Skip to content

Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.

Archive

Category: Virtual Topics
by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 As we enter the fifth day of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, let us continue to focus our attention on the Christ that is the center of this celebration. On Palm Sunday, we commemorated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Today’s focus in upon the Last Supper and the events surrounding it. It is a time to continue our focus upon the meaning of this period of time. GLB

    

“Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter.”
— Josh McDowell

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
— Pope John Paul II

“Most people outside of America won’t get it. It’s the Easter bunny. It’s another lie and I don’t understand why we had to invent this character.”
— Todd Rundgren

“I am very proud of this work because it is more about the meaning of the Easter Rising and its relationship to what this whole century has been about, people liberating themselves, freeing themselves.”
— Leon Uris

“And it is always Easter Sunday at the New York City Ballet. It is always coming back to life. Not even coming back to life – it lives in the constant present.”
— John Guare

“Do we believe that there is equal economic opportunity out there in the real world, right now, for each and every one of these groups? If we believed in the tooth fairy, if we believed in the Easter Bunny, we might well believe that.”
— William Weld

“God expects from men something more than at such times, and that it were much to be wished for the credit of their religion as well as the satisfaction of their conscience that their Easter devotions would in some measure come up to their Easter dress.”
— Robert South

“A strangely reflective, even melancholy day. Is that because, unlike our cousins in the northern hemisphere, Easter is not associated with the energy and vitality of spring but with the more subdued spirit of autumn?”
— Hugh Mackay

  

Holy Week: Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday)

Simon_ushakov_last_supper_1685 The Mystical Supper, Icon by Simon Ushakov (1685).

Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, is the Christian feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. The date is always between 19 March and 22 April inclusive. These dates in the Julian calendar, on which Eastern churches in general base their calculations of the date of Easter, correspond throughout the twenty-first century to 1 April and 5 May in the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. In 2010 it falls on 1 April.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper initiates the Easter Triduum, the three days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday that commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is normally celebrated in the evening, when according to Jewish tradition Friday begins.

Derivation of the Name "Maundy"

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the "Mandatum" ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

Blake_Holy_Thursday_1794 William Blake’s Holy Thursday (1794).

Others theorize that the English name "Maundy Thursday" arose from "maundsor" baskets, in which on that day the king of England distributed alms to certain poor at Whitehall: "maund" is connected with the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg. A source from the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church likewise states that, if the name were derived from the Latin mandatum, we would call the day Mandy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, or even Mandatum Thursday; and that the term "Maundy" comes in fact from the Latin mendicare, Old French mendier, and English maund, which as a verb means to beg and as a noun refers to a small basket held out by maunders as they maunded. The name Maundy Thursday thus arose from a medieval custom whereby the English royalty handed out "maundy purses" of alms to the poor before attending Mass on this day.

Western Christianity

Levoca_Last_Supper "The Last Supper" – museum copy of Master Paul’s sculpiturgy

The Washing of the Feet is a traditional component of the celebration in many Christian Churches, including the Armenian, Ethiopian, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Brethren, Mennonite, and Roman Catholic Churches, and is becoming increasingly popular as a part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in the Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches, as well as in other Protestant denominations. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins as usual, but the Gloria is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. After the homily the washing of feet may be performed. The service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Sacrament to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose. In pre-1970 editions, the Roman Missal envisages this being done ceremonially, to the accompaniment of Psalm 21/22, a practice which continues in many Anglican churches. In other Christian denominations, such as the Lutheran Church or Methodist Church, the stripping of the altar and other items on the chancel also occurs, as a preparation for the somber Good Friday service.

Eastern Christianity

Omovenie_nog Orthodox icon of Christ washing
the feet of the Apostles
(16th century, Pskov
school of iconography).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lenten character of the services is for the most part set aside, and they follow a format closer to normal. The liturgical colors are changed from the somber Lenten hues to more festive colors (red is common in the Slavic practice). The primary service of this day is Vespers combined with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. At this service is read the first Passion Gospel (John 13:31-18:1), known as the "Gospel of the Testament", and many of the normal hymns of the Divine Liturgy are substituted with the following troparion:

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither will I give Thee a kiss like Judas. But like the Thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.

ChristWashingFeet  Christus, by the Lutheran Lucas
Cranach the Elder. This woodcut of
John 13:14-17 is from Passionary
of the Christ and Antichrist.

In addition to the usual Preparation for Holy Communion, the Orthodox faithful will often receive the Mystery of Unction on Great Wednesday as preparation for the reception of Holy Communion on Great Thursday. It is customary to cover the Altar table with a simple, white linen cloth on this day, as a reminder of the Last Supper. On Great Thursday, the Reserved Sacrament is customarily renewed, a new Lamb (Host) being consecrated for the coming liturgical year, and the remainder from the previous year is consumed. The ceremony of the Washing of Feet will normally be performed in monasteries and cathedrals. Because of the joy of the Institution of the Eucharist, on this day alone during Holy Week wine and oil are permitted at meals. Whenever there is need to consecrate more chrysm it will be done on this day by the heads of the various autocephalous churches. In the evening, after the Liturgy, all of the hangings and vestments are changed to black or some other Lenten colour, to signify the beginning of the Passion.

Beginning on Holy and Great Thursday, the celebration of the Lity (memorial service) is forbidden until Thomas Sunday (the Sunday after Easter).

Customs and Names from Around the World
  • The Maundy Thursday celebrations in the United Kingdom today involve the Monarch (since 1952, Queen Elizabeth II) offering "alms" to deserving senior citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign’s age). These coins, known as Maundy money or Royal Maundy, are distributed in red and white purses. This custom dates back to King Edward I. The red purse contains regular currency and is given in place of food and clothing. The white purse contains currency in the amount of one penny for each year of the Sovereign’s age. Since 1822, rather than ordinary money, the Sovereign gives out Maundy coins. which are specially minted 1, 2, 3 and 4 penny pieces, and are legal tender. The service at which this takes place rotates around English and Welsh churches, though in 2008 it took place for the first time in Northern Ireland at Armagh Cathedral. Until the death of King James II, the Monarch would also wash the feet of the selected poor people. There is an old sketch, done from life, of Queen Elizabeth I washing people’s feet on Maundy Thursday.
  • The popular German name Gründonnerstag means either "mourning Thursday" or "green Thursday". Other names are Hoher, Heiliger, and Weißer Donnerstag (High, Holy and White Thursday, with "white" referring to the liturgical color associated with Maundy Thursday).
  • In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the day is called Zelený čtvrtek or Zelený štvrtok respectively, again meaning "Green Thursday". Because the church bells fall silent until Holy Saturday, here called "White Saturday", because "they have flown to Rome", in some regions they are replaced by groups of children walking round their village and making noise with wooden rattles. People come out of the door and give them money. The Bells & Children also do this in Luxembourg (which has some ties to Romania): The Bells fall silent until Easter, because "They have flown to Rome for Confession", so Children take to the Streets, calling People to Church with melancholy wooden rattling.
  • In Malta, Holy Thursday is known as Ħamis ix-Xirka (Communion Thursday) and the a tradition of visiting seven churches (see below) is called is-seba’ visti.
  • In Sweden Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdagen) is connected to old folklore as the day of the witches. Young children often dress up as witches and knock on doors getting coins or candy for easter eggs.
  • In Bulgaria Maundy Thursday is called Veliki Chetvurtuk (Great Thursday), and is traditionally the day when people color their easter eggs and perform other household chores geared toward preparing for Razpeti Petuk (Crucifixion Friday), Velika Subota (Great Saturday) and Velikden (Easter Day).
  • In Kerala, the southern state of India where the Syrian Christians or Nasranis are in high population observes this day with great reverence. This day is called as Pesaha, a syriac word commemorating the last supper of Jesus Christ. This is also a state wide declared public holiday by the Government of Kerala. The tradition of Pesaha appam or Indariyappam is observed by the entire Nasrani people till this day. Special long services followed by Holy Qurbana are conducted during the Pesaha eve or at mid-night till morning in the Syrian Christian churches.
  • In the Philippines, most business establishments cease operations from Holy Thursday to Black Saturday. Most malls, however, only cease their operations on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and only opens on Black Saturday. Television and radio stations are on air during that period; should they wish to continue airing they usually broadcast special shows, usually themed for the Holy Week, which were not on their usual schedule. (Cable channels usually continue their normal telecasts as usual.) Newspapers usually have no issues during those days.
  • If statues and crucifixes have been covered during Passion Time (the last 2 weeks of Lent, at least in the 1962 Roman Catholic missal), the crucifix covers are allowed to be white instead of purple for Holy Thursday.
Scriptural Reading

In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the great high priest, like us in all things but sin. He was tempted, so he can understand our temptation; but being perfect, He was able to offer Himself as the perfect Sacrifice to God the Father. That sacrifice is the source of the eternal salvation of all who believe in Christ.

Hebrews 4:14-5:10

Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.

For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: because he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.

So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence. And whereas indeed he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered: And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation. Called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech.

