Monday, July 16, 2018. Have a blessed day on this Feast of Our Lady!
Bible, bless, blessing, Christ, Christian, Church, Colossians 3:14-15, enemies, enemy, Family, forgive, forgiveness, God, grateful, gratitude, Hate, Home, Love, Luke 6:28, Luke 6:35, obligation, pray, Prayer, providence, Psalms 139:23-24, Romans 5:8, thankful, Thanksgiving
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.
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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!
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.
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
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.
Mary 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.
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.
Sura 19, “Maryam”: Lines 22–34 include the palm tree episode.
Mysterious 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.
Respect for Christ in the Eucharist – One Priest’s Perspective
By Rev. Robert Lange
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/
Get ready for the New Year by printing your own calendars using our easy-to-create-and-print PDF Calendars. First find your country and choose between daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly format. Then add holidays, Moon phases, week numbers and even your own personal events. Press print and voila, you have your very own, fully customized 2016 calendar!
Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice and Southern Hemisphere’s summer solstice will take place at 04:49 UTC on Tuesday, December 22, 2015. At this moment, the Sun will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn before it starts to move northwards again.
People in most time zones in the Northern Hemisphere will enjoy the year’s shortest day in terms of daylight on December 22. Locations that are at least 5 hours behind UTC, including most of the United States, will celebrate 2015’s shortest day on December 21.
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One question lead to another, and before you knew it, here was another article for the Ginger Jar. This is one of those questions you never quite formed in your head, or even had the notion to ask your mother. So, here it is.
Crickets are omnivores and scavengers feeding on organic materials, as well as decaying plant material, fungi, and seedling plants.
Crickets are omnivorous, meaning they eat plants and meat. They are capable of causing a lot of damage to a yard or home because of the wide range of things …