The Magnificat: The Song of Mary / The Canticle of Mary


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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The Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli
The Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli

Mary Visits Elizabeth – Luke 1:39-45

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,

according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

    • When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, (Luke 1:41)

is reflected in

    • But the children jostled each other in the womb so much that she exclaimed, “If it is like this, why go on living!” She went to consult the LORD, (Genesis 25:22)
    • And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:14-16)

Also,

    • cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. (Luke 1:42)

has similarities in

    • While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
    • Most blessed of women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, blessed among tent-dwelling women! (Judges 5:2)
    • Then Uzziah said to her, “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies. (Judith 13:18)
    • Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks! (Deuteronomy 28:4)

And then Elizabeth says,

    • “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)

Even before his birth, Jesus is identified in Luke as the Lord through the phrase,

    • “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)

Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah,

    • “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20).

Mary’s role as a believer in the infancy narrative should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believed” after the resurrection at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles:

    • All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14).

The Magnificat

Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat.

The Magnificat or “[My soul] magnifies” in Latin is also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary. It is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn. The name comes from the first word of the Latin version of the canticle’s text.

Because there is no specific connection of the canticle in the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat with the possible exception

    • For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)

may have been a Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if this canticle was not composed by Luke, it fits in well with the themes found elsewhere in Luke:

    • joy and exultation in the Lord;
    • the lowly being singled out for God’s favor;
    • the reversal of human fortunes;
    • the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.

The loose connection between the hymn and the context is further seen in the fact that a few Old Latin manuscripts identify the speaker of the hymn as Elizabeth, even though the overwhelming textual evidence makes Mary the speaker.

The Song of Hannah

The canticle echoes several biblical passages from the Old Testament. The most pronounced allusions are to the Song of Hannah, from the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10) ,

1 And Hannah prayed:
“My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted by my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in your victory.

2 There is no Holy One like the LORD;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 Speak boastfully no longer,
Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.
For an all-knowing God is the LORD,
a God who weighs actions.

4 “The bows of the mighty are broken,
while the tottering gird on strength.

5 The well-fed hire themselves out for bread,
while the hungry no longer have to toil.
The barren wife bears seven sons,
while the mother of many languishes.

6 “The LORD puts to death and gives life,
casts down to Sheol and brings up again.

7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich,
humbles, and also exalts.

8 He raises the needy from the dust;
from the ash heap lifts up the poor,
To seat them with nobles
and make a glorious throne their heritage.
“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and he has set the world upon them.

9 He guards the footsteps of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall perish in the darkness;
for not by strength does one prevail.

10 The LORD’s foes shall be shattered;
the Most High in heaven thunders;
the LORD judges the ends of the earth.
May he give strength to his king,
and exalt the horn of his anointed!”

Along with the Benedictus, as well as several Old Testament canticles, the Magnificat is included in the Book of Odes, an ancient liturgical collection found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint.

The original language of the Magnificat is Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament. However, in the liturgical and devotional use of the Western Church, it is most often found in Latin or the vernacular.

English Scripture text: Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen

Latin (present official Roman Catholic form)
Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum,
et exsultávit spíritus meus
in Deo salvatóre meo,
quia respéxit humilitátem
ancíllæ suæ.Ecce enim ex hoc beátam
me dicent omnes generatiónes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericórdia eius in progénies
et progénies timéntibus eum.
Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo,
dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui;
depósuit poténtes de sede
et exaltávit húmiles.
Esuriéntes implévit bonis
et dívites dimísit inánes.
Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum,
recordátus misericórdiæ,
sicut locútus est ad patres nostros,
Ábraham et sémini eius in sæcula.Glória Patri et Fílio
et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio,
et nunc et semper,
et in sæcula sæculórum.
Amen.
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God speaks in Volkswagen Polo ad


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By Manjit Pahuja

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Will God punish your child if the home work is not completed while you are out for dinner!

A Volkswagen advertisement says so in its latest ad.

