Activities for St Nicholas’ Day Telling the legends

The legends about St Nicholas bring together the Advent and Christmas themes of expectation, excitement, gift-giving and goodness. Retell some of the legends about St Nicholas. Children could act out the story when St Nicholas secretly gives gold coins to three poor women; or play a game trying to throw chocolate coins or sweets into three large Christmas stocking or a large bag.

Bringer of gifts

St Nicholas is the great gift-giver and kind man. Explore the theme of gift-giving with the children. Ask them why gifts are given at Christmas and what do they symbolise? Discuss with them whether they like giving presents and what sort of presents they choose for people. Encourage the children to consider what makes a gift precious. Then explain that St Nicholas gave gifts freely to those in need. He expected nothing in return.

With younger children: pass-the-parcel

To play this game the children’s leader needs to prepare a pass-the-parcel.  The parcel should contain a stocking/sock full of sweets, wrapped around with many layers of paper. After the discussion on gift-giving play pass-the-parcel with the younger children. While the parcel is being passed around the leader can sing Christmas songs. Whenever the leader stops singing, the child with the parcel unwraps a layer of paper. The winner is the child who unwraps the final layer and gets the present. Ask the winner
what St Nicholas would have done with the present. Would he have kept it for himself or shared it with the other children? It is hoped that the winner will get the message and share the sweets.

With mixed age groups: make a gift shoe

Encourage the children to discuss the customs they have at home during Advent and Christmas. They will come to realise every home is different.  Then explain some of the St Nicholas Day customs in Holland and Germany, including how children leave out their shoes for St Nicholas to fill. The children can make their own paper or cloth shoes to remind them of the custom.

You will need: paper, colouring and decorative materials, a stapler, scissors and small sweets, chocolate buttons or coins.

Get all the children to draw around one of their feet on a piece of paper and cut out the outline. Then ask them to draw around the top part of their foot on a second piece of paper and to cut this out. The top part of the shoe can then be stapled to the sole as shown in the diagram. Older children might prefer to use felt and sew the edges together. The children can decorate their shoes and fill them with small sweets to give to someone at home or in the congregation. They can write a greeting Happy St Nicholas’ Day – on the shoe or hang it up as a Christmas decoration.

This article was taken from Nicola Currie’s book “Festive Allsorts – Ideas for Celebrating the Christian Year”NS/CHP. Nicola Currie is Communications Officer in Worcester Diocese.

distributed by Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS)

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Male Unbifurcated Garments – What Are They?

M.U.G.s – Male Unbifurcated Garments

Unbifurcated garments – including cassocks, albs, rochet, kilts, robes – are traditionally male clothing that have been worn by men throughout history. They have been worn by all the men in the Bible, by Roman gladiators, Vikings, and Scottish Highlanders. They are still worn frequently by men in Scotland, throughout Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia, and the Pacific islands, to name just a few examples.  This is credited in large measure to the Highland missionary zeal of a bygone day when the Biblical fashion was carried into all the world and the British Empire painted schoolroom world maps red!  Unbifurcated garments are far more comfortable and suitable to the male anatomy than trousers, because they don’t confine the legs or cramp the male genitals the way that trousers do.

Although there was a relatively brief period in history when manhood was symbolized by the wearing of trousers, this is no longer the case. Today trousers have become unisexgarments that women wear most of the time. In North America, for example, a guy wearing blue jeans will find himself dressed the same as perhaps 90 per cent of the girls. If a man wishes to distinguish his masculinity through clothing, he would do much better by strapping on a cassock or alb or perhaps a real Scottish kilt.

Male unbifurcated garments (we’ll call them M.U.G.s for short) come in several forms. By far the most famous and well accepted is the kilt – especially the familiar Scottish variety, made of tartan wool and worn with knee sox and a pouch in front called a sporran.

This is perhaps the most ecumenical style.  The sporran provides a convenient place where the devout cleric may keep his Breviary and Rosary through the week.

Men’s kilts may also come in a variety of styles – solid colours, lighter weights, alternative fabrics – and may be worn with or without the traditional Scottish accoutrements.

The Clergy tartan has been described as the only occupational tartan. It is seen in a few variations, including a blue and a green version.  Why the different tartans? Do they represent different types of clergy? Let’s look at what we know.

