Today in the U.S. we are celebrating Valentine’s Day. It is a day to give our special someone a note of love, flowers, or a delicious box of candy. It may be overrated, but it helps the bottom line at the stores and it is always appreciated by the recipient of such thoughtfulness.
Today, I want to write about the greatest of all loves.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”
When Christ laid down His life in payment for all sins, He paid the greatest price possible. It is in His sacrifice that we know the GREATEST OF ALL LOVES.
There are those who decide to give their lives to sharing this love with others. In some cases, it costs them their own lives. We have all heard of martyrs that lived long ago and are often described as saints today. Did you know that there are modern-day martyrs who have risked everything to bring God’s love and compassion to people around the world?
The man I will write about is an American, whose story is found below:
LIFE OF BROTHER JAMES:
Brother James was born into a family of farmers near Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA, on September 21, 1944. He attended grammar school and then went to Pacelli High School in the city of Stevens Point, where he met the Brothers for the first time. In September 1959 he entered the Juniorate in the state of Missouri. After three years there, he was admitted into the Postulancy program and then entered the Novitiate in August 1962, when he took the habit of the Brothers and the religious name Brother Leo William. Later, like so many other Brothers, he went back to using his baptismal name.
He was assigned to Cretin High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota for three years. There, besides teaching classes in Spanish, English, and Religion, he supervised school maintenance and he coached American-style football.
In August 1960 after making perpetual vows, he was sent to Bluefields, Nicaragua. He taught there until he was assigned to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua in 1974, where he was the Director. Under his leadership, the school population grew from 300 to 800 students. Brother Santiago also accepted the task of supervising the construction of ten new rural schools. His religious superiors ordered him to leave Nicaragua in July 1979 during the time of the Sandinista revolution. It was feared that since he worked for the Somoza government he might be at risk. For that reason, he returned to the United States and again taught at Cretin High School in the fall of 1979 and he participated in the Sangre de Cristo renewal program in the state of New Mexico in 1980.
He was sent again to mission territory, this time to Guatemala, in January 1981. He taught at the secondary school in Huehuetenango and he also worked at the Indian Center, where young indigenous Mayans from rural areas studied and trained in agriculture.
In the afternoon of February 13, 1982, he was shot several times by three hooded men and he died instantly. Attempts to identify the assassins were unsuccessful. After funeral rites in Guatemala and in Saint Paul, Minnesota, he was buried in the parish cemetery in Polonia, Wisconsin.
His character and personality:
His own writings and other declarations pertaining to him, before and after his death, show us his character and personality. Before leaving Pacelli High School to go to the Juniorate, the Brothers that knew him wrote that “he was very generous, pious, honest, docile and that he was very well-ordered and tidy; he did not smoke, he received the sacraments weekly, he got along well with his classmates; he devoted two and one-half hours per week to house chores.”
A Brother who was his Director in the Scholasticate and at Cretin High School, his first community, recalled him as “an intelligent person, although not an intellectual, jovial, easy to relate with, preferring physical work to sports, with a deep faith and love for his religious vocation, but with a certain tendency to come late to class and community prayers.”
His Call to Missions:
While he was still in Nicaragua, his old desire to work on the missions was obvious. From Nicaragua, he wrote about the satisfaction he felt while working for the very poor. Responding to the question if he felt afraid about the shootings that were taking place around him, he wrote: “Are you kidding? I never thought I could pray with such fervor when I go to bed.” In one of his last letters, before he died, he showed that he was aware of the situation in Guatemala and the possible personal consequences for him. He wrote in January 1982: “I am personally weary of violence, but I continue to feel a strong commitment to the suffering poor of Central America. … the Church is being persecuted because of its option for the poor. Aware of numerous dangers and difficulties, we continue working with faith and hope and trusting in God’s Providence.” He went on to write: “I have been a Brother of the Christian Schools for nearly 20 years now, and commitment to my vocation grows steadily stronger in my work in Central America. I pray to God for the grace and strength to serve Him faithfully among the poor and oppressed in Guatemala. I place my life in His Providence. I place my trust in Him.” This Brother of the Christian Schools was martyred on February 13, 1982, at the age of 37, in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. This was the day before Valentine’s Day.