  • Source:
    Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

     

References

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Holy Week…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week

Wikipedia: Holy Thursday…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Thursday

About.com: Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of Holy Week…
http://catholicism.about.com/od/lentenreadings/qt/Reading_ThHW.htm

Brainy Quote: Easter Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/easter.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 As we enter the fourth day of Holy Week, let us continue to focus our attention on the Christ that is the center of this celebration. On Palm Sunday, we commemorated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Today we begin a less defined, in the Western world, the period from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the observation. It is a time to continue our focus upon the meaning of this period of time.  GLB

    

“Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter.”
— Josh McDowell

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
— Pope John Paul II

“Most people outside of America won’t get it. It’s the Easter bunny. It’s another lie and I don’t understand why we had to invent this character.”
— Todd Rundgren

“I am very proud of this work because it is more about the meaning of the Easter Rising and its relationship to what this whole century has been about, people liberating themselves, freeing themselves.”
— Leon Uris

“And it is always Easter Sunday at the New York City Ballet. It is always coming back to life. Not even coming back to life – it lives in the constant present.”
— John Guare

“Do we believe that there is equal economic opportunity out there in the real world, right now, for each and every one of these groups? If we believed in the tooth fairy, if we believed in the Easter Bunny, we might well believe that.”
— William Weld

“God expects from men something more than at such times, and that it were much to be wished for the credit of their religion as well as the satisfaction of their conscience that their Easter devotions would in some measure come up to their Easter dress.”
— Robert South

“A strangely reflective, even melancholy day. Is that because, unlike our cousins in the northern hemisphere, Easter is not associated with the energy and vitality of spring but with the more subdued spirit of autumn?”
— Hugh Mackay

  

Holy Week: Holy Wednesday

mid-Paso_de_misterio_de_El_Olivo,_Miércoles_Santo,_El_Puerto.ogg In Christianity, Holy Wednesday (also called Spy Wednesday, and in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Holy and Great Wednesday) is the Wednesday of the Holy Week, the week before Easter. It is followed by Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday).

Towards the end of the Tuesday evening Bridegroom service (Orthros for Great and Holy Wednesday), the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun) tells of the woman who washed Christ’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (Luke 7:36-50) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."

The Byzantine musical composition expresses the poetry so strongly that it leaves many people in a state of prayerful tears. The Hymn can last upwards of 25 minutes and is liturgically and musically a highpoint of the entire year.

On Great and Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated, at which the faithful may receive Holy Communion from the reserved Holy Mysteries. This service combines Vespers with a Communion Service. Each of these services has a reading from the Gospel which sets forth the theme for the day.

Biblical history

In Western Christianity, the Wednesday before Easter is sometimes known as "Spy Wednesday", indicating that it is the day that Judas Iscariot first conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins.

This event is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6.

The Sanhedrin was gathered together and it decided to kill Jesus, even before Pesach if possible. In the meantime, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. Here he was anointed on the head by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with very expensive ointment of spikenard. Some of the disciples were indignant about this; the oil could have been sold to support the poor. Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered them his support in exchange for money. From this moment on Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Western Christianity

Although it is frequently celebrated on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, the Tenebrae is a liturgy that is often celebrated on this day. The word tenebrae comes from the Latin meaning darkness. In this service, all of the candles on the altar table are gradually extinguished until the sanctuary is in complete darkness. At the moment of darkness, a loud clash occurs symbolizing the death of Jesus. The ‘strepitus’, as it is known more probably symbolizes the earthquake that followed Jesus’ death: "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" Matthew 27:51(AV).

Eastern Christianity

In the Orthodox Church, the theme of Holy and Great Wednesday is the commemoration of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus before his Crucifixion and Burial; a second theme is the agreement to betray Jesus made by Judas Iscariot.

The day begins with the celebration of the Presanctified Liturgy on Tuesday afternoon. Later that evening, the Orthros (Matins) follows the special Holy Week format known as the Bridegroom Prayer. Towards the end of Orthros, the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun) tells of the woman who washed Christ’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (Luke 7:36-50) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

Santa_Kassia Russian icon of Saint Kassiani
holding a scroll with her hymn
written on it.

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."

The Byzantine musical composition expresses the poetry so strongly that it often leaves many people in a state of prayerful tears. The Hymn can last upwards of 25 minutes and is liturgically and musically a highpoint of the entire year.

On this day members of the church receive Holy Unction after receiving Holy Communion at the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evening.

It is on account of the agreement made by Judas to betray Jesus on this day that Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesdays (as well as Fridays) throughout the year.

Customs:

  • Poland…  
    Children traditionally hurled an effigy of Judas from the church steeple. It was then dragged through the village, pounded with sticks and stones and what was left of it was drowned in a nearby pond or river.
  • Czech Republic…  
    The day is traditionally called Ugly Wednesday, Soot-Sweeping Wednesday or Black Wednesday, because chimneys used to be swept on this day, to be clean for Easter.
  • Malta
    This day is known as L-Erbgħa tat-Tnieber (Drums’ Wednesday), in the past children went to the parish church and drummed on the chairs to make the sound of thunderstorms.
Scripture Reading

As Moses approached Mount Sinai, this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, we should approach Mount Zion, our heavenly home. God is a consuming fire, through Whom we are all cleansed, as long as we listen to His Word and progress in holiness. If we turn from Him now, however, having received the revelation of Christ, our punishment will be greater than that of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and were forbidden, therefore, from entering the Promised Land.

Hebrews 12:14-29

Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God. Looking diligently, lest any man be wanting to the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up do hinder, and by it many be defiled. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau; who for one mess, sold his first birthright. For know ye that afterwards, when he desired to inherit the benediction, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, although with tears he had sought it.

For you are not come to a mountain that might be touched, and a burning fire, and a whirlwind, and darkness, and storm, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which they that heard excused themselves, that the word might not be spoken to them: For they did not endure that which was said: And if so much as a beast shall touch the mount, it shall be stoned. And so terrible was that which was seen, Moses said: I am frighted, and tremble.

But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, And to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh better than that of Abel.

See that you refuse him not that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke upon the earth, much more shall not we, that turn away from him that speaketh to us from heaven. Whose voice then moved the earth; but now he promiseth, saying: Yet once more, and I will move not only the earth, but heaven also. And in that he saith, Yet once more, he signifieth the translation of the moveable things as made, that those things may remain which are immoveable.

Therefore receiving an immoveable kingdom, we have grace; whereby let us serve, pleasing God, with fear and reverence. For our God is a consuming fire.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

 

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Holy Week…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week

Wikipedia: Holy Wednesday…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Wednesday

About.com: Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of Holy Week…
http://catholicism.about.com/od/lentenreadings/qt/Reading_WeHW.htm

Brainy Quote: Easter Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/easter.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 As we enter the third day of Holy Week, let us continue to focus our attention on the Christ that is the center of this celebration. On Palm Sunday, we commemorated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Today we begin a less defined, in the Western world, the period from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the observation. It is a time to continue our focus upon the meaning of this period of time.  GLB

    

“Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter.”
— Josh McDowell

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
— Pope John Paul II

“Most people outside of America won’t get it. It’s the Easter bunny. It’s another lie and I don’t understand why we had to invent this character.”
— Todd Rundgren

“I am very proud of this work because it is more about the meaning of the Easter Rising and its relationship to what this whole century has been about, people liberating themselves, freeing themselves.”
— Leon Uris

“And it is always Easter Sunday at the New York City Ballet. It is always coming back to life. Not even coming back to life – it lives in the constant present.”
— John Guare

“Do we believe that there is equal economic opportunity out there in the real world, right now, for each and every one of these groups? If we believed in the tooth fairy, if we believed in the Easter Bunny, we might well believe that.”
— William Weld

“God expects from men something more than at such times, and that it were much to be wished for the credit of their religion as well as the satisfaction of their conscience that their Easter devotions would in some measure come up to their Easter dress.”
— Robert South

“A strangely reflective, even melancholy day. Is that because, unlike our cousins in the northern hemisphere, Easter is not associated with the energy and vitality of spring but with the more subdued spirit of autumn?”
— Hugh Mackay

  

Holy Week: Holy Tuesday

5208-20080122-1255UTC--jerusalem-calvary Holy Tuesday or Great and Holy Tuesday is the Tuesday of Holy Week, which precedes the commemoration of the death of Jesus.

Towards the end of the Tuesday evening Bridegroom service (Orthros for Great and Holy Wednesday), the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun) tells of the woman who washed Christ’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (Luke 7:36-50) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."

Western Christianity

In the Roman Catholic Church, the readings are Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 71:1-6, 71:15, 71:17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; and John 13:21-33, 13:36-38.

Few Protestant churches have special services for Holy Tuesday. Those which do may follow the general pattern of the Roman Catholic observance.

Eastern Christianity

RossGospWiseFoolVirginsF4 The Wise and Foolish Virgins
(from the Rossano Gospels).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, this day is referred to as Great and Holy Tuesday, or Great Tuesday. On this day the Church commemorates the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which forms one of the themes of the first three days of Holy Week, with its teaching about vigilance, and Christ as the Bridegroom. The bridal chamber is used as a symbol not only of the Tomb of Christ, but also of the blessed state of the saved on the Day of Judgement. The theme of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is also developed in the hymns of this day.

