Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Feast of Cyril and Methodius


Today is St. Valentine's Day, but no one is really sure who this St. Valentine was. He may have been a Roman priest martyred during the reign of the Emperor Claudius in the mid third century, or he may have been the bishop of Terni, who was taken to Rome and martyred and whose remains were returned to Terni. The feast of St. Valentinus was once on the Roman calendar but he was dropped quite a while back, and now his day is more of a "Hallmark Holiday" a holiday for selling greeting cards, flowers, and chocolates.

Today is also the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, two very important saints. Cyril and Methodius were brothers and lived in Thessalonica, a town where Christians were gathering very early in the history of the Church. Methodius was born around the year 815 and his brother Constantine was born around the year 826. Constantine studied philosophy and later became a monk, taking on the name of Cyril. As a philosophy student, Cyril also studied languages and was well-versed in Hebrew, Arabic, and even the Samaritan dialect. In the year 860, Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople selected Cyril and Methodius as the first missionaries to the Slavs. He chose them not only because Cyril was good with languages, but because as children both brothers spent a lot of time around the Slavs who lived in Thessalonica; they learned the Slavic language and were fluent in that language. They were the natural choice to be missionaries to the Slavs. Their first missionary trip in 860 was to the Khazars who lived north of the Caucasus region, but it was unsuccessful and the Khazars actually ended up accepting Judaism instead of Christianity. In the year 863, Rostislav, prince of Moravia (which is the area we now call the Czech Republic), requested Christian missionaries be sent. He had one requirement: that the missionaries be able to preach to the people in their own language and must do services in Slavonic, which meant that they needed Bibles and service books in Slavonic. So, before they even left for Moravia, the brothers started translating the Bible into Slavonic. There was not actual Slavonic alphabet so they had to invent one with which they would write their translations of the Bible and prayer books. The alphabet invented by St. Cyril is called Glagolithic and his followers invented another alphabet called Cyrillic which is the alphabet used in Russia and the former Eastern Block nations to this day. They translated the Bible into the dialect they had learned as boys, a Macedonian dialect of slavonic spoken around Thessalonica, an this language is now called Church Slavonic, and it is the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Slavonic Orthodox Churches. This is very important, because the Slavs were one of the few peoples who heard the gospel read in their own language instead of Greek or Latin, the major languages of the Church at that time. The Roman church always insisted that everything be done in Latin, but the Eastern church felt that it was important that services and readings be done in the vernacular of the people, the same concept which is accepted in the Anglican Communion. Cyril and Methodius ran into some trouble in Moravia and in Bulgaria; the Church in the West had sent German missionaries and they did not like the Greek Orthodox monks working in their area. The brothers were doing services in the language of the people while the Germans did everything in Latin; the brothers recited the Nicene Creed in its Eastern form without the filioque. In order to end German interference with the mission, Cyril asked for the protection of the Pope as he really didn't get involved in the East-West arguments and the Church was still united at that time; Cyril just wanted to continue working in Slavonic. The brothers traveled to Rome in 868 to speak to Pope Hadrian II, and he received them favorably and gave full support to their mission, allowing them to work in Slavonic, and even approved their translations of the Bible and service books. Unfortunately, Cyril died in Rome in 869, and when Methodius returned to Moravia, the Germans ignored the Pope's decision and obstructed him in every way; they even put Methodius in prison for a year!
When Methodius died in the year 885, the Germans ran his followers out of the country and even sold some of them into slavery (fine Christian people!). The Slavonic church lasted there for another two hundred years but then vanished; it seemed as if the mission of Cyril and Methodius had failed. but while their mission died in Moravia their translations moved in to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia, and Church Slavonic is the liturgical language of those areas. The Church grew and spread throughout that area and even lasted through fifty years of Communist oppression.

Some of the issues that Cyril and Methodius dealt with are still important today and are even important to us here in Panama. The issue of language is a very important issue here. I think that what saints Cyril and Methodius taught us is that it is important that people hear the gospel and worship in the language with which they are familiar, whether that language be English, Español, or Slavonic. When people hear the gospel in their own language the church takes root and grows. Cyril knew that it was important that the peoples of the Caucasus hear the Word in their own words and he was willing to go to those who spoke Latin to get the support he needed, because he knew that the Church is large enough to include everybody, whether they speak Español, English, Nippon-go, Hungarian, Greek or Slavonic, God hears us no matter what language we speak. What is important is that we remember that we are One Body, we are united as one body in Christ. One of the oldest Eucharistic prayers we have is in the Didache and it says "as this grain was once scattered over the hills and was brought together as one loaf of bread, so may your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom." Let us take the example of saints Cyril and Methodius to heart realizing that the Church is One Body in Christ.

Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Feast of Absalom Jones, Priest


Absalom Jones was born in 1746, in rural Delaware. He was a slave born into a family of slaves. At the ages of sixteen, his entire family was split apart when his parents, his siblings, and Absalom himself were sold to different slave masters. His new master took him to the city of Philadelphia, and it was in that city, through the preaching of the Methodists, that he was converted to Christianity. He was a very intelligent person and taught himself to read using the Bible as his text book. In 1766, at the age of twenty, he married Mary King, another slave. Absalom took on extra jobs outside of his duties as a slave in order to earn money to buy her freedom, and eventually, his own. Many slave owners used their female slaves to satisfy their sexual desires and children would be born of these unions. The slave owners didn't want these children to inherit the plantation, so children born to slave women were considered slaves also, even though they were the children of the slave owner. By purchasing his wife's freedom before his own, he was ensuring that their children would be born free.