Video: Turn up sound (unmute if needed)
“The recent rash of mass shootings has left the nation stunned but, sadly, not speechless. The usual media and political suspects are saying the usual things, using the bodies of the innocent as a sickening ideological soapbox.
We’re not going to do that here. These gruesome murders are not about, nor caused by, politics. Rather, they are the unavoidable and perhaps unstoppable product of a deeply diseased culture. A culture which has become the perfect growth medium for psychopathy.
“Loners” are no longer alone when in their online worlds. They can communicate without actual human contact. They can find reinforcement for their darkest and most twisted thoughts and fantasies. They can give the worst demons of their psyches an artificial, external life in cyberspace… free to express hatred and anger anonymously and without consequence. And on the Internet, madness can hide in plain sight.
After all, who’s going to notice or care about garden variety insanity in a world which routinely describes everyone as murderous: baby killers on one side, Earth-destroying Nazis on the other. The stakes are absolute, the “other” is the enemy, and words are just words…until they become actions.
The social mechanisms which formerly prevented these massacres have crumbled the bonds of family, friendship, and faith…a shared sense of community, optimism about the future, moral certainty and personal responsibility.
Instead, we now live in a crowded world of communal loners, all staring at their phones instead of the world and people around them. Politicians and media figures preach an unsubtle and dangerously divisive message of absolutes: you are either on this side or that, either all good or all evil. There is no middle ground – only calls for action. Calls that the wrong people are hearing.
We live in a culture in which too many feel they have no meaning or importance, but believe that one spectacular act of madness can give them the instant celebrity which defines success in a sick society. And so they kill to feel alive…to experience an illusion of power at the expense of the powerless. And even knowing the likelihood that they will be killed during their heinous act, they believe they will live eternally in the electronic ether, washed in the blood of the sacrificed.
Gun control can not and will not change any of this. The phenomena of mass shootings is, in fact, unstoppable absent a wholesale change in our culture, our way of life, and our society’s unhealthy obsession with an inhuman and inhumane electronic world.
The good news is that the vast majority of people still retain values strong enough to keep them morally centered in our crumbling culture. The bad news is that unless those values can regain cultural dominance, and unless we can replace combativeness and angry confrontation with honest conversation, mass murder will continue to be our inescapable new normal.”
- You shall have no other Gods but Me.
- You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
- You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
- Respect your father and mother.
- You must not commit murder.
- You must not commit adultery.
- You must not steal.
- You must not give false evidence against your neighbor.
- You must not be envious of your neighbor’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.
We have to begin somewhere to heal our society. It’s bigger than any law or any revision of laws…for it has to start in the heart. It will take all Americans working together for a peaceful life for us and our children.
For all those who have suffered great loss, we, at Boyer Writes, dedicate this video. Turn up your sound and quietly listen to the words.
You may be decorating your house…cooking some beautiful loaves of nut bread for the neighbors or just relaxing. Once Thanksgiving is passed, we go out to find the best frasier fir tree we can find and the decorating begins. It is a great time when we pull out the ornaments that we’ve collected over the years…hang the Moravian Star on the front porch and enjoy the lights of the neighborhood that are beginning to shine.
Whatever you’re doing, simply listen to the joy of Christmas music. It’s guaranteed to get you in the spirit of the season. Enjoy!
Crucifixion was one of the most gruesome deaths that a person could endure. Because of this, it is difficult to understand why the Christians remember that day as “GOOD Friday.” Let me explain. It is not the torture of the crucifixion that is considered good…but the message of what this death meant to the people of the world.
1Peter 2:24 tells us, “He Himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds, you have been healed.”
