Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.

Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar. For what that stuff in the banner means, scroll to the bottom of the sidebar.

27 January 2008

Preparing For Lent -- Gesimatide

Septuagesima Sunday, "70 Days".

Psalm 18:5,6,7. Verse Psalm 18:2,3.
O Lord, we beseech Thee favourably to hear the prayers of Thy people that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by The goodness, for the glory of Thy name, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Saviour, who liveth etc.
1 Cor 9:24 - 10:5.
Matthew 20:1-16. The Workers in the Vinyard. Sola gratia, by grace alone.

Sexagesima Sunday, "60 Days".

Psalm 44:23-26. Verse Psalm 44:2.
O God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that by Thy power we may be defended against all adversity, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth etc.
2 Cor 11:19 - 12.9
Luke 8:4-15. The Sower and the Seed. Sola scriptura, by scripture alone.

Quinquagesima Sunday, "50 Days".

Psalm 31:3,4. Verse Psalm 31:1.
O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear our prayers and, having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth etc.
1 Cor 13:1-13.
Luke 18:31-43. Healing the Blind Man. Sola fide, by faith alone.

20 January 2008

Great New Blog!

Four of the pastors whose blogs are on my blogroll, along with another pastor, have begun a great new blog of "preaching, insights and notes" on the Scripture readings and calendar of the Western Church.

Lately, it's often called the "historic" lectionary to distinguish it from the one Rome came up with to replace it after their last council in the 1960s, which has become the basis for the calendar and lectionary of many if not most of the churches that bother with a calendar and lectionary.

It will be a great resource to locate our celebrations of Jesus in concert with the ongoing history of the Western catholic, or universal, church now nearly two millennia on and our brothers and sisters in faith past, present, and to come, rather than the disconnect revisionism of 1960s Rome and its wannabes.

Just in time for Septuagesima and Gesimatide, Pre-Lent as it is sometimes called -- one of the many casualties to Rome's "new order"!

16 January 2008

Cars Update

TIME recently carried an article titled "The Dozen Most Important Cars of All Time".

I'm not sure whether it's a sign of making good choices in cars, or just getting older, but I have or have had three of them, 25%. Probably just getting older -- one was a hand-me-down my dad bought.

They are: the 1955 Chevrolet; the Toyota Corolla; the Plymouth/Chrysler Voyager.

The first was the hand-me-down. The second, still in production, was for me a 1977 Deluxe model I drove for 17 years and 177K miles. The third, also still in production, is for me a 1992 LE "shortie", the short wheel base which I much prefer over the more popular long wheel base, and note the present tense, it's in the driveway right now getting snowed on after another day's service!

Here's the link:,28757,1701729,00.html

BTW, there's also a list of The 50 Worst Cars Of All Time on the page too.

14 January 2008

What's a Septuagesima?

Over the last few weeks, Christians have been celebrating some joyous events -- the birth of Jesus, his naming and circumcision, the first Gentiles to find him, and his baptism. On various dates and combinations from place to place, the Christian Church has offered its members celebrations of these things in its church year.

But a change is coming, one already present amid the joy. We know as we celebrate his birth that he was born for us so he could die for us. We know as his blood was spilled in circumcision putting him under the Law his blood would be spilled on the Cross to redeem us from under the Law. We saw that the Gentiles who found him had to return by a different way, as is the way of all who find him different afterward. And after his baptism, Jesus will spend forty days in the desert before beginning his public ministry, wherein he will be tempted to make himself into the various false Messiahs into which Man makes him anyway so often. We will soon imitate those forty days for our own devotion with the season of Lent, on the way to the Cross, without which Easter is but another metaphor or myth. A change is coming.

