Showing posts with label #Time. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Time. Show all posts

St. John’s Day.

by K.W. Leslie, 27 December

The third day of Christmas, 27 December, is the feast day of the apostle John.

Yokhanan bar Zavdi (English, “John, son of Zebedee”) was a first cousin of Christ Jesus; their moms were sisters, and I suspect Jesus stayed with John’s family while he headquartered himself in Capharnaum. Jesus chose him and his elder brother James to be part of his Twelve, Mk 3.17 the apostles he sent to evangelize Israel, who were later expected to run his church. Paul of Tarsus considered him a pillar of this church. Ga 2.9

He’s widely considered the student whom Jesus loved, Jn 21.20 and therefore the author of the gospel we call John, plus three letters and Revelation. There are various scholars who aren’t so sure John wrote those scriptures, ’cause John didn’t put his name on anything but Revelation (and they speculate the John of Revelation was a whole different guy named John). And maybe that’s so. But there’s no reason the author wasn’t this John.

Tradition has it John later took charge of the Ephesian church—either after Timothy held the job, or as Timothy’s bishop. Most Christians assume John died during his exile on Patmos, but traditions say he returned to Ephesus, where he either died of natural causes, or was murdered by antichrists.

The 12 days of Christmas.

by K.W. Leslie, 24 December

Tomorrow’s the first day of Christmas. Happy Christmas!

After which there are 11 more days of it. 26 December—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 2021, 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 me
A partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

We’re on the fourth day and that’s 20 frickin’ birds. There will be plenty more, what with the swans a-swimming and geese a-laying. Dude was weird for birds. But I digress.

There are 12 days of Christmas. But our culture focuses on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day… and we’re done. Department store policy is to remove the Christmas merchandise on 26 December, and start putting up New Year’s and St. Valentine’s Day stuff. (If the Christmas stuff is already sold out, fill ’em with New Year’s stuff now.) So the stores grant us two days of Christmas; no more.

Really, many people can’t abide any more days of Christmas than that. When I remind people it’s 12 days, the response is seldom surprise, recognition, or pleasure. It’s tightly controlled rage. Who the [expletive noun] added 11 more days to this [expletive adjective] holiday? They want it done already.

I understand this. If the focus of Christmas isn’t Christ, but instead all the Christian-adjacent cultural traditions we’re forced to practice this time of year, Christmas sucks. Hard. Especially since Mammonists don’t bother to be like Jesus, and practice kindness and generosity. For them Christmas is about being a dick to any clerk who wishes ’em a “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” I don’t blame people for hating that behavior. Really, Christians should hate it. It’s works of the flesh, y’know.

Christmas, the feast of Christ Jesus’s nativity (from whence non-English speakers get their names for Christmas, like Navidad and Noël and Natale) begins 25 December and ends 5 January. What are we to do these other 11 days? Same as we were supposed to do Christmas Day: Remember Jesus. Meditate on his first coming; look forward to his second coming. And rejoice; these are feast days, so the idea is to actually enjoy yourself, and have a good time with loved ones. Eat good food. Hang out. Relax. Or, if you actually like to shop, go right ahead; but if you don’t, by all means don’t.

It’s a holiday. Take a holiday.

The Christian year.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 November

A Christian newbie once told me he found it strange how Jews and Muslims have their own calendars, but us Christians don’t.

We do, I pointed out. The western calendar, the one the entire world uses (Jews and Muslims included, as their secular calendar), is the Gregorian calendar, formalized by Gregorius 13, bishop of Rome, sovereign of the Papal States, and head of the Roman Catholic Church, from 1572 to 1585. It’s an update of the Julian calendar, proposed by Gaius Julius Caesar in 46BC (or to use the ancient Roman era, 708AUC) which is also a Christian calendar, in use by Orthodox churches who didn’t care to have Catholics update their calendar. (A number of ’em use the Revised Julian calendar, updated in 1923, which conveniently syncs up with the Greogian… till the year 2800.)

So yeah, the Christian calendar has become everybody’s default calendar. Which means it’s no longer a special religious calendar anymore, unlike the Jewish and Muslim ones.

Various people, Christians included, will insist it never was religious. The pre-Julian calendar was put together by ancient Roman pagans; the Julian calendar was simply that old pagan calendar, updated by Greek mathematicians. Note all the months named for pagan gods and dead Caesars. Even the weekdays are named for pagan gods; in Latin-speaking countries they’re named for Roman gods, in Greece for Greek gods, and for northern European countries all but Saturday are named for Norse gods. Pope Gregory adjusted the leap years a little so they’d sync up with the equinoxes, and moved New Year’s Day from 25 March to 1 January (’cause it was a little weird how 24 March 1570 was immediately followed by 25 March 1571; shouldn’t we switch months first?). Of course moving New Year’s Day means mensus September/“seventh month” became the ninth month, so that’s weird too. But the only thing overtly Christian about the Gregorian calendar is the anno Domini, the AD, marking the age: “the Lord’s year.” Which is gradually being replaced by the secular CE for “common era.”