What exactly is crucifixion? Have we ever really given it sufficient thought? Perhaps this description taken from Wikipedia will help:
Crucifixion is a method of capital punishment in which the victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation… Crucifixion was most often performed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar (usually particularly heinous) crimes. Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals. Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful, gruesome, humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal. Crucifixion methods varied considerably with location and time period. The Greek and Latin words corresponding to “crucifixion” applied to many different forms of painful execution, from impaling on a stake to affixing to a tree… Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher, wrote: “I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet”…In some cases, the condemned was forced to carry the crossbeam to the place of execution. A whole cross would weigh well over 300 lb…Upright posts would presumably be fixed permanently in that place, and the crossbeam, with the condemned person perhaps already nailed to it, would then be attached to the post. The person executed may have been attached to the cross by rope, though nails and other sharp materials are mentioned in a passage by the Judean historian, Josephus, where he states that at the Siege of Jerusalem, “the soldiers out of rage and hatred, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest”…While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Although artists have traditionally depicted the figure on a cross with a loin cloth or a covering of the genitals, the person being crucified was usually stripped naked. Writings by Seneca the Younger state some victims suffered a stick forced upwards through their groin. Despite its frequent use by the Romans, the horrors of crucifixion did not escape criticism by some eminent Roman orators. Cicero, for example, described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment”, and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears”…Frequently, the legs of the person executed were broken or shattered with an iron club, an act called crurifragium, which was also frequently applied without crucifixion to slaves. This act hastened the death of the person.
From the writings of those who heard the last words of Jesus, He said these sentences as the hours past and He eventually died on the cross:
- “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
- “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 This was said to the thief dying on the cross next to Him.
- “Woman, this is your son.” (Said to his Mother, Mary, who had given Him birth)
- “This is your Mother.” (Said to His disciple John to take care of His mother Mary) John 19:26-27
- “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (This was after 3 hours of darkness, which was only 3:00 o’clock Judea time in the day.)
- “I thirst.” (This was the expression of his human suffering. He had been scourged, crowned with thorns and was losing blood.)
- “It is finished.” John 19:30
- “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
It was by His death that we are redeemed. “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave Himself as ransom for all.” 1Timothy 2:5-6
The Biblical Text of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ taken from Matthew 27:33-56 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull),
they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head, they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him; among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
(Turn up sound)
Jesus had just performed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. People around this event had actually seen this miracle happen after Lazarus had been buried four days. There was no doubt about it. Throughout His ministry on earth there had been many miracles: water to wine, healing the leper, the blind and the sick.
The word of this particular miracle spread quickly and when Jesus found a donkey to ride through the streets, the crowds came out to meet him in a frenzy. Surely this man was going to save them from the Romans and become their King and Messiah.
They called out to him, giving him the name of not only “king”, but also “Prophet, Son of David, the Messiah, and the Hope of Israel.” There was great excitement and expectation that things would change for them through this man who did great and wondrous things. The crowd threw down palm branches before him as they would a great leader or someone they were ready to make their ruler. They shouted “Hosannah!” Many Christian churches reenact this event on Palm Sunday.
Since previous posts have been about LENT and MAUNDY THURSDAY, perhaps it would be good to put into sequence the main Christian days of the Easter Holy Week prior to Easter:
- Ash Wednesday (Ashes placed on the forehead for prayer, fasting and sorrow for sins in repentance) Job, Jerimiah, Daniel, Mathew and Luke are a few scriptures where this is described.
- Palm Sunday (Triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem)
- Maundy Thursday (The Last Supper, washing of disciple’s feet, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin )
- Good Friday (The Crucifixion)
- Easter Sunday (The Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah)
The Jews knew the Holy Scriptures. David had taken an oath to Saul that he would make certain that the descendants would not be destroyed. (1st Samuel 26) Jesus Christ, being from the line of David, could possibly in their minds be the Messiah or Mashiach which means the “anointed” one.
Original Hebrew Word: מָשִׁ֫יחַ
Phonetic Spelling: (maw-shee’-akh)
Jesus knew what was going to happen to him and that He had not come to be an earthly king, but to be a Savior and the Messiah for Whom the Jews had been waiting.