So the church provides a transitional time between the first and second of its three great seasons, as the joyous events from preparing for his birth to his baptism, Advent-Christmas-Circumcision-Naming-Manifestation-Baptism, now turn to the literally deadly serious reason why they happened, sin and our redemption from sin. Just like with the Christmas related season, this has taken various forms in various places and times but within the same general pattern, and the universal practice of the Christian Church since ancient times (well, until 1960s Rome messed with it, but we'll get to that) has been to provide a transition from the beginnings of Jesus' earthly life to the end of it. The Western and the Eastern Churches also calculate Easter itself and the forty days before it differently, but the overall pattern is the same, as is a transitional period between all of this leading to Easter and the Christmas season just past. In the Eastern Church this transitional period is framed by five Sundays, after the last of which Great Lent begins on Clean Monday; in the Western Church it is a little over three weeks with Lent starting on Ash Wednesday. Either way, it is there.

Adding three weeks to forty days is approximately seventy days, and will always fit between the end of the Christmas cycle on 14 January, after the octave of the Epiphany and the Gospel portion relating the baptism of Jesus is read, and whenever Easter falls, early or late, in any given year. Septuagesima is simply another word for Seventy Days, that's all. The modern English word is derived from Middle English in turn from Old French in turn from the actual Late Latin word septuagesima meaning seventieth day. The septua- part is the same prefix for seven or multiples by ten of seven seen in other English words -- septet, an ensemble of seven; septuagenarian, someone in his 70s; the Septuagint, the translation into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures by seventy scholars -- and the -gesima part derives from the Latin for days, dies. Seventieth day, no more complicated than that!

With the Seventieth Day, or Septuagesima, the change is apparent on various levels. The white vestments of Christmastime joy give way to purple or violet of repentance; the joyful exclamation Alleluia and other joyful expressions like the Te Deum and the Gloria (there ain't no This Is The Feast) are not used, and the readings, especially if one follows the hours of prayer, the Divine Office, begin their way through the sorry history of Man from his creation and fall on, which the Holy Saturday liturgy will recapitulate.

On Septuagesima itself, the Gospel reading is Matthew 20:1-16, the story of the workers in the vineyard, wherein we see Man at it just as from the start in Eden, trying to impose his ideas of what is right on to God's, arguing over whether the same wage is fair for those who worked all day, those hired at the last, and everyone in between, as if we deserved anything from God and it were not his to give and not ours to presume or demand anyway. So we argue with God and each other over the denarius rather than taking in in gratitude from him who owed us nothing!

The Eastern Church still has its Pre Lenten Season, moving through the story of Zacchaeus, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, the Last Judgement, and the Sunday of Forgiveness. The world, which has ever had its early Spring celebrations, has in many lands timed them on Lent, so pre-Lent attains a nature as opposite from its Christian meaning as Advent has become the gift buying and partying season before Christmas. At the beginning of Lent, fasting in some form is observed, usually involving abstaining from meat, and the most likely origin of the the name for the worldly face of all this, carnival, is a farewell to meat (flesh), from the Latin root carne- for meat or flesh (as in carnivore) and vale, good-bye (as in valedictory). In most but not all places, Septuagesima is the start of carnival season, to end just before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. As the church prepares for the penitential season of Lent the world enjoys the flesh, in all senses of the word.

The Western Church, if one follows the lead of the Great Whore, Rome, as unfortunately many have, has abolished the transitional pre-Lenten period altogether! Now, this important transition is not only dropped, the period of time it formerly took is simply counted as Ordinary Time. That would be bad enough if ordinary here meant what ordinary ordinarily means. Ordinary here means the literal meaning of ordinary, which is, something that has no particular name or identity but is simply numbered. So in the novus ordo and the various adaptations of it, this significant time of transition from the Christmas cyle to the Easter cyle simply ceases to exist, in numbered anonymity, in the face of nearly two millennia of Christian observance in varying forms and the continuing observance of those who do not follow suit. Well, when you're the Whore of Babylon, you get to do stuff like that, maybe even have to do stuff like that.

