A Mysterious Light that Shone in Priest’s Home

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imageMysterious Light That Shone from Priest’s Home Chapel Where Blessed Sacrament Was Kept | August 31, 2016 By Gretchen Filz

Was this photo a Eucharistic Miracle? There is good reason to believe so, because that strangely large, bright light was shining from inside the private chapel of a priest’s residence where the Blessed Sacrament was reposed.

This photo and the story behind it was originally written by Fr. Robert Lange, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, in 2007 and posted on his personal blog. Fr. Lange went to be with the Lord in May of 2015. His website is now offline so we are unable to link to the original source of the article, although it has been republished on multiple Catholic websites in the years since he wrote it. Fr. Lange’s original article is reposted below.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Respect for Christ in the Eucharist – One Priest’s Perspective
By Rev. Robert Lange
December 2007

The picture above is of my home in Fort Valley, Virginia, and the light is coming from my chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. There is not light in the window and there is no sun out on the day of the picture. (More about the picture is at end of the article.)

Americans have the option of receiving the Holy Eucharist on the tongue or in the hand. The Vatican granted us the option of receiving on the hand in 1977. This was accomplished by an indult, a lifting of the law, so we may receive either way, on the tongue or in the hand. The indult was granted because the American bishops told the Vatican that their parishioners were clamoring for it. “We can feed ourselves” was one of the specious arguments put forward.

After Apostolic times, the Church gradually adopted Communion on the tongue as the universal practice. In the early fourth century the Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ, revived the practice of receiving Communion in the hand specifically to show a lesser respect for Christ, believing that He is not “equal to the Father.”

The universal Church law, which requires Holy Eucharist to be distributed to the faithful on their tongues, remains in force; it remains the law. However the indult has the effect of making the law inapplicable where in force.

Foreseeing the demand for the indult coming, the Sacred Office for Divine Worship sent a letter to the presidents of the bishops’ conferences to advise them how they may implement this option if granted. The letter spoke about reverence for the Holy Eucharist being the number one priority.

With this in mind, the letter went into great detail trying to explain this crucial concern. The letter contained the following specifics: Communion on the hand is an option; it is not the primary way of receiving. Catholics must be catechized to understand this important point. No one is to be forced to receive on the hand. When receiving the Body of Christ on the hand, the faithful must be aware of the fact that each and every particle, no matter how small, is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Therefore no particle should ever be discarded or treated with less than total respect due to the Body of Christ.

The faithful must also be reminded that their hands must be clean to receive our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When ordained in 1986, I was a proponent of receiving Communion in the hand, but time has changed my thinking on this issue. Seeing so many abuses and forming a deeper respect for Jesus’ true Presence in the Holy Eucharist were the factors which forced me to rethink my position.

On March 28, 1965, when the Catholic college I was attending opened their newly renovated chapel, we students were told how to receive the Holy Eucharist: standing and in the hand. There was no option given. May I add that this was fully 12 years before any American diocese received the indult, which allowed for that option.

Why did those priests, abbots and bishops disobey the authority of Rome? Communion in the hand became the norm for American Catholics in the 1960s. In many cases the practice was not presented to us as optional, but as the way to receive.

In my 24 years as a priest, I have served in many parishes and witnessed many Eucharistic abuses caused by receiving in the hand. I have picked Jesus off the floor from under pews and picked Him out of hymnals. I have followed people back to their seats and asked if they would give me the Host back (they bring it out of a clinched hand or out of their pockets) and have witnessed many other sacrilegious desecrations of the most Blessed Sacrament, far too many and varied to mention, some so shocking most people would simply not believe my words.

As I began to see these desecrations of the Holy Eucharist, I began to understand how very sickening, disheartening and avoidable all of this actually has been. Many religious education programs teach the children how to receive on the hand, with at most a cursory mention of the traditional way of receiving on the tongue. Why? The Church documents do not support such teaching. It was the same with many American dioceses in the 1960s when the faithful were being coerced into receiving on the hand a decade before being granted the indult.

Father Benedict Groeschel, a familiar face to EWTN viewers and an accomplished author, announced on his “Sunday Night Live With Fr. Groeschel” program that he considered Communion in the hand to be an abomination. That is strong language!

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was asked what was the worst thing that has happened to the Church in her lifetime. She replied without hesitation, “Communion in the hand.” Again powerful language!

Why would these two great figures of our time be so fervent in their opinions regarding this issue if it did not affect their whole being? Somehow I think they would agree that Communion in the hand is a true American tragedy.

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, leads by example. Since becoming Pope, anyone receiving the Holy Eucharist from him must receive on the tongue and kneeling. He is not requiring a change throughout the world, but is giving us a profound message by example.

Proper respect shown to the Holy Eucharist is primary. Please consider these thoughts before receiving Holy Communion this Sunday. Thank you.

Further note on picture: In May of this year Bishop Loverde gave me permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in my chapel – The chapel is on the second floor of my home. The Eucharist had been reserved in the chapel less than a week when this picture was taken from the front porch of a neighbor’s home.

The person taking the picture was enamored by the beauty of the valley and decided to take a picture for her collection. When she aimed the camera towards the valley and tried to focus for the picture, she says the light coming from my house was so bright she said it was difficult trying to look into camera to view the picture to be taken (It was a cloudy day and I did not have a light on in the room/chapel where the light is coming from.) She took the picture and the image – the Star of David – is what came out on her digital camera. She did not know what to make of it. Not being Catholic, she had no understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Holy Communion).

