The Second Week of Advent

Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come.

from the Prophet Isaias

Her time is near at hand, and her days shall not be prolonged. For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose out of Israel, and will make them rest upon their own ground: and the stranger shall be joined with them, and shall adhere to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them into their place: the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall make them captives that had taken them, and shall subdue their oppressors. And it shall come to pass in that day, that when God shall give you rest from your labor, and from your vexation, and from the hard bondage, wherewith you didst serve before, you shall take up this parable against the King of Babylon, and shall say: “How is the oppressor come to nothing, the tribute hath ceased? The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers, that struck the people in wrath with an incurable wound, that brought nations under in fury, that persecuted in a cruel manner. How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? How are you fallen to the earth, that did wound the nations: and you said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. But yet you shall be brought down to hell into the depth of the pit.”

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Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

By Larry Plachno

Larry-150x1 blueNon-Christians frequently bring up the question of why Christmas is celebrated on December 25. It is a known fact that Jesus Christ was probably born in the summer and they suggest that Christians took advantage of existing harvest festivals, the date of the winter solstice, or the date honoring the sun god of the ancients. However, there is strong evidence that the day the “star” stood still over Bethlehem and the visit of the Magi with their gifts took place on December 25. Hence, there is ample justification for the celebration of Christmas and the exchange of gifts on December 25. If you give me a few minutes of your time I will try to provide the background on all of this and give you some interesting history as well as information on stars.

Today, when we talk about stars most people think about movie stars or rock stars. It was not always this way. When Christ was born people spent more time looking at the stars in the heavens. There was less pollution in the cities to block the view and the people did not have television, newspapers and cell phones to divert their interest. In those days prior to air conditioning it was not uncommon for people to sleep on their rooftops to get some fresh air and fall asleep watching the stars. Hence, it is not unexpected that stars are mentioned so prominently in the Bible.

Early work on tracking the movement of the stars was done by Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer, who is memorialized by having a crater on the moon named after him. His successor was Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German who became the Imperial Mathematician and Astronomer in Prague. By the early 1600s he had developed the laws of Planetary Motion that we still use today. Kepler did try to recreate the sky at the time of the birth of Christ but was not successful. One reason was he was looking at the wrong dates due to mistaken ideas on the dates for the birth of Christ and the death of King Herod. A second reason was that figuring out the mathematics of planetary motion had to be done manually at that time and was very time consuming.

It was Dionysius Exiguus (470-544), a monk from the area we now call Romania and Bulgaria, who had originally developed the method of numbering years that we still use today. He is remembered for doing substantial translations from Greek to Latin and he also wrote on elementary mathematics. In those days, there was not a calendar in every kitchen and numbering years was very informal. Some countries based years on dynasties or when a leader came to power. The only serious system used by some scholars was called AUC or Ab Urbe Condita (from the founding of the city), based on the founding year of Rome. But, since the Roman civilization was in decline while Christianity was on the rise, Dionysius Exiguus figured out how to start dating years with the birth of Christ. He was not that far off. Continue reading

The First Week of Advent

The First Week of Advent

Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come. from the Prophet Isaias

Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

The Savior, who is so soon to be with us and to save us, warns us not only to prepare ourselves to appear before him, but also to purify our souls. “It is most just,” says Saint Bernard, “that the soul, which was the first to fall, should be the first to rise. Let us therefore defer caring for the body, until the day when Jesus Christ will come and reform it by the Resurrection; for, in the first Coming, the Precursor says to us: Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. Observe, he says not the maladies of the body, nor the miseries of the flesh; he says sins, which are the malady of the soul and the corruption of the spirit. Take heed then, thou my Body, and wait for thy turn and time. Thou canst hinder the salvation of the soul, and thine own safety is not within thy reach. Let the soul labor for herself, and strive thou too to help her, for if thou sharest in her sufferings, thou wilt share in her glory. Retard her perfection, and thou retardest thine own. Thou wilt not be regenerated until God sees his own Image restored in the soul.” Let us, then, purify our souls. Let us do the works of the spirit, not the deeds of the flesh. Our Saviour’s promise is most clear; he will turn the deep dye of our iniquities into the purest whiteness. He asks but one thing of us: that we sin no more. He says to us: Cease to do perversely, and then come and accuse me, come and complain against me if I do not cleanse you. O Jesus! we will not defer a single day of this holy season, we accept, from this moment, the conditions thou offerest us. We sincerely desire to make our peace with thee; to bring the flesh into subjection to our spirit, to make good all the injustice we have committed against our neighbor, and to hush, by the sighs of our heart-felt compunction, that voice of our sins which has so long cried to thee for vengeance.

Marriage, Annulments and Guidance

Marriage, Annulments and Guidance

By Larry Plachno

Larry-150x1 blue       Anyone watching what is going on in the Vatican is well aware that there have been some discussions recently over marriage and annulments. For the most part, both sides base their positions on the importance of marriage to our society, the sanctity of marriage in Christianity and the positive impact of marriage on children. Some of this is spilling over into other areas of Christianity and is increasingly becoming more public.

Some people will suggest that the starting point was “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love,” from Pope Francis in early 2016. It was described as a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and was directed to both the clergy and the laity. While numerous items were covered, it mentioned simplifying the annulment process, bringing divorced and remarried Catholics back into the church and helping families. There was even some later comments of allowing bishops to handle annulments in a simple manner. Several members of the clergy and laity expressed concern over maintaining the sanctity of marriage.

Unfortunately, the situation can be complicated by people trying to drag in political correctness. I can try to explain what is going on but will step lightly through those areas where some people say that God and statistics are sexist. I will try my best not to take sides but to explain how modern reports and statistics are stressing the importance of marriage on both society and children. Continue reading

How to Defend the Christian Position On Abortion and Marriage

How to Defend the Christian Position On Abortion and Marriage

By Larry Plachno

Larry-150x1 blueAt a recent pro-life gathering it became obvious that while there are a good many people strongly supportive of the Christian position on abortion and marriage, they are not ready and willing to speak up and defend that position. Some are simply afraid to say anything for fear of confrontation or what others will say. Those willing to speak up often admit that they do not know what to say or do.

This is not the time for people to sit on the sidelines and observe. We need everyone out there working to support what we believe in. Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last Fatima seer, sent a letter to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra. In it she said: “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid.” she added, “because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.” Continue reading