Many Jews, even today, have through the study of the Holy Scriptures, both old and new, have found Christ to be their Messiah. These are often referred to as Messianic Jews. (For personal stories of Messianic Jews, see the link after the video.)
VIDEO (Turn up sound)
It’s that time again…Fall and Halloween.
Halloween brings back sad memories for me. I was riding a bus from North Carolina to Alabama on Halloween night. My Grandmother had died and I was returning from her funeral. I remember watching the little Trick or Treaters walking around their communities with their little baskets in hopes of some nice candies. It was not the custom itself that bothered me for we did fun things…like bobbing for apples when I was a child, but it was the association with a difficult memory. Since that time, I get ready for the little ones, but have not enjoyed it as others may. Even adults dress up and go to the “spook” houses. More recently churches and community groups host parties for the young to keep them out of harm’s way. This is a very good idea.
If we should go to the streets and ask those parents walking their children, “What is the history behind our Halloween tradition?” Someone in the group may have a vague idea that it started with something religious…but not certain where or when. Therefore, this blog is to share with you the true history of Halloween from a Christian’s prospective. (Taken from All About) If you have children or grandchildren, you may want to pass this blog along to the families before Halloween. It may be a good history lesson before they put on those Halloween costumes and go out for a night of fun.
“When we consider the history of Halloween (a Christian perspective), it may seem as if the modern holiday has gotten out of hand. After all, doesn’t Halloween glorify evil? Is it right to send our children out as devils and vampires? Should we emphasize the saints, whose nearly forgotten feast day is the reason for Halloween? Hallow is the same word for “holy” that we find in the Lord’s Prayer, ande’en is a contraction of “evening.” The word Halloween itself is a shortened form of “All Hallows Eve,” the day before All Saints Day. This holiday, properly understood and celebrated with all of its fun trappings, can be a way for us to deepen our understanding of faith.
Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic tribes of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. On October 31, the tribes would celebrate the festival of Samhain. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead — including ghosts, goblins, and witches — returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider — traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates All Souls Day.
The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the church is not bound by space or time.
History of Halloween (Christian Perspective) – The Customs
Many of the customs we now associate with Halloween are also derived from ancient celebrations.
For example, the current custom of going door-to-door to collect treats actually started in Ireland hundreds of years ago. Groups of farmers would go door-to-door collecting food and materials for a village feast and bonfire. Those who gave were promised prosperity; those who did not received threats of bad luck. When an influx of Irish Catholic immigrants came to the United States in the 1800s, the custom of trick-or-treating came with them.
Does your family carve a pumpkin to place on your porch for Halloween? If so, then you can once again thank the Irish for the tradition. Actually, the custom began with a turnip. People would hollow out the turnips and place lighted candles inside to scare off the evil spirits. When the Irish came to America, they discovered the pumpkin as a larger substitute for the turnip. And so, we now carve pumpkins instead of turnips for Halloween.”
Some parents choose not to observe this particular day because of the associations of its history. Others believe that the evolution from the past is simply a time to have fun, dress up, and do things together on this day. Churches are often having parties for the community and church children because they believe it is a safer place to observe Halloween. Whatever your family thinks…. Happy Halloween…. or All Hallows Eve on this night, October 31st, from Boyer Writes. Have fun and be safe!
Video on the History of Halloween (from History Channel)
There are times when one will want to just forget about the world around them. Things seem too hectic…too confused…too dangerous in our modern world that some would say has gone “MAD”. A few make the choice to leave it. They desire to find peace…to know God…and to rest from the frays of life. They choose another way.
Today I will share with you what some in a Russian monastery say is their reason for leaving the world, their families and all that the modern life holds. We try to understand why they have made this choice…as have many in other parts of the world.
When the ice on the lake melts, many pilgrims, men and women, come to the Monastery to seek out a spiritual life through a visit, worship, and prayers from the monks.
The following slide presentation of photographs are by Paul Miller, who was also invited to live at the Monastery for a period of time and photograph their lives.