The day begins liturgically with Vespers on the afternoon of Great Monday, repeating some of the same stichera (hymns) from the night before. At Great Compline a triode (Canon composed of three Odes), written by St. Andrew of Crete is chanted.

The Matins service for Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week is known as the Bridegroom Service or Bridegroom Prayer, because of their theme of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, a theme movingly expressed in the troparion that is solemnly chanted during them. On these days, an icon of "Christ the Bridegroom" is placed on an analogion in the center of the temple, portraying Jesus wearing the purple robe of mockery and crowned with a crown of thorns (see Instruments of the Passion). These Matins services are often chanted the evening before, in order that more of the faithful may attend. The Matins Gospel read on this day is from the Gospel of Matthew 22:15-23:39.

The four Gospels are divided up and read in their entirety at the Little Hours (Third Hour, Sixth Hour and Ninth Hour) during the course of the first three days of Holy Week, halting at John 13:31. There are various methods of dividing the Gospels, but the following is the most common practice:

Holy and Great Tuesday
  • Third Hour—The second half of Mark
  • Sixth Hour—The first third of Luke
  • Ninth Hour—The second third of Luke

At the Sixth Hour there is a reading from the Book of Ezekiel 1:21-2:1

At the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, some of the stichera from the previous night’s Matins (Lauds and the Aposticha) are repeated at Lord, I have cried (see Vespers). There are two Old Testament readings: Exodus 2:5-10 and Job 1:13-22. There is no Epistle reading, but there is a Gospel reading from Matthew 24:36-26:2

Scripture Reading

As Easter approaches, St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Hebrews are timely. We must continue the fight; we must not give up hope. Even when we undergo trials, we should take comfort in the example of Christ, Who died for our sins. Our trials are our preparation for rising to new life with Christ on Easter.

Hebrews 12:1-13

And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. For you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin: And you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.

Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live? And they indeed for a few days, according to their own pleasure, instructed us: but he, for our profit, that we might receive his sanctification.

Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight steps with your feet: that no one, halting, may go out of the way; but rather be healed.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

      

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Holy Week… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week

Wikipedia: Holy Tuesday… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Tuesday

About.com: Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of Holy Week…
http://catholicism.about.com/od/lentenreadings/qt/Reading_TuHW.htm

Brainy Quote: Easter Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/easter.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 As we enter the second day of Holy Week, let us continue to focus our attention on the Christ that is the center of this celebration. Yesterday, we commemorated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Today we begin a less defined, in the Western world, period (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) in the observation. It is a time to continue our focus upon the meaning of this period of time.  GLB

    

“Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter.”
— Josh McDowell

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
— Pope John Paul II

“Most people outside of America won’t get it. It’s the Easter bunny. It’s another lie and I don’t understand why we had to invent this character.”
— Todd Rundgren

“I am very proud of this work because it is more about the meaning of the Easter Rising and its relationship to what this whole century has been about, people liberating themselves, freeing themselves.”
— Leon Uris

“And it is always Easter Sunday at the New York City Ballet. It is always coming back to life. Not even coming back to life – it lives in the constant present.”
— John Guare

“Do we believe that there is equal economic opportunity out there in the real world, right now, for each and every one of these groups? If we believed in the tooth fairy, if we believed in the Easter Bunny, we might well believe that.”
— William Weld

“God expects from men something more than at such times, and that it were much to be wished for the credit of their religion as well as the satisfaction of their conscience that their Easter devotions would in some measure come up to their Easter dress.”
— Robert South

“A strangely reflective, even melancholy day. Is that because, unlike our cousins in the northern hemisphere, Easter is not associated with the energy and vitality of spring but with the more subdued spirit of autumn?”
— Hugh Mackay

  

Holy Week: Holy Monday

5208-20080122-1255UTC--jerusalem-calvary Holy Monday or Great and Holy Monday is the Monday of Holy Week, which precedes the commemoration of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is the second day of holy week.

Western Christianity

In the Roman Catholic Church, the Gospel lesson at Mass tells of the Anointing of Jesus at Bethany (John 12:1-9), which chronologically occurred before the Entry into Jerusalem described in John 12:12-19. Other readings used are Isaiah 42:1-7 and Psalm 27:1-3, 13-14.

Few Protestant churches have special services for Holy Monday. Those which do may follow the general pattern of the Roman Catholic observance.

Eastern Christianity

Konstantin_Flavitsky_001 In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, this day is referred to as Great and Holy Monday, or Great Monday. On this day the Church commemorates the withering of the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 12:18-22), a symbol of judgement that will befall those who do not bring forth the fruits of repentance. The hymns on this day also recall Joseph, the son of Jacob, whose innocent suffering at the hand of his brethren (Genesis 37), and false accusation (Genesis 39-40) are a type (foreshadowing) of the Passion of Christ.

The day begins liturgically with Vespers on Palm Sunday night, repeating some of the same stichera (hymns) from the night before. At Small Compline a Triode (Canon composed of three Odes), written by St. Andrew of Crete is chanted.

The Matins service for Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week is known as the Bridegroom Service or Bridegroom Prayer, because of their theme of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, a theme movingly expressed in the troparion that is solemnly chanted during them. On these days, an icon of "Christ the Bridegroom" is placed on an analogion in the center of the temple, portraying Jesus wearing the purple robe of mockery and crowned with a crown of thorns (see Instruments of the Passion). The Matins Gospel read on this day is from the Gospel of Matthew 21:18-43). The canon at Matins has only three odes in it (a triode), and was composed by St. Cosmas of Maiuma.

The four Gospels are divided up and read in their entirety at the Little Hours (Third Hour, Sixth Hour and Ninth Hour) during the course of the first three days of Holy Week, halting at John 13:31.

There are various methods of dividing the Gospels, but the following is the most common practice:

Holy and Great Monday
  • Third Hour—The first half of Matthew
  • Sixth Hour—The second half of Matthew
  • Ninth Hour—The first half of Mark

At the Sixth Hour there is a reading from the Book of Ezekiel 1:1-20

At the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, some of the stichera from the previous night’s Matins (Lauds and the Aposticha) are repeated at Lord, I have cried (see Vespers). There are two Old Testament readings: Exodus 1:1-20 and Job 1:1-12. There is no Epistle reading, but there is a Gospel reading from Matthew 24:3-35

Scripture Reading

We have an eternal high priest and an eternal sacrifice in Jesus Christ. The Law is no longer imposed externally, as it was in the old covenant, but written on the hearts of those who believe. Now, writes St. Paul in the Letter to the Hebrews, we must simply persevere in the Faith. When we doubt or draw back, we fall into sin.

Hebrews 10:19-39

Having therefore, brethren, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ; a new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and a high priest over the house of God: Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (for he is faithful that hath promised), and let us consider one another, to provoke unto charity and to good works: Not forsaking our assembly, as some are accustomed; but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, but a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. A man making void the law of Moses, dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses: How much more, do you think he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongeth to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But call to mind the former days, wherein, being illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions. And on the one hand indeed, by reproaches and tribulations, were made a gazingstock; and on the other, became companions of them that were used in such sort. For you both had compassion on them that were in bands, and took with joy the being stripped of your own goods, knowing that you have a better and a lasting substance. Do not therefore lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. For patience is necessary for you; that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise.

For yet a little and a very little while, and he that is to come, will come, and will not delay. But my just man liveth by faith; but if he withdraw himself, he shall not please my soul. But we are not the children of withdrawing unto perdition, but of faith to the saving of the soul.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

     

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Holy Week… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week

Wikipedia: Holy Monday… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Monday

About.com: Scriptural Reading for the Monday of Holy Week… 
http://catholicism.about.com/od/lentenreadings/qt/Reading_MoHW.htm

Brainy Quote: Easter Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/easter.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we start a series of postings focusing on the religious observance of Holy Week, which ends the period of Lent in the Catholic Church. We start with an examination of Palm Sunday, which marked the victorious entry of Christ into Jerusalem. While this holiday is observed somewhat differently in the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches as well as in the Protestant Churches. Let us start our consideration with a spirit of humility and reverence. We would encourage you to read about these events in the four gospels for yourself and let the Word of God speak to you directly.  GLB

    

“Palm Sunday is like a glimpse of Easter. It’s a little bit joyful after being somber during Lent.”
— Laura Gale

“When Christ entered into Jerusalem the people spread garments in the way: when He enters into our hearts, we pull off our own righteousness, and not only lay it under Christ’s feet but even trample upon it ourselves.”
— Augustus Toplady

“The entrance into Jerusalem [on Palm Sunday] has all the elements of theatre of the absurd: the poor king; truth comes riding on a donkey; symbolic actions… even parading without a permit! Also, when Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem," what was involved was direct action, an open confrontation and public demonstration of the incompatibility of evil with the Kingdom of God.”
— David Kirk