GOD SPEAKS IN VOLKSWAGEN POLO AD - 01The German car maker’s TV commercial for its ‘Polo’ version shows a mother picking up her son from school. As her son sits in the car, she informs that he will have to do his home work all by himself as she will be going out with his dad. She warns him that if he doesn’t do his homework, God will punish him. The child then asks her if God would have time to notice and punish him. There comes the answer via the Bluetooth installed in the car as the child’s father changes his voice and says, “I am busy, but I am sure I can take some time to come punish you.” The child is left surprised and the commercial ends after introducing the car’s features.

GOD SPEAKS IN VOLKSWAGEN POLO AD - 02How many of us scare kids in the name of God? It could have sounded better if the mother said that you would make God and us happy if you were a good boy and do your work on your own.

GOD SPEAKS IN VOLKSWAGEN POLO AD - 03

The voice heard by the child in the car scares him and the mother has been shown happy doing that.

As parents, we always give a beautiful picture of God to our kids and by making a small child hear a forceful voice is like going back to old ways like, ‘buddha baba aa jayega’ (‘that scary man is due anytime). Why can’t TV ads show kids a better picture of lot of things and issues?

We all believe in making our kids smart, but at the same time we don’t want to scare them.

Why do kids love Santa Claus? It’s because kids see an old man with a long beard getting them gifts, which of course parents keep. Haven’t we all done that!

A twinkle and a smile on our kids face make us happy. What is God for our kids? They see us praying and they follow the same. We tell them that He will always be there for you and they believe us. Many kids remember God before and after exams or any other work.

It’s their innocence. In addition, even if they do not get the desired result, as parents we guide them by asking them to work hard next time.

The advertisement in question shows a child not more than 4 or 5 years, an age where they need a parent’s help for homework. We always teach our kids that God punishes those who do bad and evil things. Not doing homework is not a punishable act by God.

Let us deliver good messages to our young and smart generation. or would you be amused by the defence published by Business Line newspaper: “The look of awe on the face of the little one makes the film. And the innovative way of conveying the message about the new feature-laden Polo works rather well.”

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Re-posted from g caffè 

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The ‘Three Kicks’ Rule


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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An educated person will go all the way to prove his point,
but an intelligent person knows when to retreat …

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Old Farmer

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Recently, I came across a joke that dates back to the 1990s about a hotshot big city lawyer and the “three-kick rule of rural North Cowra.”

Cowra is a town in the Central West region of New South Wales, Australia in the Cowra Shire. When I scoured the net to find the originator of this popular joke, I found many authors had duplicated the gist of the story using various places for the origin of the “Three Kicks Rule“: Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Tennessee and a lot of other places.

Here is the story that I read the first time:

A big city hotshot lawyer went duck hunting in rural North Cowra in the Central West region of New South Wales, Australia.

The first bird he shot fell on the other side of a fence into the field of a grouchy elderly farmer.

The farmer seated on his tractor spotted the lawyer climbing over the fence, and asked him what he was doing.

The lawyer responded, “The duck I shot fell in your field, and now I am going to retrieve it.”

The ill-tempered old farmer replied, “This is my property, and how can you jump over my fence?”

The irate lawyer said: “Do you know who I am?”

“I don’t care who you are. Get off my field,” shouted the farmer.

“I am one of the leading trial lawyers in Australia and, if you do not let me get that duck, I will sue you, take everything you own and leave you stranded on the road.”

The old farmer smiled and said: “You city slickers apparently don’t know how we settle disputes in North Cowra.”

“How?”

“We settle small disputes like this with the ‘Three Kick Rule’.”

“What is the ‘Three Kick Rule‘?” the lawyer asked.

The Farmer replied, “Because the dispute occurs on my land, I get to go first. I kick you three times and then you kick me three times and so on back and forth until someone gives in.”

The lawyer quickly thought about the proposed ‘Three Kick Rule’ and thought he could easily take the old codger. So, he agreed to abide by the local custom.

The old farmer got down from his tractor and cautiously walked up to the lawyer. His first kick planted the toe of his heavy steel-toed work boot into the lawyer’s groin and dropped him to his knees.

His second kick to the midriff sent the lawyer reeling with his last meal spewing out of his mouth. The lawyer was on all fours when the farmer’s third kick to his rear end, sent him face-first into a fresh cow pie.