Hence various Christians, particularly folks in liturgical churches, have created sort of a shadow calendar. It’s “the Christian year,” a variant of the Gregorian calendar which is meant to be more Christ-focused, which begins on Advent Sunday. Other churches call it the “church year,” the “liturgical year,” or the “kalendar” with a K; it’s basically their church calendar, but extra-special.

Candlemas: Remembering when Jesus got presented in temple.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 February

In Leviticus the LORD told Moses the following.

Leviticus 12.1-8 KWL
1 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.
3 On the eighth day, circumcise the flesh of the baby’s foreskin.
4 Have 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.
5 If she bears a female, she’s unclean two weeks, like her period;
have her sit 66 days, for purification from blood.
6 When 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.
7 The 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.
8 If the mother can’t find enough at hand for a lamb, bring two doves or pigeon chicks;
one for burnt offering, and one for sin offering.
The priest covers her, and she’s ritually clean.”

2 February marks 39 days after Christmas—representing the week after Jesus’s birth, then the 33rd day after that. This’d be the day Mary finished her ritual purification after giving birth, so off she and Joseph went to temple.

Luke 2.22-24 KWL
22 Once the days were fulfilled for Mary’s purification, according to Moses’s Law,
they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
23 just as it’s written in the Lord’s Law:
“Every male who opens a womb will be called holy to the Lord.” Ex 13.2, 12
24 And giving a sacrifice, according to the saying in the Lord’s Law:
“A pair of doves, or two young pigeons.” Lv 12.8

So that’d make today Candlemas, the Christian holiday which remembers Jesus’s presentation in temple. It’s called Candlemas because traditionally, Christians bring certain candles to church to have ’em blessed, then use these sacred candles the rest of the year for various customs, rituals, and religious practices. The candles are a reminder Jesus is the world’s light—and when we follow him, so are we.

In some countries, Christmas decorations don’t come down till Candlemas. (I know; plenty of western Christians put ’em away before New Year’s Day.) Because now the Christmas and Epiphany season is over. Tomorrow we go back to regular time—the period between Christmas and Easter, or Easter and Christmas. (Which, in 2020, ain’t long. Ash Wednesday is on 26 February.)

Churching new mothers.

Childbirth is a dangerous time. Our survival rate nowadays is really good… but in prescientific days, this wasn’t the case. Any complication would turn fatal, for either the mother, or child, or both.

So a lot of cultures developed the custom of celebrating new mothers. Believe it or not, this includes the 39 to 72 days the LORD set aside for ritual purification. During the time women were ritually unclean, they were expected to stay home—to not interact with anyone else, lest they make others ritually unclean. But most importantly, they didn’t have to perform any tasks outside the house, didn’t have to go back to work, and weren’t obligated to go to temple or synagogue: They could stay with their newborn baby, and concentrate on their little one. Or, if childbirth didn’t go so well, they could otherwise recover. Or mourn.

Since Christians don’t really bother with ritual cleanliness anymore (the Holy Spirit indwells us, so when are we ever ritually unclean for worship?) it often meant the end of this rest time for Christian women after childbirth. But various Christian leaders recognized the need for some form of maternity leave, and this evolved into the custom of churching new mothers: Forty days after giving birth, the mother was expected to come to church and be publicly blessed.

But till then, she wasn’t expected to come to church. She could stay home and recuperate. (And Irish folk tradition added if she didn’t stay home, the fairies might get her. Disney movies have really sanitized how people imagine fairies; in folklore they’re evil spirits, so… not good.)

Some churches mixed together some of their churching traditions with their Candlemas traditions, so new mothers might bring candles and get ’em blessed. Other churches might have the new mothers take 40 days off, but not hold a blessing for them till Candlemas itself, and then bless all the new mothers at once. And if churches believed in baptizing babies, sometimes they’d do that too.

Of course, churches which aren’t liturgical don’t always hold special times of blessing for new mothers. Which is a shame. New babies are a big deal! Motherhood should be recognized. So if it’s not a formal part of your church, see if you can get something started.

St. Thomas, and healthy skepticism.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 December

Thomas wanted his doubts addressed. So Jesus addressed them.