There is a tradition that Highland clergy wore Highland clothing, but were instructed not to wear bright colours. Allegiance to Orders was primary over fidelity to hearth and the tartan worn would remind the cleric of a higher calling.  The first evidence we have of a tartan for clerics is from the records of the weaving firm Wilsons of Bannockburn, c. 1830.  They called their tartan of black, lavender, and light blue “Priest.”  Why they called it that is a subject of great ecclesiastical debate. Most likely they thought “Priest” was a suitable name for a tartan in muted colours that nobody else wanted to wear.

Tartan researcher James Logan next illustrated the design inThe Scottish Gael, published in 1831, under the more ecumenical name “Clergy.”  He changed the light blue and lavender of the Wilsons’ design to white and grey, and one pivot was different.  The tartan is next seen in The Authenticated Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland, published in 1850 by William and Andrew Smith. They attempted to reproduce the tartan as given by Logan, but with Wilsons’ colouration. However, there were problems with the production methods.  Sometimes lavender was mistakenly used for stripes that should have been black. And the light blue in some copies of the book turned out a green-grey. Variations occurred from one edition to the next, and sometimes between copies of the same edition.  If anyone wonders why there are often different versions of the same tartan in circulation, this sort of occurrence is usually to blame!

By 1850, and the publication of the Smiths’ work, the tradition had already been established that this was the tartan early worn by clerics.  They write, “Down till a very recent period, this pattern was generally used by the Clergy in the Highlands for their week-day habiliments; and even now the secular mantle or plaid of the priesthood in the North is not infrequently made of this, or similar kinds of stuff.”

The “Clergy” tartan was next illustrated by James Grant in 1886, in The Tartans of the Clans and Septs of Scotland. He used blue in place of lavender, including for two lines that should have been black, (apparently copying the error from one of the Smiths’ books). In his text, however, he says that the tartan was white, black and grey. This would indicate that he intended to illustrate the tartan from Logan’s work, but the publisher substituted a different illustration. In later editions of his book, the text described the tartan as dark blue, light blue, and black, but in the illustration this time light blue was rendered as green!

Lastly, in the first edition of The Setts of the Scottish Tartans, D. C. Stewart attempted to make a compromise between Wilsons’ and Logan’s settings.  This had the undesired effect of creating yet another variation.  In later editions this was amended.

Where does the Clark family tartan come into all this? Both “clergy” and “clark” – “clerk” –  have the same root in Latin – clericus.  The Clergy tartan seems to have been used by the Clark family for that reason.  In fact, in some nineteenth century records, the tartan is identified by both names.  The practice today that many tartan weavers follow of rendering the Clergy tartan in more muted tones than the Clark tartan is a convention adopted to allow for distinction between those wearing the tartan for family connections, and those wearing it because they are ordained ministers.

There is no such thing as a “right” or “entitlement” to wear a tartan.  However, when you wear a named tartan, you are identifying yourself with whatever that tartan represents.  As the “Clergy” tartan is widely recognized as representing the ministry, just ask yourself if you would feel comfortable wearing a Clerical collar, or a monk’s robes (another unbifurcated garment)!

The “Clergy” tartan does not represent any particular sect or denomination.  While it is perhaps most popularly used by ministers of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterians), there is no evidence to suggest that its use was ever limited to one group.  Keep in mind that until the Reformation of the sixteenth century, all of Scotland was Catholic.  Even after that time, the Highlands of Scotland remained Catholic much longer than the Lowlands. And while Presbyterians are most common among Protestants, you also have the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and many other denominations in more recent times.  Yet the Clergy tartan was never mentioned in association with one particular sect.  It was always simply said to be used by “Highland Clergy.”

Any “Clergy” tartan can be worn by any cleric of any stripe. Many ministers and priests who wear their clan tartans, and a solid black kilt would look stunning with clerical dress.

In the case of the “Clergy” tartan, wearing this will imply to people that you are involved in ministry. Out of respect for those who actually are ordained clergy, most people would consider it very inappropriate for a non-minister to wear this tartan.

But for those in the ministry, any “Clergy” tartan will do. Just wear the one you like the best (though you will find that if you want anything other than the blue Clergy tartan, you may have to have the cloth woven – much like Henry Ford’s oft-quoted comment of the Model ‘T’, where you could get it in whatever colour you liked, as long as it was black).

Some hold that certain variations of the Clergy tartan are for Catholics and others are for Protestants. This is unfounded. The Clergy tartan has never been restricted for members of one particular sect or denomination. Of course the two main religious bodies in Scotland are the Presbyterians (Church of Scotland), and Catholics, followed third by Anglicans (Church of England).

