Life

September 29, Saint Raphael

Posted in Serafino Zardoni, St Raphael by martalorenza on September 29, 2012

Here is a letter my uncle, monsignore Serafino Zardoni, sent me to wish me a Happy Saint’s Day.

Dearest Raffaella,

the reason why I’m writing is simple: I saw you at home, but I forgot to wish you a happy feast Day; after the liturgical reform, the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, have been gathered into one feast day on September 29th. So: my dearest wishes to you!

That could actually be all. But I opened the fantastic Book of Tobit again, the book of the righteous man, whom God tried and then rewarded; the wedding book, the book of tradition; but above all, the book of the Providence of God through the archangel Raphael, God who heals. If you were to read it again one of these days and slowly savored it, you would be fascinated.

In it you will find an interesting kind of an angel (later elevated to the dignity of an archangel).

You will find that the good angel tells lies (5,5), he knows geography well (5,6ff); he tells loads of lies to Tobit  (5,13) he accepts the allowance and the recruitment (5,15), but he proves faithful to his name, Raphael, showing his medical and pharmaceutical skills  (6,4-8); and he isn’t even afraid of acting as a matchmaker at weddings (6,10-11); and in front of the bridegroom’s perplexity (Sarah had already had seven husbands, all strangled by the Devil) he gives him a certain anti-Devil medicine (6,17); moreover, as a perfect athlete, he runs faster than the Devil (from Ecbàtana to Upper Egypt) and he enchains him (8,3).

And he is also an excellent businessman, managing to get as much money as Tobit’ family was entitled to (9,5), and then he takes Tobit junior and his young wife back home (11,1-6).

But that’s not all: as a good doctor, he gives some medicine to Tobit senior, who gets his sight back (11,8ff); and then he finally tells the truth: “It is good to keep the secret of a king, but that it is more glorious to reveal the works of God… I am Raphael, who presents the prayers of the saints” (12,11; 15)

It is a wonderful speech which preludes Tobit’s canticle of thanksgiving to the Lord.

And they lived happily ever after, rich in virtues and money… and he “blessed God that liveth for ever”.

Amen!

You can add the rest. But if Raffaella (without telling Raphael’s lies) were to become the one that shows God’s secret, that’s how life would reach its deepest meaning: to reveal to men the great mystery of God, so that they may bless him.

To reveal it to all those who come close to you, with words, or more simply, by living; obviously this means you must know God and, therefore, you must have studied him; but certainly, much more, what it involves is loving God, because in order to really know, you need to love.

And this is a life worth living. Amen!

Goodbye, yours forever,

father Serafino

BO. Sept. 29th, 1982

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