24 June 2011

Question and Comment from Lisa

Just found this question from Lisa in my inbox (Sorry for the delay! Blogger was acting up a few weeks ago--maybe that's why you couldn't post a comment):  

Out of curiosity, when do you guys light the children's baptismal candles at home (if ever)? On their baptismal birthday or other days as well?
And - how do you distinguish the celebrations of their birth dates from the anniversary of their baptism? Any special traditions?

And regarding Pentecost and water traditions:

Part of the sermon today was on Jesus getting up at the Festival of Booths when the water was poured out and declaring He has the living water. (summarizing).  Maybe this link is where the water imagery came from historically?

Great point!  Of course, as our pastor pointed out on Pentecost, the really great miracle of Pentecost wasn't 12 (or 13) receiving tongues of fire, but THREE THOUSAND people being baptized.  Praise God!

Nativity of St. John the Baptist pt. 2 (June 24)

Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John: And if you will receive it, he is Elias that is to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.  Matt 11:11-15

Two sites I discovered while researching St.John's Day include Fisheaters and  Widow's Weeds.  They are both Roman Catholic, and you have to weed through a lot of irrelevant/irreverent Popish doctrine, sometimes borderline paganism, but some of the lore and traditions are fun.  Fisheaters especially does a good job (and an Augustine sermon is included in his St. John's post).

Also, this Latin teacher LOVES this (from fisheaters.com):
Another interesting thing about the Feast of St. John: the Breviary's hymn for this day, Ut queant laxis -- the hymn sung or recited during the blessing of the bonfire -- is the source of our names of musical notes -- Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do. The hymn, attributed to Paulus Diaconus (Paul the Deacon, ca. A.D. 720-799), was noted by a monk to rise one note in the diatonic C-Scale with each verse. The syllables sung at each rise in pitch give us the names of our notes (the "Ut" was later changed to "Do" for easier pronunciation):
Ut queant laxis
Resonare fibris
Mira gestorum
Famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti
Labii reatum, Sanc
Te Ioannes
And the melody is as follows:

(My Senior Thesis was on Paul the Deacon, to boot! Not promoting invocation of saints, here, just history :)

Two other customs I read about today include eating strawberries and making flower chains or wreaths!  And we've done both--or at least made clover crowns and necklaces!  I guess it helps that the clover's knee-high and strawberries are ripe :)

From fisheaters
In addition to gathering St. John's wort, it's also customary to gather flowers to make wreaths to wear and to hang in your home or, especially, on the front door. In some places, such as Poland, some of these wreaths are floated down the river in honor of Christ's Baptism by St. John in the Jordan. Make a wreath of flowers that dry well, and hang in your home all year to be replaced next St. John's Day. Alternatively, flowers can be tied together in bunches with beautiful ribbons and hanged upside-down to decorate your home all year.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24)

Happy "Summer Christmas"!  I'm working on a real post for the Nativity of St. John, but for now, here is a passage  from A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations by Joanna Bogle. 

Think of the year as a circle.  It may help to draw one on a piece of paper.  At the top, draw a small Christmas tree.  That reminds us of Christmas, the annual feast that marks the birth of Jesus Christ.  This feast is celebrated around the time of the winter solstice--that is to say, the shortest day of the year.  Long ago our pagan ancestors understood some significance in the shortening and lengthening of the days.  They sough to give some meaning to something that they could--correctly--see as symbolic of death and life, of endings and beginnings, perhaps even of some hint of life beyond the grave.  The ancient Romans--whose religious ideas were in general more refined and coherent than those of the lands they conquered--also had feasts connected to the various seasons of the year. 
Christ was born into the Roman Empire--that same Empire of which Britain was a part.  As the story of his life, death, and resurrection spread across the world--through the trade routes of the Empire--it was natural that a new and Christian significance would be given to the seasons of the year.  At the time of the shortest and darkest day, it was natural to celebrate the birth of Christ,  the "Light of the World."  The Early Church, through much debate and also through practical experience, found itself 'inculturating' itself into the customs and traditions of people everywhere.  It also had its rich Jewish tradition and background, in which dates and seasons were of central importance and in which the timing of the Passover was deeply connected to the great Christian "new Passover"  of Christ, the ultimate Pascal Lamb, sacrificed once and for all so that all of humanity could "pass over" into union with God and a share of his blessing.  The old pagan beliefs represent some sort of hope in a Divinity:  now, in Christ, God himself reaches down t o answer, and to make sense of the longing placed in people's hearts and expressed through pagan religions.
Draw a straight line down from your Christmas tree to the bottom of the circle.  That's Midsummer Day, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  In the Church calendar, 24 June--the summer equivalent of 24 December, Christmas Eve--is the 'summer Christmas', the feast of the birthday of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist links the Old and the New Testaments.  [It's] important to understand his prophetic role, as the cousin of Christ who prepared the way for the coming of the Saviour.  He said of Christ, " He must increase and I must decrease": after John the Baptist's birthday, the days get shorter, after Christ's they get longer.
The passage continues, explaining other parts of the church year in the circle illustration.  I highly recommend buying the book, or getting it through interlibrary loan.  There is a certain quaintness and naturalness to the writing and descriptions that is hard to find in Church Year traditions books, which are often self-conscious (or sectarian).  Mrs. Bogle is unashamedly English.  Sometimes the pagan origins of Christian feasts come through in an embarrassingly superstition way; after reading her book, I sympathize with the English Puritans' anti-Church Year dogmas, although I of course ultimately disagree with them.  I hope to find comparable books from other Christian regions (no success as of yet!). 