My opinion is that our Lord wanted to give us a beautiful reminder of His true presence in the Holy Eucharist – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity! It is a reminder that He is with us always, that we are never alone, that He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. It is a vivid reminder that He truly suffered and died on the cross and that He is present in this world – until His Second Coming – in this most special manner – the Eucharist.

Just as the Star appeared over the stable in Bethlehem when the Christ Child was born, so the Star of David has appeared through the window of my Chapel on St. David’s Church Road, Fort Valley, Virginia, to remind us of His care, love, protection, and presence in our lives today and always.

By Rev. Robert Lange

(June 13, 1944 – May 4, 2015)

Source URL: https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/mysterious-light-priests-home-chapel/

Word Definition: Emery Board

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The next offering in “word definitions” is one that has been on a slow boil for some time. There is nothing more annoying than to have something called by other names than the original.

I have seen the words, “emery board,” slowly slide into disuse for many years, and for no other reason than the beauty industry decided to exclude the correct name in their curriculum. Sort of like cursive being excluded from schools.

Anyway, the next time you go into the store to pick up a “salon board,” please remember what it is actually called. 😉

Word Definition: Emery Board

noun

  1. a small, stiff strip of paper or cardboard, coated with powdered emery, used in manicuring.

Origin of emery board

1715-25

Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.

How to Pray for People You are Not Thankful For

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By Brad Russell

Original Publication date: November 16, 2015

3 Prayers to Pray for Those Whom You are Not Thankful

When I was a teenager, my mother decided to try to start a new tradition at Thanksgiving. She made us all take kernels of corn and she passed around a bowl. We each placed the kernels in the bowl while telling “something or someone we were thankful for.”

Needless to say, as a brat of a teenager, I thought this was cheesy. Now, as a parent of two young girls, my wife and I constantly struggle to find ways to draw our children to moments of thankfulness when we find them constantly whining or complaining. We have to remind them of all the blessings of the Lord: our family, our church family, our home, God’s provision.

We struggle to remember even the most obvious of blessings in our lives. But I wonder… are we strategically and sufficiently teaching our children (and ourselves) to thank God for the difficulties, and even more so, the difficult people in our lives?

You know the type of people I mean: the ungrateful; the users; the selfish; the annoying; the complainers; the people who have hurt you; the people who have hurt those you love; the ones that are difficult to forgive; the people who never have a positive thing to say. They are the people about whom we complain, the people we often avoid, and definitely the people with whom we wouldn’t want to share a Thanksgiving meal. We all have those people in our lives that we are not thankful for. (By the way, if you don’t have a person like that in your life, it could be that you are that person for other people…just a thought.)

How should you pray for these people? How can you show gratefulness to God for His grace shown through these people? How can you be obedient to Jesus’ words in Luke 6:28 and “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”?

How can you pray for those for whom you are not thankful this Thanksgiving?

Here are three prayers you can pray this Thanksgiving and every day:

1. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8

Thank God that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. Remind yourself of the good news of the Gospel this Thanksgiving. The mercy that was shown to you is the mercy you are called to show to your enemies.

As Jesus said in Luke 6:35, when you love your enemies, you “will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Praise God for loving you when you were (and are) ungrateful. Praise God that when you were evil, He set His love on you. Praise God that those people for whom you are not thankful are a perfect reminder of the mercy shown to you by an infinitely loving God.

2. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! –Psalms 139:23-24

Thank God that only He can change the hearts of difficult people. And then pray that He would start with your heart. The truth is, we can all be a difficult, selfish, complaining wretch. What often annoys you about others is a vice you struggle with. How often do you find yourself complaining? How often are you quick to speak and slow to listen? How often do you have to be “right” as opposed to loving? Praise God for difficult people who often expose your own sin and weakness. And praise God that He is faithful to forgive and transform those who trust Him and submit to Him.

Now that you have examined your own heart and exposed your heart to the cutting and healing work of the Holy Spirit, you are ready to pray for God to expose the hearts and motives of those difficult people. You are now ready to pray for the supernatural work of God to change them.

3. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. -Colossians 3:14-15

Thank God that these people are being used to make you more and more like Jesus.

Difficult people are used by God to produce patience. Difficult people are used by God to take you to the end of your own strength; to take you to your need for supernatural love, patience, and forbearance.

And, according to Colossians 3, the supernatural patience, love, and forbearance that comes from the Holy Spirit can and will produce peace, joy, and thankfulness.

The more God uses people to produce patience, love, joy, and peace in you, the more grace you will experience as He makes you more and more like Jesus. Praise God that these difficult people are part of God’s plan to bring you peace and joy.

This Thanksgiving consider starting a new tradition. Bring the most difficult people in your life before the Father. You and your family will always have to deal with difficult people. Embrace the work of God being done in your own hearts through them. And then, by God’s love, mercy, and grace produced in you, find ways to embrace them in prayer and service. Those difficult people may just be the greatest hidden blessings of God in your life.

Brad Russell is the husband of Jo Anny, father to Chesed and Charisa, and is Lead Pastor of Old Powhatan Baptist Church in Powhatan, VA. He has served in rural, suburban, urban, and overseas ministry settings for over two decades. He blogs at pastorbradrussell.com. You can also find him on Twitter @pastorbradopbc.

Source: http://www.crosswalk.com/home-page/todays-features/how-to-pray-for-people-you-are-not-thankful-for.html

Did the Templars Hide the Ark of the Covenant? Unraveling the Cove-Jones Cipher

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9 November 2016 – 13:59 GRAHAM PHILLIPS


On October 25th this year, the Vatican released a document that had remained in its secret archives for seven hundred years. It is the report of the official Church investigation into the activities of the Knights Templar in the early fourteenth century. 