The “Clergy” tartan can be worn by any man of the cloth! Not that members of the clergy have to wear “Clergy” tartan. Many ministers and priests wear their clan tartans. And a solid black kilt looks stunning with clerical dress. And one “Dark Douglas” kilt (Lochcarron’s black on black version of House of Edgar’s “Dark Isle” tartan) is worn by an Anglican priest, who wanted a solid black kilt, but also wanted a tartan.

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A Child’s Christmas in Scarborough

Whenever I remember Christmas as a child in Scarborough, I can never remember whether the slush was new or old, or whether we lived on the sixth street north of the shopping plaza stoplights and I was seven years old, or whether it was the seventh street and I was six. But still my nose and fingertips tingle at the thought of Christmas in the row-housing, whose names rang their challenging, forlorn ways down to the fast-backed, nerve and gear-wracking lanes of the freeway: Elegance Manors, Tweedingham Mews, Buckingham Back Courts; and I am again a boy among boys, riding our crash-barred, chrome-bedazzling bikes through the supermarket swing doors, grabbing girls toques and Popsicles in the Mac’s Milk and diving with our arms spread to make angels in the snow-banks that the ploughs churned up, plunging our hands to the soggy, stitch-straining armpits and pulling out, as I am doing now, uncles with ham-red hands, scratchy and sizzling-hot in their wife-bought cable-knits and après ski, who through the live-long Christmas afternoons watched the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams battling in full colour on a purple field, and sat through Sugar Bowls and Dust Bowls, Cotton and Flannel Bowls until the punch bowl was emptied for the last time and they moved up the queasy, shifting stairs from the rec-room to the hall. And clear as the chlorinated water in the taps, but not so clear as a secret rivulet in the snows that we boys found near the highway that was gone in the spring when the hill was cleared for a condominium, I see Uncle Harry turning away the Salvation Army girl at the door and making us all laugh as she fell on the path on the ice I should have chipped away.

Christmas in Scarborough was nothing if it was not families and laughter. But before the compacts and the late-models and the single sports car owned by Aunt Hetty, the divorcee, who bought the Fugs record, before the hoards of uncles and aunts and cousins jousted for a parking spot and the superintendent appeared to ask us to remove a car that had been parked in someone elses spot, there were the presents that smoothed Fathers absence due to overtime, and Mothers voice raised in the kitchen downstairs while the supper held in the stove at low heat congealed.

And there were disappointments, for as one scavenged among boxes and ribbons and discarded batteries from robots that never worked, and broken strings from suddenly mute Talking Barbies, there had to be one, small, bright and unutterably just right present that lies forever hiding over the rim of memory even now, as I remember, I can see it dancing somewhere in the dark room before sleep, and even in the dreams of Christmas night, when I ran through the vanished fields of our subdivision and climbed and tumbled in the haylofts of the vanished barns, it was there amongst the ghosts of swallows and blue jays and horses — all gone now, like the words we wrote in last year’s snow: Fanny Hill puts out. And, in the moonlight in the dark of the yard unlit by streetlights because of Charlie’s air rifle and where no car would desecrate its stillness and the dark velvet of its shadows with the cold incandescence of its lights, I crept close to the sleeping whaleback of the hay-breathing house. I stole past the oaken veneer majesty of my parents’ door, and finally warm in the acrylic goose down of my bed above orchards and cockcrow and the sailing ship moon on the skating pond; I slept until dawn sped back the whole farm and the cattle and the soft-eyed horses back to the darkest corner of my room where the sun never shines and socks can sometimes be found amid the slut’s wool.

And then it was afternoon: and all the cousins, friends of friends, who had been stuffed into spare rooms and cautioned to nap because they had stayed up all night in candy-caned anticipation of catching Santa and delayed for a day his return to the department store throne, were awakened and sent off into the streets. And, waking from a dream in which I chased the blue and white stocking-capped boys, bigger boys from the skating rink at City Hall, glimpsed once on television, I dress in my fur-lined boots, was stuffed into station wagons with protesting uncles who drove as though the football games of all the world were punting in the shadows of the last-minute goalposts. And then we were sliding down the slopes of everlasting snow, everlasting for as long as the machine flew Niagaras of chipped ice over its diesel-throbbing back. And there, in that spinning time, I have my ski-lift ticket stapled to me, as though I were my own receipt for being, and hug for dear day the live cable that pulls me to the top and almost doesn’t let go, and then I am poised on last year’s skis, and am ready to take my turn. And then I do that. And I do it again, and then I come home for tea, uncles and the barracks of my Christmas soon-to-be-forgotten child’s life.