Summoning every bit of his will and remaining strength the lawyer managed to get on to his feet. Wiping his face with the arm of his jacket, he said: “Okay, you old fart. Now it’s my turn.”

(Now comes the part I love …)

The old farmer smiled and said: “Nah, I give up. You can have the duck.”

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Comet Hale-Bopp: The Most Widely Observed Comet of the 20th Century


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Image of comet Hale-BoppC/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), taken on 1997 April 04. The field shown is about 6.5° x 6.5°. At full resolution, the stars in the image appear slightly elongated, as the camera tracked the comet during the exposure. (Photo: E. Kolmhofer, H. Raab; Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria)
Image of comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1), taken on 1997 April 04. The field shown is about 6.5° x 6.5°. At full resolution, the stars in the image appear slightly elongated, as the camera tracked the comet during the exposure. (Photo: E. Kolmhofer, H. Raab; Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria)

On July 23, 1995, two independent observers Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp in the United States discovered the comet Hale-Bopp. This comet formally designated C/1995 O1 was perhaps the most widely observed comet of the 20th century, the third largest comet in the last 500 years, and one of the brightest seen for many decades. It was visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months. The previous record holder, the Great Comet of 1811, officially designated C/1811 F1, was visible to the naked eye for around 260 days.

Dr. Alan Hale
Dr. Alan Hale

Astronomer Alan Hale was born in 1958 in Tachikawa, Japan, when his father was serving in the United States Air Force. Four months later his father got transferred to Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo, New Mexico. Hale served in the United States Navy from 1976 to 1983. In 1980, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Next, he joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and worked as an engineering contractor for the Deep Space Network until 1986. As a contractor, he worked in several projects involving spacecraft, including Voyager 2. After Voyager’s encounter with Uranus, he left JPL. He attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. In 1992, he earned his Ph.D. in astronomy.

Hale had spent hundreds of hours searching for comets without success. On July 23, 1995, while tracking known comets from his driveway in New Mexico he chanced on the comet co-named after him just after midnight. The comet with an apparent magnitude of 10.5 was near the globular cluster M70 in the constellation of Sagittarius. He checked and confirmed that there was no other deep-sky object near M70. Next, he consulted a directory of known comets and established that none of them was in that area of the sky he had observed. He then found the object moving relative to the background stars.

As a trained astronomer who had seen about 200 comets, Hale to register his finding sent an email to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the clearing house for astronomical discoveries operating under the auspices of Commission 6 of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). A few hours later his effort was rewarded. His new comet was officially designated C/1995 O1. His name would also be attached.

But Alan Hale was not the only observer that night.

That very night, about 400 miles (644 kilometers) away, Thomas Bopp was observing star clusters and galaxies through telescopes with friends in the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona.

Thomas Bopp in 1997 (Photo: Ron Baalke)
Thomas Bopp in 1997 (Photo: Ron Baalke)

Amateur astronomer Thomas J. Bopp was born in 1949 in Denver, Colorado. Later he relocated with his family to Youngstown, Ohio, where he graduated from Chaney High School in 1967. He attended Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, and has lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1980. He is a Life member of the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS).

Bopp was a manager at a construction materials factory. He did not own a telescope. He too noticed some fuzzy object near M70 in the constellation of Sagittarius and pointed it out to his friend Jim Steven who owned the 70 inches telescope of Dubsoniano design he was using.

Bopp had never come across a comet. Jim looked at Bopp and said, “Tom, I think you have a comet.”

He knew he had to contact the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in Cambridge, but he did not have the address with him. So, he drove back home to get it.

In the wee hours he managed to send a Western Union telegram to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in Cambridge where its arrival was greeted with bemusement. Brian Marsden, the leading voice on a committee that has the last say laughed. “Nobody sends telegrams anymore,” he commented. “I mean, by the time that telegram got here, Alan Hale had already e-mailed us three times with updated coördinates.”

However, the following morning, the comet was confirmed as a new entity and designated as C/1995 O1. The discovery was announced in International Astronomical Union circular 6187.

