Friday, December 27, 2013

Unpacking The Twelve Days of Christmas

You Will Never Look at this Song the Same Way Again


I always assumed the song: "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to be a simple frivolous song of celebration. Not so!, this song is instructive in basic truths of the Christian Faith! Here is the explanation by Father Edward Dowling:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” celebrates the official Christmas season which starts liturgically on Christmas Day and ends twelve days later on the Feast of the Epiphany. “My true love” refers to God, “me” is the individual Catholic. The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. The “six geese a laying” are the Six Commandments of the Church or the six days of creation. The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God or the three gifts of the Wise Men. The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine or the two Testaments, Old and New. The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself, and the “pear tree” is the Cross."

Here is More Historical Background [click to read] from Father Dowling. h/t Kristina Riley

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pie Jesu By Forte on "America's Got Talent"

A Lesson in IMAGO DEI, by John Stonestreet

This group just met two weeks before this audition!

Beauty, Truth and Operatic Boy Bands... [click to read]

"In his book, “Simply Christian,” N.T. Wright speaks about the various “voices” that point to something greater and better than the stuff of everyday life. Among these are beauty and truth.

Beauty, both natural and man-made, he writes, is “sometimes so powerful that it evokes our deepest feelings of awe, wonder, gratitude, and reverence.” It both “calls us out of ourselves” and “appeals to feelings deep within us.”

This kind of transcendence lifts people beyond the distracting noise and sensationalist drivel of popular culture, which almost by definition is superficial, intended to grab our attention long enough to part us from our money.

Forte’s audition has gone viral. And it’s a powerful reminder that there is an alternative to the superficial. The fact that the lyrics sung came from the Church’s liturgy remind us that so much of the West’s enduring beauty was inspired by, and created in service to, Christian truth. And this story should remind us that, in the end – despite the layers of distraction, lies, and confusion – this is still God’s world and every person is made in His image.

The link between Christianity and beauty is so indisputable that, instead of denying it, skeptics and critics will often simply downplay or deny the importance of beauty altogether. But as Wright put it, this is a voice that cannot be silenced. You're likely to hear it in the most unexpected places—for instance, talent competitions on network television." -- John Stonestreet

THYME Magazine, Esther of the Year

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue I 

Sgt. Mayan Yogev, Esther of the Year

"She (Sgt. Yogev) never hesitates. There were dire situations in which she had to give on-the-field care to a victim with a gun shot wound to the head or perform a tracheotomy on 12-year-old girl in critical condition." -- Yoav Zitun ht/Phillip Pasmanick [1.]

Just another day in the life of 20 year old Mayan Yogev. Don't be fooled by her youth and beauty, Sgt. Yogev is probably the busiest first responder in her Golan Heights patrol. Hundreds of Syrians in this troubled border area have been the recipients of Yogev's good care. Like a modern-day Florence Nightingale, she lights the lamp of compassionate care for her patients without regard for their citizenship.

"During the last months she has seen things that your average paramedic sees in a decade," says one of her commanders.Indeed the parallel to Nightingale's service during the Crimean War seems fitting. Here is a person who has tirelessly performed her duties with dedication and courage. Yoav Zitun [click to read] has much good to say about this remarkable woman!

Her brother Yitach says of her: "We weren't surprised, she has a strong character which allows her to deal not just with painful sights but also with difficult challenges without reservation or fear.

When she returns home she goes out and has a good time, she speaks of how much she believes in what she is doing, no questions asked. She tells us how she meets people in dire need of help, and does not embellish stories as heroic. Even as a high school student, she knew she wanted to have a meaningful period in the IDF, offering help and saving lives."

Her Father says of her: "it was always important for her to make a contribution and help other people. Her work over the last few months fills me with pride."

Her IDF colleagues have much to say in praise of her as well. Known for her courage and willingness to head into any forward area to render medical care, Yogev is a valued and respected member of their team. Those of us who pray for the Peace of Jerusalem look forward to the day when scores of Syrians and Israelis will simply remember her as their angel, their "lady with a lamp," in a difficult distant past.