In October 1306, these crusader knights were found guilty of idolatry, blasphemy, and heresy, and their order was dissolved. Some were burned at the stake, others imprisoned, and most were stripped of their assets. 

Astonishingly, this extraordinary document reveals how the Vatican enquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing. It was the Pope himself, Clement V, who directly intervened and declared the Templars heretics. The report appears to show that the pontiff was after their wealth, said to include priceless treasures once housed in the temple of Jerusalem and lost when the city was sacked in ancient times.

But despite the arrest and torture of leading Templars, and the wholesale seizure of their lands, nothing of this fabled hoard was ever found. Most historians doubt the existence of the Templar treasure. 
However, my research suggests that one of the ancient relics they are said to have possessed may have been hidden in central Britain.

Hallowed Relics

In the heart of England, close to Stratford-upon-Avon, famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is the village of Temple Herdewyke, named after the Templars who once resided there. After the Third Crusade in the late twelfth century, these Templars returned from the Holy Land to build a chapel to house certain holy relics they claimed to have found. Many crusaders came home with items purportedly associated with early Judaism and Christianity, and with characters and events in the Bible, but the Temple Herdewyke knights are said to have discovered the most famous biblical artifact of all: the Ark of the Covenant. At least, according to local legend!

Composite image of members of the Knights Templar (Public Domain) and a treasure pile. (CC BY SA 2.0)

They certainly claimed to have found what appear to have been considered hallowed relics at the time. 

Contemporary records of land and property holdings reveal that in 1192 the chapel housed certain objets sacrés – “sacred objects” – which the Templars had acquired in the Holy Land, including a large golden chest. This is exactly what the Ark of the Covenant was said to be.

According to the Old Testament, it was a large golden box, made to contain the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, lost when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 587 BC.

Secret Messages

Although the Templars were rounded up in 1306, some evaded capture. Six hundred years later, a British historian suggested that they managed to survive in secret at Temple Herdewyke until 1350, when they were wiped out by the Black Death.

The Templar’s chapel at Temple Herdewyke, now converted into a house, with the Phoenix Beacon on the hill behind. M (Photography © by Graham Phillips)

Jacob Cove-Jones, who lived in the area, not only believed they possessed the lost Ark, he also claimed to have discovered its secret hiding place. Having fallen out with fellow scholars for ridiculing his work, Cove-Jones refused to reveal his findings.


Jacob Cove-Jones (Public Domain)

He intended to carry out an excavation of his own, but sadly it never transpired. In 1906 he contracted tuberculosis and decided to take his secret to the grave. Well, almost! Knowing he had only a short time to live, the eccentric historian left behind a bizarre epitaph. He designed a stained-glass window that he commissioned to be made and installed in a new church that was being built close to his home in the village of Langley. 

Astonishingly, on his deathbed he announced that the window contained a series of clues to lead to where he was sure the Ark was hidden.
Most dismissed him as a crank, while others who attempted to crack the code gave up without success. I personally remain to be convinced that this Victorian scholar really did know where the Ark was hidden or, for that matter, whether the Templars ever discovered the Ark at all. 

Nevertheless, Jacob Cove-Jones certainly seems to have believed it, and went to a great deal of trouble to leave his cryptic message. It was, I decided, likely that the window did hold clues to lead to something; if that was actually the lost Ark remains to be seen. It was certainly worth investigating this century-old Edwardian mystery.

Clues in the Epiphany Window

Completed in 1906, the year Cove Jones’s died, Langley chapel is one of the smallest churches in England, and the window in question is set into a side wall. Called the Epiphany Window, it depicts the three Wise Men visiting the baby Jesus on Epiphany, the twelfth night of Christmas between January 5 and 6.  Matthew’s Gospel relates how three mystics from the East followed a miraculous star that led them to Bethlehem where Christ was born. According to Christian tradition, the Wise Men ultimately found Jesus when a rooster uncharacteristically crowed at midnight on top of the building where the child slept. The window scene shows the Wise Men holding their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, praising the baby held in his mother’s arms, while above them is the crowing rooster and the wondrous star.

The Epiphany Window. (Photography ©by Graham Phillips)

Strangely, the stained-glass window did not depict the Ark. Why the Nativity, I wondered? The Wise Men were said to have found the baby Jesus by following a star. Might a star be Jacob Cove-Jones’s vital clue? Was the seeker being told to follow a star? 
The Ark of the Covenant is indeed associated with stars: two of them, to be precise. The Bible describes the Ark as having figurines of two angels on its lid. They were said to depict the archangels Michael and Gabriel that, according to Hebrew tradition, were represented in the sky by the stars Benetnash and Mizar, the tail stars of what we now called the Big Dipper.

The stained-glass window did in fact appear to show two stars, one overlaid on the other, and right next to this design were the letters B and M, the very initials of these stars. If these celestial bodies were to somehow indicate the location of the hidden Ark, I needed to know both when and from where to observe them.


Close up of the Epiphany Window, showing the double star, the rooster, the phoenix, and the letters B and M. The red-brick arch can be seen directly below the star. (Photography © by Graham Phillips)

 Does the Pheonix Point the Way?

