possession, and the Modern-Day Battle against Ancient Evil. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press.

Rutler, George William. 2014. Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ & What They Mean for You. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press.

Van Den Aardweg, Gerard JM. 2009. Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory. Charlotte NC: Tan Books.

Baker, Robert A and Nickell, Joe. Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFO’s Psychics, & Other Mysteries. 1992. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books

Thigpen, Paul. 2019. Saints and Hell, and Other Catholic Witnesses to the Fate of the Damned. Charlotte NC: Tan Books.