Some St. John's Day Traditions Bogle records:
  • Having a bonfire and party outside at night, roasting sausages and eating pastries.  St. Elizabeth supposedly lit a fire as a beacon to announce to her neighbors that John had been born.  
  • Many Nativity plays performed outdoors were actually done at Midsummer, not in December (Shakespeare included a donkey and "rustics" on purpose in A Midsummer Night's Dream; his audience would have caught the reference).
We've held a "carol and hymn-sing" party sometime within the 12 days of Christmas.   We've talked about a campfire/picnic/game day in the summer, and St. John's birthday would be a great idea.  Maybe eventually it could turn into a neighborhood block party!!  A summer feast is a great way to welcome into the world the man who would point us to Christ:

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world."

10 June 2011


And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.   Acts 2:1-6

No one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:3

Pentecost, meaning "fiftieth," marks the completion of Easter.  Fifty days after His Resurrection, Christ sends his Holy Spirit, as He promised, and the Church is born.  

Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord!
Let all your graces be outpoured
On each believer’s mind and heart;
Your fervent love to us impart.

Lord, by the brightness of Your light,
You in the faith do men unite
Of every land and every tongue;
This to Your praise, O Lord, be sung.

From every error keep us free;
Let none but Christ our Master be,
That we in living faith abide,
In Him with all our might confide.

Lord, by Your power prepare each heart
And to the weakness strength impart,
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death to You ascend.

Traditions and Activities

Basic themes include the Holy Spirit, the Church, and Baptism
  • The color of Pentecost is red, suggesting the fire of the Spirit.  Wear red to church or all day!
  • "When the Lion shakes his main, then it is Spring" (from Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia).  Christ sends the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost in the West coincides with Spring and fresh greenery.  Many churches used to decorate their altars profusely with greenery and flowers.  
  • The Feast of Pentecost is often uniquely associated with water.  In Mediterranean countries people hold "water festivals" on Pentecost (perhaps a leftover from pagan Aphrodite-worship rituals).  It would appropriate to have a water-side picnic or walk on Pentecost, since we receive the Holy Spirit at our Baptism (Acts 2:41).  Pentecost in England is called Whitsunday "white Sunday," reminiscent of the white garments catechumens wore to their Baptism on Pentecost.  
  • Make a birthday cake for the Church!  Scatter rose petals on the table to represent tongues of fire.
  • Some churches use trumpets in their service to represent to mighty wind.
  • Decorate with images of the church (pomegranates, arks)

St. Barnabas (June 11)

Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.  But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.  For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Acts 11:19-24

St. Barnabas being instructed by the"Teacher of the Apostles" (the Church, as represented by Mary)

Martyrdom of Barnabas

A Cyprian Jew, Barnabas, born Joseph, was a fellow missionary with Paul.  He was first to receive Paul after his conversion, and bring him to the apostles (Acts 9:27).  Later, when news of conversions in Antioch reached the church in Jerusalem, Barnabas traveled there to confirm the reports and encourage the new converts, who had been evangelized by Barnabas' fellow countrymen, Cyprian christians.   Realizing the Gentiles were ripe for the Gospel, he convinced Paul to join him, and they labored in Antioch.  Later, along with Barnabas' nephew John Mark, the missionaries traveled to Cyprus and other Gentile cities.  They received much persecution from local Jews.  Barnabas was present at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 14).  He later returned to Cyprus with John Mark. 

Legend says Barnabas was the first bishop of Milan and converter of St. Clement.  He also is said to have written the Epistle to the Hebrews, although this is probably not true.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia: With the exception of St. Paul and certain of the Twelve, Barnabas appears to have been the most esteemed man of the first Christian generation. St. Luke, breaking his habit of reserve, speaks of him with affection, "for he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith". His title to glory comes not only from his kindliness of heart, his personal sanctity, and his missionary labours, but also from his readiness to lay aside his Jewish prejudices, in this anticipating certain of the Twelve; from his large-hearted welcome of the Gentiles, and from his early perception of Paul's worth, to which the Christian Church is indebted, in large part at least, for its great Apostle. His tenderness towards John Mark seems to have had its reward in the valuable services later rendered by him to the Church.

Coloring pages: Barnabas' gift to the church

Activities: Make some Cyprian food, read about Christians today in the places Paul and Barnabas traveled,

And here are some St. Barnabas Day sermons:
Pr. Weedon
Pr. Beane

(If you have favorite sermons from Feast Days from your Pastor--or any Lutheran pastor--email me a copy and I'll post it on the proper day.  For those of us whose churches don't observe feasts which fall during the week--or who are unable to attend the services--a sermon accompanying the lectionary is useful! Thanks!)