And I remember that Aunt Hetty, who was the centre of attention in the kitchen but was not allowed in to help with the gossip, lay stretched out on the Spanish sofa, her soft, brandy-breath keeping Ernie, her latest lover, stupefied. Then Uncle Herbert appeared from the depths of the basement like a drunken porpoise and chased the whole kitchen gaggle with a plastic spring of mistletoe, and came to a bad end with his elbow in the gravy boat. Then Father phoned from Number 41 Station to say that he had been in the eggnog again and that he would be detained, and Mother drank the cooking sherry, and the turkey went unbased. Then Uncle Frank who had been a stockbroker and then a convict tried again to dance the Windfall of ’65 and fell through the picture window. Then the neighbours knocked on the wall and we knocked on the neighbour’s wall and then the police came.

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Benedictine Prayer – Lectio Divina

Dating from the 5th century, Divine Reading, Lectio Divina, is comprised of a ladder with 4 steps…

  1. Reading you should seek;
  2. Meditating, you will find;
  3. Praying, you shall call; and
  4. Contemplating, the door will be opened to you!

Reading appeals especially to the SensingJudging personality type

Either by reading Scripture or other devotional material, we actively seek after the Word of God and divine truth. This is coming into the presence of revealed truth and His Presence revealed to us in this way.

Meditation appeals especially to the appeals especially to the appeals especially to the iNtuitiveThinking personality type.

We welcome the Word of God into our lives and turn it from a dead word into the living word and presence of God. We need to ruminate upon the Word of God as a cow does upon its cud. We bring to life the meaning of divine revelation as we personalize and adapt it to our daily living. We can project ourselves into the biblical story (Ignatian Spirituality) or we can transpose the story and apply it to ourselves today. In either case, our use of our imagination is important and valuable!

Prayer appeals especially to the iNtuitiveFeeling and SensingPerceiving personality type

This is not a monolog with our speaking to God…but our response to revealed truth… we decide whether we will incorporate the Word of God into our heart, our life, our work or whether we will rationalize a rejection of its efficacy for us. See 2 Timothy 3.16. Our response is expressed through words, thoughts, desires, feelings, resolutions, decisions, commitments, dedications; or through sorrow for past failures; through gratitude, praise, petition.

We can use the four different kinds of prayer described by the acronym, ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

True prayer is, first and foremost, listening to God speaking to us and then, secondarily, responding to God’s words for us.

Contemplation appeals especially to the iNtuitiveFeeling personality type

We must give God ample opportunity to reveal himself to us. We cannot hurry God. See Psalm 46:11. Having prepared ourselves by reading, meditation and prayer, we now await whatever graces God might see fit to send our way.

The Four Steps may be taken in any order we choose so that one may go from one to the other and then back again. A spiritual journal is frequently a great help to people using Lectio Divina. In it we note any insights that come to us during our reading, meditation, and contemplation. We also enter in our responses during the Prayer time.

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the penultimate WORD

“But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Revelation 12.12

It’s not any easier for us than it was for our parents. Or their parents. It has never been easy.

The problem of evil has challenged every generation. In every age. And there have been no exceptions. Philosophers have wrestled with the problem of evil, and they have looked at it from a variety of perspectives. As a religious issue, faithful, reflective men and women have explored the character of evil, and, by implication, the character of the God who would permit evil.

An academic investigation doesn’t serve us well here. Our awareness of evil and its effects strike too close to home for that. We cannot be objective. Our question is personal. And as Christians, our perspective is coloured by our experience of Jesus.

In the Revelation we have a picture that has helped generations comprehend the source of evil as well as the presence of evil among us. A war broke out in heaven, we’re told. Imagine that some were wearing white hats, and the bad guys were wearing black hats. It is a simple story, with clear lines and it’s easy to see the winners and the losers. The guys wearing the black hats, lost. And the Devil, Satan, was cast out of heaven and his angels went with him.

The inherit nature of Satan is that he is deceptive.

And the deceit that prevails is that there really is no evil to deal with. The deceit is that we might think that the author of evil is elsewhere. And that we have nothing to worry about.

Know this: Satan is not in hell. Not yet.

Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, by whatever name we might make him understandable in our mind, is here, among us.

When Satan was cast out of heaven, he was sent to earth. Jesus reminded his followers that Satan is the Prince of this world.

Alerted to his presence and his deception, we are to be vigilant so that we might prevail.