The specific day, I decided, was revealed by the event portrayed in the window: Epiphany, on the twelfth night of Christmas. And the precise time was revealed by the rooster next to the star. It is said to have crowed at midnight. The location, it seemed, was indicated by two pertinent images in the scene. Between the letters B and M was depicted the fire bird, the phoenix, rising from the flames, and on top of a hill overlooking Temple Herdewyke there is a peculiar round tower called the Phoenix Beacon.
The central image in the Epiphany Window and the Phoenix Beacon it appears to represent. (Photography © by Graham Phillips)

In fact, the central image in the stained-glass window bears a striking resemblance to the tower, with its distinctive conical roof and castellated walls. It is represented as a container held by one of the figures, and upon it was another depiction of the phoenix, and the Latin words, “come and adore.” I was certain that Cove-Jones intended his seeker to observe the stars at 12 p.m. on Epiphany night, from the position of the tower. At that exact time, the two stars are low in the sky and, when viewed from the Phoenix Beacon, are pointing almost directly downwards to the foot of a hill on the horizon, specifically to a little village called Chapel Green. 


The Phoenix Beacon, showing the position of the Big Dipper at midnight on January 5, with the two tail stars, Benetnash and Mizar, pointing downwards. (Photography © by Graham Phillips)

Investigation

Chapel Green is named after a medieval chapel that once stood there, but all that remains today is a Victorian drinking fountain standing beside the road. Dating from Cove-Jones’s time, it is a red-brick, rectangular structure, inlaid with an arched niche. It closely resembles a red-brick arch depicted in the window scene, right below the star design.

The drinking fountain at Chapel Green. (Photography © by Graham Phillips)

Convinced that this was exactly where the clues in the Epiphany Window were intended to lead, I organized a geophysics survey of the area, but although we discovered evidence of the original chapel, nothing made of gold or resembling the Ark appeared to be there. 
Tragically, in 1949 the lane was widened and the ruins of the centuries-old chapel were destroyed. Perhaps the workmen involved had dug up whatever was there to be found. If it was the lost Ark, they kept it quiet.
At present, I am trying to discover who the workmen were, so I can trace their living relatives. Maybe – just maybe – someone in central England still knows the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant. The vessel famously described by Indiana Jones as “a radio for talking to God.”

A fuller account of this investigation can be found on Graham Phillips’ website: http://www.grahamphillips.net/ark/ark1.html
And in his book The Templars and the Ark of the Covenant.

Top Image: The Ark of the Covenant, as described in the Bible. (Picture from the cover of The Templars and the Ark of the Covenant by Graham Phillips, published by Inner Traditions • Bear & Company)
By Graham Phillips

References
* David Willey, 2007. “Vatican archive yields Templar secrets” BBC.co.uk [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7044741.stm

* David Van Biema, 2007. “The Vatican and the Knights Templar” TIME.com [Online] Available at: http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1674980,00.html

* Peter Popham, 2007. “How the Vatican destroyed the Knights Templar” Independent.co.uk [Online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/how-the-vatican-destroyed-the-knights-templar-395360.html

* Malcolm Moore, 2007. “Vatican paper set to clear Knights Templar” Telegraph.co.uk [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1565252/Vatican-paper-set-to-clear-Knights-Templar.html

Source URL: http://www.ancient-origins.net/opinion-guest-authors/did-templars-hide-ark-covenant-unraveling-cove-jones-cipher-006980?nopaging=1

Word Definition: Navel-Gazing

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img_3180Looking at my son one morning, gazing at his cellphone, I was reminded of a term that was popular in my day: navel-gazing. Now, when I checked the Urban Dictionary, it gave me today’s definition, without mentioning its origin. So, I will add it here:

TODAY’S DEFINITION:

navel-gazing

Engaging in self-absorbed behavior, often to the point of being narcissistic.

“If she would stop navel-gazing, she would realize the light had turned green.” 
#self-absorbed #narcissistic #not humble #snooty #selfish
by bryanr01 January 17, 2007

WORD ORIGIN: navel-gazing: During the 1960s and 1970s, yoga was becoming very popular in the United States, with young people. But all oldsters could see was youth wasting their time gazing at their navels, jabbing at one of the favorite meditational poses, the Lotus.

The Origins of “The Cherry Tree Carol”

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How a Christmas carol links the modern Middle East and medieval England

Mary Joan Winn Leith • 10/11/2016

JOSEPH was an old man,
And an old man was he,
When he wedded Mary
In the land of Galilee.

Joseph and Mary walk’d
Through an orchard good,
Where was cherries and berries
So red as any blood.

O then bespoke Mary,
So meek and so mild,
‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
For I am with child.’

O then bespoke Joseph
With words so unkind,
‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
That brought thee with child.’

Then bow’d down the highest tree
Unto our Lady’s hand:
Then she said, ‘See, Joseph,
I have cherries at command!’

‘O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries now;
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough.’

—The Cherry Tree Carol (c. 1500)

Ever since I first discovered it in college, the “Cherry Tree Carol” has been one of my favorites. Its surprisingly risqué story line shines an unexpected light on the familiar Christmas Journey to Bethlehem from Luke 2:4–5: Joseph walking alongside the donkey and Mary, very pregnant, perched on its back. Creatively building on gospel narrative, the song fills in the gaps of the brief Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. How endearing and wholly human, that Joseph might have had trouble fully coming to terms with his wife’s mysterious pregnancy despite the angel’s reassurances (“…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”) in Matthew 1:20! Mary and Joseph in the cherry orchard recalls, of course, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There, trouble with fruit led to big trouble for humanity, trouble that the baby in Mary’s womb will set right. In this somewhat feminist counter-story, a man is put in his place by a woman—with God’s full cooperation!

chora-church-mosaic

Mosaic of the Journey to Bethlehem from the Chora Church in Istanbul.