09 June 2011

Boniface of Mainz (June 5)

Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."  Matthew 28:19


Boniface was born in the late seventh century in England. Though he was educated, became a monk,
and was ordained as a presbyter in England, he was inspired by the example of others to become a
missionary. Upon receiving a papal commission in 719 to work in Germany, Boniface devoted himself to
planting, organizing, and reforming churches and monasteries in Hesse, Thuringia, and Bavaria. After
becoming an archbishop, Boniface was assigned to the See of Mainz in 743.Ten years later he resigned
his position to engage in mission work in the Netherlands. On June 5, 754, while awaiting a group of
converts for confirmation, Boniface and his companions were murdered by a band of pagans. Boniface is
known as the apostle and missionary to the Germans.
[excerpt from lcms.org Commemoration Biographies]

Boniface is often called "The Apostle to Germany."  Like St. Patrick baptizing thousands, and establishing churches throughout Ireland, Boniface converted many from paganism in Western Germany. A more thorough biography can be found here

Sometimes Boniface is credited with inventing the Christmas tree, but this is probably legend.  His earliest biography does record a fascinated event where Boniface cuts down a sacred Oak (a symbol of a pagan god).  Before he can finish, a wind finishes the job for him, and the wood is used to build a church. 

Go out and find some oak trees  and talk about how God's majesty, creativity, and justice can be found in his creation, but His love and mercy is only found through the cross.  Make oak leaf prints.

Go bowling (or play lawn bowling! ).  Boniface "Christianized" the pagan game of Kegels und Heides (a precursor to bowling).  Stones or large sticks were thrown/rolled at smaller sticks, attempting to knock them over.  Boniface replaced the previous pagan overtones with the playful suggestion that die Kegels were the Gospel bowling over demons!

02 June 2011

Last Ten Days of Easter

For each day between Ascension and Pentecost (ten days), focus on the Holy Spirit.  This may mean an emphasis on/memorization of:

1. The Sacraments: How God delivers his forgiveness to his children through the Word-accompanying Holy Spirit.

2. The Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). 

3. The 3rd article of the Creed's explanation in the Small Catechism or Large Catechism.

4. The Explanation of the Small Catechism's section on the Holy Spirit.

The Ascension of our Lord (June 2)

Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.   Romans 8:34

Forty days has Christ been risen, and today He ascends to the Right Hand of God, to forever make intercession for us, as our High Priest.

Hymns:  LSB 491-495
XII Handel: Thou Art Gone Up On High (HT: my daughter's godfather)

Coloring pages: Free Christ Images St. Andrew Missal

Traditional Activities: picnicking (preferably on a mountain or hill), play-acting the Ascension, processions.

Food: fowl (since Jesus "flew" up to heaven; some countries serve cornish hens)

Other fun stuff: general grade-school activities

We are still in Easter, and on our way to Pentecost. Since I am new to the joys of the Church Year (only 7-8 years or so), I love discovering the deep, Scriptural theology embedded in each season, and how every season is not true and beautiful in itself, but only in light of all the other seasons and celebrations.  The first time of the church I loved was Advent.  I loved the overlap of looking forward to Christ's first and second comings, the mixture of anticipation and repentance, of welcoming The Year of Our Lord, and The End Times, and also looking forward to our final Resurrection, when He will be Our Judge, and that will be a good, not terrifying thing.  The second was Epiphany....

This year is the year of the Chief of Feasts for me.  I have never loved and appreciated Easter more than this year.  And I think the key to my appreciation is seeing the Easter season in its entirety: Lent, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost.  They follow one after another, and our whole life in Christ is slowly--or swiftly!--acted out: Our perpetual repentance, His gifts given to us at the Last Supper; His Passion for the atonement of the whole world; His Resurrection for our own bodily resurrection; His Ascension to assume the throne as King and plead as Priest; and the sending of the Pareclete, the Advocate, and the birth of the Church.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Praise the Lord and forget not all his benefits.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

01 June 2011

Justin, Martyr (June 1)

But the utterances of truth we judge by no separate test, giving full credit to itself. And God, the Father of the universe, who is the perfect intelligence, is the truth. And the Word, being His Son, came to us, having put on flesh, revealing both Himself and the Father, giving to us in Himself resurrection from the dead, and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. He, therefore, is Himself both the faith and the proof of Himself and of all things. Wherefore those who follow Him, and know Him, having faith in Him as their proof, shall rest in Him.                                              


Born to pagan parents, and unsatisfied after dabbling in a string of philosophies, Justin converted to Christianity when an old man evangelized him on the sea shore. The witness of the martyrs also had a strong influence on his conversion.  He assumed the position of a philosopher and debated other pagan teachers.  He was turned over to the authorities by one of his opponents and was beheaded, along with 6 followers, circa 165.

You can find Justin's writings here.

Compare the philosophies Justin explored before he became a Christian
Draw a picture of Justin and the anonymous "old man" on the seashore who introduced him to Christ.  
Read the passages aloud most relevant to Eastertide (I included two in this post).
Point out the doctrines the Church has always cherished--Christ's Atonement, His Bodily Presence, etc. 

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist] ... For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh ...are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.