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Posted by on Apr 4, 2016

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

The Annunciation - Henry Ossaw TannerGabriel’s visit to a very young woman in the small town of Nazareth was a momentous event, though mostly unnoticed at the time. Gabriel is the archangel tasked to serve as special messenger of God. On this visit, the message was actually a request: will you consent to become my mother? It wasn’t exactly phrased this way, according to the narrative we have from St. Luke, but in essence that was the question. Gabriel told Mary that she would bear a son who would be the Son of the Most High and would sit on the throne of his father David (as in King David), rule over the house of Jacob forever and have an unending kingdom. (Lk 1:26-38)

Now this would be challenging even to a married woman, but this young woman was not married. In her culture, having a child out of wedlock could result in death by stoning. At best, she would be shunned and excluded from polite society. Yet Mary had the courage to ask for more details about how such a thing could happen and to listen with deep faith to the response. Then she answered “yes,” Jesus was conceived, and God’s plan for salvation could go forward.

Christians have celebrated the Annunciation for centuries. Typically, the feast is scheduled for March 25, exactly nine months before the celebration of Christmas. However, in the West, when March 25 falls within Holy Week or the first week of Easter, the feast is moved to Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter (now known as Divine Mercy Sunday).

As adults we celebrate many events such as the Annunciation with prayer – Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, the Angelus, etc. However, for children, these ways of celebrating are not always experienced as much fun. So, with that in mind, I’d like to suggest an alternative way to celebrate: Make Angel cookies!

To make Angel cookies, take any recipe for a cookie that allows rolling out the dough and cutting out a cookie. (Even brownies could be used for making Angel Cookies if time is short.) Use an angel shaped cookie cutter to shape the cookies before baking. Be sure to decorate them with frosting/icing or with some  kind of “sprinkles” of colored sugar to make them festive. Then share them as part of a festive meal. Light a candle, have a special drink, use nicer dishes than normal, have a food that is a treat for your family — any or all of these things will make the day special for the children and family who share them.

As you share this day, keep your ears open for the voice of angels in your life. God’s messenger still comes, though perhaps not as momentously as in the visit to Mary. What is God saying to you and me today?

Peace.

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Posted by on Sep 29, 2008

Celebrating the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

Celebrating the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

Angelic Council – an Orthodox icon from the Wikipedia entry on Archangels

The Feast of the Archangels – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael – brings a day for fun and celebration at our house. My father’s name is Michael, so even as a child, this was a day to note. We didn’t particularly celebrate it, but I knew it was his feast day. Each of these archangels had their special day, but the feasts have since been combined into one. So today many men in my family celebrate feast days, including my father, brother, cousin, nephew, husband and sons. We don’t have a Gabriel, but Michael and Raphael (Rafael) are common.

When my children started Waldorf school (known as Steiner schools outside the United States), we were introduced to the celebration of Michaelmas. In Northern Hemisphere Waldorf schools, Michaelmas is the first festival of the year. It is seen as a time to remember that, as days grow shorter and darkness seems to grow stronger, we depend on the forces of light and strength to bring us safely through our lives. Many stories of Michael include mention of dragons – drawing on the story from the Book of Revelations describing a battle in the heavens between the dragon and Michael (Rev. 12:7-9). So confrontations between Michael and dragons are often portrayed theatrically by children as part of the celebration. The stories I’ve enjoyed the most have the dragons being “tamed,” in the sense that their great stores of energy are turned to building up the community. That’s a lesson that speaks even to adults – who among us doesn’t sometimes need to channel great energies that surge from deep within us and that can be destructive or constructive?

At the elementary schools our children attended, following the play, the community joined together around a great loaf of bread baked in the shape of a dragon by the third graders. A blessing was sung, the bread was cut and the community shared in eating it. (Always reminded me of certain liturgical activities with which many of us are very familiar!) Lunch, followed by a great pot luck of desserts came next. Then making apple juice in the orchard and other fun activities completed the day.

