Category Archives: Religion

Quod duodecim diebus Nativitatis December 2017

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

The Magi
THE MAGI, JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM  ((alamy.com D86NA5)

THE DEATH  OF A STAR AND THE BIRTH OF THE SON OF GOD                                             There is a rational explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. Theories include an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Earth and Sun, possibly in the constellation of Pisces. The ‘star’ could also have been a comet observed by Chinese astronomers in 5BC or Halley’s Comet in 12BC – both might have had their tails pointing downward towards Bethlehem. The most plausible explanation comes from McMaster University, Ontario.  Far Eastern astronomers observed the death of a star or nova in the constellation of Aquila in 4BC. Unfortunately, astronomers in Western Europe were unable to see this heavenly event due to their geographical location. The Magi are thought to be Babylonian astronomers who, over the long period of their travel from Babylon to Judea, would have seen this ‘new’ star precess in the heavens until it was over Bethlehem. In a few months the star would have faded away. Authorities assert Jesus was born between 6BC and 4BC which coincides with the death of this star.

ADVENT                                                                                                                           This is an enlightening romp, divine and profane, across the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is a journey of Jewish faith, Roman idolatry, Anglo Saxon veneration, Medieval frivolity and  finally to 21st century enlightenment!  Our practice and perception of Christmas festivities is very different to that of 1,500 years ago but quirky customs still survive.

The period of Advent, popularised incorrectly on pre-Christmas  calendars, was originally a forty day period in the desert that ended on the 6th January with the Feast of Epiphany.

Advent
ADVENT, PREPARATION FOR BAPTISM   (orthodoxcatholicism.com)

In the 4th century, the early Christian church required converts to spend forty days and forty nights in the desert to purify their souls before baptism at the Feast of Epiphany. Initially there was no connection between Advent and Christmas.  By the 6th century, the Roman church had tied Advent to the Second Coming of Christ to judge mankind. By the Middle Ages, the Advent period was ordained to be the period of preparation for the birth of Christ. It is fortuitous that Advent and Epiphany straddle the Twelve Days of Christmas and thus brings the Festive Season to a close – but not quite. The Matthew Gospel written around 60 AD, at this early stage in church consolidation, considered the Feast of Epiphany to commemorate the Manifestation of Christ to the gentiles symbolised as the Magi or Three Wise Men.

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
Now for Christmas Day. In the 3rd century, a Roman bishop fixed the 25th December as Christ’s birth date. The decision was made to ween wavering Christians from the Roman festivals of Saturnalia  and the birthday of Mithra, Persian God of Light – 17th-24th December, and the Roman  Festival of Sol Invictus on the 25th December. The roots of the Christmas Festival derive from the Christos Maesse which was introduced in the 4th century.

Satunalia
SATURNALIA,  A ROMAN DEBAUCH    (orthodoxcatholicism.com)

And so it has come to pass that the Twelve Days of Christmas are defined by Christmas Day (26 December) and the Festival of Epiphany (6th January) – but again not quite. In early Christian Britain,  King Edwine of Deira and Northumbria (circa 630 AD), ordained that Christmas decorations should not be removed until the 6th January to honour his mother’s birthday thus, Twelfth Night was created on the whim of an Anglo Saxon king.

King Edwine
KING EDWINE & QUEEN MOTHER, ST NICHOLAS, CHURCH, NORFOLK  (alamy.com)

In early Christian times, the period between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night contained several religious festivals lubricated by much merry-making and wenching. From the Dark Ages to Late Medieval Times, communities proclaimed “Lords of Misrule” to organise festivities for the illiterate masses. In Scotland this was the Abbott of Unreason and in France the Prince des Sots. The ‘Lord’ might be a ‘boy bishop’ or a peasant drawn from the crowd. The principal responsibility was to plan and preside over the Christmas season festivities, culminating in the Festival of Foules around the 1st January where the participation of junior clergy was encouraged.

Misrule
THE LORD OF MISRULE    (alamy.com D86NA5)

The current Boxing Day, 26th December, was formerly the Feast of St Stephen, to mark his martyrdom. Activities for the day included distributing the remains of feasts to the poor. History has it that King Wenceslas of Bohemia (907-935) initiated this custom and enshrined it in the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen’, to see an old man who subsequently dined and supped on flesh and wine brought by the page boy.

KING W
KING WENCESLAS & PAGE     (storynory)

The Feast of St John the Evangelist, 27th December, records the life of an apostle who was not martyred like many of his compatriots. In Medieval times, the Holy Church Fathers directed  St John to be painted with a ‘softened  face’ to endear him to women in order to encourage piety and chastity! This had minimal effect since women were still fitted with chastity belts when menfolk left for the Crusades.

St John
ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST   (National Library,Paris)

The Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28th December, commemorates the murder of Jewish infants by King Herod the Great, puppet to the Roman governor. Herod had heard rumours of the coming Messiah and so was determined to ensure that this prophecy did not come to pass. The Magi were instructed to inform on the where abouts of the Baby Jesus, but they left Judea without passing on the information. Myth surrounds the number of infants killed – estimates vary from hundreds to a few tens. There are no records.