Sickness, death, broken trust, betrayal, touch us in our vulnerability and the temptation is great for us to fail to recognize the wrath that is given voice, sometimes our voice, in unforgiving, unloving, and unaccepting ways. Beguiled by deceit, thinking ourselves better than others, more righteous than others, more acceptable than others, we become unwitting pawns in a war begun in heaven and continued here on earth. And we discover that we’re wearing black hats!

St Michael’s victory over Satan helps us understand a beginning. And it helps us understand how the battle continues.

Michaelmas daisies, blooming in such profusion at this time of year remind us of the host of angels that championed the cause of the Archangel. The clouds of familiar purple asters remind us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses as we struggle with issues in our lives. St Michael’s triumph in heaven encourages us to endure the struggle and share in Jesus’ victory on earth.

Be assured of this: deceit is the character of the beguiling half-truth, and our vigilance engages us in leading authentic, faithful lives reflecting the character we see in Jesus. Lives that bring restorative healing Jesus introduced to the broken lives of countless saints, and continues yet today, gracefully through us: wounded healers all.

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If Yahweh Does Not Guard the City, in Vain the Sentries Watch

Today I want to talk to you about cities from a biblical point of view. Cities feature a lot in the Bible — but not always happily. For the early Hebrew/Aramaean wanderers, they were centres of violence, or religious corruption, to be feared and avoided. The murderer, Cain, becomes a builder of the first mentioned city in Genesis 4:17. The cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, were destroyed because the dwellers of the city plotted violence against the visitors who came to see Lot.

Babel, or Babylon, is the prototype of the arrogance of man who challenges the authority and the justice of the living God. Built in the year 2230 B.C., Babylon was one of the greatest artificial wonders of the ancient world with its vast iron gates and its enormous towering walls and its famous hanging gardens. But its Hebrew name means “city of chaos” — a city built on violence and slavery, where the Jews were in exile (Psalm 137).

The most famous city of all in the Bible is Jerusalem with its golden temple dome and the sights of pilgrims surging on their way to its festivals. It has a complex history. Attacked by the tribes of Judab (Judges 1:8), it was finally conquered by a brilliant strategy of David (2 Samuel 5:6). In 1049 B.C. Joab led a contingent of soldiers up its water well to capture it. Since then Jerusalem has been plundered, conquered, razed to the ground. It has been successively controlled by Jews, Turks, and Christian crusaders and is today regarded as a holy city by Jews, Moslems, and Christians. But Jesus wept over it because of its violence — “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he calls out, “You that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!” (Matthew 23:37-38).

In the beginning Hebrews avoided the cities, coming only to exchange wool and the milk from their flocks for artifacts — but always quickly moving away again to the life of the wanderer, to the freedom of the open spaces. Yet, in the end, they too became city dwellers. Appalled at the corruption and violence in the cities, the prophets idealize the time of the wanderings in the desert. Then the faith of the people was not debased as it was in the city. The poor were not tricked sold into slavery, or exploited, their land was not stolen from them, God was their king and protector. The prophets also condemn the worship of the city. God hates their sacrifices and will not accept them until they lead lives based on justice and compassion.

 

What are your endless sacrifices to me?…
I am tired of bearing them…
You may multiply your prayers,
I shall not listen…
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice, help the oppressed (or stop the oppressor);
do justice to the orphan,
plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:11-17)

 

“If they persecute you in one town,” Jesus said, “take refuge in the next” (Mt 10:23). This is precisely what his followers did. The cities around the Mediterranean were taken by conquest, not with weapons of war, not by enslaving their people in chains, but by winning them by love. The chief architect of this was the apostle, Paul. Pull out at random from your Bible some of the cities he visited: Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians; Corinth, to whom he wrote that magnificent letter on the splendour of Christian love; Thessalonika, where he gives a biographical sketch of himself “slaving night and day” (1 Thessalonians 2:9); Philippi where, though in chains, he composes the beautiful hymn on Jesus who empties himself, stripping himself of his Godhead to become a slave, a servant working for the liberation of men and women; Damascus, where he was persecuted and lowered from the city walls in a basket. Read of the sufferings and rejection in the cities. He writes, “. . it was good of you to share with me in my hardships.” “No other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones” (Philemon 4:14,16). The cities rejected hint but there were some who did respond with understanding and love.