Sometimes weird things happened with when major comets appeared. According to a  report, 39 members of a California cult claimed they were departing on a spaceship that was trailing comet Hale-Bopp and ate their last meal before ritually committing mass suicide. For Thomas Bopp, the comet portended a loss. As comet Hale-Bopp reached its most spectacular point in the sky, his brother and sister-in-law who had been out photographing the comet were killed in a late night car crash. “This has been the best week of my life. And, the worst,” he lamented.

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Was there a Year Zero?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Year zero - blue

Do you know that year zero does not exist in the Anno Domini system of our present Gregorian calendar and in its predecessor, the Julian calendar?

In 525 AD, Dionysius Exiguus (c.470-c.544), a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor, modern Dobruja shared by Romania and Bulgaria, introduced the Anno Domini (AD) era used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the (Christianized) Julian calendar.

According to his friend and fellow-student, Cassiodorus (De divinis Lectionibus, c. xxiii), though by birth a Scythian, Dionysius was in character a true Roman and a thorough Catholic, an accomplished Scripturist, learned in both Greek and Latin.

Dionysius introduced the Anno Domini era to identify the several Easters in his Easter table; however, he did not use it to date any historical event. Before he devised his Easter table, Julian calendar years were identified by naming the consuls who held office that year. In the preface to his Easter table, Dionysius stated that the “present year” was “the consulship of Probus Junior [Flavius Anicius Probus Iunior]” which was also 525 years “since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No one knows how he arrived at that number, but there is evidence of the system he applied.

Dionysius invented the Anno Domini system of numbering years to replace the Diocletian era, based on the accession of Emperor Diocletian, that was in vogue and used in an old Easter table because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians.

The Anno Domini era became dominant in Western Europe only after the English monk Venerable Bede used it to date the events in his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” which he completed in 731 AD.

Historians have never included a year zero. For example, there are 999 years between January 1, 500 BC and January 1, 500 AD: 500 years BC, and 499 years preceding 500 AD.

In the Gregorian calendar system that we use now, the year 1 AD follows 1 BC without an intervening year zero. So, the year zero does not exist. Thus the year 2013 actually signifies “the 2013th year.” The absence of a year numbered 0 leads to some confusion concerning the boundaries of other decimal intervals, such as decades and centuries. However, in all Buddhist and Hindu calendars as well as in astronomical year numbering there is a “year zero” that coincides with the Julian year 1 BC, and in ISO 8601:2004 where it coincides with the Gregorian year 1 BC.

In fact, the issue of the millennium reflects a Christian-centric view. Outside the Christian world the year 2000 will actually be the year 5760 according to the Jewish calendar, 5119 in the current Maya great cycle, 5100 years elapsed in Kali Yuga according to the Hindus, 2544 according to Buddhism and 1420 according to the Moslem calendar.

So, the question is: “What exactly is the millennium, and are we actually celebrating on the correct date?” For example, the 20th century began on January 1, 1901, likewise the third millennium of the Gregorian calendar began on Monday, January 1, 2001, and not on the widely celebrated Saturday, January 1, 2000.

This anomaly arose because the Gregorian calendar begins with a year 1 instead of 0. Cardinal and ordinal numbering of years is, therefore same:

    • The year 10 is the tenth year of the calendar and the end of the first decade. 
    • The year 11 is the first year of the second decade. 

Despite this rule, years ending in 0, and not 1, are commonly perceived as marking the beginning of a new decade, century, or millennium. Decades, however, are more used as a collective term such as “the 1930s” and not a periodic term such as “1930-1939”.

By the way, could we attribute the absence of year zero to the fact that Indian mathematician and astronomer Brahmagupta’s numeral for zero (0) did not reach Europe until the eleventh century, and Roman numerals had no symbol for zero?

Bindhu:The ancient Indian symbol for Zero - a circle with a dot in the middle, symbolizing the void and the negation of the self.
Bindhu: The ancient Indian symbol for Zero – a circle with a dot in the middle, symbolizing the void and the negation of the self.

India – She Has High Scores in Plus Two Exams but No Money to Realize Her Dream


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By M.K. ANANTH

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Gayathri has 197/200 cut off marks for medicine, but poverty has forced her to work in agricultural fields as a daily wager.

