Category Archives: Christianity

30 Pieces of Silver by Hank Williams


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.  (Matthew 26:14-16)

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Hank Williams Sr
Hank Williams Sr

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The greatest American country music artist of all time, Hiram Hank Williams Sr., a singer-songwriter and musician, was country music’s first superstar. He earned fame with songs like “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive,” “30 Pieces of Silver” etc.

Hank Williams loved the music broadcast over radio and the hymns sung by the church choir. He learned to sing folk and country music. His mother presented him his first guitar. It cost her $3.50 which she paid fifty cents a month. Young Hank, determined to play the guitar, contributed to the cost with the money he made as a shoeshine boy and selling peanuts on the street.

Along with this early success Hank’s behavior became erratic. He often showed up at live performances drunk. Later he became a regular on the “Louisiana Hayride,” a regular Saturday night performance hosted by a radio station in Shreveport. His performance on this show greatly increased his popularity. In 1949, the release of “Lovesick Blues,” carried him into the mainstream of music.

Hank Williams died suddenly of a heart attack in the back seat of his Cadillac in the early morning hours of New Years Day in 1953 (January 1, 1953) at the age of 29.

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Hank Williams Memorial
Hank Williams Memorial

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Despite his short life, Williams has had a major influence on country music. In all, Hank Williams recorded 35 singles. Of these, 11 songs ranked number one in the Billboard Country&Western Best Sellers chart. With five of the 35 songs released posthumously, he earned a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 2010, 57 years after his death, the Pulitzer Board awarded Williams a special citation for song writing.

As an ardent fan of Hank Williams, I used his song “30 Pieces Of Silver” to create the following video clip as a tribute to him.

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Lyrics – 30 Pieces of Silver by Hank Williams, Sr.

Tis’ a sad but true story
From the Bible it came
And it tells us how Judas
Sold the Savior in shame

He planned with the council
Of high priest that day
30 pieces of silver
Was the price they would pay

30 pieces of silver
30 shekels of shame
Was the price paid for Jesus
On the cross He was slain

Betrayed and forsaken
Unloved and unclaimed
In anger they pierced Him
But He died not in vein

‘Twas on there on the hillside
The multitude came
And found our dear Savior
Then took Him away

They bruised and they mocked Him
Thorns was crowned around His head
And His garment of purple
Showed the blood stains of red

Far off in the mountains
With his face towards the sun
Judas begged mercy
For what he had done

He gave back the silver
For his heart filled with strife
Then there in the mountain
He took his own life

30 pieces of silver
30 shekels of shame
Was the price paid for Jesus
On the cross He was slain

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I Am the Good Shepherd…


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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i-am-the-good-shepherd

John, Chapter 10: 1-5

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

i-am-the-good-shepherd-2

John, Chapter 10: 11-14

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.d

This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, …

Note: I have used the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Bible – John, Chapter 10

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The Reliquary of Saint Teresa of Calcutta


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Statue of Saint Teresa in the National Shrine, Washington DC (Photo: T. V. Antony Raj)
Statue of Saint Teresa in the National Shrine, Washington DC (Photo: T. V. Antony Raj)

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At every canonization ceremony in the Catholic Church, people connected to the new saint carry to the altar a relic in a reliquary which is often an ornate work of art in gold or silver.

A relic is a keepsake, a tangible reminder that the new saint was human yet heroically lived a life of holiness.

The relic may be the purported or actual physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.

In the Catholic Church, a reliquary, also known as a shrine or by the French term châsse is used as a container for relics.

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The reliquary containing the relic of Saint Teresa
The reliquary containing the relic of Saint Teresa

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The relic presented at the Mass for St. Teresa of Calcutta was a few drops of her blood contained in a phial embedded within the centre of a wooden reliquary in the form of a simple cross reflecting her life and values.

The back of the cross-shaped reliquary is made from Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani), a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region, known as a symbol of nobility and spiritual greatness.

The front of the large cross is made of wood taken from places associated with Mother Teresa’s works of mercy: The first home for the dying she established in Calcutta, a home for those with Hansen’s disease, an immigrants’ boat, a Gypsy shack, and wood from the kneeler of a confessional because Mother Teresa believed the “Sacrament of Penance” also known as “Confession” or “Reconciliation” was the greatest expression of God’s mercy.