Herod
HEROD AND THE HOLY INNOCENTS   (hema2325, wordpress.com)

The Feast of the Ass, 29th December. This was a 6th century custom derived from the pagan Celtic games of Cervulus. By Medieval times, the donkey had become part of the Nativity story. In church services on this day the congregation responded to prayers and psalms with the braying of an ass in place of AMEN.

Festival of the Ass
FESTIVAL OF THE ASS (Great St Mary,idol-snip)

The Feast of Christ’s Circumcision, 1st January, celebrated the Jewish custom of circumcision applied to all infants soon after birth. In the deserts of Judea this was necessary for health reasons – Church teachings hold this was the ‘first’ shedding of Christ’s Blood.

Christ's Circumcision
CHRIST”S CIRCUMCISION  (British Library}

The Feast of Foules, on the 31st December, was the  culmination of the Christo Maesse Festivals. The feast was originally organised for the junior clergy but soon included freemen and villeins. Ecclesiastical ritual was parodied as low and high clergy changed places for the day.

Feast
Twelfth FEAST OF FOOLS    (kmfletts blog.wordpress.com)

Twelfth Night falls on the 5th January if the First Day of Christmas is indeed Christmas Day. However, some branches of Christianity consider the Feast of Epiphany on the 6th January to be the 12th Day of Christmas, thus the Feast of Saint Stephen becomes the First Day of Christmas. King Edwine of Deira may be the final arbiter since decorations may only be taken down from the 6th January!!   In Elizabethan England, Twelfth Night was a festival celebrated with music, masked balls, misrule, revelry and debauchery. Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, is an amusing moralistic farce on the hazards of dressing-up and the tension between alcoholic gluttony and puritanical lust epitomised by Sir Toby Belch and Malvolio. It is a play about hopeless love and other agues that afflicted “Merrie England” – and are still with us today.

Twelth Night
TWELTH  NIGHT FESTIVITY  (alamy.com)

The Feast of Epiphany  on the 6th January, was celebrated by the early church as the end of forty days and forty nights in the desert culminating in baptism. At a later date the Church decreed the Feast Day to be recognised as the Proclamation of the Gospel by Jesus.

Ephiphany
FEAST OF EPIPHANY  BAPTISM IN THE RIVER JORDAN   (askideas.com)

 

Ephiphany
FEAST OF EPIPHANY  PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL (dailyscripture.org)

TE DEUM LAUDAMUS
The Christian religion and associated belief and ritual derived from cultures and customs for over two thousand years that spoke Aramaic, Latin, Persian, Celtic, Chaucer’s English and Shakespeare’s English. Any religion is ultimately a construct where myth and fact merge into belief. The Christian West has give the the majority of mankind the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. For a substantial minority, the period commences with Christo Maesse and terminates with the Feast of Epiphany. However, for an increasing global majority, the festive season commences with the purchase of consumables and ends on the whim of King Edwine of Deira.

DAYDATEFEAST, FEASTIVAL, DEBAUCH
125Christmas Day - The Nativity. Lord of Misrule controls festivities.
226Feast of Saint Spephen - feeding the poor.
327Feast of Saint John the Evangelist - witness to the Incarnation.
428Feast of the Holy Innocents - King Herod's massacre.
529Feast of the Ass - commemoration of the Donkey.
630
731Festival of Foules - for the junior Clergy and the masses.
81Feast of Christ's Circumcision - first shedding of Blood by the Saviour.
92
103
114
125Twelth Night, baudy gatherings & the legacy of King Edwine.
136Feast of Ephiphany - celebrating Baptism and the Proclamation of the Gospel.

HERE ENDETH THE LESSON
As with all things spiritual and temporal, if we can understand our ancestors then we can more easily comprehend the present and ‘in our cups’ can venture plausible projections for our descendants. Early Christians wisely spread their gift-giving over the Twelve Days of Christmas thereby reducing the stress from a deluge of unwanted baubles. Throughout the ‘Season’ there appeared to be continuous spiritual and gastronomic stimulation. (Trinity Lutheran Church, December 2016, The Real Twelve Days of Christmas)

And so to all a Medieval  Festive Greeting –
By mine own troth! May tou has’t a pipus did bless Christmas and a v’ry m’rry and prosp’rous year to cometh.”

 

 

MARRIAGE DEBATE DEBACLE October 2017

To be, or not to be – that is the question                                                  Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer                                                          The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune                                                  Or take up arms against a sea of troubles                                                      And by opposing them – to die. (Hamlet, Act 111)

As the arbiter of good taste and of Australian culture the ABC has constantantly referred to ‘partner’ rather than husband and wife despite some 60% of those eligible being married, not partnered. By logic the term partner or partnership has thus become acceptable and the term ‘partnership equality’ can become legally equivalent but not interchangeable with ‘marriage equality’ since there is no gender equivalence. The term ‘partnership equality’ for same sex couples should be supported, since the vocabulary used by the ABC is already in place. Biologically and legally a wife can only be a woman and a husband can only be a man and by universal convention their union is one of marriage.