A visit to YouTube will yield an assortment of lovely performances, including a version discovered in Appalachia. While the Cherry Tree Carol blooms in cyberspace, however, its roots go deep and wide: from medieval England back to the 12th-century Crusader kingdoms and ultimately to early Christian communities of the Middle East who worshipped in Syriac, a liturgical (religious) form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Adherents of Syriac Christianity include a range of different denominations, but they have lived in the Middle East for 2,000 years. Today, facing the twin threats of ISIS and the Syrian civil war, the future of these ancient communities is in doubt. The beleaguered Syrian city of Aleppo in particular (see the Google city map) is home to many churches, from Syriac-speaking to Evangelical, whose congregations may never recover. Syriac Christianity, in particular, has generally flown under the radar of mainstream scholarship, although this is beginning to change. It now appears that the Cherry Tree Carol’s distinctive take on Joseph’s outspokenness at Mary’s pregnancy can be traced back to a unique feature of Syriac liturgy, one still operative in churches (if they survive) today, the dialogue hymn.

aleppo-churches

Churches in Aleppo, Syria

Like many carols, the “original” version of the Cherry Tree Carol comes from the Middle Ages. It appears in a set of Bible-based “Mystery Plays,” known today as the “N-Town Plays,” that were performed in the English Midlands around 1500. The Middle Ages may be the quintessential Christmas setting (yule logs, holly and ivy, wassailing!), but the inspiration for the magical fruit tree and Joseph’s bitterness is even older. Scholars generally identify the carol’s prototype in a ninth-century bestseller, the “Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew,” in which a date palm bows to Mary. This story, however, is set after Jesus is born, during the Flight to Egypt, and it is the infant Jesus who commands the tree to “bend thy branches and refresh my mother with thy fruit” when Mary grows faint. Variations on the miraculous fruit tree motif appear in a wide variety of sources, from Greek mythology to the Qur’an’s account of Mary and the birth of Jesus in Sura 19.22–25. On the other hand, nowhere in “Pseudo-Matthew” does Joseph utter a harsh word to Mary, not even when he finds Mary pregnant; Mary’s virgin companions, not Mary, face Joseph’s interrogation until the angel shows up to calm him down.

The most striking aspect of the Cherry Tree Carol is that Joseph is so disrespectful to the Virgin Mary. In the N-Town “Nativity” play, Joseph is quick to apologize, and the play passes on to its main subject, the birth of Jesus. Joseph’s bad attitude, however, is the sole topic of another N-Town play, “Joseph’s Doubt,” that was performed right after the “Annunciation” and before the “Nativity.” The play seems to have been popular; the two other leading medieval mystery play cycles, the York Mystery plays and the Wakefield Plays, also include versions. “Joseph’s Doubt” devotes 135 astonishing lines to back-and-forth between a distressed and angry Joseph and his increasingly anguished wife. Joseph’s scorn is unrelenting: “God’s child? You lie! God never played thus with a maiden! … All men will despise me and say, ‘Old cuckold,’ thy bow is bent.” Hearing of the angel’s visit to Mary, Joseph scoffs, “An angel? Alas for shame. You sin by blaming it on an angel … it was some boy began this game.” Helpless, Mary prays to God and the angel appears to set Joseph straight, at which point he apologizes abjectly, “I realize now I have acted amiss; I know I was never worthy to be your husband. I shall amend my ways and follow your example from now on, and serve you hand and foot.”

In the Bible, faced with Mary’s interesting condition, “Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). No histrionics here. Joseph is rather more upset in the second-century apocryphal “Infancy Gospel of James”: “[H]e smote his face, and cast himself down upon the ground on sackcloth and wept bitterly,” demanding of Mary, “‘Why have you done this? … Why have you humbled your soul?’ But she wept bitterly, saying, ‘I am pure and I know not a man.’”Around the fifth century, however, this story line expanded into a full-fledged drama in the form of a Syriac Christian dialogue hymn sung in church by twin choirs—one singing the part of Joseph; the other, Mary—as part of the Christmas liturgy. One published version runs to well over 100 lines of dialogue. Joseph’s words often recall the later medieval “Joseph’s Doubt” plays, but in this Syriac drama, Mary holds her own and does not falter. She even proves herself an adept Biblical scholar: “You have gone astray, Joseph; take and read for yourself in Isaiah it is written all about me, how a virgin shall bear fruit.”1

angel-mosaic-bethlehem

How did a Syriac drama find its way to the medieval English Midlands? The likely answer is with Crusaders returning from the Holy Land in the 12th and 13th centuries. During the Crusades, relations between Western (“Latin”) Christians and Middle Eastern Christians began badly. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders (the “Latins”) considered the indigenous Christians (Syriac and Orthodox) to be citizens of secondary status—no better in their eyes than Muslims or Jews. This view evolved as the Latins came to know the various indigenous Christian groups, particularly those from northern Syria whose leaders took care to make their interests known to the new rulers. Much productive interaction occurred between Latin, Orthodox (“Greek”) and Syriac Christians (with Muslims, too, but that is another story). Art historian Lucy-Ann Hunt has described the Crusaders’ growing “concern with language, rites, and customs” of the indigenous Christians and “sympathetic reception and transmission of eastern works of art.”2

