Advent 2013

As the sun sets today we begin a brand new Liturgical year and begin year A in the Lectionary, in the A cycle we hear from Matthew’s Gospel. Advent is a season of waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas.  The name of the season comes from the Latin adventus which is a translation of the Greek parousia meaning coming. Parousia has another meaning as well referring to the second coming of Christ.

During this season we are looking at both parousia moments, we share in the longing of the Messiah to come with our ancestors, thinking and reflecting on Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem and waiting patiently in  hope for his second coming. This is one of the two seasons of the year where priests wear violet/purple as it is a time of penitence like Lent.

There are many traditions associated with Advent such as the Advent Wreath, Giving Trees, Lessons and Carols and the ever popular Advent Calendars.  Advent wreaths can be found not only in churches but also in homes as many family celebrate by lighting respective candle(s) on the  wreath as the week indicates, O Come O Come Emmanuel is sung while the candles are lit.  There is also Light one Candle for Hope which might be sung as the candles are lit and in subsequent weeks Hope changes to Joy, Love and Peace, as each candle is indicated as such. The giving trees that pop up are a nice reminder that we have to like in the greater world and by helping others in our community we can build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

Then there is the Lessons and Carols events, which might be more popular in the Anglican community,  where carols are sung between short readings and reflections about humanity’s fall from grace to the birth of Jesus. These events help focus the meaning of the season where as the secular world tends to dwell on the Santa thing and the presents that are received. As Christians we need to be reminded that the best gift is that of Christ and he has already come and will come again someday. Finally the Advent calendars are sort of funny as they have turned into these over secularized things that just count down the days to Christmas.  Now you can have a Lego one where each day has a minifig or small thing to build.

We need to be able to say Maranatha during this season. Translating from the Aramaic it becomes “Come O Lord” or “Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly” these are the words that we must hold upon our lips this season. As we patiently await the coming of our Savior.

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News Roundup

It is that time of the week once again, a smattering of news time.

Religion– Pope Francis released his Apostolic Exhoration on The New Evangelization and it is long (about 90 pages) and thorough (with over 200 end notes). Please expect my overview of it some time next week. As I started reading it today.

Pope Francis is going to be canonizing Peter Faber, co-founder of the Jesuit Order, sometime in December. So soon all the founders of the Jesuits will be saints. Faber was well regarded and after his death some including Francis de Sales always spoke of Faber as a saint. Pope Francis spoke highly of Faber in his big Interview earlier this year.

Over in England on November 22 they also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis. His death was overshadowed by some president. So in honor Lewis there was place a memorial stone in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. On his stone is inscribed a quote from one of his theological lectures “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else.”

Movies– The are reports that there will be a J.R.R. Tolkien biopic. This seems like a cool idea for a movie as his works are still very popular. Tolkien is considered by some to be the father of modern fantasy literature specifically high fantasy. It would be an interesting film since I know that Tolkien was fiercely Catholic and it seems like religion would play a big role in the film but religions don’t seem to be featured in most movies today.

In other news it seems like the news about a sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life was all just a smoke as Paramount has stated that as owners of the original film no one has contacted them about making a new film nor would they grant permission to them to make the film.

Science– Scientist have discovered a second Planetary system(KOi-351) just like ours, it contains seven exoplanets (5 rocky and 2 gas). It is a very compact also as the whole system is under 1 au (distance from Earth to Sun) from its sun. I hope that these exoplanets and the exploration for Earth like worlds gets covered in the new Cosmos that is coming in March on Fox.

Thanksgivukkah or Chanksgiving

In case you have been under a rock for the past couple of months today is Thanksgiving and it is also the second night of Hanukkah. These two events haven’t fallen on the same date since the late 1800s in 1888 and 1899 to be specific. This is a once in a lifetime event and it seems like everyone is making a big deal out of it. Back in 1888 the New York Herald wrote  that the two festivals Thanksgiving and Hanukkah merged well together, since Hanukkah is a thanksgiving festival for deliverance from tyranny.