Just down the Blue Ridge Parkway from where my husband and I live is a scene of rolling hills and a monastery set in the arms of our lovely mountains. Outsiders are not welcome to visit there. They have their purposes. The men there care for the grounds of this beautiful place and other chores they may be assigned. They have left the world that is just in sight out their windows… as tourists ride the Parkway.
One wonders about the Monasteries world-wide. Do they wish to have their normal life back after being there for a while? The men in this video try to explain their reasons, beliefs and their feelings about this question.
Boyer Writes shares with our readers the life of Russian Orthodox monks on the islands of Valaam. The Valaam Monastery is often referred to as the Athos of the North. It is located north of St. Petersburg, Russia on an island on Lake Ladoga.
The music is: “Liadov: 8 Russian Folk Songs – 6. Cradle Song” by Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México, Enrique Bátiz
For our weekend pleasure, I would like to take you on a journey to a place that most people will not go. We will go via this blog and video to Valaam and the archipelago of monks who live and worship there today.
Valamo Monastery is a Russian Orthodox monastery in Russian Karelia, located on Valaam, the largest island in Lake Ladoga, which is the largest lake in Europe. The monastery of Valaam has a unique tradition of singing, called the Valaam chant, that combines some features of Byzantine and Znamenny chants.
For all Christians everywhere, the life of faith is a journey. It may be hard for some believers to understand the various forms of Christian worship and the interpretation of the Holy Life. Just as there are differences in worship between the various Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic or Anglican liturgy, all study the Holy Scriptures and live their lives accordingly. One may question if these men of the monasteries understand grace…and grace alone. Do they believe that their lives of dedication is a type of works that will gain them eternal life? I would pray that they understand that Christ has done all there is to do for our salvation and faith in Him is the way and only way of eternal life. There are no works that can save. Nevertheless, the brotherhood, obedience, and beauty of their worship service
One may question if these men of the monasteries understand grace…and grace alone for salvation? Do they believe that their life of dedication is a type of works that will gain them eternal life? I would pray that they understand that Christ has done all there is to do for our salvation. His death on the cross paid the entire price for sin. Nevertheless, the brotherhood, obedience, and beauty of their worship service is all to be admired. Their spiritual life of prayer is their gift to the world. There is a restfulness and peace about their dedicated lives. Prayer is extremely important to them as it should be to all Christians.
While the lake is frozen, the monks work at their assigned jobs, pray and meditate. When the lake thaws, they welcome the world with its pain and sorrows. They become a sounding board for the weary of life, sick and discouraged. Even those who may be oppressed or possessed by evil, come to the monastery for relief. Young people, often from orphanages, come to draw strength for their everyday lives of temptations.
The gentleman who visits the monastery is looking to talk again with Father Seraphim, whom he visited 20 years before. The Father explains that their mission is to pray nightly for the world that is “upside down”. It is a blessing and relief to know that Christians in remote places are praying for a world that so desperately needs God’s help. Thank you, Monks of Valaam.
The video (with English subtitles) gives insight into the ancient Christian traditions and the priests of today who live and worship in the Valaam Monastery in frozen Russia. (Suggestion: If the video is too long for your period of time to view, simply pause, minimize and go back to it for another segment. You will be blessed.)
- THE HISTORY OF THE GREGORIAN CHANT:
“Gregorian chant takes it name from Pope St. Gregory the Great. Although the tradition proclaims him as the composer of chant, historical scholarship shows rather that he served as the great link between the early Church and the Middle Ages. As such, he symbolizes the chant of the churches in Rome, which spread to England and to Gaul in the seventh and eighth centuries.
With the impetus of Charlemagne (768-814) and his Carolingian renaissance, musicians created new and more elaborate chants. The early development is difficult to trace because all the music was handed on as an oral tradition; nothing was written down even though the repertoire for the Mass and the Divine Office comprised well over 2,000 pieces”
- MODERN PERFORMANCES and revival of the chant:
(Wikipedia) “The monks of Santo Domingo de Silos have been singing Gregorian chant since the 11th century (before that, they used Mozarabic chant). There was a break in the tradition the nineteenth century when the abbey was closed by the government as part of the so-called Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal. The abbey was re-established with the help of monks from Solesmes Abbey in France. Solesmes is known for its commitment to plainsong and the Solesmes style of singing has influenced the Spanish monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.