S. Gayathri
S. Gayathri

S. Gayathri (17) of Chinnamaruthur in Pilikalpalayam panchayat, Paramathi Velur taluk, about 35 km from Namakkal town, has scored 1,129 (94 per cent) in the recent Plus Two exams. She aspires to become a doctor and she has 197/200 cut off for medicine. As she belongs to Scheduled Caste (Arunthathiyar) community, she has brighter chance to realise her dream.

But poverty has forced her to work in agricultural fields as a daily wager so that she can earn Rs. 100 a day to support her family.

When she came to know that she scored 199 in biology, 198 in chemistry, 197 in maths, 192 in physics, 179 in Tamil and 164 in English she hardly had time to celebrate as her father asked her to discontinue her studies as it would not be possible for him to support her higher education. Her mother, however, wanted the girl to pursue some degree course in a nearby government aided arts and science college.

Her parents K. Selvaraj (42) and S. Sumathi (35) have never been to school and are daily wage farm labourers. Gayathri is the eldest child and has two sisters and a brother.

The family always had trouble meeting their day to day needs as her father often fell sick and on many occasions Sumathi was the sole breadwinner of the family.

Becoming a doctor was Gayathri’s childhood dream. “I suffered from breathing difficulty and chest pain from the age of one and was badly affected till I was 13. I know the pain of living as a patient from a poor family and so I want to treat poor patients if I become a doctor. I want to specialise in gynaecology,” she adds.

She studied in the Aanangur Government High School and scored 470/500 in the Class X examination.

Her teacher Ranganathan took her to Malar Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Paramathi where she was enrolled for higher secondary. Her tuition fee was fully waived.

Teachers, who saw the girl’s interest in studies, pooled in money to pay the transportation fees.

“In 2012, the lowest cut off score for a candidate from the SC (A) community to get a medical seat in a government medical college was 188.25. With a much better cut off, Gayathri has a better chance. The school will extend support to her, but she would need more financial assistance to pursue her higher education,” M. Palaniappan , president of Malar school, said.

Persons interested in helping Gayathri can contact her father at +91 98436 87990.

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Re-posted from THE HINDU

 

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A Near-earth Object, Asteroid 1998 QE2, Is Now Hurtling Towards Earth


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Asteroid 1998 QE2 - 1

A near-earth object labeled Asteroid 1998 QE2, is now hurtling towards earth.

The asteroid about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) or nine Queen Elizabeth 2 ship-lengths in size in length has the physical mass to potentially knockout life on Earth. However, we are safe as it is just flying by.

The orbit of asteroid 1998 QE2

On May 31, 2013, at 20:59 UTC (1:59 p.m. Pacific / 4:59 p.m. Eastern) this asteroid will pass within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km) of Earth – about 15 times the distance to the Moon. While this may seem a great distance for the layman, in astronomical terms it is a mere stone’s throw away. This is the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico, discovered this asteroid on August 19, 1998. It is officially known as Asteroid 1998 QE2. It is not named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, or after that 12-decked, transatlantic-crossing flagship for the Cunard Line. The name was assigned by the NASA-supported Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. This institute assigns each newly discovered asteroid a provisional designation starting with the year of first detection, along with an alphanumeric code showing the half-month it was discovered, and the sequence within that half-month.

Though this asteroid is not of much interest to those astronomers and scientists on the lookout for hazardous asteroids, it is of interest to those who dabble in radar astronomy and have a 230-foot (70-meter) or larger radar telescopes at their disposal.

Radar astronomer Lance Benner, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said: “Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features … Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin. We will also use new radar measurements of the asteroid’s distance and velocity to improve our calculation of its orbit and compute its motion farther into the future than we could otherwise.”

Asteroid 1998 QE2

Asteroids come in various sizes and shapes: dog bones, bowling pins, spheroids, diamonds, muffins, potatoes, etc. Between May 30 and June 9, radar astronomers using NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70 meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, are planning an extensive campaign of observations. The two telescopes with complementary imaging capabilities will enable astronomers to study 1998 QE2 and what it looks like during its brief flyby.