“We wave palms because we have long awaited God’s deliverance and now we’re within 7 days of it. We wave palms because Jesus shows us life-saving answers when we feel crushed by problems threatening to overcome us. We wave palms because Jesus has set us free from the destructive longings of our fallen nature. We wave palms because, like the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem and gave thanks for their healing by Jesus, we too can really be healed in body, mind, and spirit.”
— Kevin Gray

“But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem – to die. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.”
— Bill Hybels

“Practically everyone has known the taste of Palm Sunday, the sweetness of success and popularity, and nearly all of us have tasted the bitterness of Good Friday, of failure and rejection. What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs, what frees us from the tyranny of events over which we have no control is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God -it is trust in God’s love to bring about Easter morning, – knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God,- and in sharing that knowledge and love with those who accompany us on the way.”
— Rev. Richard J. Faichild

“I worship you Lord! You did not enter your holy city Jerusalem on the back of a war horse, but humbly and on a donkey. You knew that you were surrounded by murderers, yet you came in peace, and by your sacrifice you would utterly conquer death before the week had passed. You, oh Lord, are blessed and worthy of my praise. You have saved your people. I say, "You are my king!"… I long to live in the city where you sit on the throne! Establish your Kingdom, so that your people can live in peace. Jesus, I bow before you, and I will sing your praises until your Kingdom comes and is established, and forever after.”
— David Maddalena

“When Jesus entered Jerusalem the people spread their clothes in the way and strewed branches before Him in order to do Him honour. Jesus rode upon an ass, according to the word of the prophet. His feet did not touch the road which was decorated in His honour. It was the ass which trod upon the garments and the branches. But the ass would have been very foolish to have been uplifted on that account; for the road really was not decked in its honour! It would be just as foolish if those who bear Christ to men were to think anything of themselves because of what men do to them for the sake of Jesus.”
— Sadhu Sundar Singh

  

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Folio_173v_-_The_Entry_into_Jerusalem Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter. It includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and Good Friday, and lasts from Palm Sunday (or in the Eastern, Lazarus Saturday) until but not including Easter Sunday, as Easter Sunday is the first day of the new season of The Great Fifty Days. It commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Holy Week in the Christian year is the week immediately before Easter. The earliest allusion to the custom of marking this week as a whole with special observances is to be found in the Apostolical Constitutions (v. 18, 19), dating from the latter half of the 3rd century and 4th century. In this text, abstinence from flesh is commanded for all the days, while for the Friday and Sunday an absolute fast is commanded. Dionysius Alexandrinus in his canonical epistle (AD 260), refers to the ninety-one fasting days implying that the observance of them had already become an established usage in his time.

There is some doubt about the genuineness of an ordinance attributed to <>, in which abstinence from public business was enforced for the seven days immediately preceding Easter Sunday, and also for the seven which followed it; the Codex Theodosianus, however, is explicit in ordering that all actions at law should cease, and the doors of all courts of law be closed during those fifteen days (1. ii. tit. viii.). Of the particular days of the "great week" the earliest to emerge into special prominence was naturally Good Friday. Next came the Sabbatum Magnum ("Great Sabbath", i.e., Holy Saturday or Easter Eve) with its vigil, which in the early church was associated with an expectation that the second advent would occur on an Easter Sunday.

There are other texts that refer to the traditions of the Early Church, most notably The Pilgrimage of Etheria (also known as The Pilgrimage of Egeria) which details the complete observance of Holy Week in the early church.

Palm Sunday

Holy Week begins with Sunday of the Passion of the Our Lord. Before 1955 this Sunday was known in the Roman Rite simply as Palm Sunday and the preceding Sunday as Passion Sunday. From 1955 to 1971 it was called Second Sunday in Passiontide or Palm Sunday.

To commemorate the entrance of the messiah into Jerusalem, to accomplish his paschal mystery, it is customary to have before Mass a blessing of palm leaves (or other branches, for example olive branches). The blessing ceremony, preferably held outside the church includes the reading of a Gospel account of how Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, reminiscent of a Davidic victory procession, and how people placed palms on the ground in front of him. This is followed by a procession or solemn entrance into the church, with the participants holding the blessed branches in their hands.

The Mass itself includes a reading of the Passion, the narrative of Jesus’ capture, sufferings and death, as recounted in one of the Synoptic Gospels.

Before the reform of the rite by Pope Pius XII, the blessing of the palms occurred inside the church within a service that followed the general outline of a Mass, with Collect, Epistle and Gospel, as far as the Sanctus. The palms were then blessed with five prayers, and a procession went out of the church and on its return included a ceremony for the reopening of the doors, which had meantime been shut. After this the normal Mass was celebrated.

Jesus_entering_jerusalem_on_a_donkey Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast which always falls on the Sunday before Easter Sunday. The feast commemorates an event mentioned by all four Canonical Gospels Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19: the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his Passion. It is also called Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.

In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday is marked by the distribution of palm leaves (often tied into crosses) to the assembled worshipers. The difficulty of procuring palms for that day’s ceremonies in unfavorable climates for palms led to the substitution of boughs of box, yew, willow or other native trees. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as Yew Sunday or by the general term Branch Sunday.

According to the Gospels, before entering Jerusalem, Jesus was staying at Bethany and Bethphage, and the Gospel of John adds that he had dinner with Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. While there, Jesus sent two disciples to the village over against them, in order to retrieve a donkey that had been tied up but never been ridden, and to say, if questioned, that the donkey was needed by the Lord but would be returned. Jesus then rode the donkey into Jerusalem, with the Synoptics adding that the disciples had first put their cloaks on it, so as to make it more comfortable. The Gospels go on to recount how Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and how the people there lay down their cloaks in front of him, and also lay down small branches of trees. The people sang part of Psalm 118 – …Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father, David. … (Psalms 118:25-26). Where this entry is supposed to have taken place is unspecified; some scholars argue that the Golden Gate is the likely location, since that was where it was believed the Jewish messiah would enter Jerusalem; other scholars think that an entrance to the south, which had stairs leading directly to the Temple, would be more likely (Kilgallen 210).

Zirl_Parrish_Church-Jesus_entering_Jerusalem_1 It is a common custom in many lands in the ancient Near East to cover, in some way, the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. The Hebrew Bible (2Kings 9:13) reports that Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was treated this way. Both the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John report that people gave Jesus this form of honour. However, in the synoptics they are only reported as laying their garments and cut rushes on the street, whereas John more specifically mentions palm fronds. The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and of victory, in Jewish tradition, and is treated in other parts of the Bible as such (e.g. Leviticus 23:40 and Revelation 7:9). Because of this, the scene of the crowd greeting Jesus by waving palms and carpeting his path with them has given the Christian festival its name.

Prophetic Interpretations

Christians often interpret a passage from Zechariah as a prophecy which was fulfilled by the Triumphal Entry:

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
—Zechariah 9:9-10

Matthew quotes this passage from Zechariah when narrating the story of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. His interpreting of the repetition in the Hebrew poetry as describing two different donkeys: gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey, is offered by some Biblical scholars as a reason for Matthew’s unique description of Jesus riding both a donkey and its foal. However, there is an alternate explanation. The full text in Matthew regarding this issue is as follows:

"And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon."
— Matthew 21:1-7 KJV)

The Septuagint, in Zechariah 9:9 says: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal." (Brenton) The wording is slightly different from the Hebrew text but one can reasonably interpret from the text that the Messiah, Jesus, will be riding on one of the animals, presumably the ass, or donkey, and that its colt, or foal, will be following behind its mother. To imagine that Jesus would be riding on both simultaneously would indeed present a strange image to mind. Hilary of Poitiers, in one of his sermons on this chapter of Matthew, is of the view that two animals, the ass and its colt, were brought to Jesus and, presumably, those animals were not separated when he rode into Jerusalem:

"Two disciples are sent to the village to loosen the ass tied up with its colt and to bring them to him. And should someone ask them why they are doing that, they are to respond that the Lord needs the animals, which must be released to him without delay. From the previous sermons we remember that the two sons of Zebedee symbolize the double vocation of Israel. Therefore, now it is fitting to interpret the two disciples sent to release the ass and the colt as the subsequent double vocation of the Gentiles. It applies first of all to the Samaritans, who abandoned the law after their dissent and lived in a state of dependence and servitude. Yet it also applies to the rebellious and ferocious Gentiles. Therefore the two disciples are sent to loosen those who were bound and arrested by the bonds of error and ignorance."

A widespread Jewish belief states that the Mount of Olives would see the coming of the Messiah (see Josephus, Flavius, Bellum Judaicum, 11,13,5 and Antiquitates Judaicae, XX,8,6). This belief is based upon Zechariah 14:3-4:

Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle./ And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east […]

Museum_für_Indische_Kunst_Dahlem_Berlin_Mai_2006_061 Possible depiction of Palm Sunday
observances by Nestorian Christians
in China, wall painting, Khocho,
Nestorian Temple, 683–770 AD,
Tang Dynasty (Museum für
Indische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem).

The triumphal entry and the palm branches, recall the celebration of Jewish liberation in 1 Maccabees 13:51:

On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred and seventy-first year, the Jews [led by Simon Maccabeus] entered it [the fortress of Jerusalem] with praise and palm branches and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.