Santa Filomena
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Whene'er a noble deed is wrought, 
Whene'er is spoken a noble thought, 
Our hearts, in glad surprise, 
To higher levels rise.

The tidal wave of deeper souls 
Into our inmost being rolls, 
And lifts us unawares 
Out of all meaner cares.

Honour to those whose words or deeds 
Thus help us in our daily needs, 
And by their overflow 
Raise us from what is low!

Thus thought I, as by night I read 
Of the great army of the dead, 
The trenches cold and damp, 
The starved and frozen camp, -

The wounded from the battle-plain, 
In dreary hospitals of pain, 
The cheerless corridors, 
The cold and stony floors.

Lo! in that house of misery 
A lady with a lamp I see 
Pass through the glimmering gloom, 
And flit from room to room.

And slow, as in a dream of bliss, 
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss 
Her shadow, as it falls 
Upon the darkening walls.

As if a door in heaven should be 
Opened and then closed suddenly, 
The vision came and went, 
The light shone and was spent.

On England's annals, through the long 
Hereafter of her speech and song, 
That light its rays shall cast 
From portals of the past.

A Lady with a Lamp shall stand 
In the great history of the land, 
A noble type of good, 
Heroic womanhood.

Nor even shall be wanting here 
The palm, the lily, and the spear, 
The symbols that of yore 
Saint Filomena bore.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishes for a Blessed and Meaningful Christmas

The House of Christmas by G. K. Chesterton

Earth over the Moon. NASA Photo from Apollo 8

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honor and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where G-d was homeless
And all men are at home.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

THYME Magazine Special Christmas Edition II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XXIXa

"Behold the Man!"

-- John 19:5b

Many years ago I celebrated Thanksgiving with our church family. There I met the first Nepali I have ever had the chance to speak with. His name was Prem Pradhan. This Gurkha warrior had served in Britain's Royal Air Force before returning to his native land. An accident had permanently injured him and he walked with a limp; but walk he did. In a land where foot travel is necessary to reach most of the villages, Prem walked. He had learned something amazing and he felt compelled to travel to the ends of this mountain kingdom to share it!

Walking all day to reach some remote village, Prem would seek out the men and elders of the place and say: "I have heard a NEW THING! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!" Who would NOT be intrigued? Pradhan would go on to share his fresh vision of the risen Jesus... and many put their faith in Christ through the fresh telling of the old old story. Not everyone was thrilled to hear this 'Good News,' however. Prem had run afoul of the country's anti-conversion laws. He was put into prison, where he languished for seven years.

Nepali prisons are notorious. Prem's enemies sent him there knowing that it was a place to die. Like the amazing man Prem spoke of, he too was basically sentenced to death. But here he was, years later, telling me his story. He didn't die. While he was in prison he had a vision of the risen Lord, and was further strengthened in his resolve to tell the story of redemption. When he left prison he became involved in education and took in a lot of orphans. While proselytizers are discouraged in Nepal, educators are revered. Prem became a leader of his town and never stopped telling the amazing story.

The Babe of Bethlehem became a man. We have heard the Christmas story so many times that we fail to appreciate its audacity! Let us listen again to it with fresh hearing: "I have heard a NEW THING! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!" Let us follow the grown Jesus to that time of his death. We first meet him on a hillside. An unlikely candidate for leader of a world religion, he attracts multitudes nonetheless. He teaches a simple message that "The Kingdom of G-d is at hand," and then withdraws to a lonely place with his disciples.

Children flock to Him. He is often surrounded by them and his disciples want to shoo them away. Jesus rebukes them. The Kingdom of G-d is meant for such as these. I met an Egyptian woman who had visions of this place. She says that in Heaven Jesus is SURROUNDED by children. This Jesus did not seek out the halls of power, but instead sought out the weak and simple people of this world. He was a carpenter. His disciples were fishermen, zealots and a tax collector. He spoke to women (most rabbis would not). He spoke "as one having authority." Indeed, one of the most amazing parts of the story is when Jesus stands before the Roman ruler Pilate, who's reaction to Jesus is worth noting.