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights that last eight day in celebration of the time when the Second Temple was rededicated after the Maccabean revolt when one day supply of oil was found and it lasted for eight days. Each year it is celebrated on the 25th of Kislev and families gather to light the menorah.  It has the same feeling of a Thanksgiving or a Christmas as it is an event which bring families together.

There have been thanksgiving festivals that have happened for a long time and this year it has the celebration of Hanukkah added to it. Surely this year’s celebration will not be complete without a listen of both Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song and Thanksgiving Song  as well as Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant. I hope that we all have something are thankful for and remember the less fortunate as we stuff our faces full of food today. To all my Jewish friends Happy Festival of Lights.

Passion

Ever since I received the Stephen Sondheim lyrics books (Finishing the Hat and Look I Made A Hat), in which I stumbled across some musicals I had never heard before, I have had a list of the Sondheim shows to see.  The biggest one was Passion, a few week I finally sat down and watched the show. It is a unique musical being mostly told through letters .

Passion is based on the film Passione d’Amore by Ettore Scola which is an adaptation of Iginio Ugo Tarchetti‘s novel Fosca. The musical begins with a pair of lovers in bed together going at it they pause and Giorgio tells Clara has he has been transferred to a provincial military outpost and will be leaving town. As Giorgio gets to the outpost he and Clara begin their letter writing. At the outpost one evening at dinner there is a blood curdling scream, and Giorgio is a bit freaked out and the other soldiers see it as just part of their lives. it is Fosca the Colonel’s sick cousin who has fits like this regularly. Giorgio offers to lend her some books to read. Giorgio and her doctor become close and one day Fosca comes down the stairs to return and thank Giorgio for the books.

Fosca is in love with Giorgio she fell in love with him the day he arrived and Giorgio does not reciprocate the feelings. They go back and forth with this relationship Giorgio even asking her to stay away to this Fosca replies that loving him is not a choice it is who she is, he is the reason that she lives.

The show is about love and although some people may find the romance a stretch, Sondheim in Look I Made A Hat points that the general public may be identifying with the whole idea that we are a combination of all three Fosca, Giorgio and Clara. In the show we are asked a difficult question “Why is love so easy to give/And so hard to receive?” There is no real answers to this provided in the show, but I think that it gets even more complicated in society today where we love things or hate them or as some psychologist suggests we are obsessed with being obsessed with thing.

I really would like to see a live production of this show as it shows love in all forms, and it has a bunch of heart. It was a highly successful musical when it came out in 1994 winning the Tony for Best Musical and Donna Murphy won also for Lead Actress. Now I am kicking myself for not going to it when it was at the Kennedy Center‘s Sondheim Celebration back in 2002. Hopefully it will be staged somewhere soon on this side of the Atlantic.

Glorious Mysteries

As we reach the final group of Mysteries of the Rosary we once again add Mary to the mix. Fulton Sheen in his reflection on the Rosary describes the Glorious Mysteries as mystery of our faith.  All of these events are things we have to trust actually happened, as there isn’t much about Mary after the Gospels.

The Resurrection is the be all end all event for Christianity, without it we would all most likely be Jewish or Muslim. After Jesus was buried for 1-3 days that there is an earthquake and the stone which was covering the tomb was removed. Jesus first appears to the women, Mary Magdalene and others as they were on their way to anoint the body. Mary runs back and tells the disciples who do not believe this they come running to see the empty tomb. As the days pass Jesus appears to the apostles many times in the upper room, on the road the Emmaus, and even on the beach one morning. Jesus stay with them until it is time for the next mystery

The Ascension. After 40 days with the apostles Jesus it taken up to heaven and some angels come down asking the disciples why they are looking up at the sky. The Angels tell the disciples that Jesus will come again just as he has left them.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit, Jesus before he Ascended had promised to the Apostles to send someone to help them, the Paraclete. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes down upon the disciples gathered together in the Upper Room and causes them to begin speaking in different languages. The people outside heard this commotion and noticed that they were speaking in their home languages and it is on this day that 3,000 people were baptized joining the church. For this reason some refer to Pentecost as the Birthday of the Church.