The great enemy in Jesus’ days on earth was the Roman army; and one can imagine that many Jews saw the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem as the advent of a revengeful Messiah who will wipe out the Romans from Holy Land.

But then there is the problem of the donkey. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a question asked by the Persian king Shevor: Why doesn’t your Messiah come riding on a horse? If he lacks one, I’ll be glad to provide him with one of my best! (Sanhedrin 98a). Indeed, why should the Messiah come on a donkey? The answer stays in the symbolism of the donkey, which in some Eastern traditions seems to be seen as an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. Therefore, it was said that a king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out that he was coming in peace. Thus, the king riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey complies with the epithet gentle or lowly (Hebrew anî – poor, afflicted) and strongly implies the message of peace. This message of peace was always fundamental with Jesus, but it is not clear how well understood was it in those days. In fact, John declares: These things understood not His disciples at the first (12:16). It is highly probable that the public enthusiasm of the day saw the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem more like a declaration of war against Israel’s enemies than a message of peace.

In the book Sanhedrin from the Babylonian Gemara it tis written that the Messiah will appear as a poor man on a donkey only if the Jews are not found deserving of the salvation. Otherwise, the Messiah will ride on a horse. Since all humans are sinners, including Jews, it is obvious that the Messiah will always ride on a donkey. However, this is a Christian belief and not supported in Judaism (Jews, for example, do not believe in original sin).

Observance in the Liturgy

Western Christianity… On Palm Sunday, in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many Anglican and Lutheran churches, palm fronds (or in colder climates some kind of substitutes) are blessed with an aspergilium outside the church building (or in cold climates in the narthex when Easter falls early in the year). A procession also takes place. It may include the normal liturgical procession of clergy and acolytes, the parish choir, the children of the parish or indeed the entire congregation as in the churches of the East. In Oriental Orthodox churches palm fronds are distributed at the front of the church at the sanctuary steps, in India the sanctuary itself having been strewn with marigolds, and the congregation processes through and outside the church. In many Protestant churches, children are given palms, and then walk in procession around the inside of the church while the adults remain seated.

The palms are saved in many churches to be burned the following year as the source of ashes used in Ash Wednesday services. The Roman Catholic Church considers the palms to be sacramentals. The vestments for the day are deep scarlet red, the color of blood, indicating the supreme redemptive sacrifice Christ was entering the city who welcomed him to fulfill- his Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

DSCF7575 An Oriental Orthodox congregation in
India processes outside its church
with palm fronds on Palm Sunday
in ancient Levantine Christian
rites later continued in attenuated
form in Eastern Orthodox, Western
Catholic and Protestant rites.

In the Episcopal and many other Anglican churches and in Lutheran churches as well, the day is nowadays officially called The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday; however, in practice it is usually termed "Palm Sunday" as in the historic Book of Common Prayer and in earlier Lutheran liturgies and calendars, by way of avoiding undue confusing with the penultimate Sunday of Lent in the traditional calendar, which was "Passion Sunday."

In the Church of Pakistan (a member of the Anglican Communion), on Palm Sunday the faithful carry palm branches into the church, as they sing Psalm 24.

Eastern Christianity… In the Eastern Orthodox Church Palm Sunday is often called the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, it is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year, and is the beginning of Holy Week. The day before is known as Lazarus Saturday, and commemorates the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. Unlike the West, Palm Sunday is not considered to be a part of Lent, the Eastern Orthodox Great Fast ends on the Friday before. Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are considered to be a separate fasting period. On Lazarus Saturday believers often prepare palm fronds by knotting them into crosses in preparation for the procession on Sunday. The hangings and vestments in the church are changed to a festive color—in the Slavic tradition this is often green.

     

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Holy Week… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week

Wikipedia: Palm Sunday… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Sunday

Daily Christian Quotes: Palm Sunday…
http://dailychristianquote.com/dcqeaster.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 This is the end of the Christmas holiday season. There was a series of days (Advent) that preceded the birth of the Christ Child. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day center upon the birth of the Christ Child. and the 12 Days of Christmas follow Christmas (starting on Christmas night). All this leads up to the Feast of the Epiphany which celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men (Magi or Kings) at the Nativity. We focus on this definition in this blog posting, although the term “epiphany” is also used as a sudden, creative flash of imagination; that is another story… GLB

    

“The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end.”
— Benjamin Disraeli

“God is more truly imagined than expressed, and He exists more truly than He is imagined.”
— Saint Augustine

“Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.”
— Henry Mencken

“Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.”
— Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

“Imagine what you desire. Will what you imagine. Create what you will.”
— George Bernard Shaw

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfuly wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents.”
— O. Henry

“For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.”
— C.S. Lewis

“Today I begin to understand what love must be, if it exists. When we are parted, we each feel the lack of the other half of ourselves. We are incomplete like a book in two volumes of which the first has been lost. That is what I imagine love to be: incompleteness in absence.”
— Edmond and Jules de Goncourt

  

Celebrating Epiphany

An epiphany (from the ancient Greek for “manifestation, striking appearance”) is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has "found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture," or has new information or experience, often insignificant by itself, that illuminates a deeper or numinous foundational frame of reference.

The Christian Epiphany refers to the Adoration of the Magi of the miraculous Incarnation of the infant Christ, and to the Feast of the Epiphany which commemorates it. The word’s secular usage may owe some of its popularity to James Joyce, who expounded on its meaning in the fragment Stephen Hero and the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Referring to those times in his life when something became manifest, a deep realisation, he would then attempt to write this epiphanic realisation in a fragment. Joyce also used epiphany as a literary device within each short story of his collection Dubliners (1914) as his protagonists came to sudden recognitions that changed their view of themselves or their social condition and often sparking a reversal or change of heart.

Today we will examine primarily the Christian celebration of Epiphany, the feast day following the 12 days of Christmas.

epiphany Epiphany is a Christian feast day which celebrates the revelation of God made Man in the person of Jesus Christ. It falls on the 6th of January or on a Sunday close to that date. The 6th of January in the Julian Calendar, which is followed by some Eastern Churches, corresponds at present to 19th of January in the Gregorian Calendar, which is the official civil calendar in most countries. On this day, Western Christians commemorate principally the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, i.e., his manifestation to the Gentiles; Eastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. It is also called Theophany, especially by Eastern Christians.

History

The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian Churches, and was a general celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of: his birth; the visit of the Magi ("Wise Men", as Magi were Persian priests) to Bethlehem; all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee. It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated.

WiseMenAdorationMurillo Adoration of the Magi by
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo,
17th century (Toledo Museum
of Art, Ohio.

Christians fixed the date of the feast on January 6 quite early in their history. Ancient liturgies noted Illuminatio, Manifestatio, Declaratio (Illumination, Manifestation, Declaration); cf. Matthew 3:13–17; Luke 3:22; and John 2:1–11; where the Baptism and the Marriage at Cana were dwelt upon. Western Christians have traditionally emphasized the "Revelation to the Gentiles" mentioned in Luke, where the term Gentile means all non-Jewish peoples.

The Biblical Magi, who represented the non-Jewish peoples of the world, paid homage to the infant Jesus in stark contrast to Herod the Great (King of Judea), who sought to kill him. In this event, Christian writers also inferred a revelation to the Children of Israel. Saint John Chrysostom identified the significance of the meeting between the Magi and Herod’s court: "The star had been hidden from them so that, on finding themselves without their guide, they would have no alternative but to consult the Jews. In this way the birth of Jesus would be made known to all."

The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus St. Epiphanius says that January 6 is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion (Christ’s "Birthday; that is, His Epiphany"). He also asserts that the Miracle at Cana occurred on the same calendar day.

In 385, the pilgrim Egeria (also known as Silvia) described a celebration in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which she called "Epiphany" (epiphania) that commemorated the Nativity of Christ. Even at this early date, there was an octave associated with the feast.

In a sermon delivered on December 25, 380, St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as ta theophania ("the Theophany", an alternative name for Epiphany), saying expressly that it is a day commemorating he hagia tou Christou gennesis ("the holy nativity of Christ") and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ. Then, on January 6 and 7, he preached two more sermons, wherein he declared that the celebration of the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi had already taken place, and that they would now commemorate his Baptism. At this time, celebration of the two events was beginning to be observed on separate occasions, at least in Cappadocia.

Saint John Cassian says that even in his time (beginning of the 5th century), the Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and Baptism together on January 6. The Armenian Apostolic Church continues to celebrate January 6 as the only commemoration of the Nativity.

Epiphany in different Christian traditions

Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is precisely which events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi; Eastern churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or in the Jordan), and the Mystery of the Incarnation.

Western Christian Churches

Magi_(1) The Three Magi: Balthasar, Melchior,
and Gaspar, from a late 6th century
mosaic at the Basilica of
Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in
Ravenna, Italy.