The promises of Messiah were well known and many in Judea hoped for the coming of that leader who would free them from the oppression of Rome. There were many who claimed to be Messiah, looking to fire a zealot rebellion, and Rome was especially good at killing people. So when a maligned and fairly ordinary Galilean was brought before Pilate, why should he hesitate? There was the fact that he was not actually inciting any uprising... but something in Jesus caused this tough old Roman to pause. Pilate knew his job, but he also recognized authority and chain of command. This Galilean was not blustering about rebellion, in fact He was holding the details of His true mission close to His heart. Pilate saw more than met the eye about the man from Galilee. There is more searching than sneering in his question: "Are you a king?"

Pilate finds himself drawn into a higher sort of dialogue with this man... even asking Him: "What is Truth?" Already troubled by the man he sees, he is further troubled by his wife's dream of him. Indeed, he wants to "wash his hands" of this matter. The simple execution of a supposed rebel has become something far bigger. Pilate tries to release Jesus but is pressed to release Barrabas, a real insurrectionist, instead. The death and Resurrection of Jesus became the story that eventually captivated the Gurkha from Nepal.

The modern age brought about a dismissal of the unseen. Science and Naturalism pushed for concentration on what can be observed. The spiritual and invisible dimensions of life no longer dominated great thought... except to perhaps be broad brushed as simply unknowable. Had Pilate limited himself to that which was observable he would have quickly executed this ragged Galilean. There would be no need for angst, for though he SPOKE as one with authority, he had no physical evidence of that authority.

C.S. Lewis was a man of the modern age. He dismissed the faith as a young man, embracing the Naturalism of his day. As an enlightened Medieval scholar, he nonetheless dismissed the power of story to convey unseen truths. His friendship with men like J.R. R. Tolkien led him to become: "the most reluctant convert in all of England." Lewis, along with his friend Tolkien, discovered the power of the story to convey unseen truths. Imagination for them became the key to discover and share: "a NEW THING!"

"When the Pupil is Ready, The Master Will Appear"

CS Lewis-1
"Imagination is the organ of understanding." -- C. S. Lewis

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” -- C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

THYME Magazine Special Christmas Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XXIX

Glimpses into a World Unseen
The Amazing Photography of Alexey Kljatov

© 2013 The Kirchman Studio, All rights reserved. 
Photographs © Alexey Kljatov, Used by permission.

When I first saw the work of Alexey Kljatov, I was amazed. He takes these stunning images with a simple point and shoot camera rigged with an old macro lens and employing skillful manipulation of lighting. Snowflakes landing on his Moscow window reveal their full wonder and individual beauty through his sublime images. Mr. Kljatov graciously allowed THYME to share his amazing work. You can see more of his photography Here [click to view].

Just imagine the swirling dance of these beautiful shapes in a snowstorm!













Glimpses into a World Unseen
Act II

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

Evidence of Divine Design, Great and Small
"The Heavens Declare the Glory of G-d;
The Skies Proclaim the Work of His Hands." -- Psalm 19:1

Moth wing pattern.

I saw this little creature outside my studio one morning. It got me reflecting on the creative wonder, both large and small, that surround us.

M 51 Spiral Galaxy, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Detail of the 'X Structure' in M 51, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The artist is amazed. So much beauty and wonder in the very large cosmos and in the very small things as well! Can a G-d who spins galaxies into being be concerned with things small and personal? Such order and grace in the extreme scales of our world, yet often what we see before us is chaotic and makes no sense.

That is why we present here Lee Strobel's Case for Faith and Case for Christ. If you had stepped into that Bethlehem stable many years ago, you would have not necessarily seen beauty and redemption. The smells of animals and the pain of labor and delivery would have overwhelmed contemplation. Yet Christians around the world will contemplate the wonder of that night; for what happened there ultimately made its mark on human history.