At one time, in English Lent itself was called Quadragesima, meaning forty days (we'll get to Quadragesima Sunday in a later post), which is the duration of Lent in the West, and taking the name of the season itself from the last Sunday of preparation for it still survives in other languages, for example in Spanish the word Cuaresma for Lent itself or a fast. "Lent" as a word derives from a Germanic root meaning Spring. No word yet on whether Rome can get languages like Spanish to quit calling Lent after something it has abolished. The world seems securely attached to its traditions; Carnival season will endure though Pre-Lent is done in. Who knows? Maybe the next council can get Ash Wednesday moved to the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, for "pastoral reasons" of course like they jacked around the date of Epiphany, or move it to the Monday after and call it reclaiming our ancient Greek roots.

Back to the Christian Church, the earliest Septuagesima can fall is 18 January and the latest 22 February. This year, 2008, we'll come pretty close to the earliest possible date, 20 January. Join the Christian Church, East or West, in this transition, whatever your church body may have chosen to do, as we turn to the preparation for Lent, the observance of that for which he whose birth we recently celebrated came to die and then rise again, and the Easter and Pentecost joy to follow in anticipation of the eternal joy of heaven!

We start with learning from the workers in the vineyard not to haggle over the denarius but understand whose it is and that it is a gift, or, from the call of Jesus to Zacchaeus, who collected taxes for the foreign oppressors, that he doesn't have to climb a tree to see him, that he is coming to his very house -- which btw produced more grumbling about what is right and just -- after which Zacchaeus repented and made restitution to his brethren. The Son of Man has indeed come to seek and save the lost -- don't worry about being seeker-sensitive, HE is the seeker -- whether that be those who cast aside their own people for power or those who are idle because they are not hired, as we all seek our own gain first by nature and are all "unemployable" before the justice of God, who shows us mercy instead in Christ Whom He has sent.

13 January 2008

All Right Bo!

Fresh from being defensive co-ordinator for the 2007 national champion LSU Tigers, Bo Pelini takes over as head football coach for Big Red! All right!!

Welcome back, great to have you, glad you're here. IMHO we should have offered you the job the first time around. Looking forward and upward!

OK, be honest, how many of you guys thought this would be about Bo Giertz?

12 January 2008

Silver and gold have I none;

But such as I have give I thee (Acts 4:6) ---

The Archdiocese of Omaha -- to which I am supposed to belong once I knock off all this Lutheran stuff and "come home to Rome" -- faces the usual challenges coming from the impressive renewal of the church at Vatican II: serious priest shortages, school closings (though generally not in wealthy areas), parish closings and consolidations, on and on.

It is also facing the retirement of its current archbishop. So, it recently bought him a home for his retirement. $389,000.00. Paid in cash.

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying,
Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
Apocalypse (or Revelation) 18:4-8

06 January 2008

Happy Epiphany / Theophany / Los Tres Reyes!

Gee whiz. Everyone took down their Christmas trees already because everyone knows Christmas is over. So what's an Epiphany, what's a Theophany, and who are these three kings, or los tres reyes as one says if one has the good fortune, or has otherwise learned, to speak Spanish.

Well, guess what, we're not sure they were kings, we don't know for sure that there were three of them -- that's inferred from there having been three gifts in the Biblical story -- all we know is the Christian Church has for over 1,500 years celebrated a major feast on 6 January, and it isn't always the same things being celebrated. Man, sounds like one of those things we can just leave to the dustbin of history and stick to the Gospel, just preach Jesus, huh?

Maybe not. Consider. The word epiphany is an English form of a Greek word meaning appearance or manifestation. The word theophany is more specific, coming from the Greek for an appearance or manifestation of God. The former is more common in the Western Church, and the latter in the Eastern. The earliest known reference to the feast comes from a non Christian source, the soldier and historian Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman of Greek descent, who in his later years wrote a history of the Roman empire to continue the work of Tacitus. His Res Gestae Libri XXXI covers the years we know as 96 to 378, but, of the thirty one books only the last eighteen, covering 353 to 378, are still around, or extant, as they say. His, in 361, in his lifetime, is the earliest known reference to a Christian feast celebrated on 6 January. OK, so we've nailed down that from at least the fourth century Christians were celebrating something that had to do with the manifestation of God, which, being Christians, would have to do with Jesus, on 6 January.