Even before the year 354,[13] the Western Church had separated the celebration of the Nativity of Christ as the feast of Christmas and set its date as December 25; it reserved January 6 as a commemoration of the manifestation of Christ, especially to the Magi, but also at his baptism and at the wedding feast of Cana.[14] Hungarians, in an apparent reference to baptism, refer to the January 6 celebration as Vízkereszt or "water cross". In parts of the Eastern Church, January 6 continued for some time as a composite feast that included the Nativity of Jesus: though Constantinople adopted December 25 to commemorate Jesus’ birth in the fourth century, in other parts the Nativity of Jesus continued to be celebrated on January 6, a date later devoted exclusively to commemorating his Baptism.

Liturgical practice in Western Churches

The West historically observed a twelve-day festival, starting on December 25, and ending on January 5, known as Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some Christian cultures, especially those of Latin America and some in Europe, extend the season to as many as forty days, ending on Candlemas (February 2).

On the Feast of the Epiphany, the priest, wearing white vestments, will bless the Epiphany water, frankincense, gold, and chalk. Chalk is used to write the initials of the three magi over the doors of churches and homes. The letters stand for the initials of the Magi (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), and also the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates as "may Christ bless the house".

According to ancient custom, the priest announced the date of Easter on the feast of Epiphany. This tradition dated from a time when calendars were not readily available, and the church needed to publicize the date of Easter, since many celebrations of the liturgical year depend on it. The proclamation may be sung or proclaimed at the ambo by a deacon, cantor, or reader either after the reading of the Gospel or after the post-communion prayer.

Date of commemoration

Epiphany Prior to the reform of 1955, when Pope Pius XII abolished all but three liturgical octaves, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated Epiphany as an eight-day feast beginning on January 6 and ending on January 13, known as the Octave of Epiphany. They celebrated the feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday within the octave, and the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on the Sunday between January 2 and January 5 or, if there were no such Sunday, on January 2. They calculated Christmastide as the twelve days ending on January 5, followed by Epiphany time, consisting of the feast and its octave.

In the 1970 revision of the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 for countries where the feast is a Holy Day of Obligation. In other countries, it is celebrated on the Sunday after January 1. Christmastide ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is always on the Sunday after Epiphany (unless, where Epiphany is not a holy day of obligation, Epiphany is celebrated on January 7 or 8, in which case Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the following Monday).

The Roman Missal provides a formula with appropriate chant (in the tone of the Exsultet) for proclaiming on Epiphany, wherever it is customary to do so, the dates in the calendar for the celebration of Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, Ascension of Jesus Christ, Pentecost, the Body and Blood of Christ, and the First Sunday of Advent in the following Liturgical Year.

Prior to 1976, the Anglican churches also observed an eight-day feast. Today the Epiphany is classified as a Principal Feast and is observed on January 6 or on the Sunday between January 2 and 8. There is also an Epiphany season, observed between the season of Christmas and the first period of Ordinary Time. It begins at Evening Prayer on the Eve of the Epiphany and ends at Evening Prayer (or Night Prayer) on the Feast of the Presentation (which may be celebrated on February 2 or on the Sunday between January 28 and February 3).

Local customs

There are varying stories about Epiphany and Italy. According to the Roman author Macrobius, and English antiquarian John Brand, the word "Epiphania" was transformed into Befana, the great fair held at that season, when sigillaria of terracotta or baked pastry were sold. In popular folklore, Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of January 6 to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad.

In some European cultures, the greenery put up at Christmas is taken down at Epiphany, in other cultures it remains up until the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (February 2).

The Irish call this day Little Christmas or "Women’s Christmas" (Irish: Nollaig na mBan).

The Dutch and Flemish call this day Drie Koningen (Three Kings’ Day). In the Netherlands and Belgium, children in groups of three (symbolising the three kings) proceed in costume from house to house while singing songs typical for the occasion, and receiving a coin or some sweets at each door.

In France, on Epiphany people eat the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France and Belgium. This is a kind of king cake, with a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine of a king) or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" for a day.

In Greece, Cyprus and the Greek diaspora throughout the world, the feast is colloquially called the "Phōta" and customs revolve around the Great Blessing of the Waters. It marks the end of the traditional ban on sailing, as the tumultuous winter seas are cleansed of the mischief-prone "kalikántzaroi", the goblins that try to torment God-fearing Christians through the festive season. The Phota form the middle of another festive triduum, together with Epiphany Eve, January 5, when children sing the Epiphany carols, and the great feast of St. John the Baptist on January 7, when the numerous Johns and Joans celebrate their name-day.

In Malta, Epiphany is commonly known as It-Tre Re (The Three Kings). Until the 1980s January 6 was a public holiday, but today the Maltese are celebrating Epiphany on the first Sunday of the year. But children are still taking January 6 as a school holiday and Christmas decorations light up till this day also on most public streets.

In Portugal, Epiphany, on January 6, is called dia dos Reis (day of the kings), during which the traditional Bolo Rei (King cake) is baked and eaten.

In Spain, and some Latin American countries Epiphany day is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings), i.e., the day when a group of Kings or Magi, as related in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, arrived to worship and bring three gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the heavens. This day is sometimes known as the Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (The day of the Three Royal Magi) or La Pascua de los Negros (Holy Day of the Blackmen) in Chile, although the latter is rarely heard. In Spanish tradition, on the day of January 6, three of the Kings: Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia, and Africa, arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

Children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings’ presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes, along with a letter with toy requests for the Three Kings, by the family nativity scene or by their beds. In some parts of northern Mexico the shoes and letters are left under the Christmas tree. The shoes may be filled with hay for the camels, so that the Kings will be generous with their gifts.

In the Philippines, the Christmas season traditionally ends on this day, known colloquially as "Three Kings" or "Tres Reyes" (Filipino:Tatlong Hari). Filipino children also leave their shoes out, so that the Kings would leave behind gifts like candy or money inside. Most others on this day simply greet one another with the phrase "Happy Three Kings!". In some localities, there is the practice of having three men, dressed as the Tatlong Hari, ride around on horseback, distributing trinkets and candy to the children of the area. The collective name for the group is immortalised as the Filipino surname Tatlonghari, and the Spanish name for the day has survived to the present in masculine given name Epifanio (e.g. Epifanio de los Santos).

In Puerto Rico, it is traditional for children to fill a box with grass or hay and put it underneath their bed, for the same reasons. These traditions are analogous to the customs of children leaving mince pies and sherry out for Father Christmas in Western Europe or leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus in the United States.

In the afternoon or evening of the same day the ritual of the Rosca de reyes/Roscón de Reyes is shared with family and friends. The Rosca or Roscón is a type of pastry made with orange blossom water and butter, and decorated with candied fruit. Baked inside is a small doll representing the baby Jesus.

In Mexico and Guatemala, the person who finds the doll in their piece of rosca must throw a party on February 2, "Candelaria Day," offering tamales and atole (a hot sweet drink thickened with corn flour) to the guests.

In Spain, the bread is known as Roscón. Made with the same or similar items above; traditionally the roscón was simply a round, sweet bread with candied fruit on top, however, recently, different flavoured whipped creams are used as filling. The ‘Jesus’ doll evolved into a small toy similar to a Kinder Surprise it may also includes a bean. The person who gets the toy is then crowned king for the day, while the person who finds the bean is responsible for paying for the Roscon.

In Louisiana, Epiphany is the beginning of the Carnival season, during which it is customary to bake King Cakes, similar to the Rosca mentioned above. The one who finds the doll (or bean) must provide the next king cake. The interval between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is sometimes known as "king cake season."

The Carnival season begins on King’s Day (Epiphany), and there are many traditions associated with that day in Louisiana and along the Catholic coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. King cakes are first sold then, Carnival krewes begin having their balls on that date, and the first New Orleans krewe parades in street cars that night.

     

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Holiday of Epiphany can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany_%28holiday%29

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 We continue our four part series on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that is probably best known for the song of the same name. We continue looking at the song itself, especially at the use of the song to help teach parishioners the catechism. While this is somewhat controversial, it leads us into the examination of how each verse can, in fact, teach about the catechism. Please enjoy this series. GLB

    

“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”
— Helen Steiner Rice

“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
— Harlan Miller

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”
— Burton Hillis

“He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.”
Sunshine Magazine

“Many banks have a new kind of Christmas club in operation. The new club helps you save money to pay for last year’s gifts.”
— Anonymous

“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing other’s loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.”
— W. C. Jones

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!”
— Charles Dickens

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
— Agnes M. Pharo

  

The 12 Days of Christmas: The Song (Continued)

A good source for information on the meaning of each of the verses of this song is a web page maintained by Dennis Bratcher (see below for the reference).

However, on another level, this should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point.  Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God’s grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was only a secular "nonsense song,"  they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world.  After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?

After reviewing some of the differing opinions about whether this song was designed as a catechism or not, Bratcher concludes:

day8-12On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Eight Maids A-Milking represents the eight Beatitudes:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit,
  2. Those who mourn,
  3. The meek,
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
  5. The merciful,
  6. The pure in heart,
  7. The peacemakers,
  8. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

(Matthew 5:3-10)

    

day9-12On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Nine Ladies Dancing represents the nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Love,
  2. Joy,
  3. Peace,
  4. Patience,
  5. Kindness,
  6. Generosity,
  7. Faithfulness,
  8. Gentleness, and
  9. Self-control. 