Absalom Jones attended St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. St. George's was one of the few churches which had opened its doors to Blacks. He met Richard Allen there and they became close friends. They both served as licensed lay preachers, and they both shared the Gospel with the African Americans of Philadelphia, and, as a result of their evangelism, the African American population of St. George's increased. Unfortunately, the White members of the church became uncomfortable with the idea of worshiping with so many Black people and they decided that the Blacks would worship in an upstairs gallery of the church, a gallery which the black members had built. On the Sunday immediately following the completion of the gallery, the Black members of the church were rudely informed that they were no longer to worship at their regular places, but were to worship upstairs in the gallery. They were informed of this while they were praying at the altar rail! Absalom refused to move and was physically lifted from his place at the altar rail where he was praying, and carried away by the ushers (there is only one usher at San Cristóbal who could pull that off!). Jones and Allen objected to this humiliating treatment, and all the Black members of the church walked out with them, never to return. This took place in 1787. Jones and Allen formed their own religious community and named it The Free African Society. It was the first black independent organization in the newly formed United States of America. Its main purpose was to provide assistance for the economic, educational, social and spiritual needs of the African American community in Philadelphia. In 1792, the membership recognized the need for a church and they wanted to affiliate with religious denomination that would not be hostile to their presence and would receive them as an identified worshiping community. Absalom wanted to remain a Methodist, but the majority of the group was so hurt by their treatment as St. George's that they wanted nothing to do with the Methodists. Absalom Jones went and spoke with Bishop William White, the first bishop of Pennsylvania and the second Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Absalom presented the following terms of the Free African Society to Bishop White: 1. That the Free African Society be received as a body already organized; 2. That the Free African Society have control over their affairs; 3. That, if found fit, Absalom Jones be ordained as their priest. Bishop White accepted these terms in 1794 and the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church was established, becoming the first African American Episcopal Parish in the nation. On August 16, 1795, Absalom Jones was ordained a Deacon, and on September 21, 1802, he was ordained the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church. Richard Allen and another group joined with the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1795, where he served as a minister. Allen became the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, or AME, on April 11, 1816, and his friend Absalom Jones was there to participate at his ordination.

St. Thomas' African Episcopal Church started with 250 members, but in one year they doubled their membership, and it became the second largest church in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, although it was 69 years until this congregation was invited to participate in the business of Diocesan Convention with voice and vote. Absalom Jones served as the Rector of St. Thomas' and also as prophet, priest and pastor, for over twenty years. As a priest, Absalom Jones did a lot to help empower African Americans. The Rev. Samuel Magaw, rector of St. Paul's in Philadelphia, gave the sermon at the opening of St. Thomas' Church, and he preached a terrible sermon, talking about the "Pagan darkness" of the people's African roots and that they should be grateful to God that they had been brought from the "land of darkness to the land of Gospel Light." He also said that they had a debt of gratitude to their "earthly benefactors, who planned their emancipation from slavery" and in particular to the white Christians of Philadelphia who helped them. He told them to check any feelings of pride in their freedom or accomplishments, and to remember that they were the children of slaves. I guess he didn't know about Tertullian or Augustine or other African Fathers of the Church. Thanks be to God, Father Jones did not take the advice of Father Magaw; he and the people of St. Thomas were very clear about their mission to seek dignity and freedom for all people of colour. One month after the Rev. Magaw's sermon was published, the Rev. Jones composed a document entitled The Causes and Motives for Establishing St. Thomas' African Church of Philadelphia. It stated their intent to "arise out of the dust and shake themselves, and throw off that servile fear, that the habit of oppression and bondage trained them up in." The Rev. Absalom Jones and the members of the church attributed their commitment to "establish some orderly, Christian-like government" to their desire "to avoid all appearance of evil, by self-conceitedness, or an intent to promote or establish any new human device among us." They were adamant that the church be "governed by us and our successors for ever." Where the Rev. Magaw's sermon was condescending and paternal, the Rev. Jones' response was valiant and inspiring.

Absalom Jones also served Christ in the civic affairs of the city of Philadelphia. In the year 1793, the city was hit with an epidemic of Yellow Fever and many of the white citizens of the city were dying in their homes. Some were even dropping dead in the street. Others fled for the countryside, thinking that they would be safe there. This was long before the days of Dr. Gorgas; no one knew that mosquitos passed the disease to humans. They had the crazy idea that Black people were immune to the disease! Absalom Jones rallied the Black citizens of the city to help the sick and dying. These noble and unselfish men and women comforted the sick and buried the dead, sometimes at their won expense. Others paid an even higher price: they paid with their lives, succumbing to the disease after caring for the sick. Father Jones continued to work with Richard Allen on behalf of African Americans' they, along with Prince Hall of Boston, MA, and Benjamin Banneker of Washington, D.C., petitioned the House of Representatives to adopt measures that would in due course emancipate all persons held in slavery in the new nation. This was on January 2, 1800, and it was the very first formal effort on the part of Black Americans to redress their grievances to the federal government. Unfortunately, the petition was overwhelmingly defeated. Absalom Jones and Richard Allen also solicited the aid of 2,500 Black men to help defend the city of Philadelphia during the War of 1812. Absalom Jones died on February 13, 1818.

Absalom Jones understood the covenant of baptism, the promise to work for justice and righteousness, and to respect the dignity of all human beings. He was a living example of Christ's love, and he was a living example of one who stood up to oppression. We remember him today, not just because he was a Black man, not just because he was a slave, not just because he was the first African American ordained a priest in our Church, but because he lived the Christian life and was faithful to God. We remember him because he was a child of God and a person who was committed to to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. His life, as are the lives of all the Saints, is a wonderful example to us all.

Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear; that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servant Absalom Jones, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Feast of St. Brigid

This is my St. Brigid's feast sermon

Today is the feast of St. Brigid, who is also called St. Bride. Next to St. Patrick, she is the most beloved of Irish saints. She is known as one who was generous, handsome, and brave. Born in Fauchart around the year 452, she may have actually met St. Patrick as a young girl. She was the daughter of a wealthy chief name Dubhtach and his slave Brocessa. According to the miracle-filled "Life of St. Brigid" written in the eighth century, she was baptized by three angels who also anointed her with oil. When Brigid was very young her mother was sold to a Druid, so she actually grew-up in a Druid household. She, however, was a Christian and remained true to her faith throughout her stay in that pagan household. A few years later she was returned to her father's household. She remained a slave but it seems that she had a special standing in the household. She became known for her generosity, especially her generosity with her father's possessions. Nothing was safe; she would give anything she owned away and once she ran out of things she would give away the belongings of the household. Once while watching a flock of sheep a poor young man came up to her and asked for some alms. She gave him one of the flock without question. He, however, having heard of her generosity, came back seven times that day, receiving a sheep each time. It seems that everyone in the village knew what was going on, but they were all shocked when, at the end of the day, Brigid returned with the flock and not one sheep was missing!

She was very beautiful and many young men approached her father asking for her hand, but Brigid told him that she didn't want to be married, she wanted to dedicate herself to the Lord. According to the Life of St. Brigid she prayed that God would disfigure her so that she would no longer be attractive to all the young men. While she was praying her eyeball melted (ew!), making her no longer attractive to the young men (or anyone else for that matter!). Her father was so angry at her that he decided to sell her to the King of Leinster. While her father was talking to the king, trying to set up a deal, she gave her father's sword to a poor person to sell for food. The king asked her why she gave away her father's sword, she answered, "I gave it to Christ, and if God asked me for all your wealth and the wealth of my father I would give it to the poor to please God." The king looked at her father and said,  "Your daughter is of far too much worth for me to buy and of even greater worth to be sold by you!" He sent Brigid and her father on their way. Her father finally allowed her to become a nun, and she received the veil from Bishop Macaile of Westmeath. In the year 470 she gathered seven young women with her and started a convent at at Cille-Dara, which means "Church of the Oak" in Gaelic. It is now known as Kildare. She wanted to insure that she and her nuns would always receive the blessed sacrament of holy communion, so she convinced a monk named Conlaed to be consecrated Bishop and had him and his monks bring their community to Cille-Dara. They established the first Irish double
monastery of men and women. Brigid was made Abbess of the monastery, becoming the first woman to lead both men and women religious. She also participated in policy-making decisions of the Celtic church. There are some stories that she was made a bishop but most scholars believe that this story may only reflect the fact that she exercised the jurisdictional authority that was wielded by an abbess.

As I mentioned earlier, Brigid was known for her generosity and love for the poor, and there are many stories of her generosity and miracles performed on behalf of the poor. Once she and her nuns were traveling in a carriage when they saw a poor man and his family walking along the road weighed down by their heavy burdens. Brigid stopped the carriage and gave the horses to the poor family. She and her nuns were stuck with a carriage and no horses. A captain heard of what Brigid had done and brought her two wild horses, which she immediately tamed and harnessed to the carriage. They resumed their travel when they met three lepers. Brigid stopped the carriage and this time gave the lepers the horses AND the carriage! Another time she had but one garment to give to two poor men. She tore the garment in half and it immediately became two perfectly good garments. Another story tells that she gave all the Bishop's vestments away to the poor for clothing (now that sounds like fun!). When the time came for the bishop to vest for the Mass, Brigid told him that she had given all the vestments away. Before he had time to react or answer her, a carriage appeared full of Episcopal Vestments which were even better  and more beautiful than the ones she gave away. She gave the Bishop the vestments he needed  and then gave the rest of the vestments and the carriage away to the needy. It was said that Brigid never let the poor leave her empty handed.

Brigid is also known for her great love for animals. There is a story about her taming a wolf for a local chieftain whose pet dog had been accidentally killed by a peasant. Here are two stories from The Life of St. Brigid:

Once a lone wild boar that was being hunted charged out of the forest, and in the course of its panicked flight careered into a herd of pigs that belonged to the most blessed Brigid. She noticed its presence and she blessed it. Immediately the creature lost its sense of fear and settled down quietly among the herd of pigs. See, my friends, how even the  wild beasts and animals could not resist either her bidding or her will, but served her docilely and humbly.
               
On another occasion the blessed Brigid felt a tenderness for some ducks that she saw swimming on the water and occasionally taking wing. She bid them fly to her, and a great flock of them flew toward her, without any fear, as if they were humans under obedience to her. She touched them with her hand and embraced them tenderly. She then released them and they flew into the sky. And as they did so she praised God the Creator of all living things, to whom all life is subject, and for the service of whom all life is gift.
               
From these and many other episodes that demonstrated her power, it is certain that blessed Brigid could command the affections of wild animals, cattle and the birds of the air.


Brigid died around the year 524, at Cille-dara. The cathedral in the town of Kildare were built on the foundations of her fire house. Her relics were moved to Downpatrick with those of St. Patrick during the time of the Danish invasions of the ninth century. Her cult was very popular in England and Scotland  and many churches there are named after her.