In the centre of the cross,  the phial of Mother Teresa’s blood is sealed in a glass orb in the shape of a water drop as a symbol of her vow to quench the thirst of those literally without water and those dying in the aridness of being unloved.

A roughly sculpted wrinkled hand supports the glass to symbolize that it carries this drop of water, full of love, in response to the cry of Jesus “I thirst” on the cross echoed by millions of people around the world.

The religious dress of the Missionaries of Charity bears special significance. The white colour of their sari stands for truth and purity and the three blue borders each signify the vows that the nuns of the Order take: the first thin band represents “Poverty”, the second thin band represents “Obedience”, and the third broad band represents the vows of “Chastity” and of “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.

The water drop on the reliquary is framed by a heart of three sweeping bands of blue on the left and a white band on the right to symbolize the sari St. Teresa adopted as a habit for her sisters of Missionaries of Charity as well as to express devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The three sweeping bands of blue on the left side of the heart are curved and bent to represent St. Teresa’s own curved form bent in prayer. The white band on the right side of the heart displays the words, “I thirst in gold, reproduced in St. Teresa’s handwriting.

The base of the reliquary is made of battered iron to represent how society always sees the poor people whom Mother Teresa loved with her whole heart.

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The Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Vatican City


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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At the end of life, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
– Saint Teresa of Calcutta

 

Mother Teresa - A painting by Mark Sanislo
Mother Teresa – A painting by Mark Sanislo

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Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the “nun of the gutters”, a champion for the poor, the dying and the unborn died on September 5, 1997.

Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing Mother Teresa.

As a fitting climax to a process that stretched on for almost 19 years, Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4, 2016, a day before Mother Teresa’s 19th death anniversary, formally declared  Mother Teresa, as the newest saint of the Catholic Church at a ceremony that drew 100,000 pilgrims from around the world to St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta be saint and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis, however, acknowledged that despite the fact she now has a formal title as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta“, she will always remain “Mother Teresa” to the world. The pontiff said:

“We may have some difficulty in calling her ‘Saint’ Teresa, her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her “Mother”. She made her voice heard before the powers of this world so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes of poverty they created.”

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How Does One Become a Saint in the Catholic Church?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Catholic Saints

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In the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodoxy, or Anglican Church, Canonization is the act by which a person who has died is declared a saint. After that, their name is included in the canon – a list of recognized saints.

During the first millennium of the Church’s life, the first people honoured as saints were the martyrs whose deaths were considered to affirm the truth of their faith in Christ. Originally, only the names of martyrs along with that of the Virgin Mary appeared in the Roman Rite’s honoured as saints were the martyrs whose deaths were considered to affirm the truth of their faith in Christ. Originally, only the names of martyrs along with that of the Virgin Mary appeared in the Roman Rite’s Canon of the Mass and since 1962, that of Saint Joseph was included.

Next, in the absence of a centralized canonization process, the local Church recognized holy men and women who demonstrated great virtue during their lifetime without any formal process or investigations into their personal life or any miracles attributed to their intercession.

Later on, different processes and procedures for canonization were developed such as those used today in Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. In both Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches, the act of canonization is governed by the Holy See and a person is declared a saint at the conclusion of a long process that requires substantial proof of their worthiness to be recognized as a saint by their exemplary and holy way of living on this earth.

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Devil’s advocate and God’s advocate 

In 1587, during the reign of Pope Sixtus V, the office of the Devil’s advocate (Latin: Advocatus Diaboli) also known as the Promoter of Faith, was established. This canon lawyer appointed by the Church authorities argued against the canonization of a candidate by taking a skeptical view of the candidate’s character, uncovering any character flaws or misrepresentation of evidence such as fraudulent miracles attributed to the candidate, etc.

The Devil’s advocate opposed God’s advocate (Latin: Advocatus  Dei) also known as the Promoter of the Cause, whose task was to make the argument in favour of canonization.favour of canonization.favour of canonization.favour of canonization.

Pope Paul VI beatified a total of 38 individuals during his pontificate and canonized 84 saints in 21 causes.

The work of simplification of canonization initiated by Pope Paul VI continued with Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister of January 25, 1983, and the implementation of the norms issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on February 7, 1983, at the diocesan level.

