Daily Update: Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent and Barbara and John Damascene

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, and the Optional Memorial of Saint Barbara (died late third or early fourth century), and the Optional Memorial of Saint John of Damascus, Priest, Religious, and Doctor (died 749).

Starting today, one’s Advent Wreath has two candles lit. During this time of Advent the faithful are admonished to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God of love, thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world. The usual liturgical colour in Western Christianity for Advent is purple, used for hangings around the church, on the vestments of the clergy, and often also the tabernacle. From the 4th century Advent was kept as a period of fasting as strict as that of Lent; in the Anglican and Lutheran churches this fasting rule was later relaxed, with the Roman Catholic Church doing likewise later, but still keeping Advent as a season of penitence. In addition to fasting, dancing and similar festivities were forbidden in these traditions. Turning to today’s first Saint, Barbara, the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus, was carefully guarded by her father who kept her locked up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. Having secretly become a Christian, she rejected an offer of marriage that she received through him. Before going on a journey, he commanded that a private bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence, Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned, she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this he drew his sword to kill her, but her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she was miraculously transported to a mountain gorge, where two shepherds watched their flocks. Dioscorus, in pursuit of his daughter, was rebuffed by the first shepherd, but the second betrayed her and was turned to stone and his flock changed to locusts. Dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured, Barbara held true to her faith. During the night, the dark prison was bathed in light and new miracles occurred. Every morning her wounds were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her. Finally she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father himself carried out the death-sentence. However, as punishment for this, he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body was consumed by flame. Barbara was buried by a Christian, Valentinus, and her tomb became the site of miracles. Saint Barbara is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers; her aid is invoked against fever and sudden death. Her association with the lightning that killed her father has caused her to be invoked against lightning and fire; by association with explosions, she is also the patron of artillery and mining. Our Second Saint today was born in 676 at Damascus, Syria, and was the son of Mansur, representative of the Christians to the court of the Muslim caliph. John apparently thrived as a Christian in a Saracen land, and was tutored in his youth by a captured Italian monk named Cosmas. Between the Christian teaching from the monk, and that of the Muslim schools, John became highly educated in the classical fields (geometry, literature, logic, rhetoric, etc.). Like his father and grandfather before him, he served the Caliph as chief financial officer. He defended the use of icons and images in churches through a series of letters opposing the anti-icon decrees of Emperor Leo III. Legend says that the Emperor plotted against him, and forged a letter in which John betrayed the caliph; the caliph ordered John’s writing hand chopped off, but the Virgin Mary appeared and re-attached the hand, a miracle which restored the caliph’s faith in him. After this incident John became a monk near Jerusalem, later being ordained priest in 735. He was anathematized by name by the 754 Council of Constantinople over his defense of the use of icons, but was defended by the 787 Seventh Council of Nicea. He wrote The Fountain of Wisdom, the first real compendium of Christian theology, along with other works defending the orthodox faith, commentaries on Saint Paul the Apostle, poetry, and hymns. An orator, he was such an excellent speaker that he was known as Chrysorrhoas (“golden-stream”). The last of the Greek Fathers of the Church, and the first of the Christian Aristotelians, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1890 by Pope Leo XIII. When the name of Saint John of Damascus was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1890 it was assigned to March 27th. This date always falls within Lent, a period during which there are no obligatory Memorials. The feast day was therefore moved in 1969 to the day of the saint’s death, December 4th, the day on which his feast day is celebrated also in the Byzantine Rite calendar.

I did my Book Devotional Reading, put on my New Orleans Saints football jersey to wear to work, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Sixth Day of my Novena to the Immaculate Conception. Once we clocked in, Richard was on Mini Baccarat, and I was on Three Card Poker. On his first break Richard signed the Early Out list for us; he got out at 6:00 am, and I got out at 6:30 am. We went on home, and once we arrived home shortly after 7:15 am I went back to bed.

Waking up again at 12:30 pm, I made my lunch salads for Monday and Tuesday, and ate a lunch salad while reading the Sunday papers. I then came to the computer to work on my weblog photos. Our New Orleans Saints lost their home NFL game with the Detroit Lions by the score of 13 to 28; our New Orleans Saints (5-7, 1-2) will next play an Away Divisional NFL game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5, 2-1) on Sunday, December 11th. Our LSU Lady Tigers won their College Basketball game with the TCU Lady Horned Frogs by the score of 67 to 61; our LSU Lady Tigers (6-2, 0-0) will next play a home College Basketball game with the Tulane Lady Green Wave (4-2, 0-0) on December 11th. And our #20 LSU Tigers (7-4, 5-3 SEC) will play a College Postseason Football game with the #13 Louisville Cardinals (9-3, 7-1 ACC) in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on December 31st. Richard and I lit the Advent Candles, and we will soon be going to bed. Our New Orleans Pelicans (7-13, 0-3) will be playing an Away NBA game with the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-8, 2-0) later this evening; I will post the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

We have no Saints to honor tomorrow, so we will instead note that in 1933 Prohibition in the United States ended when Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to enact the amendment. (This overturned the 18th Amendment which had made the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol illegal in the United States.) We will work our eight hours at the casino. and in the afternoon I will start straigtening up the front part of the house. Our New Orleans Pelicans will be playing a home NBA game with the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow night; I will post the score of the game in Tuesday’s Daily Update.

On this Afternoon of the Second Sunday in Advent our Parting Quote comes to us from Claudia Emerson, American poet. Born in 1957 in Chatham, Virginia,  she graduated from Chatham Hall preparatory school in 1975. She received her BA in English from the University of Virginia in 1979 and her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1991. She taught at several colleges including Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. She spent over a decade at the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as an English professor and the Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry. She married musician Kent Ippolito in 2000. The couple lived in Richmond, Virginia, and performed and wrote songs together. Emerson published five poetry collections through Louisiana State University Press: Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997), Pinion: An Elegy (2002), Late Wife (2005), Figure Studies: Poems (2008), and Secure the Shadow (2012). In addition to her collections, Emerson’s work was included in such anthologies as Yellow Shoe Poets, The Made Thing, Strongly Spent: 50 Years of Shenandoah Poetry, and Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia. In 2002 Emerson was Guest Editor of Visions-International (published by Black Buzzard Press). She won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection Late Wife, returned to Chatham Hall  in 2008 to serve as The Siragusa Foundation’s Poet-in-Residence, and was named the Poet Laureate of Virginia by then-Governor Tim Kaine in 2008, a position she held until 2010. In 2013 Emerson joined the creative writing faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, where she taught until her death from colon cancer at age 57. A sixth collection of poems, titled The Opposite House, was set to be released posthumously in March 2015 (died 2014): “I remember hearing Toni Morrison talk about her characters—I think it was Toni Morrison. She said she heard them, you know, and I remember, as a poet, for a long time I thought, “I don’t quite understand that,” but now I do.”


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