(Galatians 5:22)

    

day10-12On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

 
Ten Lords A-Leaping represent the ten commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me;
  2. Do not make an idol;
  3. Do not take God’s name in vain;
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day;
  5. Honor your father and mother;
  6. Do not murder;
  7. Do not commit adultery;
  8. Do not steal;
  9. Do not bear false witness;
  10. Do not covet.

(Exodus 20:1-17)

    

day11-12On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Eleven Pipers Piping represent the eleven Faithful Apostles:

  1. Simon Peter,
  2. Andrew,
  3. James,
  4. John,
  5. Philip,
  6. Bartholomew,
  7. Matthew,
  8. Thomas,
  9. James bar Alphaeus,
  10. Simon the Zealot,
  11. Judas bar James. 

(Luke 6:14-16) 

Note: The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

    

day12-12On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Twelve Drummers Drumming represents the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed:

  1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
  2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
  3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave].
  5. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  6. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
  7. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  8. The holy catholic Church,
  9. The communion of saints,
  10. The forgiveness of sins,
  11. The resurrection of the body,
  12. Life everlasting.

     

(Note: The above information by Dennis Bratcher is used with full attribution to his work. However, when I attempted to comply with his procedure to obtain prior permission to use this material, the email link was “dead” and therefore unusable. This note is being inserted to assure that he is credited with the authorship.)

    

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

CRI/Voice Institute (Dennis Bratcher): The Twelve Days of Christmas… http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 We continue our four part series on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that is probably best known for the song of the same name. We continue looking at the song itself, especially at the use of the song to help teach parishioners the catechism. While this is somewhat controversial, it leads us into the examination of how each verse can, in fact, teach about the catechism. Please enjoy this series. GLB

    

“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”
— Helen Steiner Rice

“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
— Harlan Miller

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”
— Burton Hillis

“He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.”
Sunshine Magazine

“Many banks have a new kind of Christmas club in operation. The new club helps you save money to pay for last year’s gifts.”
— Anonymous

“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing other’s loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.”
— W. C. Jones

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!”
— Charles Dickens

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
— Agnes M. Pharo

  

The 12 Days of Christmas: The Song (Continued)

A good source for information on the meaning of each of the verses of this song is a web page maintained by Dennis Bratcher (see below for the reference).

However, on another level, this should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point.  Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God’s grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was only a secular "nonsense song,"  they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world.  After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?

After reviewing some of the differing opinions about whether this song was designed as a catechism or not, Bratcher concludes:

day3-12On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Three French Hens represent the Three Theological Virtues: 

  1. Faith… Steadfastness in belief
  2. Hope…  Expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and capability of not giving up
  3. Love… Selfless, unconditional, and voluntary loving-kindness such as helping one’s neighbors

(1 Corinthians 13:13)

    

day4-12On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Four Calling Birds represent the Four Gospels:

  1. Matthew… This synoptic gospel is an account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from his genealogy to his Great Commission.
  2. Mark… The gospel narrates the life of Jesus of Nazareth from his baptism by John the Baptist to the resurrection, but it concentrates particularly on the last week of his life. Its swift narrative portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer and miracle worker. It calls him the Son of Man, the Son of God, and the Christ.
  3. Luke… This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension. The author is traditionally identified as Luke the Evangelist.
  4. John… This non-synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details the story of Jesus from his Baptism to his Resurrection.

These Gospels proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

    

day5-12On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Five Gold Rings represent the first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 

  1. Genesis… "creation"
  2. Exodus… "departure"
  3. Leviticus… refers to the Levites and the regulations that apply to their presence and service in the Temple, which form the bulk of the third book
  4. Numbers… contains a record of the numbering of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai and later on the plain of Moab
  5. Deuteronomy… "second law," refers to the fifth book’s recapitulation of the commandments reviewed by Moses before his death

These books give the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

    

day6-12On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Six Geese A-laying represent the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world:

  1. Day 1… God creates light
  2. Day 2… God creates a firmament
  3. Day 3… God commands the waters below to be gathered together in one place, and dry land to appear
  4. Day 4… God creates lights in the firmament
  5. Day 5… God commands the sea to "teem with living creatures", and birds to fly across the heavens
  6. Day 6… God commands the land to bring forth living creatures

(Genesis 1)

    

day7-12On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Seven Swans A-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Prophecy…  Supernatural ability to receive a message from God to edify, exhort and comfort the body of Christ or a believer. To speak as moved by the Holy Spirit. Not all prophecies contain predictions about the future
  2. Ministry… Someone who desires that all should come to know the truth that God loves everyone so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for their redemption, or someone who is gifted to proclaim this message
  3. Teaching… Being blessed by God with resources or time and being able to give them where and when they are needed with a cheerful heart
  4. Exhortation… The ability to motivate Christians to do the works of Christ
  5. Giving… Being blessed by God with resources or time and being able to give them where and when they are needed with a cheerful heart
  6. Leading… God-given insight into when something needs to be done, who can do it, how it can be completed, and how to lead those people to get it accomplished
  7. Showing Compassion… A heart to care for and encourage those who are not able to care for themselves and whom no one else would care for. Knowing who to help and when to help

(Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

    

(Note: The above information by Dennis Bratcher is used with full attribution to his work. However, when I attempted to comply with his procedure to obtain prior permission to use this material, the email link was “dead” and therefore unusable. This note is being inserted to assure that he is credited with the authorship.)

     

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

CRI/Voice Institute (Dennis Bratcher): The Twelve Days of Christmas… http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031We continue our four part series on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that is probably best known for the song of the same name. We start by looking at the song itself, especially at the use of the song to help teach parishioners the catechism. While this is somewhat controversial, it leads us into the examination of how each verse can, in fact, teach about the catechism. Please enjoy this series.   GLB

    

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.”
— Mary Ellen Chase

“Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.”
— Anonymous

“If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give love away. ”
— Anonymous

“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”
— Bill McKibben

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
— Norman Vincent Peale

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
— Hamilton Wright Mabi

“From Home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other.”
— Emily Matthews

“Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years… Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.”
— George Mathhew Adams

  

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Seven Swans Aswimming Probably the most apparent experience that most of us have had with the 12 Days of Christmas is the song. I have included information from a couple of web pages here for your convenience. For fuller reference, please refer to the actual web pages, since only some of their content is cited here.

The most interesting, but controversial, thing about these articles is the probable reason for the song in the first place: for children learning the catechism of their church. So, let’s begin our examination.

Looking at the Song (How Stuff Works?)

The carol has its roots in 18th-century England, as a memory-and-forfeit game sung by British children. In the game, players had to remember all of the previous verses and add a new verse at the end. Those unable to remember a verse paid a forfeit, in the form of a kiss or a piece of candy to the others.

One theory, however, connects the carol to the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England, from 1558 and 1829. The carol, it is said, was a catechism song for Catholics to learn "the tenets of their faith," as they could not openly practice in Anglican society [source: Snopes.com]. While many still hold the idea of a coded hymn to be true, there’s no substantive evidence that this was the case, nor is there any evidence that the verses contain anything uniquely Catholic.

Here are the verses of the song, along with their supposed symbolism[Source: BBC.com]:

  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus Christ
  • Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French Hens – The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
  • Four Calling/Collie Birds – Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Five Golden Rings – First five books of the Old Testament
  • Six Geese-a-Laying – Six days of creation before God’s rest on the seventh day
  • Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Eight Maids-a-Milking – Eight Beatitudes
  • Nine Ladies Dancing – Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Ten Commandments
  • Eleven Pipers Piping – Eleven faithful disciples
  • Twelve Drummers Drumming –Twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed

While these verses are what most of us associate with the "Twelve Days of Christmas," the phrase refers to an actual 12-day period. The 12 days of Christmas, in fa­ct, are the days from Dec. 25, celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ, to the Epiphany, celebrated on Jan. 6 as the day when the manifestation of Christ’s glory was realized.

While sects of Christianity celebrate the 12 days of Christmas differently, certain ones, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, consider the Epiphany to be the most important day of the Christmas season. Some exchange gifts on each of the 12 days instead of only on Christmas day.

What are some other unique customs certain sects of Christianity have in celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas? How did these days come into existence?

epiphany While there’s a consensus on what Christmas commemorates, what the Epiphany honors varies between churches and cultures. Some churches believe it’s the day of Christ’s baptism, while others celebrate it as the day the three magi visited Jesus with gifts.

But there are also differences on when the twelve days are celebrated. Western churches, for example, celebrate Christmas on the Dec. 25, the Epiphany on the Jan. 6, and the period in between as the 12 days and nights of Christmas. Other cultures, however, have different customs.

