Showing posts with the label #Time

Sundays in Lent.

If you’re observing Lent, and fasting in some form during that time, you get Sundays off. We don’t fast on feast days, and Sabbath (which for most Christians is Sunday) is always a feast day. So you get little holidays from your Lenten fast. Gave up coffee? Have a coffee. Try not to overcompensate though.Since all these Sundays are little breaks from fasting, they feel a little extra special during Lent, and over the centuries Christians have treated ’em as extra-special days. Even given them special names. And when I, or other Christians, refer to these names, sometimes curious Christians wanna know what that’s all about. Is there anything important we’re meant to do or remember about these Sundays?Nah, not really.The names come from the first words of the prayer book or missal, used in liturgical churches as part of their services. They’re the first word of the first prayer in the order of service. The traditional names of the Sundays in Lent come from the first words of the German …

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Pádraig of Ireland, whom we know as St. Patrick or St. Paddy, is celebrated on the date of his death in 17 March 493.In the United States, Irish Americans (and pretty much everyone else, ’cause the more the merrier) tend to treat the day as a celebration of Irish culture. Thing is, Americans know little to nothing about actual Irish culture. We barely know the difference between an Irish accent, a Scots accent, and a Yorkshire accent. What we do know is Guinness, though we’ll settle for anything alcoholic, including beer filled with green food coloring. Me, I used to love McDonald’s “shamrock shakes,” though I had one more recently and found it way too sweet for my liking. It’s because they take an already-sugary vanilla shake, then add sugary green mint stuff to it. I much prefer adding vanilla and mint to a Starbucks Frappuccino.Most American customs consist of drinking, eating stereotypical Irish food like corned beef and potatoes, parades in which the religious participants expres…

Ash Wednesday: Lent begins.

Many of the Christians I grew up with consider this “a Catholic thing,” but the Easter-season Lenten fast predates Roman Catholics by centuries. In the year 325, the first council of Nicea made reference to a 40-day fast before Easter. They didn’t spell out the details of how they observed it, but the τεσσαρκοστή/tessarkostí, “fortieth” fast day before Easter, is when it starts—and that’d be Ash Wednesday.Ancient custom was to go without food till sundown for each of the fast days. (Skipping one day a week, ’cause you don’t fast on Sabbath.) Among eastern Christians this evolved into a 40-day fast till Holy Week, which started on Clean Monday a week before. Among western Christians it’s Ash Wednesday to Easter.Ash Wednesday gets its name from the western custom of putting ashes on our heads. Sometimes they’re sprinkled on one’s head as part of a ritual, but in English-speaking countries the custom is to use ashes to draw a cross on Christians’ foreheads. A new custom cropped up in the…

Lenten fasting. (It’s optional, you know.)

Lent is the English term for the 40-day period before Easter in which Christians fast, abstain, and otherwise practice self-control. (Assuming we practice such things at all.) In Latin it’s called quadragesima and in Greek it’s σαρακοστή/sarakostí, short for τεσσαρκοστή/tessarkostí—both of which mean “fortieth,” ’cause 40 days.It starts Ash Wednesday, which isn’t 40 precise days before Easter; it’s 46. That’s because the six Sundays before Easter aren’t included. You don’t fast on feast days, and Sabbath is a feast day; it’s when we take a weekly break from our Lenten fasts. Many Christians don’t realize this, and wind up fasting Sundays too—since they’ve got that abstention momentum going anyway.And for eastern Christians, Lent begins the week before Ash Wednesday, on Clean Monday. Partly because they don’t skip Sundays, and fast that day too; and partly ’cause their Lenten fast consists of the 40 days before Holy Week. Then they have a whole different fast for that week.But no matte…

Shrovetide: Getting ready for Lent.

Christmas definitely gets all the secular attention, but Easter is most definitely Christianity’s biggest holiday. ’Cause Christ is risen. Jesus is alive. His being alive, confirms everything. So we Christians put a lot into it……and kinda go overboard. That’s what shrovetide is about. You may already know before Easter we have that fasting period which English-speakers call Lent. Well, before Lent there’s a whole other season called shrovetide, in which Christians prepare for Lent.Shrovetide starts the ninth Sunday before Easter. Since that’s 63 days before, western Christian custom rounds that up to 70 and calls it Septuagesima Sunday (from the Latin for 70, of course). The Sunday after that is 56 days before, so round it up again and it’s Sexagesima Sunday (for 60); and the Sunday after that is 48 days before, so Quinquagesima Sunday (for 50), and that’s today. Although more Christians simply call this day Shrove Sunday, the Sunday before Lent starts. And the last day of shrovetide …

Candlemas: Remembering when Jesus got presented in temple.

In Leviticus the LORD told Moses the following.Leviticus 12.1-8 KWL1 The LORD told Moses, 2“When you speak to Israel’s children, say,This is about a woman who conceives and bears a male.She’s ritually unclean seven days, just like she’s unclean during the days of her period.3On the eighth day, circumcise the flesh of the baby’s foreskin.4Have the mother sit 33 days, for purification from blood.She mustn’t touch anything holy, can’t come to sanctuary, till her purification days are full.5If she bears a female, she’s unclean two weeks, like her period;have her sit 66 days, for purification from blood.6When the mother’s purification days are full, for a son or daughter,she must bring a lamb, born that year, for a burnt offering,and a pigeon chick, or dove, for a sin offering.Bring them to the meeting tent’s door, to the priest.7The priest offers it to the LORD’s face, to cover the mother.She’s now ritually clean from her bloodflow.This law is for any woman who begets male or female.8If t…

St. Stephen, and true martyrdom.