The original feast, if you're a regular reader of the blog, though I'm not sure anyone is, we saw was a combination of all the events of the young Jesus, from his birth, to his circumcision, the visit from whoever it was that visited from the East, his naming, his baptism, and his first public miracle changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana. From there, various local churches in various places spun off some of these events, or didn't, on to their own days, resulting in a celebration on this day but not of the same things. So we can nail this down too, that 6 January is among the oldest and most important of the Christian church's celebrations, which over time took on varying significance in various places.

Unfortunately, we can also nail down that in the West anyway even among those who have a liturgical calendar 6 January now passes relatively unnoticed, and even more unfortunately, if one follows the Roman Church, ever ready to act like the state religion of the Roman Empire that it is, and even more unfortunately followed into the abyss by other Christian bodies willingly even with no state force to make it so, 6 January isn't even the feast day any more, after over a millennium and one half of observance!!! The mitred monkeys made the feast to fall on the Sunday after the first Saturday in January, bumping what was the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on that day, poor guy -- which in years where there was no Sunday between the Circumcision on the 1st and Epiphany on the 6th was celebrated on 2 January, btw -- in the 1970 novus ordo, a new mass with a new calendar and lectionary to fit, all in the service of the new religion re-invented from the old at Vatican II. Well, I guess when you're the Whore of Babylon you can pretty well do what you want, you will do pretty well what you want, but why those of us out here in the ecclesial unions -- Rome's term for churches that aren't really churches, not being in union with the one church, themselves of course, but preserve some truth along with their respective errors in churchy associations -- would have the slightest inclination to follow this madness either exactly or in adaptations for own use defies all explanation since it makes us brothelial unions following the Whore in its further retreat from the Gospel of Christ.

Now, back to Epiphany, in the Western Church (not to be confused with the Roman Church) 6 January has come to celebrate the arrival of the Magi. OK, so what's a Magi and where did they arrive. Well, we don't know for sure. Great -- after all the above, we actually do find more dustbin of history stuff, let's just preach Jesus?

Maybe not. Consider. What's a Magi? The word Magi -- did you notice it's pretty close to the word magic? -- comes from a Latin version of the Greek plural of a word they derived from the Persian word for the priests of Zoroaster. These guys are sometimes called astrologers, but that can be misleading because then the term had no reference at all to storefront fortune tellers and the like, but rather to the application of astronomy and mathematics to phenomena in the best science of the time, which later lead to the term being applied to all sorts of occult religion and what came to be called magic. Now, Matthew is the only one of the four Gospels that records the visit of the Magi. Interesting that he does not record the birth of Jesus itself where Luke does but does not record the Magi, and Mark doesn't bother with any of it, starting with Jesus' Baptism. In my scripture classes at a Catholic university, also attended by pre-seminarians, we learned that this of course shows the evolution of the story by writers of the Christian community as a pious expression of their faith rather than anything to be taken literally or written as some kind of accurate record as we now understand accurate. Yeah, well, back to the Christian faith and church, Matthew only says they were from the East, which means they weren't Jews, like the shepherds in nearby fields who also came.

So here is the next thing we can nail down. The Magi represent the manifestation of Jesus the incarnation of God to the Gentiles, non Jews, for the first time. These men, whatever their origin, were not followers of the religion God revealed to the the Jews, but of the best wisdom and science of their own place. So in the visit of the Magi we see two things: one is that God became Man in Jesus for all people, not only his own, and the wisdom of all people, even apart from the revelations of the Law and the Prophets, both leads to Jesus and is completed in Jesus. St Paul would later preach accordingly to Gentiles, not first instructing them in the Law and the Prophets, but taking their own religious ideas and pointing out how it both leads to Christ, but is not able to be complete without Christ, and is fulfilled and made complete in Christ. Being a Gentile, that Jesus' birth from the outset showed this is from God for Jews and Gentiles alike is a pretty big deal to me, certainly on that alone worth celebrating in a major way.

