Nov 14 2015

Celtic Advent Calendar

 tumblr_m875gkctk91rb44tmo1_400

For each day, from November 15 until Epiphany, I’ve thought of one thing I can do to practice joy and gratitude, and to give love, putting it on a calendar that draws on ancient Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany traditions.

In the 6th century, the Celtic Christians celebrated Advent during the 40 days before Christmas, as a mirror to the period of Lent before Easter. In this age of  blurring of holy-days and consumerism, I like the idea of starting Advent earlier, so that Thanksgiving is included, but also so there can be a longer, more intentional preparation for Christ’s coming.

Another tradition from around the 6th century (and probably earlier) is the “O” antiphons. An antiphon, from the Latin antiphona, meaning sounding against, was a repeated line of scripture used as bookends to the psalms in daily prayer and the Eucharist. The antiphon was a prayer “sound-byte,” capturing the most important aspect of the reading, helping those gathered remember through repetition.

Trinity Episcopal Church, Myrtle Beach - O Antiphon Banners

Credit unknown, Trinity Episcopal Church, Myrtle Beach – O Antiphon Banners

The “O” antiphons highlight a scriptural name of Christ and offer a jumping off point for reflection. Most people would recognize a version of these antiphons as the verses of the Advent carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are still prayed in many churches–as they have been for more than 1500 years–from December 17 to December 23.

Christmas seems to end abruptly on December 26th in our consumer-culture celebration. Another lost tradition marks the Twelve Days from Christmas to Epiphany.  Epiphany means appearance or manifestation and remembers the Magi visiting Jesus; Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan–the public revelation that he is God’s Son; and the first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.  The period from December 25 to January 6th is an ideal time for reflecting on the Light that has come into the world with the birth of Christ.

Auch diese drei Heiligen Könige sind gestern durch Sölde gezogen.

On January 6th, the celebration of the Magi visiting Jesus, children dress up as the three magi carrying a star (the Sternsingers) and go singing from house to house. This practice is most popular in Germany and Austria as way of raising awareness and money for global children’s needs, but has been widely practiced in the church since the 16th century. The singers also chalk the lintel or door of each house with the blessing 20+C+M+B+16, which notes the year and carries a double meaning: CMB stands for Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar, the traditional names of the three Magi, and also a house blessing: Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house!). You can read more about this tradition here.

Pulling these four traditions together, I’ve created a calendar of ideas for living each day intentionally and joyfully. Here is a PDF version. Please feel free to make copies and share with your friends and church. If you need any other document versions, please email me at susan(at)contemplativecottage(dot)com.

The ability to give and experience love and joy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be stretched and strengthened. And over time, the capacity to love and to joy increases.

Let the Holy Spirit lead!

(a yearly updated post from the archives)


Feb 2 2015

Candlemas

presentation Bénédite de la Roncière

Known by a number of names, Candlemas, or the Presentation, remembers Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the Temple to be offered in service to the Lord as a first-born son.  In Luke’s Gospel, the family is met by Simeon and Anna, who have both longed to see the Messiah:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss  your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

In many churches, Candlemas is when all the candles set-aside for the coming year’s worship are blessed.  At St James Cathedral, Seattle, this is taken seriously: hundreds upon hundreds of creamy beeswax candles are stacked around the baptismal font, enfolding worshippers in their delicious honey fragrance. My mouth waters with the memory.

Presentation of the Lord

But even in the midst of celebration, there is a prophecy of the coming sorrow. The church year begins to look toward Holy Week. In the scripture readings for the day, Mary is told by Simeon that “a sword will pierce her heart as well.”

Today I light my morning candles with a prayer, honoring Jesus, the Light which was foretold, birthed in the stable, held to Mary’s breast, blessed by Simeon and Anna, and presented to God in the Temple. Hope. Life. Love.

“The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.  The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:1-5

fra-angelico-presentation-of-jesus-in-the-temple

One way to celebrate Candlemas is to light some candles for places and situations or people for whom God has called you to intercede. Where does the light of Hope and Love need to shine?

To paraphrase St Francis, “Where there is no light, place light, and there will be light.”

Candlemas Song by Simon Marshall

I was not there.
I did not dream my way
up prayer-worn Temple steps
as you did, Christ-Mother, that day.

I was not there.
I did not scan the gloom
or clutch a hand for courage
in the Temple waiting-room.

I was not there.
I did not hear the praise
which ancient ones sang of your child
at the midnight of their days.

I was not there.
I did not feel the sting
which bitter-sweet horizons
of your motherhood will bring.

But I am here.
And I would know a birth
to bring Divine Light’s love
into an aching, longing earth.

Yes, I am here.
And I would do my part.
O let a rising blade of Spring
strike fire into my heart.


Nov 9 2014

Celtic Advent: 40 Days of Joy, Love and Gratitude

Please see the 2017 updated version of the calendar here.