St. Stephen’s Day falls on 26 December, the second day of Christmas. Not that we know Stephen died on this day; it’s just where western tradition happened to put it. In eastern churches it’s tomorrow, 27 December. (And if they’re still using the old Julian calendar, it’s 9 January to us.) In some countries it’s an official holiday.You may remember Στέφανος/Stéfanos “Stephen” from Acts 6-7. Yep, he’s that St. Stephen.In the ancient Hebrew culture, tithes weren’t money, but food. Every year you took 10 percent of your firstfruits and celebrated with it; Dt 14.22-27 every third year you gave it to the needy. Dt 14.28-29 Apparently the first Christians took on the duty of distributing tithes to the needy. But they were accused of favoring Aramaic-speaking Christians over Greek-speaking ones. Ac 6.1 So the Twelve had the church elect seven Greek-speakers to take over the job. Ac 6.2-3 Stephen was first in this list, and Acts’ author Luke pointedly called him full of faith and the Holy Spir…

Twelve days of Christmas.

Today’s the first day of Christmas. Happy Christmas!And there are 11 more days of it. Tomorrow, which is also Boxing Day and St. Stephen’s Day, tends to get called “the day after Christmas,” but it’s not. It’s the second day of Christmas.The Sunday after Christmas (and in many years, including 2020, two Sundays after Christmas) is still Christmas. So I go to church and wish people a happy Christmas. And they look at me funny, till I remind them, “Christmas is 12 days, y’know. Like the song.”Ah, the song. They sing it, but it never clicks what they’re singing about.On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to meA partridge in a pear tree.On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to meTwo turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to meThree french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to meFour calling birds, three french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge i…

St. Nicholas’s Day. (Yep, it’s this early in the month.)

Whenever kids ask me whether Santa Claus is real, I’ll point out he is based on an actual guy. That’d be Nikólaos of Myra, whose feast day is today, 6 December, in honor of his death on this date in the year 343.Here’s the problem: There are a whole lot of myths mixed up with Nicholas’s life. And I’m not just talking about the Santa Claus stories, whether they come from Clement Moore’s poem, L. Frank Baum’s children’s books, the Rankin-Bass animated specials, or the various movies which play with the Santa story. Christians have been making up stories about Nicholas forever.That’s why it gets a little frustrating when people ask about the facts behind St. Nicholas: We’re not sure we do have facts behind St. Nicholas. All we do know with any certainty is he was the bishop of Myra. The other stories: We honestly have no idea what parts of them are true, and what parts are exaggerations—or full-on fabrications. It could be all fiction.But I’ll share what we’ve got, and you can take it fr…

Thanksgiving Day.

In the United States, we have a national day of thanksgiving on November’s fourth Thursday.Whom are we giving thanks to? Well, the act which establishes Thanksgiving Day as one of our national holidays, provides no instructions whatsoever on how we’re to observe it. Or whom we’re to thank.Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the last Thursday in November in each year after the year 1941 be known as Thanksgiving Day, and is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22d day of February, the 30th day of May, the 4th day of July, the first Monday of September, the 11th day of November, and Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays.—77th Congress, 6 October 1941
House Joint Resolution 41The Senate amended it to read “fourth Thursday in November,” and President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law. So it’s a holiday. But left undefine…


Or “Resurrection Sunday,” for those who are paranoid about what “Easter” might mean.On 5 April 33, before the sun rose at 5:23 a.m. in Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Executed only two days before, he became the first human on earth to be resurrected.Jesus died the day before Passover. This was deliberate. This way his death would fulfill many of the Passover rituals. Because of this relationship to Passover, many Christians actually call this day some variation of the Hebrew פֶּסַח/Pesákh, “Passover.” In Greek and Latin (and Russian), it’s Pascha; in Danish Påske, Dutch Pasen, French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Spanish Pascua, Swedish Påsk.But in many Germanic-speaking countries, including English, we use the ancient pagan word for April, Eostur. In German this becomes Ostern; in English Easter.Because of the pagan origins of the word, certain Christians avoid it and just call the day “Resurrection Sunday.” (Which is fine, but confuses non-Christians.)Easter is our most …

Holy Week: When Jesus died.

Our yearly remembrance of Jesus’s death.Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of what we Christians call Holy Week. It’s also called Great Week, Greater Week, Holy and Great Week, Passion Week, Easter Week (by those people who consider Easter the end of the week), and various other titles. It remembers the week Jesus died.It took place 9–17 Nisan 3793 in the Hebrew calendar; and in the Julian calendar that’d be 29 March to 4 April of the year 33.DAYDATEJESUS’S ACTIVITYPALM SUNDAY.9 Nisan 3793
29 March 33Jesus entered Jerusalem; the crowds said Hosanna. Mk 11.1-11, Mt 21.1-11, Lk 19.28-44, Jn 12.12-19HOLY MONDAY.10 Nisan 3793
30 March 33Cleansing the temple of the merchants; cursing the fig tree. Mk 11.12-18, Mt 21.12-19, Lk 19.45-46, Jn 2.13-17HOLY TUESDAY.11 Nisan 3793
31 March 33Jesus taught in temple. Lk 19.47-48, 21.37HOLY WEDNESDAY.12 Nisan 3793
1 April 33Still teaching in temple.MAUNDY THURSDAY.13 Nisan 3793
2 April 33The last supper; Jesus washes his students’ feet. Mk 14.12-26,…