These next two mysteries are a not found in any Bible stories and are a bit of differences between the Eastern and Western Churches.

The Assumption of Mary (Western) in the Orthodox Church this event is the Dormition of the Theotokos. To put it simply this mystery is about Mary being taken up to heaven, she might have died and then taken up or taken up before she died. This aspect hasn’t been defined and is likely to never been fully defined one way or the other.

The Coronation of the Virgin as Queen of Heaven and Earth is the final mystery. After her Assumption Mary is crowned by the Trinity as Queen of Heaven and Earth as Jesus is king of the universe. therefore Mary should be a Queen. This is not a event/term that the Orthodox Church endorses

I hope that we all can take some time over this upcoming holiday weekend to pray the Rosary. As we offer prayers for those traveling and for all families as they gather together over the next month.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

This movie is on so many lists as a reported best film of all time it was only a matter of time before I got around to watching it. The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc) is a French silent film by Carl Theodor Dreyer. This is a unique film as it uses the actual transcript from Joan of Arc’s trial as a basis of its own trial scene and unlike other Joan of Arc movies in this one the focus in solely on the trial and execution. Also adding to its uniqueness is the fact that there is no official score for the movie until Voices of Light was recorded in 1995.

Of course many are drawn to 1948’s Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman or one of the modern ones but Dreyer’s film is by far the most amazing to watch, let alone the story of how it came to be and with us today. According to the Criterion DVD the original film negative was destroyed in a fire as was a second print of the film and the film was given some several cuts by both the Archbishop of Paris and the government censors. Thankfully in 1981 an original intact copy was discovered at an Oslo mental institute in a janitor’s closet. This copy was given to the Norwegian Film Institute and is the version we can watch today.

Many people are drawn to the film by the production, many pointing to Carl Th. Dreyer as the genius film maker, other by the performance of Maria Falconetti. This was only her second and final film, as she preferred acting on stage, but it is considered the best silent movie performance ever. Both of which have been described as being the finest in cinematic history. The film has made all kinds of list it is routinely found on the Sight & Sound list. It is number 1 on the TIFF Eessential list from 2010 as the most influential film of all times. It has even included on the Vatican’s list of 45 great films which was release in 1995.

It is a unique movie to watch with some very cool camera angles it is a must see for all film buffs. If you just want the whole Joan of Arc story you are better suited with a different film.

 

Christ the King

As we enter the final week of the Liturgical year it is sad to see it end so soon but next week we will begin a season of waiting Advent. This week there is a focus on kingship in the readings, starting with King David and leading to Jesus in the other readings.We begin in the second book of Samuel with the anointing/coronation of David. David is in Hebron and all the tribes came to see him saying “Here we are your bones and flesh.” Kingship is becoming the people you represent. David becomes the Messiah the anointed king of Israel.

As we turn to the New Testament we hear from Paul’s letter to the Colossians a description of Jesus. He is the first born of all creation the beginning and the end all things are created through and for him. This goes on and on as Paul tends to do in his writings. With this extended list of the qualities that Jesus possesses, Paul notes that like Jesus is the head of the body the church, just like David was to Israel.

Turning to the Gospel reading we once again face the Crucifixion. We hear from Luke that the soldiers placed a sign above the cross saying “This is the King of the Jews.” We also hear a happier tale as well. Jesus was being crucified with two criminals, one who mocking and jeering Jesus on saying “You are the Christ save yourself and us too.” The other criminal rebuked his compatriot and said Look you and me are meant to be up here this guy, Jesus, did nothing. This one goes on and asks Jesus to remember him. To this Jesus replies “Amen I say you, today you will be with me in Paradise” We need to be reminded of the courage of the second criminal and speak up against injustice in the world. I hope that we all have grown in our faith during the Year of Faith which concludes today, becoming better people and followers of Christ.