How appropriate, since this is a Christmas blog, that some of the best evidence for cooperation between Crusaders and local Christians comes from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem! The Church was famously founded in the fourth century by Constantine and his mother Helena, but the existing wall mosaics and some of the barely visible column frescoes date to the 12th century. This is when the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenos forged an alliance with King Amalric of Jerusalem and sponsored a new decorative program in the Church of the Nativity. Interestingly, trilingual (Latin, Greek, Syriac) inscriptions in the church attest to both Byzantine-trained and local Christian artists. Furthermore, as Hunt notes, “While the Orthodox and Latin were the predominant communities, the ‘Monophysites’ [i.e., local Christians] were also represented at the Church of the Nativity.”3These days, Crusaders have a deservedly clouded reputation, but perhaps for one brief shining moment at Christmas in the Church of the Nativity they acquitted themselves as one would wish with open ears and hearts. I like to imagine “Latin” Crusaders hearing the Syriac Joseph and Mary dialogue performed at Christmas in the Church of the Nativity. Captivated by the hymn, they adopted and adapted it to become part of the developing English Mystery play tradition, a tradition we can thank for the Cherry Tree Carol.

leithMary Joan Winn Leith is chair of the department of religious studies at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. At Stonehill, she teaches courses on the Bible and the religion, history and culture of the Ancient Near East and Greece. In addition, she offers a popular course on the Virgin Mary. Leith is a regular Biblical Views columnist for Biblical Archaeology Review.

Notes:

1. Sebastian Brock, “A Dialogue Between Joseph and Mary From the Christian Orient,” Logos: Cylchgrawn Diwinyddol Cymru (The Welsh Theological Review) 1.3 (1992), pp. 4–11.
2. Lucy-Ann Hunt, “Art and Colonialism: The Mosaics of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (1169) and the Problem of ‘Crusader Art,’” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 45 (1991), p. 72.
3. Hunt, “Art and Colonialism,” p. 77.

Further reading:

Protevangelion of James (Nativity Gospel of James)

Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

N-Town Plays
Joseph’s Doubt
Nativity: Lines 24–52 contain the Cherry Tree episode.

Qur’an
Sura 19, “Maryam”: Lines 22–34 include the palm tree episode.

Permalink: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/post-biblical-period/the-origins-of-the-cherry-tree-carol/


Ten Reasons People Still Need Cursive

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While some argue cursive writing belongs in the archives and Common Core ushers it out of schools, the evidence shows we need it as much as ever.

By Jennifer Doverspike

I am currently writing these sentences in Evernote, something that is highly unusual for me, as I scribble almost all my story ideas down by hand. Researching cursive instruction—and handwriting in general—has made me realize how utterly dependent I am on pen and paper to boost my creativity. I even have one of those fancy Moleskine Evernote notebooks, so I can take pictures of my brainstorming sessions and file them appropriately in the correct digital cabinet. I wrote my master’s thesis longhand on a legal pad over the course of several months. I also have several hidden notebooks with the next great American novel languishing somewhere between the covers. In fact, except for the fact paper isn’t free—especially paper inside of fancy Moleskine notebooks—I have decided my method is decidedly superior to staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor. To wit, the rest of this article will originally have been scribbled in cursive.

Why cursive?

Educational policymakers pose this question as they face the increasingly digital and app-based twenty-first century, a world in which the curls and flourishes of longhand seem increasingly outmoded. But I pulled out my favorite pen and thought of ten reasons.

1. Cursive Helps People Integrate Knowledge

According to David Perkins, in his new book “Future Wise,” we are not teaching what really matters in schools. So much of educational focus now is on achieving a significant body of knowledge and expertise, and gaining enough mastery of a subject to answer multiple-choice tests. Eventually, that knowledge fades.

What matters?

Skills. How to read. How to write. How to research. How to think. How to learn.

As Dr. William Klemm argues in Psychology Today, “Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity. School systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.”

NPR makes this point, albeit arguing the fight over cursive is missing the boat. There is not enough old-fashioned composition being taught in school, whether it is in cursive, manuscript, or typed. Instead, claims Arizona State University’s Steve Graham, there is a lot of “filling in blanks on worksheets” and “one sentence responses to questions.”

Writing, in short, is not being taught at all. Which brings us to:

2. Writing Long-form Teaches Us How to Write

There is a direct relationship between quality of handwriting and the quality of written text. The significant cognitive demands of writing combined with the added cognitive load of physically writing means it is important for a student to be able to handwrite effortlessly.

As the author indicates, lacking fluency in handwriting  causes difficulty in composition, as thoughts cannot get on the page fast enough. In addition, the student cannot focus on  the  sequencing and higher-order thoughts essential to composition. The relationship between handwriting and composition quality is even seen on MRI, with the brains of those with good handwriting activated in more areas associated with cognition, language, and executive function than the brains of those with poor handwriting.

The researchers emphasize handwriting is not just a motor art and requires a knowledge of orthography, or the methodology of writing a language.

As Dr. Carol Christensen points out, there is a strong relationship between creative and well-structured written text and the orthographic-motor ability. She calls it “language by hand.” And cursive, in general, is faster than print if you are fluent in both.

But what if we’re faster typing?

3. Our Hands Should Be Multilingual

Certainly, it is important for students to know how to type, especially as more schools move toward taking tests via computer. One would think then the concern of students not writing fast enough to compose correctly disappears.

However, research indicates there still is a huge benefit to handwriting. During early childhood, writing letters improves letter recognition, and we use the hand and brain differently when writing than when typing. In fact, it is important to teach it all: typing, manuscript, and cursive: or, being “multilingual by hand” as Dr. Virginia Berninger states.

However, research indicates there still is a huge benefit to handwriting.

During early childhood, writing letters improves letter recognition, and we use the hand and brain differently when writing than when typing. In fact, it is important to teach it all: typing, manuscript, and cursive: or, being “multilingual by hand” as Dr. Virginia Berninger states.