St. Brigid was the physical manifestation of the Celtic Ideals  of one who was Generous, Handsome, and Brave. She never let the poor leave empty-handed, she saw Christ in all people, and that is why we remember her today.

Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant Brigid, and we give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I've decided to add this poem by Phyllis Mcginly, titled The Giveaway:

Saint Bridget was
A problem child.
Although a lass
Demure and mild,
And one who strove
To please her dad,
Saint Bridget drove
The family mad.
For here's the fault in Bridget lay:
She Would give everything away.

To any soul
Whose luck was out
She'd give her bowl
Of stir about;
She'd give her shawl,
Divide her purse
With one or all.
And what was worse,
When she ran out of things to give
She'd borrow from a relative.

Her father's gold,
Her grandsire's dinner,
She'd hand to cold
and hungry sinner;
Give wine, give meat,
No matter whose;
Take from her feet
The very shoes,
And when her shoes had gone to others,
Fetch forth her sister's and her mother's.

She could not quit.
She had to share;
Gave bit by bit
The silverware,
The barnyard geese,
The parlor rug,
Her little niece's christening mug,
Even her bed to those in want,
And then the mattress of her aunt.

An easy touch
For poor and lowly,
She gave so much
And grew so holy
That when she died
Of years and fame,
The countryside
Put on her name,
And still the Isles of Erin fidget
With generous girls named Bride or Bridget.

 Well, one must love her.
 Nonetheless,
 In thinking of her
 Givingness,
 There's no denial
 She must have been
 A sort of trial
 Unto her kin.
 The moral, too, seems rather quaint.
 WHO had the patience of a saint,
 From evidence presented here?
 Saint Bridget?  Or her near and dear?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Feast of Thomas, Apostle and Martyr


Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



Today is the feast of my favorite apostle, Thomas. I was ordained a priest on his Feast Day (well, it fell on a Sunday that year, so I was priested the next day, Dec. 22. Tomorrow is the eighteenth anniversary of my priesting.) and that was no accident. I think that he is the coolest apostle. Peter used to say anything that popped into his head; James and John, the Thunder Boys (thanks, Robbin!) were in the Inner Circle with Peter; Simon was either a Freedom Fighter or a Terrorist, depending upon your point of view; Andrew was the First Called and served as a liaison between Jesus and the other disciples; Matthew's gospel insured his fame, and the rest (and especially Mathias) were so boring that we don't know anything about them except that their names appear on lists. But Thomas, well, Thomas was kind of modern, in my opinion. He needed some proof before he was going to believe something. When Jesus appeared to the others in the Upper Room while Thomas was away, he didn't accept their story. He said he would believe when he touched Jesus' wounds. I've always thought that Thomas was treated unfairly by the Church, with them calling him "Doubting Thomas." He didn't really doubt; he didn't say "You guys are lying! I don't believe a word!" He just wanted some proof before he accepted the story. He spent a lot of time with those guys so I expect he knew them pretty well. Maybe he thought that they were inclined to jump to conclusions without thinking things through; we know Peter had that tendency. Maybe they used to play tricks on him. While the others were all locked away in the Upper Room, Thomas was away. I don't know what he was doing, but he certainly wasn't hiding in fear of the authorities. When Jesus appeared to those present in the Upper Room, they didn't recognize him until he showed them his wounds. Then they rejoiced. When Thomas showed up, they told him what happened and he delivered his famous line. A week later, Jesus appeared while Thomas was present. This time Jesus showed Thomas his wounds and even had Thomas touch them. What did Thomas say? Did he say, "I don't know, this all seems a bit strange"? Did he say, "Yuck! Why did you have me touch your wounds?" Did he say, "Are you really Jesus or is this some kind of sick joke?" No. He said, "My Master! My God!" Those don't sound like the words of a Doubter, of a Sceptic. No, those are the words of one who recognizes who Jesus is, those are the words of one who truly believes. Thomas was a good and faithful person; the fact that he wasn't cowering behind locked doors with the others says something about his character. It was Thomas who was willing to follow Jesus to Judea when Jesus wanted to see his friend Lazarus. The others were worried that Jesus' enemies would try to kill him. Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." It was Thomas who, in John's version of the Last Supper, interrupts Jesus for some clarification, to ask: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" It isn't that Thomas didn't want to believe, he just wanted to believe for the right reasons, he didn't want to simply "jump on the bandwagon." I think that it is important to remember that nome of the others believed that Jesus was resurrected until Jesus showed them his wounds; they just saw Jesus before Thomas, it doesn't make them any better or more faithful.

I love the Acts of Thomas and that wild story about Thomas' time in India, even though I'm sure it's a bunch of hooey, especially since Jesus sells Thomas to a slave trader so that Thomas would be a slave to the Raja of Malabar. I like the idea that Thomas went to India and started the Church there, but I doubt the veracity of most of those stories. However, I love the story in the Acts of Thomas (and can’t help but tell it) in which the Raja orders Thomas to build him the greatest and most beautiful palace in the world. Thomas tells the Raja that a building of such magnitude will be very expensive but the Raja really wants this building and gives Thomas lots of gold, which Thomas promptly takes and gives to the poor. When Thomas ran out of money, he asked the Raja for more, and the Raja gave him more, which he continued to distribute to the poor. When the Raja learned of what was going on, he called Thomas before him and demanded an accounting. Thomas told the Raja that he was building him a spectacular palace in heaven, and through mystic means of which we have no information, was able to show the Raja his palace in a vision. The Raja was so impressed that he converted to Christianity. A great story and another example of Thomas’ character.