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What exactly is the millennium?


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Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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“But of that day and hour no one knows,
neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,
but the Father alone.”

(Matthew 24:36)

The Millenium

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The accepted definition of a millennium, a period of 1,000 years, did not originate from nature or from any practical calendar.

Unlike the primary cycles of days, lunations and years, it does not correspond to any factual astronomical cycles, or the practical needs of humanity, but to social factors, the peculiarities of Christianity. In fact, the issue of the millennium reflects a Christian-centric view.

Outside the Christian world the year 2000 will actually be the year 5760 according to the Jewish calendar, 5119 in the current Maya great cycle, 5100 years elapsed in Kali Yuga according to the Hindus, 2544 according to Buddhism and 1420 according to the Moslem calendar.

The arbitrary construction of the millennium is the domain of eschatology – a part of theology, physics, philosophy, and futurology concerned with the final events of history, the ultimate destiny of humanity – commonly called the “end of the world” or “end time”.

During the period of the great Roman empire, Jesus and his initial followers fully expected the fulfilment of the apocalypse and the inception of the millennium in their lifetime. It was no Utopian dream relegated to some future unspecified time at the time of Roman oppression, social turmoil and ideological uncertainty.

Millennial thinking is deeply embedded in the apocalyptic writings of the Bible. In traditional Christianity, “the millennium” means the future reign of Jesus lasting one thousand years, following a last battle between Christ and Satan. Satan loses, and is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and Jesus wins, overseeing a Last Judgement of all the dead. Modern traditions of Christian eschatology use the term “Rapture” in two senses; as a general synonym for the final resurrection, and in the view of pre-tribulationists, where a group of people would be left behind on earth after the events mentioned in Matthew about “The Coming of the Son of Man“:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)

During Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica along with Silvanus and Timothy, a doubt arose among the Thessalonians about the fate of those Christians who would die before the return of Christ. Would they miss the glorious events of Christ’s second coming and the resurrection? Paul assuaged their fears. He assured them that God would save those who had already died, as well as those still living with these words:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

After the crucifixion of Jesus, and even now, countless groups and people have compared the events of their time to Bible prophecies, and concluded that Jesus would be returning soon. Some even set a date for the Rapture and led their followers into the deserts, to the mountains, and into the wilderness, to await the phenomenon.

Though the consummation of the second coming and the expected biblical millennium failed to materialise over the generations, and even after every one of those predictions turned out wrong, steadfast Christians still make modern-day predictions that Jesus will be returning soon and postpone the date of the expected apocalypse they ardently believe in.

However, most mainstream Bible scholars, do not think current world affairs evidence the imminent return of Christ. Even so, we still do come across Christian groups who believe in the Rapture as the centerpiece of the second coming of Jesus – a glorious, dramatic event with Jesus appearing and literally taking the believers physically along with him up into the sky.

In recent years, the Rapture and the second coming of Christ have spawned a lucrative industry. Besides the many books written on this subject, there are thousands of self-styled television evangelists with websites, radio stations, lecture series, audio recordings, videotapes and other Paraphernalia. Many of these accouterments feature imaginative and vivid embellishments of the Bible prophecies, and usually classified properly as fiction, and not as Bible prophecy.

Among these Christians, there are several theories about the timing of the Rapture. Thus the apocalyptic millennium has transformed itself into a calendrical measurement.

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Would You like to Live in a Topsy-turvy House?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

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The upside down house in the village of Szymbark , Poland
The upside down house in the village of Szymbark , Poland

Would you like to live in a topsy-turvy house like the above one? This house can be found in the tiny village of Szymbark in the municipality of Stężyca, in northern Poland. It is a center for winter sports.

As on December 31, 2011, the village of Szymbark had a total of 627 residents, with 544 people living in the main part of the village. The above upside-down house was built in 2007 by Daniel Czapiewski, a Polish businessman, builder and philanthropist.

Normally, it takes hardly three weeks for Czapiewski’s company to build a house. However, this extra-ordinary creative project took 114 days because of its structural design; moreover, the workers were a bit confused by the topsy-turvy architecture.