In the West, the names of the Magi are traditionally given as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Not Biblical but fairly well settled on by the eighth century. The Eastern Church has other names for them, not the same ones in all places, and with the exception of the Syrian ones none of them show any clear Persian derivation. Here's something I find fascinating: among some Chinese Christians, it is believed that one of the Magi was Chinese. Liu Shang was an astrologer (in the sense above) in the Han dynasty at the time of Jesus' birth and discovered a star that was supposed to indicate the birth of a king, whereupon he was absent from the imperial court for about two years -- enough time to follow the Silk Road (man, I gotta post about the Silk Road some time) and make it to Palestine? On the other hand, Marco Polo said he was shown the tombs of the three Magi about 1270 south of modern Tehran. On the other hand (yeah, I know, that makes three hands) St Helena supposedly found the remains of the Magi on her trip to Palestine -- Helena being the mother of Constantine, and 80 at the time of this trip -- and took them to the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which were later taken to Milan, then by order of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I in 1164, before Marco Polo, taken to the cathedral at Cologne, where they are, or something is, to-day. Interesting indeed, but not something to get all caught up in, because the significance of the Magi isn't their names or where their remains are, but the manifestation of God to all people of which they were the first example.

One interesting custom follows from the Western names for them. At the New Year there is the custom of writing the initials of the three above the door to one's house to ask for blessings in the new year. Now, this follows the idea of the Magi coming to Jesus' home, but we represent them usually at the manger, not his home, and this custom probably reflects the tradition that they arrived some time later after the Holy Family had either returned home or were staying elsewhere around Jerusalem after the birth itself. So there is some variation in just where they arrived, as well as when they arrived and who they were. But again, the point isn't in the details, it's in that they visited the Holy Family where they were living at the time. CMB, their initials, is then an acronym for Christus mansionem benedicat, may Christ bless this house. This is done by Sternsinger, German for star singers, a reference to the star which guided the Magi, children who carry a star and dress like the Magi, who write the initials and collect donations for charitable work. The custom of house blessings continues to this day -- at least Pastor Weedon blogged about doing some, though I don't remember he mentioned any sternsinger.

Also, in many places, especially those of Spanish derived culture, Epiphany is the gift giving day, after the example of the gifts of the Magi. This is Los Tres Reyes, the three kings. You put your shoes out, and if you're smart put a little hay in there for the camels, in some places (like PR) it's a box of hay under the bed, and you can leave a little note for the present you'd like, and on Epiphany you wake up and there's your presents, brought by the three kings! How about that, no clown in a red suit jumping down the fireplace, but the Magi coming by with presents for you just like they did for Christ. I read in Spain there were demonstrations this year against Santa Claus, a McWorld displacement of bringing gifts to children by the Magi. Jolly good show, I say! The whole world doesn't have to follow the secular Christmas customs of the United States, and, the Magi are considerably less removed from their Biblical character than Santa Claus is from St Nicholas.

But apart from these customs in other places, Epiphany isn't going to be much of a deal here in the US. However, there are signs of hope! Epiphany may be saved from cultural invisibility by the same commercialisation that has saved Christmas. Yes, you read it right, saved Christmas -- think how Christmas would disappear entirely in the secular "politically correct" world were if not for the revenue it generates for the economy and business. And, as the Latin presence in the US continues to expand, many retailers are finding that by making more of Epiphany with its gift giving traditions they can extend the harvest of the season. Yes that will come at the expense, so to speak, of the "real meaning of Epiphany" just as with Christmas, but it keeps it visible in a world that doesn't really want to hear the meaning of any of this, and that's where the church can come in, you know, preaching the Word and stuff like that.