The Case for a Creator [click to view] by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith [click to view] by Lee Strobel
The Case for Christ [click to view] by Lee Strobel

Creche at the National Cathedral
A Particularly Beautiful Representation of the Nativity

Photo by Kristina Elaine Riley.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

THYME Magazine Special Advent Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XXVIII

The Forgotten Season

The turkey leftovers were still cooling when the much media hyped 'Black Friday' events began. In a Long Island Wal Mart, a young associate was trampled to death as bargain hunters literally broke down the doors. A young man had to die because twenty dollars could be saved on flatscreens. Managers closed the store and someone actually was irate that he couldn't get in. Come on, if a colleague has died, its 'Game Over' on the shopping frenzy. Close the store and try to help the poor man's significant others. To hell with reopening for the remainder of the day! Management reopened the store at one o'clock that afternoon. Satirical publication 'The Onion' came out with a story where thousands were 'reported' to have died in Black Friday shopping. I did not find it funny. One death to satisfy the greed gods is too many. Our prayers go out to the family and friends of this young man. May they find comfort.

Lost in the madness of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and yes, even Small Business Saturday is the wonderful celebration of Advent. The high churches still celebrate it. It is a time of waiting and preparation for the miracle to come. It is so un-modern! It ties us to history. The traditions of Judaism are full of waiting. Abraham and Sarah saw the child of promise when they were way past the age of child bearing. I sometimes think of one-hundred year old Sarah as a preschool parent and join her in her laughter! Then there was Joseph and his imprisonment, followed by hundreds of years of exile in Egypt. We often think about the Promised Land, but we forget that all Promised Lands seem to require a prep!

In fact, there came a time when people forgot the lessons of the brick kilns and lost the Promised Land to the Babylonians and the Persians. The Temple, center of worship, was destroyed. But it was in this time of living as expats that the community of the Synagogue strengthened the people anew. Ezra and Nehemiah presided over a return to the land of promise. Again, the promise required a prep. As the exiles built the prosperity of Persia, they prepared themselves for the time when they would build their own.

A second Temple was built. The exiles returned. Then came the great empires of the Greeks and the Romans. The Temple was rebuilt, but the heavy hand of Roman rule presided over a time of trouble. Many looked to the future Messiah to put things aright. Indeed, there were many who claimed to BE Messiah. They came and went. But in a time when Heaven seemed so distant, there came another child of promise... to a couple way past child bearing. John the Baptist, a "Voice crying in the wilderness," came saying: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." At the same season of history, his mother Elizabeth's cousin Mary came to visit.

Mary had been visited by an angel and told that she, a virgin, would bear the child of promise. Though this was an incredible blessing, she faced the prospect of unwed motherhood... in a culture that stoned you for it. Her betrothed, however, had also been given a message from Heaven, that he should take her for his wife. What incredible faith and love! When I chose my Confirmation name, as a boy, I took the name Joseph. It was not that I ever thought I could match such selfless love, but that I so admired it! Even to this day, some of the people I admire the most are those men who have stepped into the lives of children they did not physically father, and yet have earned the name Dad nonetheless! These men live as both an example and a challenge to me. Some of them are my juniors in years, but they far surpass in their maturity!

Such are the lessons we miss if we merely content ourselves with instant gratification. There is an old saying: "Rome wasn't built in a day." Indeed our own nation cast off from its sure position as an English colony to pursue an uncertain future. In 1812 England returned to burn the young country's capital. The White House is so called because its sandstone outer walls had to be painted after the burning left them permanently blackened. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, however, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building great ships to strengthen Bristol's trade with America. A hundred years after barely surviving her revolution, the nation we know had taken her place as a world power.

Why Advent is Important to Artists [click to read]

We do well to celebrate Advent, though it is largely forgotten in the popular narrative, because it causes us to pause and prepare. In a world where preparation is limited to four years it does us good to remember the lessons of centuries. Advent allows us to step back from our busy lives and ponder timeless truths... like the man that the Bethlehem baby grew to be. He too died, some say on a Friday, but his death was not just his own. Did He indeed carry the sins of the world? The account of His Resurrection causes us to ponder mysteries far greater than ourselves and our puny wants. In our next issue of THYME we will ponder more wonders and present some compelling evidence that we should indeed consider the life of this man. (to be continued)