Our last and final O Antiphon is “O Emmanuel“. Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint John of Kanty, Priest (died 1473), and today is Festivus, the great secular celebration made famous by the television comedy Seinfeld in 1997.
Today’s O Antiphon, in Latin, is ”O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.” In English, it is “O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 7:14): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” The Advent hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel“ (in Latin, “Veni Emmanuel”) is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons in reverse order. The first letters of the titles (Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, Emmanuel), taken backwards, form the Latin acrostic “Ero Cras” which translates to “Tomorrow, I will come”, mirroring the theme of the antiphons. Today’s Saint, John Kanty, was born in 1390 in Kęty in Silesia (Poland); he was a brilliant student at the Kraków Academy, Poland. Becoming a priest, he became Professor of Theology at the university. Falsely accused and ousted by university rivals, at age 41 he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of the responsibility, but did his best, which for a long time was not enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Kraków Academy, which would later be named the Jagiellonian University, and taught Scripture the rest of his life. He was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, and eating no meat and little of anything else. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God. At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the Jagiellonian University. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, thirty years before his final canonization, and he is also the Patron Saint of Jagiellonian University. Finally, today is the great secular celebration of Festivus, made famous in the December 18, 1997 Seinfeld episode “The Strike”, written by Dan O’Keefe, whose father, editor and writer Daniel O’Keefe (died 2012), was celebrating the holiday as far back as 1966. The holiday, as portrayed in the Seinfeld episode and now celebrated by many, begins with an aluminum pole; during the holiday, the Festivus Pole is displayed unadorned. Other practices include the “Airing of Grievances”, which occurs during the Festivus meal and in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. After the meal the “Feats of Strength” are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned. Allen Salkin’s 2005 book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us chronicled the early adoption of Festivus. In 2013 a Festivus Pole was erected in the Florida State Capitol, constructed with six feet of beer cans. The aluminum pole was set up alongside the nativity scene, menorah and other religious icons on display for the holiday season. Festivus! The Book: A Complete Guide to the Holiday for the Rest of Us by Mark Nelson was published in 2015.
On Monday, December 21st we got Christmas Cards from Richard’s sister Susan in Iowa and from my Internet friend Lori in Wisconsin.
Yesterday, Tuesday, December 22nd, we got cards from Richard’s nephew Rob and his wife Brenda in Illinois, from his niece Leah and her husband Nate in Iowa (with a new address), and from my first cousin Chris and his wife Catherine in California. And our LSU Men’s Basketball team beat American University by the score of 79 to 51. Our Tigers will next play a home game with Wake Forest on Tuesday, December 29th, 2015.
My alarm was set for 7:00 am, but I did not get up until 8:30 am. I posted to Facebook that today is Festivus, started the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and did my Bathroom Devotional Reading. I then got my breakfast toast and read the morning paper.
Liz Ellen and I made a late start, not leaving until 10:45 am; at that, the Weekly Computer Maintenance was not yet done, and I had not ironed my Casino pants, apron, or shirts. Our first stop was the Hit-n-Run, where I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing. We then drove down to Lafayette, finding fairly heavy traffic in the Hub. At Office Depot Liz Ellen got some stuff she needed. At the Lafayette Public Library – Southside Branch I took out Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. After taking a few long turns we ate lunch at Zeus Greek and Lebanese Restaurant at 1:30 pm. (I can never remember if it is on Ambassador Caffrey or on Johnston; it’s on Ambassador Caffrey, but farther down than I had remembered.) At the Goodwill a few doors north of Zeus, I left off my box of stuff at the Drive-Through service.
We then headed for Baton Rouge; for reasons unknown to us, the traffic was heavy to the point of immobile, and it took us two hours to get to Baton Rouge. At the Barnes and Noble at LSU I got an LSU flag (more anon), and Liz Ellen got a small LSU flag and some other LSU items; I used the Gift Card that my friend Linda from work had given me for Christmas. We then headed back for Lafayette, making much better time going west. (We passed two accidents on the east-bound lanes, one of which had traffic backed up for miles.) Richard called, and we told him we would call later. At Fresh Pickins Liz Ellen got two dozen or so tangelos (they were out of satsumas), and took photos of the overflowing bins of various citrus fruits for her friends back home in Eastern Kentucky. We called Richard when we were on the road up from Rayne.