Myself, though of English descent, and later culturally adopted by the Puerto Rican contingent at university, I was adopted by a couple of Irish descent, and Dad always called Epiphany "Little Christmas" following Irish custom, and there was one more present on Epiphany. I continue that with my own boys, though we don't do the whole box of hay thing -- they don't even speak any Spanish! Yet. But the idea is to tie it to the Magi, the manifestation of God to all people, the giving of what one has to Christ, the giving to each other as he gave to us, and most of all, his giving himself to us and for us. On 6 January.

Finally, what's this Theophany stuff? In the Eastern Church, while in some places it is still along the multifaceted lines of its original observance, 6 January is not associated with the Magi at all but usually a celebration with focus on the Baptism of the Lord in the River Jordan by John. Theophany is a wonderful name for this feast, being as we saw more specific than Epiphany -- specifying who is being manifest here, God. And on the event of Jesus' Baptism, we have the only time when all three Persons of the Trinity were manifest to Man at the same time: God the Father speaking from the heavens, God the Son in Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending from the heavens. The West has come to celebrate the Baptism separately from the coming of the Magi, but this beautiful celebration of the Eastern Church has much to show us about the Baptism of Jesus, whether we celebrate it this day or separately.

Theophany and Epiphany both celebrate manifestations of God, though different ones, and both are on 6 January. However, the Eastern Church liturgically uses the older Julian calendar, in which 6 January falls on what is 19 January in the Gregorian calendar in secular use pretty much everywhere now. So, between the Great Schism of 1054 and Vatican II, equally disastrous splitting events in Christianity, ain't nobody gonna be in church for nothin on Gregorian 6 January unlike hundreds and hundreds of years of those who came before us in faith and thought they were passing it on -- except for like this year when it falls on a Sunday anyway, or if you're a red hymnal or die type (I raise my hand here), or if you follow that part of the LSB that follows the Christian Church rather than Vatican II, though even where it does so far as I can tell does not cave on 6 January, or belong to groups in other churches attempting to maintain the faith amid the onslaught of revisionism and Vatican II wannabeism. Hey, wonder what Rick Warren or Joel Osteen are preaching on this Sunday 6 January 2008! No excuse this year!

Whatever their names, wherever they came from, whoever they were, whenever they got there, and wherever that was, and whether it's the coming of the Magi or the Baptism of the Lord, let us celebrate and rejoice in the appearance of God, the manifestation of God to Man in Jesus Christ, 6 January and every other day too!!

01 January 2008

Happy Whatever Day This Is!

In the world, it's simple -- Happy New Years! The Gregorian Calendar, pretty much the conventional standard the world over now even when alongside traditional calendars, counts this the first day of the new year.

It wasn't always so, even in the Western antecedents to the current Western calendar. New Years Day was 15 March in old Rome. But in 153 B.C., the date of the new year was changed to 1 January, that being the date when the two consuls were chosen. "Were chosen", passive voice, indicates an agent, someone who did it, so who did it? Originally they were elected. Elected by whom? The Comitia Centuriata, made up of all Roman citizens and divided into centuries, theoretically voting groups of 100 though not in practice, which voted first within itself and then as a unit in the election, but the consuls did not assume office until being ratified by election by the Comitia Curiata, made up only of members of elite families. There were two other assemblies in old Rome, the Comitia Calata and the Comitia Tributa, the former under the leadership of the pontifex maximus and concerned with ceremonies largely and the latter administrative and judicial. There were two consuls, not one, and they ruled to-gether. The plural of consul, consules, literally means walking to-gether. However, as the Roman Republic waned and the Roman Empire emerged, while the facade of the republic remained power moved from the people to the Emperor.

Gee, curia, pontifex maximus, what was once the real deal becoming a facade with real power in a single man, elected officials giving way to appointed ones -- does that course of events in Rome sound like Church as well as Empire? Well, that's another story. Or maybe it isn't. Anyway back to New Years.