According to  Berninger,  printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with “distinct and separate brain patterns.” When we write by hand, we have to execute sequential strokes to form a letter—something that brain scans shows activate the regions involved in thinking, language, and working memory. Cursive accelerates the benefits. Printing and typing do not stimulate the synchronicity between  the  brain’s right and left hemisphere, but cursive does.
But, speaking of typing…

4. We Learn Better When We Write It Down

Even older children and adults benefit from handwriting. Two psychologists ran studies in which they realized students learn better taking handwritten notes as opposed to typing on a computer—even with Internet distractions disabled.

One reason is writing things down is slow. Therefore, one cannot write down every word a lecturer utters. Instead of a “shallow transcription” process, which requires no critical thinking and doesn’t require your brain to engage the material being presented, the student needs to summarize, use keywords, paraphrase, and perhaps even ask questions for clarification. As a result, your Reticular Activating System (RAS) is stimulated, which highlights the importance of what is currently right in front of you, the thing on which you are actively focused. As Business Insider puts it, “By slowing down the process of taking notes, you accelerate learning.”

Even when students were given a full week to study the material, the laptop users did worse on the ensuing test than the handwritten note takers.

Moreover, adults learning a graphically new language (such as Korean or Arabic), learn the characters of that language better if writing them down by hand. The specific pen strokes, therefore, aided visual identification. And if it affects adults, imagine the children.

5. Handwriting Leads to Cognitive Development, Self-Esteem, and Academic Success

Failure to create fluency in written script has negative  effects on both academic  success and self-esteem. Even though typing seems ubiquitous, handwriting is still “the most immediate form of graphic communication.” In addition, no other task taught in school requires as much synchronization as handwriting.

Simply put, handwriting uses more of your brain. The brain has to develop “functional specialization,” integrating thinking, movement, and sensation. As Klemm says, the brain must “Locate each stroke relative to other strokes; learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter; and develop categorization skills.” He highlights cursive writing as even more beneficial because the tasks for each step are more demanding.

6. It May Help Those With Special Needs

Although cursive may be difficult for those with dysgraphia or dyslexia, educators have realized cursive could be good exercise in using kinesthetic skills. Both Montessori and Waldorf schools use handwriting as part of their curriculum for its kinesthetic benefits. According to Rand Nelson of Peterson Directed Handwriting, exposure to cursive writing allows a child to overcome motor challenges.

Physically gripping a pen and practicing cursive with its swirls and connections “activates parts of the brain that lead to increased language fluency.”

Even those who do suffer from dysgraphia or dyslexia may benefit from the “connected letters and fluid motion” of cursive handwriting. As The New York Times points out:

“In dysgraphia, a condition where the ability to write is impaired, sometimes after brain injury, the deficit can take on a curious form: In some people, cursive writing remains relatively unimpaired, while in others, printing does.

“In alexia, or impaired reading ability, some individuals who are unable to process print can still read cursive, and vice versa — suggesting that the two writing modes activate separate brain networks and engage more cognitive resources than would be the case with a single approach.”

Cursive may aid in letter recognition.

In a 2012 study, preliterate students were given a letter shape and asked to reproduce it (either by typing, tracing, or writing freehand). They were then put in an MRI and shown the letter again. Those who wrote in freehand showed increased activity in their left fusiform gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and posterior parietal cortex—all activated in adults when they read and  write. The very messiness of writing the letter may be a learning tool, teaching students that “each possible iteration of the letter a” is an a.

7. It Reduces Distractions and Inspires Creativity

Educators know writing, especially cursive writing, acts as a grounding and sensory integration exercise for those with behavioral or sensory processing disorders. It likely even calms neuro-typical adults and children and can train self-control.

8. It Keeps Our Brains Active in Old Age

Keeping the brain busy lowers the rate of cognitive decline.

Handwriting is a good cognitive exercise for all those who wish to keep their minds sharp.

Speaking of old folks:

9. We Need to Be Able to Read Cursive

Primary sources, anyone? What about grandpa’s old letters? As a blogger on HuffPo lamented:

“It suddenly hit me, however, that if my grandchildren never learn to write in cursive, they will also be unable to read it. They will never be able to decipher things I wrote by hand and saved to show them. My old recipe cards will also need to be translated for them. They will never be able to read the stash of WWII letters my parents wrote to each other. If they do original research that involves pre-21st century documents, will they need an interpreter for the handwritten ones?”

All of this makes me rather depressed. Someone has decided that our schools shouldn’t waste much time teaching things that don’t matter like cursive writing or art appreciation or literary classics. There won’t be a test on these things and they won’t get kids the jobs of the future. Ours is a disposable society and we are fine with tossing aside the things that are not practical for the college or career.

10. We Can Create Something Beautiful and Unique

Cursive may not be required for a signature, but our printed name is so much less unique. Signatures aside, “personal style and ownership” is beneficial to students.  Handwriting business Cursive Logic points this out beautifully (Disclaimer: I know its founders and have donated to their Kickstarter campaign):

“Cursive has the added benefit of being both artistic and highly personal. Children no less than adults long to express their individuality and creativity. Developing a cursive hand—epitomized in the signature and carried through in a unique form of writing that others can identify and associate with a particular individual—is an important step in developing a personal style and voice. Students are not automatons, and education should include tools that encourage the individual personality.”

Not every state has thrown out cursive with the Common Core bathwater (the national mandates do not include cursive, leading many schools to drop it). Utah, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, North Carolina, and Idaho all emphasize some sort of cursive education in the early grades. And this is a good thing. Otherwise, Moleskine is totally going to go out of business.