In 2010, in a poll conducted by “Official Baltic,” voted the Kashubian entrepreneur as  “The Man of the Year 2010” for his ingenuity of design that has become a tourist attraction in Szymbark.

In the first place, what prompted Daniel Czapiewski to design the house to stand upside down? Well, the eccentric person that he is, Daniel Czapiewski opines that it represents his view on the current state of the world – the time of uncertainty after the end of the communist era in Poland.

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By the way, this house in the village of Szymbark, Poland is not the first upside down house to be built. Wonderworks Upside Down Building in Florida opened in 1998. There are also upside down houses in Austria, Germany, Russia, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, a café in Japan and so on.

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This is not a house, it is a statue in Vancouver, Canada (Image credits - papalars)
This is not a church, it is a sculpture in Canada (Image credits: papalars)

The above image is a unique statue and not a church. American sculptor Dennis Oppenheim designed this imposing 22 x 18 x 9 feet sculpture composed of galvanized structural steel, anodized perforated aluminum, transparent red Venetian glass, and concrete foundations, as an upside down church, with its steeple buried in the ground.

The piece, initially called “Church,” was proposed to the Public Art Fund in the city of New York to be built on Church Street. It was commissioned by the President’s Panel on Art. However, the president of Stanford University turned down the sculpture since he considered it as “not appropriate” for the campus. The director thought it was too provocative and might infuriate the Church and the religious folks in that area. To evade this situation Dennis Oppenheim then changed the title to “Device to Root out Evil”.

Though the “Device to Root Out Evil” was too hot for New York City, too hot for Stanford University, it finally found a public home in Vancouver. It was first installed in a public park in Vancouver, Canada. As expected, people again considered it too hot for Vancouver as well. The public had a mixed reaction towards the work and the Vancouver public parks committee voted to remove the sculpture. The Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada seized the opportunity to display the sculpture. After removing it from Vancouver, the museum placed it in Ramsay, Calgary’s most creative neighbourhood where it is now being celebrated.

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Niagara Falls by Night – Illuminations & Fireworks


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Oh wow! Why doesn’t this have more views? Some of the best footage I’ve seen of the falls… – hopelesspirate

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I captured this video “Niagara Falls by Night – Illuminations & Fireworks” on August 3, 2012, using my Canon Powershot camera from Prospect Point in Niagara Falls, New York. I regret that I did not have a high-end camera with high-resolution to capture the unmatched beauty of the Niagara Falls at night, illuminated by strobe lights from the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls Illumination

Illumination of the Falls financed and operated by The Niagara Falls Illumination Board since 1925 begins every evening at dusk until 10 pm January through April, and until midnight the rest of the year. In recent years the only occasion the Falls were in darkness was for a few evenings in August 2003 when the lights were turned off to support recovery efforts during a major North American black-out.

The Falls are lit in red, blue, amber, purple, orange and green. The Niagara Falls Illumination Board provides special colour illuminations for many registered charities marking significant dates in support of their cause for 15 minutes at 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm, subject to availability of time. Falls on both countries are illuminated.

2013 Falls Illumination Schedule
January 1 – January 31 5 PM – Midnight
February 1 – February 28 6:30 PM – 10 PM
March 1 – March 9 Mon – Thurs 7 PM – 10 PM
March 10 – March 31 Mon – Thurs 8:30 PM – 10 PM
April 1 – April 30 Mon – Thurs 8:30 PM – 11 PM
* Fridays to Sundays in March and April “off time” is midnight
May 1 – August 15 9 PM – Midnight
August 16 – September 30 8:30 PM – Midnight
October 1 – November 1 7 PM – Midnight
November 2 – December 30 5 PM – Midnight
December 31 5 PM – 1 AM

The above illumination times are approximate and subject to change according to light conditions.