Contrary to popular belief, the reforms did not eliminate the office of the Promoter of the Faith popularly known as the Devil’s advocate, whose duty was to question the material presented in favour of canonization. John Paul II reduced the number of miracles required for sainthood from three to two, one for the first stage — beatification — and one more for canonization. The reforms were intended to make the process less adversarial.

In November 2012 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Monsignor Carmello Pellegrino to the office of Promoter of the Faith.

This reform by Pope John Paul II changed the canonization process considerably, helping John Paul II to usher in an unprecedented number of elevations: nearly 500 individuals were canonized and over 1,300 were beatified during his tenure as Pope as compared to only 98 canonizations by all his 20th-century predecessors.

In cases of controversy, the Vatican may still seek to informally solicit the testimony of critics of a candidate for canonization.

Candidates go through the following steps on their way to being declared saints.

Servant of God“: The process leading to canonization begins at the diocesan level. Responding to a petition by members of the faithful, a bishop with jurisdiction, usually the bishop of the place where the candidate died or is buried, gives permission to open an investigation into the virtues of the individual.  This investigation usually opens no sooner than five years after the death of the person being investigated.

Venerable/Heroic in Virtue“: After gathering sufficient information, the congregation will recommend to the pope to proclaim that the Servant of God exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, to a heroic degree. From this point, the one said to be “heroic in virtue” is referred to by the title “Venerable”.

A Venerable has as yet no feast day and no churches may be built in his or her honour. Prayer cards and other materials may be printed to encourage the faithful to pray for a miracle wrought by the venerable’s intercession as a sign of God’s will that the person can be canonized.

Blessed“: Beatification is a statement by the church that it is “worthy of belief” that the person is in heaven, having come to salvation. This step depends on whether the Venerable is a “martyr” or a “confessor”.

For a martyr, the Pope has only to make a declaration or a certification that the venerable met death voluntarily as a witness for the faith and/or in an act of heroic charity for others.

All non-martyrs are “confessors” as they “confessed” or bore witness to their faith by the manner they lived their lives. To be named “Blessed” (abbreviated “Bl.”) or, in Latin, Beatus or Beata a miracle has to tale place as a sign that God performed the miracle in response to the venerable’s intercession. Today, these miracles are mostly miraculous cures, as these are the easiest to establish based on the Catholic Church’s requirements for a “miracle”.

A feast day will be designated, but its observance is normally restricted to the Blessed’s home diocese, to certain locations associated with the blessed and/or to the churches or houses of the blessed’s religious order, if they belonged to one. Parishes may not normally be named in honour of a Blessed.

Saint“: Canonization is a statement by the church that the person enjoys the Beatific Vision. To be canonized a saint, an additional miracle after granting beatification must have been performed through the blessed’s intercession.

The saint (contracted “St” or “S.”) is assigned a feast day which may be celebrated anywhere within the Catholic Church, although it may or may not appear on the general calendar or local calendars as an obligatory feast. Parish churches may be built in the saint’s honour, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honour the saint.honour, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honour the saint.honour, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honour the saint.honour, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honour the saint.

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“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods…” – Epicurus


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Rogue pastors and patients in hospitals

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Why don’t pastors perform “healing” in hospitals?

An excellent question!

The answer is that all these faith healers are just preying humbugs who are just keen on swindling innocent people who place their faith in an unseen god sketched out by these conscienceless rogues.

This act of placing one’s trust in God or god by the gullible is not a recent phenomenon. Even before the time of Jesus Christ people prayed to gods.

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Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher
Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher

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The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BC) the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism wisely said:

It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.

Also, keep in mind what Jesus said (Mathew 6:5-8):

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

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It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”


Myself 

 By T.V. Antony Raj

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Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum, New York City)
Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum, New York City)

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Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterward, he was hungry.

The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Jesus said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’

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Here, the tempter tries to utilize the cravings of the flesh, namely hunger as Jesus was starving.

For the Roman Catholics, the definition of Lent varies according to different documents.

The official document on the Lenten season, Paschales Solemnitatis, says: “the first Sunday of Lent marks the beginning of the annual Lenten observance” – representing a period of 40 days.

The Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar say: “The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive“, representing a period of 44 days.

Both the above-mentioned sources agree that Lent ends on the evening of Holy Thursday, before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Historically, the season of Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days when we count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the “Time of Lent”, but to reconcile this with the phrase “forty days of fasting“, they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence. It would be more accurate if we say “forty days fast within Lent.