Doctor Who

Joining in celebrating the fiftieth with the March on Washington and the Kennedy Assassination is the celebration of a little show called Doctor Who. I’ve been a fan since I saw my first episode in 2007  The Shakespeare Code. I really didn’t get totally into the show until later on in 2008 after I graduated college and had time to finally start watching it. Ever since I have watched all the new series and some of the older episodes as well, thankfully there are some episodes available to watch on Netflix. I really like this past year how they re-aired a story for each Doctor along with a breakdown of their run as Doctor

Fifty years in to the run of the series it is still an entertaining show and it is looking set for perhaps another fifty years, especially with the new regeneration coming at Christmas. During the past week there has been many specials on television in the days preceding today’s global broadcast of the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary special.  BBC 4 aired An Unearthly child, the first ever story aired in Doctor Who a couple of days ago. There is the TV movie An Adventure in Space and Time, about the genesis of Doctor Who and a whole bunch of other special about Doctor Who.

Included in this group are two mini episodes that act as prequels to the main event The Day of the Doctor. The two prequels set the stage for the events which are about to transpire. In the first released The Night of the Doctor we meet up with the 8th Doctor once again, this time during the Time War. In the second The Last Day we are a solider at Arcadia which is called the safest place on Gallifrey, both of these prequels seem to point that the Time War will be a central thing in this special. It sounds exciting.

Assassination of John F. Kennedy

It has been 50 year since the dreadful day and from the amount of programs about the assassination it seems like it was only yesterday that this horrific event happened. This is that one big defining moment some people have called this the day that America lost its innocence although this seems to happen every generation, most recently it was September 11 2001. Some historian even have said that it was assassinations (JFK, MLK/RFK) that began and ended the 60s.

Sure there is a nice connection with Lerner and Loewe‘s musical Camelot with the Kennedy Presidency and how in that Time article release shortly after the assassination in which Jackie quoted Jack’s favorite line “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot,” and she went on to say that “There’ll be great Presidents again, but there’ll never be another Camelot again … it will never be that way again.” As during the Kennedy era there was so much promise and potential for the nation.

There is another musical that has a connection as well Stephen Sondheim‘s musical Assassins. This musical which debuted Off-Broadway in 1990 and finally made it to Broadway in 2004 is about the men and women who have tried to assassinate a President. The four successful ones and five of the unsuccessful ones as well. Of the song in the show the below is about the public’s reaction to the events. As the Kennedy Assassination is one of those flashbulb memories that people of a certain generation have were they can recall where they and what they were doing were when they heard of the events.

The assassination of John F Kennedy hold a unique place in the minds of many American due to the abundance of conspiracy theories that surround the event. With at least nine named potential assassins ranging from the Umbrella guy and LBJ to the KGB and Oswald who is to say what really happened. There could have even been a shooter over in the Grassy Knoll. As far as we know at least according to the House Select Committee on Assassination report from 1978 that the Kennedy Assassination was the result of conspiracy. I hope that we all can take some time and reflect on the promise of the Kennedy Presidency

David Blaine and Magic

Earlier this week David Blaine had a televised magic special on ABC and sure I watched it but it could have been so much better instead of doing the same magic tricks for all these celebrities we could have had one celebrity. While it was great to see magic on television it would have been cool if there was more magic in the actual special. I watched the whole hour and a half special in about 45 minutes, but it seems like they had hours of footage that they could have made this into a good magic special.

In related news I read today that The CW is going to be reviving another show from the past. Masters of Illusion is a hour long magic show that featured like 3 magicians doing separate acts. Also Deadline.com is reporting that since this David Blaine special was highly watched it seems that other networks will try to get some magic special in the works for the future. Fox already has a special with close up magician JB Benn shot and it seems like soon rather than later will be when it is televised.

So this is nice to see some magic back on television if only they revived The World’s Greatest Magic specials, then it would be a watershed moment for magic. I know that Neil Patrick Harris is a big fan of Magic and is a magician it would be great if he could help bring more magic to television.  Hopefully with a revival in interest in magic we can see a drop in the Criss Angel’s of the world.