We got home at 7:00 pm. Richard arrived home shortly afterwards, having gone out to Little Caesars to get pizza pizza. He also told me that he had ironed my casino pants, apron, and shirts (thank you very much, Richard), and we had a Christmas Card from my friend Linda in Mississippi. After I ate some pizza pizza for dinner, I came to the computer and finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance and started the Weekly Virus Scan. I also did the usual Backup of stuff on my Galaxy Note 4, which I normally do on Wednesdays before leaving the house in the morning. Richard got Liz Ellen and himself daiquiris; I did not want one then, as I was busy doing necessary stuff. The Weekly Virus Scan finished, our New Orleans Pelicans beat the Portland Trail Blazers by the score of 115 to 89 (our Pelicans will play an away game with the Miami Heat on December 25th), and by 9:45 pm or so I was finally ready to start today’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, a day with no Saints or Antiphons, as we await the ever-new Miracle of Christmas. Liz Ellen and I will be going out to Wal-Mart for stuff and out in search of more satsumas, and Richard will get more boudin. Otherwise, we will relax (I think relaxation is in order), and Liz Ellen and I will be going to the 4:00 pm Christmas Vigil Mass. I do not think we will set up or light the Luminaria, because the weather has been very unsettled, and will probably rain. (Again.)
Our Parting Quote this evening comes to us from Edward Schillebeeckx, Roman Catholic theologian. Born in 1914 in Antwerp, Belgium, he entered the Dominican Order in 1934. He studied theology and philosophy at the University of Louvain, and in 1941 was ordained to the priesthood. In 1943 he finalized his studies in Turnhout and moved to Ghent, where he studied at the Dominican house, and was strongly influenced by Dominicus De Petter’s courses in phenomenology. After three years of Philosophy Study at Ghent, Schillebeeckx heeded the call up of the Belgian Armed Forces in 1938, leaving the army again in August 1939. But, one and a half month after that, he was summoned to return, due to the start of World War II, and he left the Army only after the defeat of the Belgian Armed Forces by the Germans. Schillebeeckx then entered the Dominican Study house at Leuven, where he stayed until 1945. From that year to July 1946, he studied at the Dominican study centre Le Saulchoir at Étiolles, near Paris, where representatives of the Nouvelle théologie-movement such as Marie-Dominique Chenu and Yves Congar introduced him to modern Catholic Theology as well as to the thought of Calvinist theologians like Karl Barth. During these years he also studied at the Sorbonne, and in July 1946 he did his doctoral exam at the École des hautes études of the Sorbonne. In 1952 he defended and published his doctoral thesis at Le Saulchoir, De sacramentele heilseconomie (The Redeeming Economy of the Sacraments). After that, Schillebeeckx became master of the Philosophy Study House of his order in Leuven, and in 1957 he spent one year teaching Dogmatics at the Faculty of Theology, Catholic University of Leuven. Then, in 1958 the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands made him a professor of dogmatic theology and history of theology. His inaugural lecture Op zoek naar de levende God (In Searching of the Living God) introduced Dutch theologians to the Nouvelle Théologie founded by Chenu, Congar, Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. During the Second Vatican Council, Schillebeeckx was one of the most active theologians. He drafted various council interventions for Dutch bishops such as Cardinal Bernard Jan Alfrink, and gave conferences on theological ressourcement for many episcopal conferences present in Rome. Due to his having been the “ghost writer” of the Dutch bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the upcoming Council in 1961, he was rendered suspect with the Congregation of the Holy Office, led by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani (President) and the Dutchman Sebastiaan Tromp (secretary). This was the first of three instances in which Schillebeeckx had to defend his theological positions against accusations from the Roman authorities. As a result, Schillebeeckx drafted his mostly negative comments on the schemata prepared by the Preparatory Theological Commission (headed by Ottaviani) anonymously. These anonymous comments on the theological schemata debated at Vatican II, and the articles he published, also influenced the development of several conciliar constitutions such as Dei Verbum and Lumen Gentium. Concerning the latter document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Schillebeeckx was mainly involved in the debate on episcopal collegiality, attempting to move Catholic ecclesiology away from a purely hierarchical