In the traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality, a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance. The Catholic Church has specified certain forms of penance to ensure that the Catholic will do something as required by divine law while making it easy for them to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics.

Canon 1250: All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

Canon 1251: Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1252: All who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence. All adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Canon 1253: It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Thus, the Church has two forms of official penitential practices – three if the Eucharistic fast before Communion is included.

Abstinence

The law of abstinence requires all Catholics who are 14 years old and older to be bound by the law of abstinence until death to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays that are not Solemnities in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday.

Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl and moral theologians have traditionally forbidden the consumption of soups or gravies made from them.

Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal-derived products such as gelatin, butter, cheese, and eggs that do not have any taste of meat.

When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, Catholics do not abstain or fast.

During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory, and is considered a sin not to observe this discipline without a serious reason such as physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.

Fasting

The practice of fasting before Easter developed gradually, and with considerable diversity of practice regarding duration. In the latter part of the second century, there were differing opinions not only regarding the manner of the paschal fast, but also the proper time for keeping Easter.

In 331, St. Athanasius urged his flock to follow a period of forty days of fasting preliminary to, but not inclusive of, the stricter fast of Holy Week.

In 339, after having traveled to Rome and over the greater part of Europe, St. Athanasius wrote in the strongest terms to urge this observance of fasting upon the people of Alexandria as one that was universally practiced, “to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing-stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days”.

During the time of Gregory the Great (590–604), there were apparently at Rome six weeks of six days each, making thirty-six fast days in all. St. Gregory describes the thirty-six fast as the spiritual tithing of the year, since thirty-six days being approximately the tenth part of three hundred and sixty-five. At a later date the wish to realize the exact number of forty days led to the practice of beginning Lent on Ash Wednesday.

The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this reduction in intake of food as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity.

Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by consuming drinks which could be considered food.

People excused from fast or abstinence

Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements, Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. For example, a person could multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives).

Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat.

The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church’s law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys such as chocolates, candy, soft drinks, smoking, the cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the discretion of the individual.

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I Wish You “A Happy New Year!”


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Happy New Year 2014

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The earlier Julian calendar, as well as the modern Gregorian calendar, have January 1 as the first day of the year.

At present, most countries use the Gregorian calendar as their de facto calendar and observe January 1 as the New Year’s Day which is probably the most celebrated public holiday in the world. As the new year starts at the stroke of midnight in each time zone, people invariably greet the New Year’s Day it with fireworks. Globally, New Years’ Day traditions include making new resolutions and meeting the members of one’s family and friends.

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The Roman god Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past (Source: storify.com)
The Roman god Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past (Source: storify.com)

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In pre-Christian Rome, the Julian calendar dedicates the first day of the year to Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. The Romans venerated Janus as the god of gates, doors, doorways, passages and beginnings, and named the first month of the year in his honour. This implies that the New Year’s Day celebrations follow pagan traditions.

Since 45 BC, the Roman Empire used the Julian calendar and had January 1 as the first day of the year. The Gregorian calendar created in 1582 also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar was a refined version of the Julian calendar and it too had January 1 as the first day of the year.

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Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele (Photograph: Elio Ciol/Corbis)
Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele (Photograph: Elio Ciol/Corbis)

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In the Gregorian calendar of Christendom, the New Year’s Day liturgically marked the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. The Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church still observe the day as such.

The circumcision of Jesus is an event from the life of Jesus. Verse 2:21 in the Gospel of Luke states:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Jewish law holds that all males have to undergo circumcision eight days after birth during a Brit milah ceremony, at which they are also given their name. So, according to Jewish tradition, Jesus born on December 25 underwent circumcision on the eighth day of his life on January 1 and named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before Mary conceived him. Hence, liturgically January 1, the New Year’s Day, marked the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the event on January 1 as the Feast of the Circumcision. Likewise, the Anglican and Lutheran churches celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus on January 1.

Roman Catholics for long celebrated the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 1. Now, the Roman Catholic Church considers New Year’s Day as a Holy Day of Obligation and celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on this day.

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“End of the Beginning” by David Phelps


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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“Forget what you have heard about Jesus if it doesn’t begin and end with love.” – Davis Phelps

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David Phelps
David Phelps

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David Norris Phelps, an American Christian music vocalist, songwriter and vocal arranger is best known for singing tenor in the Gaither Vocal Band (GVB), an American southern gospel vocal group, named after its founder and leader Bill Gaither.

