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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 Jun 13, 2014

Crepe Paper and Sticks Become a Bird for Pentecost

Crepe Paper and Sticks Become a Bird for Pentecost

 

Feathers all ready for flying

Feathers all ready for flying

The primary image of Pentecost is that of tongues of fire that accompanied the sound of a rushing wind and settled over the heads of the disciples, both men and women, gathered in the upper room of the home in Jerusalem where Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper with his friends and then appeared to them on several occasions after the Resurrection. In this unforgettable moment, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and empowered them to witness to what they had seen and heard of the love of God and the coming of God’s Kingdom to the world. The Church was born on that day nearly 2,000 years ago and the Holy Spirit continues to breathe life and love into God’s world through ordinary men, women, and children.

Many ways of celebrating Pentecost exist around the world, beginning with the gathering of the community to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. For children, other activities can make this a special day as well.

Common symbols of the Holy Spirit include a dove, the wind, and a flame. A craft I learned many years ago makes an enjoyable activity for children to celebrate during Easter Season and Pentecost.

Crepe Paper & Stick Birds

Supplies:

2 thin sticks or branches – about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long
String or yarn – 1 foot length
Cellophane tape
Crepe paper – white, yellow, red, orange
Orange ribbon (optional)

Making your bird

Take two sticks of unequal length and tie them together in the form of a cross. Use string or yarn to tie them securely and help hold them in the cross shape.

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Next take a bit of the crepe paper and wrap it around the yarn to help stabilize the bird’s body.

Take the orange ribbon or a bit of orange crepe paper and wrap it around the tip of the shortest end of the sticks. Go around the stick enough times to make a beak and a head for your bird. If you use ribbon, you can use crepe paper to cover the body-end of the beak and build up a head.

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Once the head has been formed and the center stabilized, take a long strip of crepe paper, tape it to the stick or to itself, and begin wrapping it around the sticks.

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Cover both sticks completely with crepe paper. Leave only a little of the beak showing.

Close-up of head

Close-up of bird’s head

Take strips of whatever color of crepe paper you are using and tape them to the bird’s wings and tail. Some will want to tape them all along the wings. Others will put them only at the tips. Either way works just fine.

Feathers all ready for flying

Feathers all ready for flying

When the feathers have all been attached, the bird will be ready to fly.

Away we go!

Away we go!

 

This bird can be constructed to celebrate Easter, the Resurrection (as a phoenix), or Pentecost (as a reminder of the Holy Spirit who comes igniting the fires of love and settles like a bird on those called to God’s family).

Come Holy Spirit. Fill our hearts with the fire of your love. Blow where you will in our lives. Strengthen us to respond with the freedom of a bird flying in your love.

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Posted by on Nov 11, 2008

Martinmas and Veterans Day

Martinmas and Veterans Day

St. Martin as a bishop: modern icon in the chapel of the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the Theotokos and St Martin, Cantauque, Provence.

St. Martin as a bishop: modern icon in the chapel of the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the Theotokos and St Martin, Cantauque, Provence.

The feast of St. Martin of Tours, sometimes known as Martinmas, falls on November 11. In the United States, we celebrate November 11 as Veterans Day – a day we honor those who have served in the military of the country. It is a national holiday, though many businesses are open and retailers offer sales in the hope of luring people who are enjoing a day off!

As a child, I remember hearing people from my grandparents’ generation speak of the day as Armistice Day. This was the day, in 1918, on which World War I stopped. The Armistice was declared and hostilities were set to end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – and so they did. That was a war called “The War to End All Wars,” but unfortunately, it didn’t. So, when World War II followed all too soon afterwards, the name of the day was changed to Veterans Day, in honor of all veterans.

It seems appropriate that the feast of St. Martin of Tours coincides with this day of honoring those who have served their countries militarily, as he too served in the army. His life and contributions to the Christian community are discussed in greater detail in an earlier post, and they were impressive. Nevertheless, he is most commonly known for the legend told about him, in which he is approached by a begger and asked for help. Martin is said to have cut his military cape in half and given half of it to the beggar. Later, in a dream, he saw Christ in the form of the beggar, wearing the cape.

Martin was not a Christian at the time he served in the Roman cavalry, but had entered the Catechumenate before entering the military. Before he left the army, he had been baptized. As his faith grew and deepened, he became convinced that as a Christian, he could not kill, even as a member of the military. He accepted arrest and imprisonment rather than fight. He volunteered to go to the front of the troops, unarmed, but a peaceful solution was reached before the battle, so he did not have to prove his courage and commitment to non-violence in that way.

It seems to me that Martin’s insight that killing is not the calling of Christians is one that has been shared by many men and women who have served or refused to serve in military forces through the centuries. Certainly, there have been times when Christians have turned their backs on this belief, even claiming that killing was done on behalf of God. For those times we must beg God’s forgiveness and that of those harmed. However, the veterans I have known generally will say that war is never the best answer to human disputes. Terrible things happen in war. It does not really resolve the problem between nations. Sometimes it seems to be the only way to stop a terrible evil, but it’s never the best option. (Stopping the Holocaust is often given as an example of a good reason to go to war, but it must be acknowledged that even World War II was fought not to stop the Holocaust – of which there was very little awareness outside of Europe – but rather to stop the military aggression of certain nations.) Martin of Tours would agree that war is never to be the first response of nations or their people to conflicts with others.

But what, you ask, is Martinmas? Martinmas is the name of the celebration of Martin’s feast in Europe. I first experienced the celebration of Martinmas when my sons were little and attending Waldorf school. (Waldorf schools celebrate many European Christian holidays.) It is a harvest festival. It is a festival that marks the end of Autumn weather and the beginning of Winter weather in many nations. The thing that was most fun about the feast was the custom of making lanterns and going out after dark to walk with the lanterns.

For a week or more before the feast, the children would make lanterns of paper. Some were simply construction paper colored by the children and rolled into a cylinder with a bottom and a wire handle. Others were more elaborate. Sometimes a balloon was inflated as a base and tissue paper layers glued over the balloon to form the lantern. Once a wooden frame was built in the form of a star. Then layers of tissue paper were applied to form the walls. Leaves and glitter were included on that lantern. That one hangs in our living room to this day, a beautiful reminder of a school festival and a saint’s feast day.

(In some schools, glass jars are decorated for lanterns. They are also beautiful, but tripping in the dark can result in dangerously broken glass. Plastic peanut butter jars might be a reasonable solution to that problem!)

Once completed, the lanterns are hung by wire from a stick, a candle placed in the bottom, and children and parents sally forth in a procession around the school or neighborhood. In some countries, children visit neighbors and receive candy or other treats – much like Halloween in the US.

Martinmas Lantern Walk - From Today in Faerie School

Martinmas Lantern Walk – From Today in Faerie School

If you decide to celebrate Martinmas with a lantern walk, be very careful with lighted candles. There are now battery-operated “candles” that you might consider using, especially for very young children. We never had any serious accidents, but I’m sure Martin wouldn’t mind opting for safety on his feast.

After you go out for a little lantern walk, follow up with a warm dinner and/or dessert, lots of laughter and fellowship and a happy night’s sleep.

Happy Martinmas! Happy Veterans Day! And may the Lord help us all to find better ways to resolve our differences.

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