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Saint Nicholas is an Advent saint. His feast day ( December 6 ) always occurs in the beginning of the Advent Season. The Saint morphed into the Santa of the USA through advertisement campaigns, politicians, and World War Two. The Saints day had its own traditions that were firmly rooted in Christianity. The bishop Nicholas was not a secular phenomenon. A great place to learn about the true Saint Nicholas is the Saint Nicholas Center . Click the link to learn about some of the Advent and Christian traditions that have been lost to secular consumerism.

ST. ANDREW, Apostle

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30 November

If we would do good to others, we must, like St. Andrew, keep close to the cross.

(modified) From 1894 Butlers Daily Lives of the Saints

ST. ANDREW was one of the fishermen of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilei, and brother, perhaps elder brother, of St. Peter, and became a disciple of St. John Baptist. They are called by Jesus to become “fishers of men”

Andrew seemed always eager to bring others into notice:

  • when called himself by Christ on the banks of the Jordan, his first thought was to go in search of his brother, and he said, “We have found the Messias,” and he brought him to Jesus.
  • It was he again who, when Christ wished to feed the five thousand in the desert, pointed out the little lad with the five loaves and fishes.

St. Andrew went forth upon his mission to plant the Faith in Scythia and Greece, and at the end of years of toil to win a martyr’s crown. After suffering a cruel scourging at Patrae in Achaia (Greece), he was left, bound by cords, to die upon a cross.

When St. Andrew first caught sight of the gibbet on which he was to die, he greeted the precious wood with joy. “O good cross! “ he cried

“made beautiful by the limbs of Christ, so long desired, now so happily found! Receive me into thy arms and present me to my Master, that He Who redeemed me through thee may now accept me from thee.”

Two whole days the martyr remained hanging on this cross alive, preaching, with outstretched arms from this chair of truth, to all who came near, and entreating them not to hinder his passion.

Ancient text indicates that the cross Andrew was bound to was originally a typical Latin cross similar to the one the Christ was crucified on. Andrew argued that he was not worthy to hang on such a cross as the Lords. His cross was then tipped to form the Chi or X cross, now known as “Saint Andrews Cross.”

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions

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Here is an older post from 2014. Some background of these saints from another post is here

 

One of the things that is so memorable about Andrew Dung-Lac is that he was born a poor pagan Vietnamese. His catechesis was coupled with food and shelter, and then baptism. He was not born into Christianity, and the country he lived in was not historically Christian, and he was ethnically Vietnamese. Why do these points interest me? To start, Andrew became a priest, and taught catechism. That was a step up from the impoverished life he was born into, but does not begin to explain this person’s character. Andrews’s character and spirituality come out after the first time he went through imprisonment and persecution for his Christian faith. That persecution was under the emperor’s directive, and was wide spread; though Andrew was able at first to gain freedom with the support of his congregation. This is the part where this priest’s character and spirituality are revealed. After that persecution the priest changed his name, modified his location, and continued his mission. After imprisonment, how easy would it have been for him to simply remove his collar and blend in amongst his countrymen? He was ethnically Vietnamese, so blending in would have been easy. The persecutions going on in that country were among the most brutal in history, yet he did not remove his clerical collar, and to me that speaks volumes about the extent the Holy Spirit descended onto that priest. At his baptism he was initiated into the faith with water, at his first persecution was proof positive that he had received that Spirit. As he continued preaching and baptizing people into the faith, those persecutions continued and they were directed at Christians with unspeakable brutality. Andrew continued with his mission until he was beheaded for the faith at the age of forty-four. His story contains examples of the three types of baptism, that one of water, of the spirit, and by blood. The brutality towards Christians in that country at that time were horrendous. Andrews’s story is easy to tell because it is a brief biographical sketch of a single person. There were one hundred and seventeen martyrs, and each had their own unique story, though I am certain they all had that desire to live and die for their faith and preach the gospel of Christ. It was that faith that defined them, not their ethnicity or social standing. They were European and Vietnamese, Priests, Religious, and Lay people: all placing their faith in Christ. Their story of faith is remarkable and unforgettable.