The history of the illumination of Niagara Falls is interesting. I have reproduced here the history I read in the website of Ontario’s Niagara Parks:

History of the Illumination of Niagara Falls

Lighting the Falls, to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of the mighty Niagara even at night, was first attempted more than 150 years ago. In 1860, a spectacular
illumination of the Falls celebrated a visit by the Prince of Wales. About 200 coloured and white calcium, volcanic and torpedo lights were placed along the banks above and below the American Falls, on the road down the bank of the Canadian side of the gorge and behind the water of the Horseshoe Falls. The lights were called Bengal lights and were the kind used at sea to signal for help or give warning.

The lights were ignited along with rockets, spinning wheels and other fireworks, creating an effect that the London Times called “grand, magical and brilliant beyond all power of words to portray” the likes of which the Prince would “probably never see again.”

Illumination of the Falls using electricity first occurred in January 1879, during a visit by the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada and his wife Princess Louise. The lights had an illumination power of 32,000 candles, just a fraction of the intensity used today.

A 36-horsepower generating station in Prospect Park, Niagara Falls, New York, operated in July 1879 with 16 open arc lamps each projecting 2,000 candlepower. The Niagara Falls New York Gazette reported “On the evening of the Fourth, the Park was crowded with visitors and citizens and a very satisfactory exhibition of the new light was given.” The lights were used for only one season.

In May 1892, Frank LeBlond, one of the owners of the Maid of the Mist, purchased a 4,000 candlepower light and placed it on the Canadian dock of the Maid of the Mist to light the American Falls. He placed gelatin plates in front of the lights to provide a variety of colours. Then in 1895, Captain John Brinker built the Great Gorge Railroad and announced that it would provide night excursions three times weekly during the summer season, complete with lights to illuminate the Whirlpool. The Gazette reported “Forty arc lamps of 2,000 candlepower each will be placed in the gorge along a distance of 250 feet. Lights will be clustered and so many in such a short distance will make the gorge as light as day. Each arc light will be filled with three globes, white, red and blue, and will work automatically, alternating colours. A huge searchlight will also operate from the cars.”

Large crowds were drawn to the Falls in 1901 for special lighting that was set up as part of the Pan American Exposition being held in Buffalo.

In 1907, W. D’Arcy Ryan of the General Electric Company designed lighting that provided far more power than ever before. Thirty-six projectors illuminated the Falls with a combined candlepower of 1,115,000,000. The display ran for several weeks.

For more than a decade after that, different attempts were made to raise financing to install permanent lighting. Some efforts were prevented by the First World War, but in 1925, a group of interested businessmen finally created the Niagara Falls Illumination Board, to finance, operate and maintain a new, permanent illumination system. Today’s contributing members are the City of Niagara Falls, New York, the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Ontario Power Generation and The Niagara Parks Commission.

The Board’s first installation in 1925 was twenty-four carbon searchlights each 26 inches in diameter, emitting a total of 1,320,000,000 candlepower. The Falls have been illuminated most nights since that time ~ except during World War II when the lights were turned off to conserve power and during subsequent years when generating facilities could not keep pace with electrical requirements of the construction boom. It was not until January 1950 that the Illumination Board was able to guarantee enough power to operate the lights on a regular basis.

In 1997 and 1998, new fixtures replaced the outdated lamps and fixtures at the Illumination Tower, doubling the intensity of the lights on the Falls without doubling the hydro bills. Currently a total of twenty-one xenon lights, each with a 76-cm (30 in) diameter, are used to illuminate the Falls in a rainbow of colours. Eighteen are located at the Illumination Tower, beside the Queen Victoria Place and three are located below street level in the gorge opposite the American Falls. Each of the xenon spotlights produces more than 390 million peak beam and has a brilliance of 250 million candlepower.

Niagara Falls Fireworks

Year after year, the Niagara Parks Commission hosts Canada’s longest-running fireworks series in Queen Victoria Park. Year 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Canada’s longest running fireworks Illuminations series and it begins on May 24, 2013. So, if you plan to pay a visit to Niagara Falls do not miss the absolutely free spectacular fireworks display at night before an unforgettable backdrop from now on until September 1, 2013, every Friday, Sunday and holidays at 10 pm.

Best vantage points for viewing the Fireworks: Prospect Point in New York, the Rainbow Bridge that connects US and Canada and Oakes Garden Theatre & Queen Victoria Park in Canada.

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