Merry Christmas

Posted in Christmas, Giussani, Jesus by martalorenza on December 25, 2012


«What is important is Jesus.

And Jesus is neither the Creator nor a creature: He is both!

He is also a creature and nevertheless He remains the essence of all thing, because He is God, He is the essence of trees, flowers, the Heavens, mountains, lakes.»

Luigi Giussani

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Waiting for Christmas 4

Posted in Christmas, crib, Jesus by martalorenza on December 24, 2011

Some critics have remarked that in winter it was impossible for the angels to meet any flocks and their shepherds in open country at night. Actually, in the Jewish tradition everything is subject to the rule of purity and the Jews distinguish three kinds of flocks. The first, consisting of sheep with white fleece: since they are considered pure, after grazing they are allowed to go back to their stable in the village. A second group, instead, is made up of sheep with partly white and partly black fleece: these flocks are allowed to go back to the stable at nightfall, but their shelter has to be located outside the inhabited area. In the end, a third group consists of sheep whose wool is black: those animals, considered impure, are not allowed to seek refuge either in the village or a stable, not even after nightfall. Therefore, they have to stay out in the open with their shepherds all the time, day and night, both in the winter and the summer.

That means that the sheep given to Jesus as a gift were all black. Besides, the image Jesus uses in the story of the second coming of the Son of man “he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25) refers to the evening division of mixed flocks, too, when goats, poor in fat, were divided from the sheep to be taken to their shelter.

Also Luke’s reference to the “shepherds’ watches” implies that it was a long cold wintry night (Bethlehem is located 800 meters above sea level).

Marco Tosatti, The colour of the sheep in Bethlehem

see also: Michele Loconsole, La storia conferma la nascita di Gesù il 25 dicembre

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Waiting for Christmas 3

Posted in Christmas, Jesus by martalorenza on December 22, 2011

When I was a child and studied catechism, I knew there aren’t any elements either in the Gospel or in the apostolic tradition about the date of the birth of Jesus (even though today we can’t say so any longer, since Luke points out the month at least), that the Fathers had suggested a variety of dates and, besides all that, it was said that the celebration of Christmas on December 25 has a Roman origin dating back to the middle of the IV century and overlapping the Deus Sol Invictus festival, observed by various peoples the same day as the winter solstice and introduced in Rome by Aurelian in 274, year when he also consecrated the Temple dedicated to the cult of Sol Invictus.

Let’s correct a few elements.

Dionysius Exiguus (+556), who in 753 would establish Christmas on the December 25, is always mentioned, while Ippolytus of Rome (martyr in 235) is forgotten. In 203 he wrote in his Commentary on the Prophet Daniel:

“For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th,Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years”.

So December 25 in mentioned in Rome 70 years before the celebration introduced by Aurelian.

Not only, it is the festival of the Sol Invictus that was put on December 25, or even better put off to this date, since the winter solstice – the day when the pagan fetsival of the Sol Invictus used to be observed – is on December 21, rather than on the 25. We can’t dismiss the possibility that it was Aurelian himself, who was a hard persecutor of Christians, who tried and hide the date of the birth of Jesus by overlapping it with a pagan celebration dedicated to the light…which seems to be the same thing they are arranging today (thank God, evil imagination is limited!).

As for the “Wednesday” Ippolito mentioned, it is thought it was chosen because it is the fourth day of the Creation. It is the day when the sun was created (gen 1, 16) and Christ is “the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1, 78). And, who knows?, I won’t be too surprised if they discover that Jesus was really born on Wednesday. Wednesday is the day the tradition devotes to St. Joseph, who must have been very busy that day to give a suitable place to little Jesus and His mother.

P.S. On Hippolytus’ date, a part from the year of the world Creation (computed according to the patriarchs’ lists of the Genesis), we can find the 42 years of Augustus’s “reign”: it can be a precious date, but we don’t know where Ippolytus starts to count from; if it were from Augustus’s arrival in Rome, after Caesar’s death, to claim his rights as the “son” (44 b.C.), the birth of Jesus would correspond to 2 b.C., with a better approximation than Dionysius’s. (from Notes about Christology by Sarefino Zardoni)

Marzo Tosatti, The colour of the sheep in Bethlehem

Shemarjahu Talmon, The Calendar Reckoning of the sect from the Judean Desert. Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Scripta Hierosolymitana, vol IV, Jerusalem 1958, pp 164-201

Waiting for Christmas 2

Posted in Christmas, Jesus by martalorenza on December 19, 2011

On the first day of the week preceding Christmas the Liturgy reads the first page of the Gospel according to Luke. Luke begins the story of the birth of Jesus with the announcement  of the birth of John to Zechariah.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth”.

In 1947 a Palestinian shepherd found a  half-buried jar in a cave in the desert of Qumran. Archeologists from all over the world began an excavation campaign in that area and discovered 11 caves with, numbers of vases and thousands of manuscripts, rolled up and well-preserved.

Among them they found the Book of Jubilees – a text of the II century b.C. – containing the dates of the sacerdotal rota system for the Temple of Jerusalem, based on a cyclical order from Saturday to Saturday, recurring in the same period every year.

So, after two thousand years, we know that the course of Abia, the eighth of the twenty-four that took turns in the office of the Temple, was in the Temple in the week between September 23 and 30.

This piece of news was absolutely stunning to the scholars of Ancient Christianity. If Zechariah began his office in the Temple on September 23, the day when according to the Holy Gospel of Luke he received the announcement by Archangel Gabriel, who told him that – despite his old age and his wife Elizabeth’s barrenness – he would have a son, it means that the Precursor of Our Lord may be born on June 24, which is the day when the Church, since the I century, has been celebrating the birth of John.

This also confirms March 25 as the day of the Annunciation, by Gabriel Himself, to Virgin Mary. As a matter of fact, Luke sets the story in a precise moment.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

Therefore, Jesus must be born around December 25.

The liturgical fests of the conception and the birthday, both of John and Jesus, are compatible with the discovery of the manuscripts of Qumram, which took place sixty years ago. It’s a shame nobody was so kind as to tell us, common people, about this coincidence.

What would have happened, instead, if they had discovered that the priest Zechariah had executed his office in the Temple either in March or in July? It is easy to imagine that the news about the fact that the Church had invented everything, even the date of the birth of the founder, would have quickly spread all around the world.

Notes on the date of Christmas

See also:  La storia conferma la nascita di Gesù il 25 dicembre, di Michele Loconsole.

Waiting for Christmas 1

Posted in Christmas, Jesus by martalorenza on December 18, 2011

Today it is extremely common among Christians, both lay people and priests, the belief that December 25 is a conventional date, chosen for various reasons.

 But in 2001 cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “The claim used to be made that December 25 developed in opposition to the Mithras myth, or as a Christian response to the cult of the unconquered sun promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion. However, these old theories can no longer be sustained.”

 In the next few days I’m going to put together on the web the elements undermining these old hypothesis that, deliberately spread around, have made our relationship with our fathers’ faith weaker and weaker in a century.

 J.Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ignatius, p 108. Quoted by Mi-CHA-EL (see also Roma Locuta Est)

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