The main target of Paul’s work was the city of Rome, which dominated and controlled, through military might, the known world. He went there for justice against those who were his enemies. In the Acts of the Apostles we leave him waiting optimistically for Roman justice to liberate him. But it was in Rome that he knelt on the Appian Way and was beheaded. Like many, he came to a city expecting to find justice, instead he found corruption, the usual twisting of law. The absence of justice destroys a city. Saint John the Divine, a political prisoner on the island of Patmos, tells of the fall of Rome. “Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen . . . Come out, my people, away from her!” (Revelation 18:2,4). Babylon is, of course, the city of Rome that, in the end, paid for her iniquities because there was no justice there.

Jesus, unlike many modern-day tourists, did not go into ecstasies over the ancient architectural splendour of Jerusalem —he condemned it (Mark 13:2). Why? “Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). The command to love God and deal justly with your neighbour and to do him justice is linked with the continuity of the city. My text clearly spells out: “If Yahweh does not guard the city, in vain the sentries watch.” Jerusalem’s name means “possession of peace,” the city of peace, a city at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbours. But, in the words of the Bible, how can a city “seek peace and pursue it”? (1 Peter 3:11 quoting Psalm 34:14). Only by being built on justice. For God’s peace to dwell on any city, that city must show justice for the poor, the weak, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the ethnic minorities. I suppose very few modern cities would be able to match up to these qualifies — our cities today team with graft, greed, cheating, earning a fast buck, to say nothing of the moral decay of the underworld which exists in them everywhere. But Christians are not here to accept the standards of the world. We are here to build the new Jerusalem and for such we pray when we say the Lord’s prayer, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” That kingdom is to be built on love and justice for all.

I suppose Paul could be called in many ways a Christian revolutionary because he organized for the first time a group of cities to help the poor in another country. Paul called on the churches in Macedonia and Achaia for money to help him assist the struggling poor in Jerusalem. “I must take a present of money to the saints in Jerusalem, since Macedonia and Achaia have decided to send a generous contribution to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26). The apostle who spoke about love to the Corinthian Christians does not confine it to mere words. It is to be lived out and it is to spread out across national boundaries. This was the revolution that the Christian church brought to the world — a commitment to build a just, loving, caring community throughout the world.

The city of London in England has a long history of receiving refugees and political exiles from all over the world. Its East End, which is near the docks, has successively taken in Huguenot Protestants who fled from religious persecutions in Europe, and received Jews from Poland and Russia who were escaping from pogroms there. Not that London can boast that it has always received exiles kindly. The vigilantes who threatened Lot in the Old Testament exist, I suppose, in every city today. In London in the 1930s, fascists in their hundreds marched through the city of London to attack the poor and defenseless Jews who were living in the East End. It was the poor dockers who fought back the fascists and defended the ethnic minorities in their midst.

Today, a different group of pilgrims will be visiting the city of London. They have a story to tell us. They come seeking justice and will appeal to Queen Elizabeth II to hear about their problems and to remind her of the treaty which our governments signed with them. The majority of them are extremely poor. They are visitors from Canada. Two hundred members of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs will come to share with us their story. As Christians we will receive them in a spirit of love. ‘‘You should carry each other’s troubles and fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). It is largely the poor churches here who are responding and who will accommodate and feed them during their few days among us. They will be visiting the British Museum to see their artifacts and will visit Parliament and other parts of London.

In Britain the churches have been very weak to respond to the plight of the unemployed and especially the black minority groups who live in our teeming cities and who are mostly unemployed. And this, we say it to our shame, is in direct contradiction of everything the Bible stands for — for God commands us to receive strangers. Like Saint Paul, we will listen to our visitors and then in love send them back home. We do not do this in a spirit of judgment — in fact, it is the poor who judge us all. In London we can only judge ourselves with our own many failings to show mercy and to share with the poor. One thing I am certain of, as Christians we will receive from our visitors far more than we will give them. “Continue to love each other like brothers and remember always to welcome strangers for by doing this some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2). What a beautiful promise!

The Bible message challenges us all who live in the cities. “It is God who sees justice done to the orphans, the widow, who loves the stranger and gives him food and clothing. Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

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Deck us all with Boston Charlie

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don’t we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n’ too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory’s pop is lolly gaggin’ on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!

Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, ’lope with you!
Chollie’s collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

(NOTE: Diligent researchers, including the esteemed folk-lorist, Professor Jiggs Potlook, have also unearthed the following partial verses.  We make no guarantee for their authenticity.  For further research, kindly consult Kelly, Walt; Deck Us All With Boston Charlie, Simon and Schuster, 1963.)