november

Saint Cecilia, patron of music

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Recycled from 2014

Today is the memorial of Saint Cecilia, an early Roman saint, virgin, and martyr of the Church. Briefly Cecilia was a vowed virgin who was married and wished to keep her virginity. She told her husband of an angel which he asked to see, and to which she replied he needed to be baptized. He did see that angel who spoke to him and gave him red roses and white lilies, as a reward for Cecilia’s love of chastity. Her husband Valerian then had his brother converted to the faith. When the prefect, Almachius, heard of the conversions he ordered them imprisoned and put to death. Cecilia’s tomb was found in 822 and her body incorrupt was transferred to a church bearing her name. The sculptor Stefano Maderno carved a sculpture of that body precisely as it was found when the cypress coffin was opened. It now adorns her tomb.

Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of composers, music, musicians, musical instrument makers, poets, and singers. She is the patron of a few others, but these are the ones of interest to me. I think about her and music especially concerning liturgical music. I think of her as I think of a small debate goes on about that sacred music, and I think about the saint and those listed that she is the patron of. One of the arguments that is taking place regards the types of musical instruments fitting for liturgy. There are those that embrace the organ as the instrument of the church, and they feel that this instrument has a special place in the churches. I cannot argue that the pipe organ is strongly associated with liturgical music, but the limiting the instrumentation of the Church to that solitary instrument leaves me a bit divided. It is a grand instrument of the Church, and much sacred music has been composed for it.

 Saint Cecilia though would have never heard music from that instrument, the organ occurs in history probably 1000 years after her death. That is the part that leaves me divided. Cecilia is frequently pictured holding a lyre, and that instrument is related to the harp, and then the violin and guitar. Lyres and tambourines were instruments of the Old Testament. Plainsong and Chant were the foundation of early Christian music. The organ actually occurred late in the Churches musical history. I think of Saint Cecilia too when I think of continents that have no equivalent to that Church organ, but instead have their own assortment of musical instruments. I wonder, what is the traditional music for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church? What are the musical instrument traditions of those devout Catholics in places like Korea, China, India, and the South Pacific?

When thinking of that patron saint of music, and instrument makers I do think of the roles of sacred and secular music, and I do think of how music should be applied to the liturgy. I also think of how it is misapplied. I wonder why it is that the popular styles of Church music are not played before and after the liturgy, and why plainsong and chant have diminished during the liturgy, and why the pipe organ fell out of favor for a time. I also wonder why the concertina, and the violin, and the renaissance recorders are used little during Mass, and why the folk guitar is so popular.

oud_frontI add the picture of the oud because it is the ancient instrument of the Middle East that eventually became the L’Oud, and then the Lute, and then the guitar. According to legend the instrument was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. String instruments have a long history in Middle Eastern cultures and religions. Ouds, harps of varying kinds, percussion instruments (doumbek), cymbals, tambourines, and wind instruments such as the Moroccan Oboe all play a part in religious celebrations. Arguably they are the original instruments of the Church. Some might have a spittle flecked nutty, but this is the modern guitars ancestry in the Church. For the lyrics, and style of the contemporary, that’s another story. 

Presentation of Mary

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Here is a recycled post from 5-years ago:

According to tradition the childless Joachim and Anne, received a message from an angel that they would have a child. In fulfilling a vow for the gift of their daughter, they brought the three year old Mary to the Jerusalem Temple so that she might be consecrated to God. Tradition tells that Mary remained in the Temple until twelve years of age, at which point she was assigned to Joseph as guardian. The tradition also says that she remained in the temple to be educated in her role as the mother of God. The presentation of Mary reemphasizes the holiness of Mary as Mother of God, an importance commemorated by the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This memorial of the Presentation of Mary celebrates Mary’s dedication to God from her infancy, through the Holy Spirit, who filled her with grace at her immaculate conception. Mary’s role as mother of God did not begin with the Nativity of Christ, it begins with her immaculate conception and was strengthened at her temple presentation. In presenting herself to God and accepting Gods plan for her, she was able to accept the annunciation and all that follows. In that she is the image of church, the new temple. Through the presentation she accepted and prepared for her role as Mother of God. In a sense this is the beginning of Mary’s Advent as presenting oneself before God is the first step to receiving the Christ of the Nativity. Advent begins in 16-days.