I think that the example of Thomas is an important and worthy example to Christians, because he didn't just accept things without looking in to them. We all know people who think that blind faith is important, but blind faith, a faith which is not based upon reason, will lead one into trouble. Way too many false Christs have led people astray because their followers refused to question, because they were afraid of their doubts. During my wayward youth, I spent some four years in a psuedo-Hindu meditation cult with a guru. We were told "never leave room for doubt in your mind" and "never question the purity of the master," but the "master" was a fraud and needed to be questioned! A true Master does not need to tell his followers not to doubt, because he does not see doubt as a threat to faith, but as a normal part of the spiritual process. Thomas wasn't hard to convince; when Jesus appeared to him and showed him his wounds, Thomas didn't debate with Jesus, he said "My Master! My God!" Peter and the Beloved Disciple didn't believe the women when they returned from the empty tomb and said that they had seen the Lord, and none of the disciples believed until Jesus showed them his wounds. God gave us large brains capable of reason and thought, and God expects us to use these brains even in spiritual matters. Questioning and study are all part of loving God with all our minds. Thomas and the women and the others all believed because they saw the Resurrected Jesus. The believed because they saw the and touched the nail marks. They believed because the Resurrected Jesus appeared in their midst and talked with them. Jesus said that we who believe without seeing are blessed, and Christians throughout the centuries and millennia have held on to the promise of that blessing, because we have no choice, really. We have believed without seeing. But I must admit, if I was given the choice of being blessed in that manner or actually seeing the risen Christ and touching the nail marks and putting my hand in his side, I would exchange places with Thomas in a heart beat!
This post was visited by the Alter Guild

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feast of Lucy, Martyr in Sicily

Feast of St. Lucy, Martyr in Sicily


It's my annual Santa Lucia post!
As is usually the case, we don't have what we would consider accurate information regarding the life of Lucy. According to tradition, she was martyred in the year 304, which would mean that she was born in the late third century. She was born in Syracuse, in Sicily, to wealthy parents. Her father died when she was very young, and her mother, a Christian, raised her in the faith. Lucy had decided to dedicate herself to God at an early age, and she decided to dedicate herself to virginity and not to marry. Her mother didn't know about Lucy's plans and, as a good mother of that era, had arranged a marriage for her with a young man of Syracuse. Lucy's mother, Eutychia, had suffered from a hemorrhage for four years, and nothing the doctors did helped her. One day Eutychia and Lucy were in Catana, a town about fifty miles from Syracuse. They were attending Mass at the shrine of St. Agatha, when they heard the reading of the woman with a hemorrhage who was healed when she touched Jesus' garment. Lucy said to her mother, "If you believe this story from the gospel, and you believe that St. Agatha is with Christ, since she suffered in his name, I believe that you will be healed when you touch her tomb." After the service they went to the tomb and prayed. While they were prostrated in prayer Lucy fell asleep and had a dream in which she saw St. Agatha among a host of angels, beautifully dressed and bedecked with jewels. Agatha said to Lucy, "My sister Lucy, true virgin of God, why do you ask me for what you yourself could grant? Your holy faith has helped your mother: look! She is entirely healed through Christ; and even as this town is made famous by me through Christ's favor, so shall Syracuse be made famous by you, because you prepared yourself for Christ, in your pure virginity, as a pure habitation." Lucy woke up, trembling from her vision, and said to her mother, "You have been totally healed. Now, by the same one who healed you with prayers, I beg of you, please, don't ever arrange a marriage for me or expect me to have any children. I ask that the money you would have given me for my dowery be given to me to keep me in my chastity and be given to the poor. I will not marry; I belong to Christ." Her mother said, "You know that we are rich and that I have been a good steward of your father's property. I have even invested and increased his wealth. Why don't you wait until I die. Then you will inherit everything and can do with it as you will." But Lucy said, "Look, mother, you can't take the wealth with you, and whatever you give away at death for the Lord's sake is exactly because you can't take it with you. Why don't you just give it away now and receive God's blessing?" After the visit to Catana, Lucy was always talking her mother into giving away the family fortune. Well, the young man to whom Eutychia had betrothed Lucy, Pashasius, heard about this and was quite upset. He came to talk to Lucy and set her straight. Pashasius was a Pagan, and he tried to get Lucy to follow the local civil religion. This was during the era of the Diocletian Persecution, and it was very dangerous time to be a Christian. He wanted Lucy to sacrifice to the local gods; (St. Ælfric, who wrote a version of the story of St. Lucy, said that Pashasius wanted Lucy to sacrifice to devils!) but Lucy responded, "A pure offering is this, and acceptable to God, that one should visit widows, comfort exiles, and help orphan children. I have spent the past three years making these offerings to the Living God, and now I only want to offer myself to God, living as a virgin." This upset Pashasius, and the two of them argued for a while, until he, being a jerk, threatened her with a beating if she didn't be quiet. Lucy said, "The words of the Living God cannot be suppressed or put to silence." He responded, "What, are you God?" Lucy said, "I am the Almighty's handmaid and because of this I speak God's words, since he says in his gospel, 'It is not you who speak there, but the Holy Spirit speaks in you.'" Pashasius said, "Really! Does the Holy Spirit live in you?" Lucy said, "The Apostle Paul promised those who preserve their chastity that they will be God's temple and the habitation of the Holy Spirit." This made Pashasius so angry that he said, "I'm going to have you dragged down to the house of prostitution, where you will lose your virginity and the Holy Spirit will flee from you!" Lucy said, "You can pollute my body but it won't affect my soul because I am being forced against my will. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and make an offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the eyes of the true God, because God judges according to the will and knows everything. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a double purity will be gloriously given to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me." Pashasius was crazy with anger now, and, being a stupid jerk, he was determined to put her in the brothel. He called his friends and they tried to pick her up put couldn't move her. Now, according to the story, she was a not a large person, but when they tried to pick her up the Holy Spirit held her fast to the ground; she stood as firm as a mountain. Pashasius called over some sorcerers, hoping that they could use their magic to break her and the hold of the Holy Spirit, but they failed. He finally had a yoke of several oxen harnessed to her, but even the oxen were unable to move Lucy. He asked her, "Why can't a thousand men move you,
as small and weak as you are?" Lucy said, "Even if ten thousand men tried to move me, they would all hear the Holy Spirit saying, 'A thousand shall fall beside you and then a thousand at your right hand, but no evil will approach you.'" So now Pashasius, being the biggest jerk in all of Syracuse, had a pyre built around her, and they put pitch and oil on it and lit it to burn her to death. Lucy stood in the center of the fire and said, "The Lord has spoken to me through prayer and has promised me that this fire will have no power over me, and as a result all the faithful will lose any fear of torture." This drove him even crazier and so, proving that he was a jerk and that she was correct not to marry such an a**hole, he decided to kill her with his sword. Pashasius stabbed Lucy and as her bowels were spilled on the ground, she predicted that Diocletian and Maximian would be deposed, the persecutions would end, and the Church would know peace. So there! While she spoke, Pashasius was arrested and brought to Rome where he was eventually beheaded. The priests came and administered the holy sacrament to Lucy as she laid on the ground, and she passed to glory as they said, "amen."
St. Lucy was a popular saint in the Early Church because even though she was weak, small, and young, she was able to standup for what she believed and refused to bow to the pressures of society. She was willing to die rather than go against her faith. Her strength and faithfulness made her a model for those who could still remember the Diocletian persecutions, and she was a model for those who wanted to live lives of chastity. That is why we remember her today.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Feast of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra

Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never
cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints on the calendar; he is honored by the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and even Reformed Protestant churches. He is the person upon whom the Santa Claus myth story is based. As is usually the case, we don't have a lot of good historical information on Nicholas. We know he lived in Asia Minor in the late Third/early Fourth century. We know that he was Bishop of Myra, and we know that he died on December 6, 342. Other than those facts, all the stories about Nicholas are based upon church tradition and legends and some of them may not have even happened, but they are good stories, full of dreams and miracles.

According to tradition, Nicholas was born in the town of Patar in Lycia, in what we now call the nation of Turkey. He was orphaned at an early age and had to live with his uncle in a monastery. His late parents were wealthy and left him a good inheritance, but he gave most of it away to the poor and needy since he was living in a monastery and didn't really need any of it. He wanted to be a monk like us uncle, but one night he had a dream in which Jesus gave him a jeweled copy of the four gospels, and he took this dream as a sign that he was to become a priest, and he did so at the age of 17 (I guess the Commission on Ministry had different age requirements in those days). He was a very generous person and there are many stories about his generosity. Once he met a man in great need, and the man had decided to sell a carpet which was very dear to him and his wife. Father Nicholas bought the carpet from the man at a ridiculously high price, and then gave the carpet to the man's wife as a gift. The most famous story is that of a poor man with three daughters. He had no money to provide them with dowries and was worried that they would never be married and would probably face slavery as a result of their poverty. Nicholas tossed a bag of gold coins into the eldest daughter's window one night, and she was soon married. A while later, he tossed a bag of gold coins into the second daughter's window and she, too, was soon married. When it came time to provide a dowry for the third daughter, Nicholas came to toss a bag of gold coins into her window but it was closed, so he tossed it down the chimney, and the bag of coins fell into her shoes (and she, too, was soon married). This legend is the basis of the tradition in some countries of St. Nicholas putting chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil in children's shoes. It's also the basis of the story of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with gifts for good boys and girls on Christmas Eve.

There is a tradition that Nicholas made a pilgrimage to Egypt, to visit the great Library in Alexandria, and continued on to the Holy Land, to Palestine. There is a story that on the way home the ship he was on was caught in a fierce storm an d the three sailors piloting the ship were sure that they were going to die. Father Nicholas came on deck and prayed and stilled the storm. For this reason he became known as the Patron Saint of Sailors. The ship stopped in the city of Myra. The bishop of Myra had died and there was a lot of disagreement about who should be the next bishop. The clergy and people of Myra had started a period of prayer and fasting trying to find a solution to their problem. An angel appeared to several priests in a dream and told them that they were to make a stranger, named Nicholas, the new bishop, and that he would be the first to arrive for morning prayers the next day. That same night, Father Nicholas had a dream of a mitre being placed on his head. The next morning he went to the church for morning prayers and was the first person there. He was proclaimed bishop and the mitre was placed upon his head! He was a good choice for bishop because of his concern for the poor and needy, and his love of children, and his piety and zeal for the gospel. Miracles were attributed to him, and he was nick-named the Wonder Worker. He was also a man of great courage, and he suffered arrest and torture during the persecution of Diocletian and his regent, Maximan, around the years 303 to 311. It is said that Bishop Nicholas continued to preach and teach even while in chains. When Constantine became emperor in 313 and later issued the Edict of Toleration, Christianity became tolerated (and actually favored) by the Empire and people like Nicholas were released from prison. There is an ancient tradition that Nicholas saved the lives of three soldiers who were imprisoned by appearing to the Emperor in his dreams and interceding in their behalf. Just before Constantine became emperor, the Arian Controversy was in full flower in the Church, creating great dissension and schism. The Emperor Constantine called all the bishops of the Church to Nicea in 325 to settle this dispute. Tradition states that Bishop Nicholas of Myra attended the Council and even slapped Arius in the face, but Nicholas' name does not appear on any of the lists, so this incident and Nicholas' attendance at the Council is in doubt. Nevertheless, Arianism never took hold in Myra, so the faithful teaching of Nicholas must have prevented the heresy in that city.