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an’ Polly Voo!
Chilly Filly’s name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly’s jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

Tickle salty boss anchovie
Wash a wash a wall Anna Kangaroo
Ducky allus bows to Polly,
Prolly Wally would but har’ly do!

Dock us all a bowsprit, Solly —
Golly, Solly’s cold and so’s ol’ Lou!

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Ash Wednesday and questions you may have…

Q: What is Ash Wednesday?
A: Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins. It occurs forty days before Good Friday.

Q: Is Ash Wednesday based on a pagan festival?
A: Heck, no. Ash Wednesday originated in the A.D. 900s, long after Europe had been Christianized and the pagan cults stamped out.

Q: Why is it called Ash Wednesday?
A: Actually, Ash Wednesday is its colloquial name. Its official name is the Day of Ashes. It is called Ash Wednesday because, being forty days before Good Friday, it always falls on a Wednesday and it is called Ash Wednesday because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.

Q: Why do they have their foreheads marked with a cross?
A: Because in the Bible a mark on the forehead is a symbol of a person’s ownership. By having their foreheads marked with the sign of a cross, this symbolizes that the person belongs to Jesus Christ, who died on a Cross.
This is in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism, when he is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Romans 6:3-18).


It is also in imitation of the way the righteousness are described in the book of Revelation, where we read of the servants of God (the Christian faithful, as symbolized by the 144,000 male virgins):


“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:3)


“[The demon locust] were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4)


“Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1)


This is in contrast to the followers of the beast, who have the number 666 on their foreheads or hands. The reference to the sealing of the servants of God for their protection in Revelation is an allusion to a parallel passage in Ezekiel, where Ezekiel also sees a sealing of the servants of God for their protection:


“And the LORD said to him [one of the four cherubim], ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark [literally, “a tav”] upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’ And to the others he said in my hearing, ‘Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the house.” (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

Unfortunately, like most modern translations, the one quoted above (the Revised Standard Version, which we have been quoting thus far), is not sufficiently literal. What it actually says is to place a tav on the foreheads of the righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Tav is one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and in ancient script it looked like the Greek letter chi, which happens to be two crossed lines (like an “x”) and which happens to be the first letter in the word “Christ” in Greek (christos). The Jewish rabbis commented on the connection between tav and chi and this is undoubtedly the mark Revelation has in mind when the servants of God are sealed in it.


The early Church Fathers seized on this tav-chi-cross-christos connection and expounded it in their homilies, seeing in Ezekiel a prophetic foreshadowing of the sealing of Christians as servants of Christ.

It is also part of the background to the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross, which in the early centuries (as can be documented from the second century on) was practiced by using one’s thumb to furrow one’s brow with a small sign of the cross, like Catholics do today at the reading of the Gospel during Mass.

Q: Why is the signing done with ashes?
A: Because ashes are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Bible times the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one’s head. While we no longer normally wear sackcloth or sit in dust and ashes, the customs of fasting and putting ashes on one’s forehead as a sign of mourning and penance have survived to this day. These are two of the key distinctives of Lent. In fact, Ash Wednesday is a day not only for putting ashes on one’s head, but also a day of fasting (see below).

Q: What are some biblical examples of people putting dust and ashes on their foreheads?
A: Consider the following verses from the New International Version:
“That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh, his clothes torn and dust on his head.” (1 Samuel 4:12)


“On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and with dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.” (2 Samuel 1:20)


“Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.” (2 Samuel 13:19)


“When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head.” (2 Samuel 15:32)

Q: Is there another significance to the ashes?


A: Yes. They also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. Thus when the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes, he says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return,” which is modeled after God’s address to Adam (Genesis 3:19; cf. Job 34:15, Psalms 90:3, 104:29, Ecclesiastes 3:20). This also echoes the words at a burial, “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust,” which is based on God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3 and Abraham’s confession, “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). It is thus a reminder of our mortality and our need to repent before this life is over and we face our Judge.

Q: Where do the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from?
A: They are made by burning palm fronds which have been saved from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, they are then blessed by a priest — blessed ashes having been used in God’s rituals since the time of Moses (Numbers 19:9-10, 17).

Q: Why are ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday used?
A: Because Palm Sunday was when the people rejoiced at Jesus’ triumphal entrance to Jerusalem. They celebrated his arrival by waving palm fronds, little realizing that he was coming to die for their sins. By using palms from Palm Sunday, it is a reminder that we must not only rejoice of Jersus’ coming but also regret the fact that our sins made it necessary for him to die for us in order to save us from hell.