The GVB emerged in the early 1980s recording contemporary Christian music. Later it became known for its southern gospel. Bill Gaither leads the group with passion and his genuine desire to bring meaning to the music which the group sings.

The lineup of the GVB changes often. Besides Bill Gaither, singers with the longest tenure in the band include  Michael English (1985–94, 2009–13), Mark Lowry (1988–2001, 2009–13), Guy Penrod (1995–2008), David Phelps (1997-2004, 2009-present) and Wes Hampton (2005-present).

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Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles, David Phelps, Bill Gaither, and Wes Hampton (Source: gaither.com)
Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles, David Phelps, Bill Gaither, and Wes Hampton (Source: gaither.com)

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As of February 2014, the lineup consists of Bill Gaither, David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Adam Crabb, and Todd Suttles.

All the members of GVB are all talented artists and are authentic men of faith. Known worldwide for their vocal power, innovative harmonies, they are instruments of God to carry the message of hope, grace and redemption.

Today, with over 30 years of history, the GVB, has an award-winning legacy of excellence for the harmony of those male voices: vocals, baritone, bass, and tenor.

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David Phelps (Source: david-phelps.blogspot.in)
David Phelps (Source: david-phelps.blogspot.in)

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David Phelps started his professional career at GVB in 1996. He remained at GVB as a tenor for eight years from 1996 to 2004. In 2004, he left the group to realize the biggest dream of his life: to develop his solo career. In early 2009, after recording seven albums, he returned to the GVB.

In 2002, Gaither Homecoming Video featured David Phelps in God Bless America, which featured his solo “End of the Beginning“.

A top reviewer declared: “You can’t go wrong with a Phelps piece!!

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End Of The Beginning
Words & music by David Phelps

I was taking a trip on a plane the other day, just wishin’ that I could get out.
When the man next to me saw the book in my hand and asked me what it was about.
So I settled back in my seat. “A best-seller,” I said, “a hist’ry and a myst’ry in one.”
Then I opened up the book and began to read from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…

He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star singing praises to the great I AM.

He walked on the water, healed The lame, and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, the angry crowd chose Him.
And then He walked down the road and died on the cross and that was the end…of the beginning.”

“That’s not a new book, that’s a Bible,” he said, “And I’ve heard it all before.
I’ve tried religion, it’s shame and guilt, and I don’t need it anymore.
It’s superstation, made-up tales, just to help the weak to survive.”
“Let me read it again,” I said, “But listen closely. This is gonna change your life.”

“He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star singing praises to the great I AM.

He walked on the water, healed the lame, and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, the angry crowd chose Him. And then He walked down the road and died on the cross and that was the end…of the beginning.”

“The end of the beginning?” he said with a smile. “What more
could there be? He’s dead. You said they hung Him, put nails in
His hands and a crown of thorns on His head.” I said, “I’ll read it
again, but this time there’s more.

And I believe that this is true: His death wasn’t the end but the beginning of life that’s completed in you.
Don’t you see, He did all this for you…”

“He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem. All the angels singing praises to the great I AM.
He walked on the water, healed the lame, and made the blind to see.
And for the first time here on earth, did you know that God could be a friend?
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, He was the one the crowd chose.
And then He walked and He died, but three days later, three days later, three days later…
He rose! Three days later He rose!

You see, He came, He lived, and He died, but that was the end of the beginning.

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The Iberian Peninsula: Part 1 – Conquest by the Muslims


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Greek geographers used the ancient Greek word Ιβηρία (Ibēría) to refer to the land mass known today as the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal). Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC), an early Greek historian  was the first to use this term during the time of the first Persian invasion of Greece which began in 492 BC.

In Europe, after the Scandinavian and Balkan peninsulas, Iberia is the third-largest peninsula, located in the southwest corner of Europe.

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Hispania in 418 AD
Hispania in 418 AD

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Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. The modern name España derives from Hispania.

Roderic, the last king of the Goths

In 711, an army of Muslim Moors composed of North African Berber soldiers with some Arabs, under Tariq ibn-Ziyad and other Muslim generals, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and landed at Gibraltar. The Islamic army began its conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania ruled by King Roderic, known in the legends as “the last king of the Goths“.