Dionysius Exiguus -- Dennis the Short, in the sense of humble -- in his tables for the dates of Easter in 525 A.D. (anno domini, year of our lord, being his invention too!) came up with a new system for numbering years to replace naming them after consuls and the system of the Emperor Diocletian, who had been a major persecutor of Christians. He set the start of the new year in the Julian (as in Julius Caesar) at 25 March to co-incide with the Feast of the Annunciation. Annunciation of what? The announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would bear Christ, count 'em, nine months, the period of human gestation, before the celebration of Christ's birth on 25 December. The years themselves though continued to be lined up from January to December Roman style. Now how about that, New Years Day three months into the list of months of the year?

Well, that's the way it was until the Gregorian Calendar we use now came about. Who's Gregory. It's Pope Gregory XIII, who on 24 February 1582 decreed it in the papal bull "inter gravissimas", which means "among the most serious". Ancient practice in Rome and many other places was to name a document after its first word or two (the names of the books in the Hebrew Bible are this way) and the bull starts "Among the most serious duties of our pastoral office ... ". A papal bull, btw, doesn't mean what you might be thinking, chucklesome as that is. It's a formal charter by a pope, taking its name from the bulla, a cord encased in clay and stamped with a seal, used to prevent tampering and thus ensure authenticity. Call it a low tech anti hacking device. The new calendar, a revision of the old calendar of Julius Caesar, wasn't immediately adopted in the civil realm, although during this period the adoption of 1 January as the start of the new year really took hold. The new calendar corrected the drift of the Julian calendar, but the original motivation was to establish a common date for Easter throughout the Christian Church following what it took to be the provisions of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. It met with resistance from non Catholic countries, Protestant and Orthodox alike, seeing it as a Catholic power play, and of course had no relevance to the traditional calendars outside the Christian world of the time. In fact even in Europe the last country to adopt the Gregorian calendar, Greece, only did so in 1923, even after Japan (1873), China (1912) and the newly Communist Russia (1918)!

So the story's over, the world now has one calendar functionally, while other traditional ones can continue to be used locally.

Sort of. 1 January falls eight days after the celebration of the birth of Jesus. OK, it's the eighth day of Christmas, let's continue our Christmas celebration as we saw in the previous post. But guess what? In the Law -- Law of Moses -- on the eighth day after birth a male child is to be circumcised, according to the Law, to put him within the Law, and is also given his name. So on what we call 1 January now,the Church celebrates the Circumcision of Jesus, wherein he is under the Law that he will fulfill, and his blood is first shed for us as he is put under the Law as it will be shed in his Crucifixion when his blood is shed to redeem us from the condemnation of the Law -- the good news, the Gospel! And with it, is celebrated his naming, either on the same day, or the day after, or the Sunday after but before Epiphany if there is one. Jesus, a form of Joshua, who as Joshua took over from Moses and completed the journey to the Promised Land, so this Joshua takes over to complete the journey for us, that due to sin we cannot make, to the promised land of eternal life with God. And too the maternity of Mary as mother of this fully human and fully divine child who would do this for us is honoured too.

So for the Christian, it's Happy Feast of the Circumcision (and Naming) of Jesus!!

So the story's over, there you have it!

Well, yes it is, however, Rome, be it Empire or Church, is ever at the ready to tinker with stuff, and tinker they did at Vatican II in replacing the church calendar and lectionary in its various forms for centuries with a whole new one with three different versions of the year, (maybe this year the church will finally ash can this latest Roman revisionism rather than tinker with it some more, God willing!) and guess what, gone is the Circumcision and now is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God! I'm sure she loved that one! It ain't about me, you clowns, it's about him. Or, as she had to say to those serving the wedding at Cana, Do whatever he tells you.

And that is her message, for which we honour her, but above all listen to her. Happy Feast of the Circumcision, and whether you include it this day, to-morrow, or next Sunday, the Name of Jesus!!

And do whatever he tells you, like his mother said.