******
Jennifer Doverspike is a senior contributor at The Federalist. A former counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the Department of Defense, she has also worked for Sen. Tom Coburn and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt. Follow her on Twitter, @SixFortyNine1.

Parable of the Talents

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What Does the Parable of the Talents Mean?

Looking at Matthew 25:14–30 with ancient eyes
Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 09/26/2016
What does the Parable of the Talents mean? This woodcut from Historiae Celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus Representatae—dated to 1712—depicts the Talents’ parable (Matthew 25:14–30). Two men bring the money that was entrusted to them back to their master, while a third man searches for his money outside.

Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents (or the Talents’ parable) to his disciples. It appears in Matthew 25:14–30, and another version of the parable can be found in Luke 19:11–27. The story in Matthew 25:14–30 unfolds as such: A man goes away on a trip. Before he leaves, he entrusts money to his slaves. To one he gives five talents, to the second he gives two talents, and to the third he gives a single talent. The first two slaves double their money; they give the original investment and their profit to their master when he returns. The third slave, however, buries his talent out in a field instead of trying to make a profit; he returns only this when his master comes back. The master is pleased with the first two slaves, but he is dissatisfied with the third’s actions. He reprimands this slave and casts him out into the darkness.

Richard L. Rohrbaugh examines the Parable of the Talents’ meaning in his Biblical Views column “Reading the Bible Through Ancient Eyes” in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Although the story itself is fairly straightforward, Rohrbaugh argues that the Parable of the Talents’ meaning is less clear. An ancient audience would have interpreted it differently than a modern one.

The Talents’ parable has typically been interpreted by the Western church as being about proper investment: Jesus’ disciples are urged to use their abilities and gifts to serve God—without reservation and without fear of taking risks. Rohrbaugh, however, argues that the Talents’ parable is all about exploitation. Whereas a modern, Western audience would applaud the first two slaves for trading and investing well, an ancient audience would have approved of the third slave’s behavior and condemned that of the first two slaves because they profited at the expense of others. Rohrbaugh explains:

[G]iven the “limited good” outlook of ancient Mediterranean cultures, seeking “more” was considered morally wrong. Because the pie was “limited” and already all distributed, anyone getting “more” meant someone else got less. Thus honorable people did not try to get more, and those who did were automatically considered thieves: To have gained, to have accumulated more than one started with, is to have taken the share of someone else. This interpretation of the Parable of the Talents’ meaning casts the actions of the first two slaves as shameful and that of the third slave as honorable.

The scenario played out in the Talents’ parable (Matthew 25:14–30)—of a master leaving his property in control of his slaves—was not uncommon. In the ancient world, greedy people who did not want to get accused of profiting at someone else’s expense, which was considered shameful, would delegate their business to slaves, who were held to a different standard. Rohrbaugh explains the ancients’ reasoning: “Shameful, even greedy, behavior could be condoned in slaves because slaves had no honor nor any expectation of it.”

Accordingly, in the Talents’ parable, the master leaves his money with his slaves in the hope that they will exploit the system and increase his riches. The first two slaves do just this, but the third “honorably refrains from taking anything that belongs to the share of another.”

This slave also does not invest his money at the bank, through which he would have earned interest. The master further reprimands the slave for not doing this, but Rohrbaugh points out: “[S]eeking interest from another Israelite was forbidden by the Torah (Deuteronomy 23:19–20), and, elsewhere in Luke, Jesus says that we should lend ‘expecting nothing in return’ (Luke 6:35).”

Should then the actions of the third slave be condemned or lauded? According to Rohrbaugh, reading Matthew 25:14–30 with ancient eyes suggests that the third slave is the only one who behaved honorably in the Talents’ parable.

Learn more about the Parable of the Talents’ meaning by reading Richard L. Rohrbaugh’s full Biblical Views column “Reading the Bible Through Ancient Eyes” in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

About the Author: http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=42&Issue=5&ArticleID=10

Go to the full Biblical Views column “Reading the Bible Through Ancient Eyes” by Richard L. Rohrbaugh in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review: URL: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-interpretation/what-does-the-parable-of-the-talents-mean/?mqsc=E3850875&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHDDaily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=E6B926 

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Place Name Origin: Tucson

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While taking a drive this morning, my husband brought up the word origin and proper pronunciation of the place Tucson. So, if you don’t want to sound like a green-horn from back east, give a read of what I found on  Wikipedia:

“The Spanish name of the city, Tucsón [tukˈson], derived from the O’odham Cuk Ṣon [tʃʊk ʂɔːn], meaning “(at the) base of the black [hill]”, a reference to a basalt-covered hill now known as Sentinel Peak, also known as “A” Mountain. Tucson is sometimes referred to as “The Old Pueblo”.”

Word Definition: Millinery

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My sister sent me a link for a Department Store Museum, having me recall how our maternal grandmother worked a while at a local department store: Harris Company. She said our grandmother worked in millinery, and that was why when we went shopping, she always stopped there first. Not wanting to show my ignorance, I quickly ran to my Merriam-Webster Dictionary app. So that none of you should be caught flat/ footed, here is what the word means. Enjoy!

mil·li·nery\ˈmi-lə-ˌner-ē\
noun

: women’s hats

: the business of making or selling women’s hats

Full Definition:

1 : women’s apparel for the head

2 : the business or work of a milliner

Examples: a shop that sells millinery
First use: 1676

c. 2016, Merriam-Webster App