After the Michaelmas celebration (generally celebrated on a Saturday so entire families could come), we were always tired when we got home. When it came time for dinner, nobody was up to cooking a big meal. So we developed a fun little custom of making and eating dragon cakes.

So here’s the Pozos family method of celebrating Michaelmas. We make dragon cakes (pancakes shaped in the form of dragons). Add dragon eggs (fried potatoes cut in circles), dragon nests (grated apples with cinnamon for spicing) and dragon food (scrambled eggs with spicy sausage – we like Mexican chorizo). Light a candle. Use special dishes if you want. Share some sparkling cider. And, most importantly, work together to make the meal and then sit around afterward and enjoy each other’s company.

I’m looking forward to the celebration tonight! Hope you have fun too.

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Posted by on Mar 25, 2008

Easter Monday: Whale Watching With Angels

Easter Monday: Whale Watching With Angels

light-house-pt-santa-cruz.gif

I had read in a book way back in grammar school at Holy Cross School in Ventura, CA, in a time that is now referred to as “Mid-Century,” about boys hiking in the Alps on Easter Monday for a traditional lunch at high altitude with the angels. That custom may or may not have been true, but the thought of having lunch with the angels has always intrigued me. Perhaps, because my patron is St. Raphael the Archangel, the thought has always been somewhat appealing. After all, if you were an angel, wouldn’t you want a little break after all the hullabaloo of Holy Week?

Circumstances prevented me from wandering into the Santa Cruz mountains looking for angels to share ham and Easter eggs. The day was perfect, with a mild breeze, as I headed out across Lighthouse Field to Point Santa Cruz. The sky and the water were dazzling as I headed west up the coast along the ocean before it rounds the Point into Monterey Bay. There was excitement in the air. Whales migrating south to the Sea of Cortez around the tip of Baja California were passing by 100 to 300 feet offshore. They showed some interest in a kayak heading in the opposite direction, but continued on in graceful arcs, undulating effortlessly in the current as they coursed through the water.

It was a strange moment. The moment the houses along West Cliff, the roiling waves and sunlight all got stretched onto an impressionist canvas. I could see the brush strokes, the layering of the oil, the weave of the canvas. My neighborhood of almost 20 years became completely magical, serene, and spirit filled. I had pounded this walk many, many times before and it was always striking, even when cares and illness were heaviest on my heart, but today it was literally unreal.

Well, I guess my patron Archangel and his buddies were not waiting for me in the redwoods after all. It wasn’t the picnic with the angels that I had imagined as a boy. Whale watching with the angels on Easter Monday is something else.

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Posted by on Oct 2, 2007

Guardian Angels –

Guardian Angels –

October 2 is the feast of the Guardian Angels. Spirit messengers and agents of the Divine are found in many world religions that predate Christianity. Angels are also a big part of New Age spirituality.

Spirithome.com’s article on Why Angels? does a good job of reviewing traditional Christian views of angels and their place in the lives of Christians. (The site is an excellent information and inspiration resource. Be sure to check it out.)

If you want to review the traditional Catholic teaching on angels, take a look at Catholic Online. It can be a little technical but is also an excellent example of a highly rational post-Enlightenment type of theology.

Angels-Online is a site devoted to contemporary stories about people’s experiences of Angels. Some stories are better than others. However, they attest to the current fascination with Angels as a sign of God’s providence or as benevolent spirits in a world of “spirituality” without religion.

The persistence of Angels in people who adhere to religion or who embrace its early earth related forms is a sign of something deeper. People perceive activity in a realm beyond immediate physical reality. If we take a closer look at non-industrialized “primitive” people, as studied by anthropologists, we see that most everything in everyday life is explained in terms of spirits. This notion that the spiritual realm is the true realm is widespread throughout world religions, including Christianity.

The belief in Guardian Angels is a belief in God’s individual care and concern for all of us. For all of us post-moderns stuck in the here and now, Angels offer us a reminder. Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.

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