HETEROSEXUALHOMOSEXUAL
To MarryTo Partner
HusbandPartner
WifePartner
MarriagePartnership

The heat and rhetoric created by the postal vote is rational since it impacts on a core value of global society, but for Australia it is irrational due to the numbers involved. Based on the 2011 Census, there were 33,700 homosexual couples in Australia, i.e. 67,400 citizens – about 0.3% in a population of 24 million. Same sex couples represent about 1% of all couples in Australia. (Australian Social Trends 4102.0, July 2013, ABS) The most recent census would show an increase.

For the ‘No’ vote, this is a Hamlet problem as younger generations arise and established verities are cast aside. It matters not that present day well-being and freedoms are the product of strife and discipline of yesteryear. In this brave new world it is natural to construct new words or new definitions: the danger for society is where will this stop, particularly in a less democratic order. At the national level, will a ‘Yes’ vote for ‘partnership equality’ improve or will there be an indefineable weakening of our culture? In view of the ABC’s persistent use of ‘partner’, it is reasonable to assume that, under law, partnership and marriage should be treated equally but are not the same and never will be.

 

Burlesque
BURLESQUE or DEBATE in the HOUSE (lionsroar.com)

The Australian Government has polarised the nation, fostered bad blood, divided families, abrogated its responsibility and wasted more than $100 million. The Government has created a burlesque of a serious Parliamentary Debate.

Current Affairs Flash Points
towardsthefinalhour.com
John Hill   lurgashall@westnet.com.au

AUSTRALIA – HYPOCRISY on MARRIAGE EQUALITY. August 2017

 

HIPOCRACY
HYPOCRISY – IS THERE A HIDDEN AGENDA? (equussantafe.com)

PERCEPTION IS ALL
Revealed is the hypocrisy, cant and calumny of the Coalition towards its bête noire, marriage equality. Over many months, our parliamentarians specious comment on “their undertaking, their promise, their reluctance to break faith, their wish for the people to decide” and similar cant has lost all ring of sincerity. If these sentiments were based on respect for the Australian people they might be taken seriously. Unfortunately this is not so. For members of the Coalition, incredibly, it is not the destination but the journey that is important. Behind this facade of verbal rectitude lies a trail of dishonoured pledges, broken promises and dissimulation by senior politicians and their acolytes. Why is this promise to the Australian people so important? To implement a plebiscite runs the risk of fueling sectarian discord among the Australian people.

THE UGLY TRUTH                                                                                                       The Australian government purports to be non-sectarian. It would be instructive to ascertain which decision-makers are prepared  to incur an expense  of $160 million rather than reveal a faith based prejudice on the floor of the House during debate and subsequent ‘Lock the Doors’. Verily, some parliamentarians, stunted by dogma, would fear the third cock crow. Parliamentarians are elected to govern, not hide behind the the dictates of their own faith.  Australia is non-sectarian!   In recent years, the dishonoured pledges and backdowns perpetrated by the Coalition government (and Labor) is astonishing; there are dozens of separate issues. (see references) Just three examples of broken promises and an exposure of dissimulation represent less than 5% of these records:

  • Paid parental leave, a signature policy, later abandoned.
  • Hospital funding cuts, changes were to be implemented in three years time, they were immediately applied.
  • Superannuation changes, adverse changes would not be made – this was not so.
  • An example of dissimulation – the much vaunted South Australian submarine project was touted as a benefit to the state. Currently there is no construction tender, only a design contract in France. A  decision on a construction contract may only eventuate around 2019.

In his article, Gottliebsen states “Trust in politicians is further eroded. The political class in Australia needs to take a good look at itself.”

THE LAST REFRAIN                                                                                                 With respect to Marriage Equality the media needs to lift its game; reporters and interviewers verge on the supine in their questions to politicians. There is no vigorous probing as to why a plebiscite is  essential and why there is the objection to a parliamentary debate. Since so many promises have been broken, what is the objection to breaking this one particularly as it will immediately benefit people and save $160 million. Is it possible some wish to save themselves the embarrassment of standing up for their principles or risk being accused  of apostasy? The public deserve answers since,perhaps, only half-a-dozen people are delaying a democratic process.                                           It is a matter for despair that our politicians are less by and more large purveyors of platitudes and soothing words. By hiding the bad news they tend to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. The true situation on any matter is either obtained from investigative journalists, experts or those au fait with current events.

The Wolf
WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING. REAL INFORMATION NOT THE PUBLIC STATEMENT (rapid.net.com)

The Honorable Michael Kirby, AC. CMG. has has added the firm voice of leadership to this sorry saga by stating he will not support a postal vote proposed by this Government that has clearly abrogated its responsibility to govern for the people of Australia.

REFERENCES:
Austin,  A. 18 May 2015. Budget backflips bring broken promises. Indepentent Australia.
Gottliebsen, R. 8 May 2016. Coalition and Labor’s broken promises have shattered voter trust. The Australian.

JOHN HUGH HILL, lurgashall@westnet.com.au                                                                          Current Affairs Flash Points, towardsthefinalhour.com