Q: Is having one’s forehead signed with ashes required of the faithful?
A: No, it is not required. However, it is to be strongly encouraged as it is a fitting and visible spiritual reminder that encourages one to adopt an attitude of prayer, repentance, and humility. As James said: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Q: Is Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation, that is, a day on which we are required to go to Mass?
A: No, it is not a holy day of obligation. However, it is strongly advisable since it is fitting to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent by going to Mass. The formal, corporate worship of God is a good way to get a good start to the season. Also, even though it is not a holy day of obligation, it is a day of fast and abstinence.

Q: Why isn’t Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation?
A: Holy days of obligation are either commemorations of particular events (such as the birth of Christ or the presentation of Jesus in the Temple), particular people (such as Jesus’ earthly father, St. Joseph), or important theological concepts (such as the Kingship of Christ). Ash Wednesday does not commemorate any event (nothing special happened forty days before the crucifixion — at least not that we know of), and could only be said to indirectly commemorate a Person (Christ) since it is the beginning of preparation for the greater celebrations of Christ’s saving work, which follow, and although Ash Wednesday is a day of penance (like all of the days of Lent except Sundays, which are feast days no matter when they occur in the liturgical calendar since they celebrate Christ’s resurrection), the Church has never chosen to make it or any other specific day the definitive commemoration of the concept of repentance.

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Festivus – What Is It And How To Celebrate

Festivus is a fictional holiday created by Frank Costanza(played by Jerry Stiller) on the popular television comedy Seinfeld. Some fans of the show now celebrate this fictional holiday in real life.

Festivus is a holiday held on 23 Decemberof each year. It was created as a response to the commercialism of the other December holidays.

Its slogan is “Festivus, a holiday for the rest of us”.  Listen to Frank’s explanation of the origins of Festivus…

Frank: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born . . . a Festivus for the rest of us!

Kramer: That must’ve been some doll.

Frank: She was!

The Festivus celebration includes these major components…

  • The Festivus Pole
  • The Festivus Song
  • The Feast
  • The Airing of Grievances
  • The Airing of Grievances form
  • The Feats of Strength
  • The Human Fund
  • The Human Fund Donor Cards
  • The Festivus Fruitcake
  • Ice Cream for the Fruit Cake

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HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY (YOM HASHOAH) OBSERVANCE

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011; 7:30 P.M.

SHAAREI ZEDEK SYNAGOGUE

91 LEINSTER STREET, SAINT JOHN, N.B.

The programme will feature a keynote address by Alex Eisen, a Holocaust survivor now living in Toronto. He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1929 and at nine years of age watched the Nazis marched into Vienna. Soon after Eisen, his parents and two sisters escaped to Hungary.  His father was arrested at the border but managed to flee from there to Palestine.  When Hungary came under Nazi occupation in 1944 his older sister was deported to Auschwitz.  Eisen, his mother and younger sister remained in the Budapest ghetto until they were able to escape, and posing as Christians, managed to survive until liberation in January 1945. Following liberation Eisen was determined to join his father in Palestine and in 1947 boarded an illegal ship, the Theodore Herzl, carrying refuges to Palestine. The ship was seized by the British and the refugees were sent to a detention camp in Cyprus.  There, Eisen was reunited with his mother and sisters who were also waiting to be allowed entry to Palestine.  Once he reached Palestine in the fall of 1947, he joined the Israeli underground (Haganah) and later the Israeli army fighting in the battle of Jerusalem.  He was transferred to the Israeli Air Force where he met his wife, Renata Markovic, also a Holocaust survivor. They married in 1951 and immigrated to Canada the following year.  They have two children and five grandchildren, all of whom live in Toronto. At age 75 Eisen became involved in Holocaust education and he has recently written his memoirs.

The annual Beatrice Cummings Mayer Prizes will be presented to high school students who participated in the Jewish Holocaust Study Group, jointly organized by the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum and the District 8 Enrichment Centre.. The students’ work will be available for viewing in the Museum before and after the program.

Candles will be lit in memory of those who were killed during the Holocaust.

A reception will follow the presentation.

This program is made possible with financial assistance from The Atlantic Jewish Council through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc., Congregation Shaarei Zedek, the Harry and Mary Selick Cohen Memorial Fund (Saint John Jewish Historical Museum) and the Community Arts Funding Program of the City of Saint John.

For further information please contact the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum at 633-1833

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