structured vision of the church, focusing too heavily on Papal authority (as a result of the declaration of Papal infallibility in Vatican I’s constitution Pastor Aeternus). This, according to Schillebeeckx and many others at Vatican II, was to be balanced by a renewed stress on the role of the episcopal college. In this way his influence was far greater than that of a formal peritus, a status the Dutch bishops had not granted to him. Already in 1963, together with Chenu, Congar, Karl Rahner, and Hans Küng, he was involved in preparing the rise of the new theological journal Concilium, which was officially founded in 1965 with the support of Paul Brand and Antoine Van den Boogaard, and which promoted “reformist” thought. In the postconciliar period Schillebeeckx’ attention shifted somewhat from Thomism to Biblical exegesis. On the basis of his study of the earliest Christian sources, often drawing upon the exegetical insight of his Nijmegen colleague Bas Van Iersel, Schillebeeckx confronted such debated questions as the position of priests, e.g., by supporting a proposal to disconnect sacramental priesthood and the obligation to celibacy. Precisely on this matter, Schillebeeckx played an influential role during the National Pastoral Council (Landelijk Pastoraal Concilie) held at Noordwijkerhout from 1968 to 1970. At the sessions of this synod, the Dutch bishops, intellectuals, and representatives from many Catholic organizations tried to implement what they perceived as the major progressive objectives of the Second Vatican Council. Schillebeeckx, well known in the Netherlands and Belgium through his many interventions in the media, was by then known as the leading Dutch-speaking contemporary theologian. In Jesus: An experiment in Christology (Dutch ed. 1974), Schillebeeckx argued that we should not imagine that the belief of the disciples that Jesus had risen was caused by the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances. It was quite the opposite: A belief in the resurrection – “that the new orientation of living which this Jesus has brought about in their lives has not been rendered meaningless by his death – quite the opposite” – gave rise to these traditions. Although the books were followed by a couple of articles where Schillebeeckx defended himself against criticism and toned down his radicalism, on October 20, 1976 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to him with various objections. As a result of the ensuing correspondence, he was asked to come to Rome to explain his position. In December 1979, he met with representatives of the Congregation; due to international pressure, the drive for a trial was ended. The conclusions of the Congregation, however, left the impression that a genuine accord had not been reached, and he continued to receive notifications from the Church authorities for his repeated writings. His christology was criticized by Cardinal Franjo Šeper and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whom Schillebeeckx already knew at Vatican II, and who was later elected Pope Benedict XVI. In 1984, his orthodoxy was called into question by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Schillebeeckx was summoned to Rome to explain his views expressed in The Ministry in the Church, which were regarded as Protestant. A third time then, in 1986, Schillebeeckx’ theological views were put into question, again regarding the sacramental nature of office in the Roman Catholic Church. More precisely, in The Church with a Human Face (1985) Schillebeeckx argued, on biblical-historical grounds, that the consecration to Catholic priesthood does not necessarily gain its validity from, and can therefore be detached from apostolic succession, rather the choice of priests (and as a consequence the celebration of the Eucharist) is dependent on the local church community. Despite three investigations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the writings of Schillebeeckx were never condemned. Until his death he lived in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, where he taught at the Catholic University of Nijmegen until his retirement. He was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 1982 and (as the only theologian) the Gouden Ganzenveer in 1989 (died 2009): “The crucified but risen Jesus appears in the believing, assembled community of the church. That this sense of the risen, living Jesus has faded in many [churches] can be basically blamed on the fact that our churches are insufficiently ‘communities’ of God…. Where the church of Jesus Christ lives, and lives a liberating life in the footsteps of Jesus, the resurrection faith undergoes no crisis. On the other hand, it is better not to believe in God than to believe in a God who minimizes human beings, holds them under and oppresses them, with a view to a better world to come.”