Nicholas died on December 6, 342, and this day is now a feast day. During the Middle Ages it was a popular practice to elect a boy to be bishop who reigned from December 6th to December 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. On that day (the 28th) the "boy bishop" had to preach a sermon in church. It also became popular to give gifts on Nicholas' feast day in honor of his own generosity, especially to children. In Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, this tradition replaced the ancient yuletide celebration of Woden. After the Protestant Reformation, St. Nicholas became known as Pere Noel in France, Father Christmas in England,Kriskindl in Germany, Grandfather Frost in Russia, and Sinterklaas in Holland. The mispronunciation of Sinterklaas in the United States resulted in the name Santa Claus.

It's easy to to understand how the example of the kind and generous man who truly lived the Christian life could become a symbol of love and generosity during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, the time in which we remember God's own gift to the world, the gift of Jesus the Messiah. St. Nicholas' love and compassion for the poor, the needy, and for children is an example of how we should live our lives throughout the entire year, not just at Christmas. The stories of St. Nicholas are not stories about Christmas but are stories of a man who was working to bring about the Reign of God, a man who helped the less fortunate, just as Jesus commanded. That is why he became one of the most popular saints in Christendom and why we remember him today.

Since I'm not using Holy Joes and Holy Janes or whatever that new book is called, I'm assuming that this is still Old St. Nick's saint day.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito's Annual Thanksgiving Day Special!

It is the Holiday Season! While the Patriotic Holidays start the season in Panamá, we are now in los Estados Unidos, where the season starts with Thanksgiving, so we're following the local traditions. And what goes with the Holiday Season, besides lots of good food and drink and stuff? That's right: re-runs Holiday Season Classics! And here at Padre Mickey's Dance Party we have our Holiday Season Classics, just like your favorite television station, the only difference being ours aren't thirty to forty years old, and none of the characters appear as balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. So just sit back and enjoy It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank And Gallito Mescalito Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown!And, since you haven't seen our crew in ages, I'm sure you're gonna enjoy it!

Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, Gallito Mescalito, it's that time of year again!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek! ¿Shriek? ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut BankYes, I can understand that, the smell of roasting turkey makes you nervous, but it's only once or twice a year.
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, I don't like it that much either; all that cooking really heats up the house, and with Summer almost here it's hot enough around here!


Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Hi boys! Up to no good, I suppose!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Good evening, Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love. You look marvelous, as always!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Thank you, boys; you're so sweet! Well, it's that time of year, isn't it? The days are shorter, the nights longer, the smell of burning leaves in the air, and in some places it's snowing like all get out!
Gallito Mescalito ¿Shriek?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Yes, I agree with my loving partner; what on EARTH are you talking about?
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Well, not HERE, of course, but back in the ol' U.S.A. I kinda miss all that.
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank He's right again; when we lived in the U.S. we lived in the S.F. Bay Area, where it rarely snows! But I guess the other stuff did happen. But you're from Egypt originally; I doubt you had snowy winters there!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love I just miss seasons! All we have here is "rainy season" and "not-quite-as-rainy season" or verano. I miss the cold.


Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Hey dere, fellas! An' a very good evenin' ta you, Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Hello, Mr. Squeaky Cat!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Hello, Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy!
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy 'sup wit eveybuddy?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank We're discussing the season and the holidays.
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Yeah! I luvs dis tima yeah! In fact, we gots a nudder nashunal holiday on Sunday, which means we gits Mundy off! Independence from Spain Day! ¡Viva Panamá! ¡Viva Libertad!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Well, I'm thinking of a different holiday.


Mighty Moose of Vermont, Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, and ¡El Penguino! Hello everybody!
The others Hello, Mighty Moose of Vermont, Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, and ¡El Penguino!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, you don't look very happy? What's wrong?
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Wayul, Ahm jus' feelin' a bit homesick.
¡El Penguino! She's worried about Thanksgiving. I told her it's the only estadoünidense holiday Padre and the Lovely Mona still celebrate, but she's worried it won't happen.
Mighty Moose of Vermont Come on, ¡El Penguino! You were just as worried last year. We told her it would happen but she's still worried.
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Wayul, Ah've nevah been away foh such impohtant holidaze befoh.
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Why is dis holiday so importint' ta you guys? 'Sup wid dis?


Diablito Sucio y Wooden Kuna Doll Si. ¿Es este fiesta más importante qué la Día de Independencia de España? ¿Por qué?
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Yeah, I'm wunderin' 'bout dis, too. Is dis anuver one of yer Gringo "weah betteah dan you" tings?
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Los Juegetes de los estados unidos No! It's just different!!!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank No, no, no! It's not more important than Panamanian holidays; it's just different. It is an important holiday to the Lovely Mona and Padre and their extended family and the estadoünidense toys and knick-knacks because they like the idea of taking one specific day to thank God for their many blessings, and because it is an important part of the mythology of the U.S.A., not that Padre and the Lovely Mona buy the myth (although they both have family members who are participants in the story!).
Las Jugetes Panamañas What is the myth? Tell us, TELL US!!!


Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, it all started with the Puritans Pilgrims and their search for a land in which they could oppress others find religious freedom. . .

Announcer We'll return to It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalto Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! right after this Important Message.


Before the break which was guaranteed to offend EVERYONE!, Red Mr. Peanut Bank promised to tell Padre Mickey's twisted, totally warped enlightened version of the Myth of the First Thanksgiving. As we would never want a toy bank to go back on Padre's its word, we now present Padre Mickey's Dance Party's Friday Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Blogging Players in The First Thanksgiving

Narrator Once upon a time, several centuries ago, there was a group living in England, who, having been driven insane by the more fringe elements of the Protestant Reformation, decided that everyone in England must believe as did they, be as pure as were they, and be just as grumpy. They were known as Puritans The majority of Believers in England disagreed, and made life even more miserable for these folks, until they finally left England for the Netherlands, where, soon tiring of a diet of chocolate, edam, and tulips, they made their way to The New World to make life miserable for Padre Mickey's relatives. Europe's favorite population decimator, small pox, had already cleared the way for the Pilgrims (as they were now called) so that there was plenty of room! Landing in an area they named Plymouth, after the place from which they had been evicted, their leader gave thanks to God. . .
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, that we have arrived safely in this heathen, yet almost empty land, where we are free to worship God in our own manner, and may make sure that everyone else worships God in our own manner, too!
Other Pilgrims Amen!


Narrator The Pilgrims soon met the indigenous inhabitants of the land. . .
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Hey dere, peoples wut don' look nuffin' like us! Watcha up to?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank We are the Pilgrims, and we have come to this nearly empty land to live in peace and worship our God in our own manner. We are trying to plant our crops. And what is your name, almost naked guy? And why are you wearing that feather?
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy My name is Tisquantum, but you kin' call me Squanto. An' I weahs a feddah cuz it looks much coolah dan dat ting on toppa yer head! Uhm, ya know, dem seeds won't grow in dis climate.


Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love And how did you learn our tongue? Hast the Holy Spirit descended upon you to give you this gift? I doubt it, you being such a heathen savage!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy No, no Espíritu Santo. Sum sumbich white guy captured me and my friends Manida, Skidwarres, Nahanada and Assacumet a while back n' dragged us kickin' an screamin' in a big nasty boat to your pitiful island and taught us yer funny langige. But, like I sed, dem seeds won't grow in dis climate. . .
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Sir, these are the seeds our God commanded us to bring and plant!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Well, dat's too bad 'cuz dey ain't gunna woik heah. Hey! Massasoit! Go grab some maize and some fish. Let's show dese rubes howta do it, or dey gonna starve and be botherin' us all wintah for food!


Narrator And so Squanto and Massasoit and their people taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and squash and pole beans and which nuts were safe to eat. . .
Mighty Moose of Vermont See, you dig a little hole,put a dead fishy in it, place a kernel of maize on top of the dead fishy, then cover it all up; make a little hill. Then move over about eight inches and do it again.
¡El Penguino! 'sup with the dead fishy?
Mighty Moose of Vermont It fertilizes the maize so you get a nice, big, healthy plant. And it's not as nasty as that manure your people use!
¡El Penguino! Heh! You savage! Poop is great!
Mighty Moose of Vermont Yeah. Sure. So, why aren't you wearing a hat with a buckle on it?
¡El Penguino! I AM wearing one. It's just so tiny you can't see it with your heathen eyes.
Mighty Moose of Vermont Oh-kay. So, dig another hole, take a dead fishy. . .


Narrator Eventually, the song of Harvest Home was raised, all was safely gathered in, ere the winter storms began, and the Pilgrims decided to thank the Lord of the Harvest with a feast. . .
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose An weyul invaht Squanto an' hiyus friens', too, as theyah wuah SUCH a biyguh haylp!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank That's a great idea. What will be the main course? We don't have any cattle for roast beef, and they eat venison all the time.
Gallito Mescalito Shrie--cough, cough--er, gobble gobble!
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Hmm, thayut maht be reyul good!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Er, how about pumpkin soup in the pumpkin? That could be Very Elegant!

Announcer: We interrupt this program for this important Breaking News!


Announcer And now, we return to It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! already in progress. . .
¡El Toro! Yoohoo! Mr. Pavo!
Crocagator Heh Heh Heh Thanksgiving dinner.
Gallito Mescalito Gobble gobb--¡¡¡SSSSHHHHHRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!



Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, we're gathered together to ask the Lord's blessing, you at your table and we at ours, as we really can't be mixing with the likes of you. You know, He, the Lord, hastens and chastens, His will to make known!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Really! Well, ya know, we gots a little diff'rint teolugie an' understandin' of da Great Spirit! Ya see, WE believes dat. . .
Red Mr. Peanut Bank No one wants to hear your heathen ideas! We came here to worship God in OUR OWN MANNER, and we expect everyone else to worship God in our own manner, too! Now eat your pumpkin soup!


Narrator' And everyone gave thanks to God, with heart and hands and voices, and ate and had a wonderful time.
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Well, dat was great! burp See ya next yeah!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Don't count on it!



Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love What hath the Lord in store next for the Pilgrims in His Divine Plan?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, we survived our first year and survived dinner with the Heathen Savages. Now it's time to get to work! Time to start taking their land and pushing their sorry heathen bottoms West until they can go West no further!



Gallito Mescalito Gobble Gobble!, er, ¡¡Shrrriiieeekk!!

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