- WHY LISTEN TO GREGORIAN CHANT MUSIC?
Becky Fulton, a student, had this thought: “Since I study Classics and take Latin, I can recognize the prayers and how they roughly translate. However, since the vowels are elongated within the songs, I have to concentrate to be able to make out the words being sung so I can keep the songs in the background without them distracting me as I try to work. But most of the time I am able to easily translate the title of the song and get an idea of what it is about. I also find the songs to be calming not only when I’m trying to study or work on an essay, but also if I want to relax or sleep. The harmonies of the (most likely) monks singing the songs allow the listener to take in the many voices of the of the chorus and enjoy the music.”
I agree with Becky. Sometimes just having the chant in the background is very soothing. My suggestions would be to lean back, close your eyes and visualize something wonderful. Therefore, I share with you this recording FOR YOUR WEEKEND LISTENING PLEASURE: Gregorian Chants from Assisi-Medieval Lauds
Once a year, we as a nation stop to say we are “Thankful”. It may be a time of family sharing a carefully prepared meal or watching the parades or games on T.V., but we also stop to thank God for the many blessings given to us…especially our personal freedom to worship God.
To our readers around the world, Boyer Writes wishes you a blessed Thanksgiving and our thanks to you for being a Boyer Writes reader.
Video (Turn up sound)
This past Wednesday was the beginning of Lent for Christians. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday because the priest makes the sign of the cross on one’s forehead with these words. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” If one actually thinks of the meaning of these words, they are quite sobering. We all know that time here on earth is short, but how often do we really get up each morning and thank God for a new, wonderful, glorious day? I’m certain that someone reading that sentence is saying “You have no idea what my day is like…or what I am going through!” That is true, but God does. In these 40 days, we remember the suffering of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who understand all we face in life. He wept in the Garden before enduring crucifixion. One day our days will end. To the atheist, I say, “What if you are wrong and you find yourself standing before God. What then? I also would say that should you be right, I have had the most wonderful, love filled life sent from “God”.
Christians often miss these special 40 days before the Crucifixion and Easter, Christ’s Resurrection. Yet, these forty days are some of the most important in the holy times for a truly dedicated Christian. I would not limit this time of repentance to only Christians either, for I’m certain there are those who would like to find faith, but still has not done so. Perhaps even some reading this blog. Those who are not used to the Christian practice of receiving the ashes may have seen someone out on the street with a black smudge on the forehead. They may have wondered why their face was dirty, not knowing that it was the sign of the cross received on Ash Wednesday. Some people also choose to fast certain meals or give up some special treat during this time. This should not be something we announce, for we are told in Matthew 6:16-18 the following. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” This is why some Christians wash off the ashes after they are received, so that it is something between them and God and not for the general public. Others also spend each of the 40 days reading special scriptures and prayers in private devotions.
The main thing for Christians during Lent are two things: self-reflection and repentance. I’ve often said that I do my best praying in the shower. Wherever your place to pray may be, use it to list all the sins and short-comings that you can think of and ask forgiveness. The Holy Scriptures tell us that “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17 Thank God for that!