 Celtic Advent 2014

For each day, from November 15 until Epiphany, I’ve thought of one thing I can do to practice joy and gratitude, and to give love, putting it on a calendar that draws on ancient Advent and Christmas traditions.

In the 6th century, the Celtic Christians celebrated Advent during the 40 days before Christmas, as a mirror to the period of Lent before Easter.  In this age of  blurring of holy-days and consumerism, I like the idea of starting Advent earlier, so that Thanksgiving is included, but also so there can be a longer, more intentional preparation for Christ’s coming.

Another tradition from around the 6th century (and probably earlier) is the “O” antiphons. An antiphon, from the Latin antiphona, meaning sounding against, was a repeated line of scripture used as bookends to the psalms in daily prayer and the Eucharist. The antiphon was a prayer “sound-byte,” capturing the most important aspect of the reading, helping those gathered remember through repetition. The “O” antiphons highlight a scriptural name of Christ and offer a jumping off point for reflection. Most people would recognize a version of these antiphons as the verses of the Advent carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are still prayed in many churches–as they have been for more than 1500 years–from December 17 to December 23.

Finally, Christmas seems to end abruptly on December 26th in our consumer-culture celebration. Another lost tradition marks the Twelve Days from Christmas to Epiphany.  Epiphany means appearance or manifestation and remembers the Magi visiting Jesus; Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan–the public revelation that he is God’s Son; and the first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.  The period from December 25 to January 6th is an ideal time for reflecting on the Light that has come into the world with the birth of Christ.

Pulling these three traditions together, I’ve created a calendar of ideas for living each day intentionally and joyfully.  Here is a PDF version. Please feel free to make copies and share with your friends and church.

The ability to give and experience love and joy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be stretched and strengthened. And over time, the capacity to love and to joy increases.

Let the Holy Spirit lead!

tumblr_m875gkctk91rb44tmo1_400

(a yearly updated post from the archives)

Feb 2 2014

Candlemas

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. – Luke 2:29-32

gloucestercathedralchoirboyscandles

Gloucester Cathedral Boy’s Choir – Credit unknown

I love candles, so a day on the church calendar dedicated to the blessing of candles and the celebration of Light holds a special place in my liturgical heart.

icon presentation

Before there was Groundhog Day, there was (and still is) Candlemas, also known as The Presentation of Jesus (when Simeon and Anna meet Jesus in the temple, Luke 2:22-40).

presentation Bénédite de la Roncière

On the church calendar, February 2nd is 40 days after Jesus’ birth, at which time, according to the Law of Moses, a first-born son would be consecrated to God.

Presentation of the Lord

The final day of Epiphanytide, February 2nd is also the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the beginning of Spring.

fra-angelico-presentation-of-jesus-in-the-temple

The day receives it name because all the candles to be used in worship for the next 12 months were gathered at the church and blessed, a tradition dating back to the 11th century. This practice is still observed at St James Cathedral, Seattle, and many churches around the world.

Candle Church

Candle Church – credit unknown

Traditionally, candles are lit in the windows of homes on Candlemas evening; in France, people celebrate La Chandeleur by eating crepes by candlelight; and in Mexico, Dia de la Candaleriais celebrated with tamales and hot chocolate. Yum!

The Blessings of the Light of the World be with you today and always!


Jan 5 2014

Chalking the Door: 20+C+M+B+14

CMB Epiphany

Since the Middle Ages, it has been a tradition to bless homes on January 6th, Epiphany (Greek for epiphaneia, manifestation), the celebration of Christ’s revealing to the world. Chalk would be blessed and used to write the year and the initials CMB on the doors or lintels of houses, marking them as places of Christ’s hospitality. The initials had two meanings: the letters represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, traditionally the names of the three Magi, to whom Christ was revealed; the letters also represent the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, May Christ bless this house. People would go from home to home chalking doors and enjoying each others’ hospitality.

Sternsingerplakat-2014

I’ve loved this tradition since I heard about it from my friend Kimberlee. In researching the practice for this year, I found out that there is whole tradition in Germany that celebrates Epiphany and the CMB blessing. It is called the Star Singers, or sternsinger. Over half a million children dress up as the Wise Magi, boys and girls, usually 4 (since we have no idea how many there really were!) with a star on the end of broom handle. They sing from house to house raising awareness and money for issues regarding the suffering of children globally. It bring tears to my eyes each time I think about it. This movement is now in its 56th year, and this year it is highlighting the Malawi child refugees and refugee children globally. You can read more about the movement here. Their motto is Segen bringen, segen sein, Bring the blessing to be a blessing.