According to the Chronicle of 754, a Latin-language history in 95 sections composed in 754 in a part of Spain under Arab occupation, Roderic immediately upon securing his throne gathered a force to oppose the Moors raiding in the south of the Iberian peninsula.

Since there were just a few freemen among the Goths, Roderic gathered together an army of unwilling slave conscripts. He made several expeditions against the invaders led by the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad.

The early modern historian al-Maqqari, in his “The Breath of Perfume,” places the following long sermon to the troops in Tariq ibn-Ziyad’s mouth before  the Battle of Guadalete:

Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but you, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy.

If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freely to death.

Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. During the attack, I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least. Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you.

You have heard that in this country, there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings.

The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves.

Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.

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The weakness of the Visigothic kingdom was displayed in Roderick's stunning defeat at Guadalete / Río Barbate, (July 19, 711). It is believed that Roderick and much of the Visigothic nobility was killed in the battle and aftermath. (Source: histclo.com)
The weakness of the Visigothic kingdom was displayed in Roderick’s stunning defeat at Guadalete / Río Barbate, (July 19, 711). (Source: histclo.com)

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On July 19, 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad defeated Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete / Río Barbate. Roderic and much of the Visigothic nobility were killed in the battle and aftermath.

Facing no further strong resistance, Tariq swept north toward Toledo, the Visigothic capital.

Al-ʾAndalūs, the Islamic Iberia

In an eight-year campaign, the Moors brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic control. In 719, they crossed the Pyrenees and took control of Septimania, the last province of the Visigothic kingdom. In 721, the Moors tried to conquer Aquitaine from their stronghold of Narbonne, but suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Toulouse.

At no point did the invading Islamic armies exceed 60,000 men.

The invading Moors gave the Arabic name Al-ʾAndalūs (الإندلس) to the region under their control, maybe to mean “Land of the Vandals“. The Islamic rule lasted 300 years in much of the Iberian Peninsula and 781 years in Granada.

From their stronghold of Narbonne, the Moors launched raids into the Duchy of Aquitaine, a fiefdom in western, central and southern areas of present-day France to the south of the Loire River.

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Al_Andalus & Christian Kingdoms (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Al_Andalus & Christian Kingdoms (Source: en.wikipedia.org)

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After establishing a local Emirate, Caliph Al-Walid I, ruler of the Umayyad caliphate, recalled many of the successful Muslim commanders to Damascus including Tariq ibn Ziyad, the first governor of the newly conquered province of Al-Andalus. Musa bin Nusair, his former superior replaced him.

Governor Musa’s son, Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, married Egilona, Roderic’s widow. He established his regional government in Seville. Under the influence of his wife, Egilona, he wanted to convert to Christianity. He was then accused of planning a secessionist rebellion, and Caliph Al-Walid I ordered his assassination.

By the year 1100, local Iberian converts to Islam, the so-called Muladi formed the majority of the Iberian population. The term ‘Moor’ was the generic term used to refer to the Islamists that composed the initial Arabs and Berbers and the converted Muladi. The Iberian Peninsula transformed from a Romance-speaking Christian land into an Arabic-speaking Muslim land. However, pockets of Arabic and Romance-speaking Christians called Mozarabs and a large minority of Arabic-speaking Jews survived throughout Al-ʾAndalūs.

In the chronicles and documents of the High Middle Ages the Christians used the terms Spania, España or Espanha derived from Hispania in reference to Muslim controlled areas. King Alfonso I of Aragon (1104–1134) says in his documents when in 1126 he made an expedition to Málaga he “went to the lands of España.

During the Middle Ages, the Iberian peninsula housed many small states, including Castile, Aragon, Navarre, León and Portugal.

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The five kingdoms of Iberia in 1360.
The five kingdoms of Iberia in 1360.

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Towards the end of the 12th century, the whole Muslim and Christian Iberian Peninsula became known as “Spain” (España, Espanya or Espanha). The term “the Five Kingdoms of Spain” referred to the Mussulman Kingdom of Granada and the Christian kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, Portugal and Navarre.

The Muslim caliphs competed with each other in the patronage of the arts. From the 8th to the 15th century, the Iberian Peninsula incorporated into the Islamic world became a center of culture and learning, especially during the Caliphate of Cordoba. It reached its height under the rule of Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III.

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Next → Part 2 – The Reconquista

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