Short history of Lent and its Meaning:
(Author Norman Tanner) “The earliest mention of Lent in the history of the Church comes from the council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council of Nicaea is best known for the profession of faith – the ‘Nicene Creed’ – which is still recited in most parishes every Sunday immediately after the sermon. However, the council also issued twenty canons of a practical nature, dealing with various aspects of church life, and the fifth of these canons speaks of Lent. The word used for Lent in this fifth canon is tessarakonta (in the original Greek), which means ‘forty’. For the first time in recorded history, we have mention of this period of preparation for Easter as lasting forty days. Much earlier, Christians had introduced Easter Sunday to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Soon afterwards, a period of two or three days preparation, specially commemorating Christ’s passion and death – the ‘Holy Week’ part of Lent today – had been adopted by various Christian communities. But the first mention of a preparatory period lasting the forty days comes from this fifth canon of Nicaea. The length of time was adopted in imitation of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was famished. (Matthew 4:1-2)
Around the world, Christians will flock to churches on at least two days: Christmas and Easter. In some cases, it is a requirement in order to be considered in “good standing” with the Church. Yes, we know that people are busy and God looks on the heart not on our record of attendance, but just the same these 40 days leading up to our most celebrated Holy Days should not be forgotten. After all, repentance and forgiveness is what keeps us in “good standing” with God. What is more important?
Therefore…therefore…and therefore….head to a secret place or to the shower …for it’s not just for cleaning the body, but for the soul. Don’t miss it.
A prayer from Syrian Clementine Liturgy
O God, the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessing and the bestower of affection, Who sends peace to those who receive it, open to us this day the sea of Your love and water us with plenteous streams from the riches of Your grace and from the most sweet springs of Your benignity (kindness or tolerance toward others.). Make us children of quietness and heirs of peace. Enkindle in us the fire of your love ; sow in us Your fear; strengthen our weakness by your power; bind us closely to You and to each other in one firm and indissoluble bond of unity.
Readers around the world may not understand some of the rituals of the Christian Church. Because today is called Ash Wednesday, it may be good to help in this understanding. The observance even varies from one Christian church to another.
“Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and it marks the beginning of Lent. Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults.”
I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that we all have faults, even if we do not always call them sins. Most people know when something is considered a real sin. So, why in the modern world… when we are asked to think on the positive, should we set aside 40 days for reflection, prayer, and being sorry for things done? As mentioned, this day begins the forty days of Lent. Some take it lightly and joke about giving up candy or a latte for this period of time. To others it is much more a serious matter.
Job, who had suffered so many unbelievable things, said the following:
. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. The other eye wandereth of its own accord. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)
The prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26).
The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God this way: “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
Jesus spent 40 days praying and fasting in the wilderness to His Father in heaven for the people of the world.
How does Ash Wednesday get its name? It comes from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of believers as a sign of repentance before God. These ashes typically are gathered from the palms used the year before at Palm Sunday, which is a celebration of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. The palms are burned to make the ashes. Some think of this as only a Roman Catholic practice, but it is also celebrated each year by those in the Episcopal and Anglican churches, as well as Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and some Baptist denominations.
Does this Ash Wednesday, or any other Christian observance, forgive sins?
No, of course not, for it is not what we as believers do that forgives and gives eternal life. Only Christ, our Savior, who died for our sins…taking our place…can forgive. He said on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus Christ was not just another prophet as some of the major religions believe. His resurrection from the dead makes Him different. His disciples who observed Him die on the cross also saw Him three days later very much alive. Thomas, who was much like any of us, wanted to see proof. He asked to actually see the nail prints in His hands and the scar on His side. Yes, the resurrection, which is celebrated by Christians at Easter, is the only hope for our own resurrection. The Apostle Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
By the way, for anyone who has not studied Paul’s writings in the New Testament, I would suggest that you do so. Paul, first known as Saul and a powerful member of a Jewish group, had persecuted the Christians and actually held their robes while they were stoned. God had other plans for him and later he found Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Hopefully, this writing has helped our non-Christian readers understand better some of the rituals of the Christian church. Persecution of Christians is happening around the world today, especially the Coptic Christians.
It is important to pray for peace and understanding. I am certain there are those in cyber-world who are searching for the truth. You are wrestling, but God also has a plan for you. Like it or not, we must remember that we are dust and to dust we will return. It is important to be ready.
If you have any questions, please feel free to write to us at Boyer Writes. firstname.lastname@example.org We will try our best to answer any questions.
VIDEO FOR ASH WEDNESDAY AND THE BEGINNING OF LENT