The Twelfth Night, often celebrated on the night of Jan. 5, is considered the end of the Christmas season, before the Epiphany the following day. ­The Twelfth Night was a time for feasting in England (partly inspired by Shakespeare’s play of the same name) in centuries past. Some cultures, like the French and Spanish, celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany with a king’s cake, a coffee cake with purple, green and yellow icing to commemorate the visit by the magi to the Christ child. In western cultures, the King’s Cake is associated with Mardi Gras, and the season of Carnival [source: Burnett]. Churches also vary in their celebration of the Epiphany; some Protestant churches celebrate it for an entire season, lasting until the season of Lent, while many Catholics celebrate it as a single day.

A Closer Look at the Song

A good source for information on the meaning of each of the verses of this song is a web page maintained by Dennis Bratcher (see below for the reference). After reviewing some of the differing opinions about whether this song was designed as a catechism or not, Bratcher concludes:

However, on another level, this should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point.  Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God’s grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was only a secular "nonsense song,"  they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world.  After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?

day1-12On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

A Partridge in a Pear Tree represent Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem:

"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)

    

day2-12

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Two Turtle Doves represent the Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

God gave His greatest gift to believers, His son Jesus Christ. He also gave us his word, the Christian Holy Bible made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament, communicated by the Holy Spirit, first through the patriarchs and prophets and then through the apostles. The Old Testament was God’s covenant with Israel:

"I will take you for my people, and I will be your God" (Exodus 6:7)

    

(Note: The above information by Dennis Bratcher is used with full attribution to his work. However, when I attempted to comply with his procedure to obtain prior permission to use this material, the email link was “dead” and therefore unusable. This note is being inserted to assure that he is credited with the authorship.)

    

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Twelve Days of Christmas can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Days_of_Christmas

Also See:

How Stuff Works: What are the 12 Days of Christmas…
http://christmas.howstuffworks.com/traditions/twelve-days-christmas.htm

CRI/Voice Institute (Dennis Bratcher): The Twelve Days of Christmas…
http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html

by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we start a four part series on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that is probably best known for the song of the same name. These 12 days do NOT precede Christmas, but start the evening of Christmas Day. They lead up to the celebration of the traditional arrival of the three wise men (Magi or Kings) to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, Epiphany. They come bearing gifts. In following postings on this topic we will examine what the verses of the song may really mean. Please enjoy this series.   GLB

    

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.”
— Mary Ellen Chase

“Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.”
— Anonymous

“If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give love away. ”
— Anonymous

“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”
— Bill McKibben

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
— Norman Vincent Peale

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
— Hamilton Wright Mabi

“From Home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other.”
— Emily Matthews

“Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years… Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.”
— George Mathhew Adams

  

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Adoration_assisi The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning on Christmas Day (25 December). This period is also known as Christmastide. The Twelfth Day of Christmas is 5 January – the day before the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January.

Over the centuries, differing churches and sects of Christianity have changed the actual traditions, time frame and their interpretations. St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day), for example, is 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. Boxing Day, the first weekday after Christmas, is observed as a legal holiday in parts of the Commonwealth of Nations and was traditionally marked by the giving of Christmas boxes to service workers (such as postal workers and trades people) in the United Kingdom; 28 December is Childermas or the Feast of the Innocents. Currently, the 12 days and nights are celebrated in widely varying ways around the world. For example, some give gifts only on Christmas Night, some only on Twelfth Night and some each of the 12 nights.

Eastern Christianity

In Eastern Christianity (the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches) the Great Feast of Theophany (Epiphany) on 6 January is considered a higher-ranked feast than the Nativity (Christmas), and commemorates the Baptism of Jesus rather than the arrival of the Wise Men. The twelve days beginning on 25 December are observed as a fast-free period of celebration. The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church, however, observe the Nativity of Christ on 6 January, and thus do not have a twelve day period between Christmas and 5 January.

Orthodox Churches

In the Eastern Orthodox Church (and those Eastern Catholic churches which follow the Byzantine Rite) The Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord begins on the Eve of 25 December (for those Orthodox churches which follow the Julian Calendar, 25 December falls on 7 January of the modern Gregorian Calendar).

Nativity Icon of the Nativity
of Christ.

The Twelve Days of Christmas are a festive period linking together two Great Feasts of the Lord: Nativity and Theophany. During this period one celebration leads into another. The Nativity of Christ is a three day celebration: the formal title of the first day is "The Nativity According to the Flesh of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ", and celebrates not only the Nativity of Jesus, but also the Adoration of the Shepherds of Bethlehem and the arrival of the Maji; the second day is referred to as the "Synaxis of the Theotokos", and commemorates the role of the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation; the third day is known as the "Third Day of the Nativity", and is also the feast day of the Protodeacon and Protomartyr Saint Stephen.

29 December is the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The Afterfeast of the Nativity (similar to the Western octave) continues until 31 December (that day is known as the Apodosis or "leave-taking" of the Nativity).

The Saturday following the Nativity is commemorated by special readings from the Epistle (1 Tim 6:11-16) and Gospel (Matt 12:15-21) during the Divine Liturgy. The Sunday after Nativity has its own liturgical commemoration in honor of "The Righteous Ones: Joseph the Betrothed, David the King and James the Brother of the Lord".

Bogojavlenie Russian icon of the
Theophany.

1 January, at the center of the festal period, is another feast of the Lord (though not ranked as a Great Feast): the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord. On this same day is the feast day of Saint Basil the Great, and so the service celebrated on that day is the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil.

2 January begins the Forefeast of the Theophany.

The Eve of the Theophany (5 January) is a day of strict fasting, on which the devout will not eat anything until the first star is seen at night. This day is known as Paramony ("preparation"), and follows the same general outline as Christmas Eve. That morning is the celebration of the Royal Hours and then the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil combined with Vespers, at the conclusion of which is celebrated the Great Blessing of Waters, in commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. There are certain parallels between the hymns chanted on Paramony and those of Good Friday, to show that, according to Orthodox theology, the steps that Jesus took into the Jordan River were the first steps on the way to the Cross. That night the All-Night Vigil is served for the Feast of the Theophany.

Western Christianity

Middle Ages

In England in the Middle Ages, this period was one of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night itself was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as setting for one of his most famous stage plays, titled Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels.

Some of these traditions were adapted from the older pagan customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide. Some also have an echo in modern day pantomime where traditionally authority is mocked and the principal male lead is played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or ‘Dame’, is played by a man.

Colonial America

The early North American colonists brought their version of the Twelve Days over from England, and adapted them to their new country, adding their own variations over the years. For example, the modern day Christmas wreath may have originated with these colonials. A homemade wreath would be fashioned from local greenery and if fruits were available, they were added. Making the wreaths was one of the traditions of Christmas Eve; they would be hung on each home’s front door beginning on Christmas Night (1st night of Christmas) through Twelfth Night or Epiphany morning. As was already the tradition in their native England, all decorations would be taken down by Epiphany morning and the remainder of the edibles would be consumed. A special cake, the king cake, was also baked then for Epiphany.

Modern Western secular customs

United Kingdom and Commonwealth

Many in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations still celebrate some aspects of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Boxing Day (26 December) is a national holiday in many Commonwealth nations, being the first full day of Christmas. Victorian era stories by Charles Dickens (and others), particularly A Christmas Carol, hold key elements of the celebrations such as the consumption of plum pudding, roasted goose and wassail. While these foods are consumed more at the beginning of the Twelve Days in the UK, some dine and dance in the traditional way throughout, all the way to Twelfth Night.

Nowadays, the Twelfth Day is the last day for decorations to be taken down, and it is held to be bad luck to take decorations down after this date. This is in contrast to the custom in Elizabethan England, when decorations were left up until Candlemas; this is still done in some other Western European countries such as Germany.

United States

With the onset of more U.S.-Americanized and secular traditions throughout the past two centuries (such as the U.S.-American "Santa Claus"), also the popularity of Christmas Eve itself as if it were also an actual holiday, and rise in popularity of New Year’s Eve parties as well, the traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas have been largely forgotten in the U.S. This is also heightened by the commercial practice to have after-Christmas sales begin on 26 December and run usually until New Year’s Eve. Indeed, contemporary marketing and media tend to espouse the (erroneous) belief that the Twelve Days end on Christmas and thus begin 14 December.

However, a small percentage of Christians of many sects have held on to their own favorite ways to celebrate and those who choose to also have their own church to guide them in a spiritual way of marking this reverent holiday. U.S. Americans who celebrate various ways include secular Christians of all backgrounds: religious Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Moravians and those of the Amish and Mennonite communities.

TwelfthNightCostumers Twelfth Night costumers
in New Orleans.

Today, some celebrants give gifts each of the Twelve Days, feast and otherwise celebrate the entire time through to Epiphany morning. Lighting a candle for each day has become a modern tradition in the U.S. and of course, singing the appropriate verses of the famous song each day is also an important and fun part of the American celebrations.

Some still celebrate Twelfth Night as the biggest night for parties and gift-giving and some also light a Yule Log on the first night (Christmas) and let it burn some each of the twelve nights. Some Americans also have their own traditional foods to serve each night.

As in olden days, Twelfth Night to Epiphany morning is then the traditional time to take down the Christmas tree and decorations.

   

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Twelve Days of Christmas can be found at…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Days_of_Christmas