Sternsinger, Walburga – credit unknown

If you are looking for a way to close the Christmas season, and look ahead into the new year, find some chalk and write 20+C+M+B+14 above your front door as you pray for God’s blessing on your home and all who enter. Even more, gather some friends, kiddos, and family and chalk each others’ doors, praying and singing as you go! Maybe we can start Star Singing in our communities, bring some beauty, fun, music, and blessing, while raising awareness of the needs of children worldwide.


May 21 2013

Twelve Reasons to Commit to a Local Church

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We celebrated Pentecost this past Sunday, the day of wind and fire, language and speech, when thousands heard the Good News that there is a Love stronger than any grave, a Love that pursues us through death and brings us to Life.

Timed more by circumstance than planning, I lectured on the Holy Spirit and the Church last week in my Christian Formation class. What a great preparation for Pentecost! As I sat silently one very early morning (the Holy Spirit hour is around 4am for me), a list of reasons flowed from pen to paper about why actively participating in a local worshiping community is vital to discipleship.

But even before the 12 reasons is One Reality:  followers of Jesus Christ are already incorporated into the Body. There is no Christian without the Body of Christ (as much as our individualistic culture would want us to believe otherwise).   Being part of the Church Universal comes with being a disciple–though we can opt to not practice our participation. We have a place-setting at the feast, though we may stay home.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church in the 1st century, 1 Corinthians 12:27:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Augustine writes in the 4th century:

What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ. … How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood. What is seen is the [material], but what is understood is the spiritual fruit. …

`You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members.’ If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery.

To that which you are, you answer: `Amen’; and by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: `The Body of Christ!’ and you answer: `Amen!’

Be a member of Christ’s Body, so that your `Amen’ may be the truth.

Stanley Hauerwas writes in the 20th century:

“[Salvation is] being engrafted into practices that save us from those powers that would rule our lives making it impossible for us to truly worship God.”

One of those practices into which the Holy Spirit engrafts us is the Church, expressed both universally through all time and space, with all followers of Christ past, present, and future, and locally through gathering together to worship God and love each other.

With this in mind, here are 12 reasons to answer “Amen”  to our engrafting into the the practice of Church:

  1. We have difficulty seeing the truth. Christian community reveals our blind spots and encourages us to choose love. We see each other’s amazing gifts and call them out. Others call out our gifts and help us not hide our light under a bushel.
  2. The illusion of homogeneity is dispelled.  The local gathered church forces us to be with people who are different, creating opportunities for growth for everyone. Even if we think we are all the same, we’re not, I promise.
  3. Dividing walls are broken. The church is a community that, at its best, can cross the boundaries imposed by the world. We learn to love those who are a different age, economic situation, ethnicity, gender, etc., than ourselves. We learn how to practice  hospitality.
  4. It’s not all about you. (Read that again.) Christian community de-centers the self and places the self in a larger and longer Story, with a history and a future.
  5. It’s about you and everyone else.  The church provides opportunities for people to grow into persons who are full of life, to encourage true selfhood. Then it offers opportunities to give the self away in love. “In order to be self-giving, you have to have a self to give.” (Fr Kevin Seasoltz)
  6. It’s all about God. The local church is called to model the committed love of God to its members and the world. When a person sins, love doesn’t end, ever. Behavior may need to be confronted, boundaries may need to be set, but there is grace and forgiveness, and always the possibility of reconciliation.
  7. It’s really all about God and all of creation. Loving God and loving others are two sides of the same reality. The church is a circle with God at the center. As we move closer to God, we move closer to each other; we love creation more, the more we grow in the love of God.
  8. The Church is a foretaste of the Kingdom feast. The church lives in the “now but not yet”–where sin and suffering still exist, but in the promise of the future joy.  The church, at its best, is a witness to Love incarnate, the Body of Christ, a love that is stronger than death.W hen Christians love, they are showing the world that choosing to love is a possibility, one that has lasting impact.
  9. You can do more together than alone. The needs of this world are huge and, while one person can make a difference, that one person will have a community supporting them–look for it.
  10. Life is often brutal and we will all face death. The church is Kingdom life now. When a person faces the forces of chaos and death, the community intercedes on their behalf, holding them in their suffering, and looks for ways to provide materially, emotionally, and spiritually. The church gives us glimpse of the life on the other side of death.
  11. The Church is a family, where the vision of the Kingdom is given to the next generation. The church is the place to raise children, your own or other’s,  in practices and habits of Love and self-gift. Children will hear about a Love that calls them by name and be entrusted with the Story that changes the world.
  12. The Church is so much more than we understand now. The Church Universal is a mysterious, wondrous, super-natural, multidimensional way of living where all its members are persons-in-community, connected together through and in the dance of the Trinity. We’re only scratching the surface of possibility.

There are, no doubt, more, but this list will keep me busy for at least the next 4o years.

(And if you need a good dose of how a local church made a world-changing difference simply through a prayer service, go here.)

 

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