21 December is the feast day of the apostle Thomas. His name Tomás is produced by taking the Aramaic word taóm/“twin” and adding the Greek noun-suffix -as to it. John pointed out he was also called Dídymos/“twice,” so likely he was an identical twin. There’s an old tradition he looked just like Jesus, and that’s why they called him a twin, but since Jesus was likely old enough to be his dad, I think they’d have nicknamed him “junior” instead of “twin.” No doubt Thomas had a twin brother, though we know nothing about him.

What we do know is Thomas was one of the Twelve, namely the one who wouldn’t believe Jesus was alive till he saw him for himself.

John 20.24-25 KWL
24 Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Twin, wasn’t with the others when Jesus came.
25 The other students told Thomas, “We saw the Master!”
He told them, “Unless I see the nail-marks on his hands and put my finger on the nail-scars
and put my hand on the scar on his side, I can’t believe it.”

And we give him crap for this.

We call him “Doubting Thomas.” Forgetting none of the Twelve believed the women whom Jesus first appeared to. Lk 24.11 Simon Peter did bother to check out the sepulcher for himself, and John informs us he followed behind, but all of them thought the women were nuts. And when Jesus did show up to talk to them, at first they thought he was a ghost. Lk 24.37

Thomas just happened to be the only guy not in the room when Jesus first appeared, and like the others, couldn’t believe until he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

So Jesus accommodated him.

John 20.26-29 KWL
26 Eight days later the students, Thomas included, were indoors again.
Though the door was closed, Jesus came, stood in the middle of them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.
Put your hand on my side. Don‘t be an unbeliever. Believe!“
28 In reply, Thomas said, “My Master and my God!”
29 Jesus told him, “This you believe because you saw me?
How awesome for those who don‘t see me, yet believe.”

Jesus wants us to trust him wholeheartedly. Sometimes that’s hard for us to do. I get that. So does he. But he’s willing to work with us if we’re willing to make the effort, and not just close our minds to what he’s trying to teach us. Thomas, y’notice, didn’t abandon his fellow students just because they were sure Jesus was alive, and Thomas wasn’t so sure. Eight days later, there he was, the only doubter in a roomful of believers, holding out because you don’t just psyche yourself into believing things; that’s how people get led astray. You take your doubts to God—who might be the one making you doubt! You investigate. You look for evidence. You patiently wait. Thomas did all that, and his wait was rewarded.

So don’t give Thomas crap. Commend his patience. Jesus gave him the truth he sought. He’ll do that for you too, y’know.

Mary the Magdalene, apostle to the apostles.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 July

22 July is the feast day of Mary the Magdalene, whom we also call Mary of Magdala. She’s the woman who shows up in all the resurrection stories, ’cause she’s the very first person Jesus appeared to after he was raised from the dead.

John 20.11-18 NLT
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16 “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Two of Jesus’s students, Simon Peter and John, had checked out the tomb, saw nothing, and left. Jn 20.3-10 But Mary stuck around and had a Jesus-sighting. And he sent her to his students and family: “Go to my brothers and tell them…” Jn 20.17 which she did. Jn 20.18 They should’ve known Mary’s character enough to accept her testimony.

Should’ve; didn’t. Because nobody expected Jesus to rise from the dead before the End Times. The 11 apostles wouldn’t believe the women saw Jesus, Lk 24.11 and Thomas wouldn’t even believe the other 10 after they saw Jesus themselves. Jn 20.24-25 So if you think the problem was sexism, there might’ve been a little bit of that in there. More so it was just how unbelievable the idea was.

Every so often, I hear a Christian preacher say it was totally sexism. Often they’ll do it in a way which exposes their own sexism. I’ve heard preachers claim in Jesus’s day, women’s testimony was inadmissible because women get hysterical, irrational, and are inherently untrustworthy. (God help these preachers’ wives and daughters.)

It’s bunk, because these preachers don’t know the Law. In patriarchal societies, women are subject to their patriarch—their husband or father or male relative who’s in charge of them. This man was granted the right to overturn or nullify his women’s vows. Nu 30 This was why it was impossible for women to testify in court: Not because women aren’t trustworthy, but because their men could easily cancel out their testimony.

I’m not sure whether Paul had that idea in mind when he and Sosthenes listed 500-plus folks who saw the resurrected Jesus, 1Co 15.3-8 and didn’t include the women. Mt 28.9-10 We figure this list was originally composed and recited in the ancient middle east, where Judeans had an issue with women’s testimony. Corinthians didn’t, so there was no reason to still skip the women.

Judean courts aside, Mary was as reputable as any student, and the students should’ve believed her, if anyone. Still, this isn’t the only time Mary’s been misinterpreted due to sexism.