The Catholic Defender: The 12 Days of Christmas

Posted by John Benko - December 20th, 2013

As we move closer to Christmas, this year is very important to me as I reflect the past few years.

Three out of the last four Christmas seasons I was deployed in Iraq. It’s tough being deployed away from home for a year or more, but it becomes very difficult especially during the major holidays.

The Catholic Church instituted the 12 Days of Christmas in 567 through the Council of Tours.

Ever since then nations have developed their traditions and being deployed we miss the family traditions.

We do well to try and keep alive our traditions among us in a foreign land. I would use the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas” to inspire interest in the Season. For most Americans, Christmas is over after Christmas day.

We have lost the understanding of the season of Christmas for the most part. I found this out simply through the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas”.

In fact, most thought that the 12 days of Christmas began before Christmas, that Christmas day ended the season.

The actual 12th day is January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany (the manifestation) with the wise men finding the Christ Child after about an 18 month journey following a star.

On December 23, 2006 from Iraq, I wrote on Defenders of the Catholic Faith:

Today, I was able to sing Christmas carols with Philippine women who work in our laundry department. It was kind of cool. These people are here to make money to send home. It is to such as these that Father began to go to for Holy Communion. These people have a strong faith and love the Church. Christmas must be a thing of the heart. That’s where it plants itself to do good. God be with you all and Merry Christmas. I will be going to Midnight Mass here, I hope many of you can go!!!

I was trying to get in the Christmas spirit and inspire others to do the same. On Christmas day, 25 December, I was reminding DCF of the 12 days of Christmas.

Each day I would ask the Catholic Board (DCF) and Soldiers I served with what the song said for each day as the days passed by. Friends would ask me about the next day and I would make them wait!

What makes this song special to me is the idea that there could be hidden messages in the song for Catholics.

The Church was suffering persecution in England and it is believed William Shakespeare wrote the song in code. The following is a version of what people believed about the song:

The ‘partridge in a pear tree’
means there is only one God and is also symbolic of Jesus (see Luke 13:34). I have also heard that the first verse was depicting baby Jesus in the manger.

The ‘two turtle doves’
are the Old and New Testaments. Though according to Zondervan’s Twelve Days of Christmas the story behind a favorite Christmas song this is the 2 turtle doves sacrificed that Joseph and Mary brought when they presented Jesus at the Temple.

The ‘three French hens’
are the three Persons of the holy Trinity or the three virtues: faith, hope, and love, though according to Ace Collins’ book “Stories of the Best Loved Christmas Songs”, they represent the expensive gifts of the Wise Men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The ‘four calling birds’
are the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; or their Gospels. Which makes sense because they are “calling” out the story.

‘Five gold rings’
are the first five books of the Bible, or the Pentateuch.

‘Six geese a-laying’
refer to the six days of the Creation.

‘Seven swans a-swimming’
are the seven sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

‘Eight maids a-milking’
are the eight Beatitudes.

‘Nine ladies dancing’
are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.

‘Ten lords a-leaping’
are the Ten Commandments.

‘Eleven pipers piping’
are the eleven faithful Apostles.

‘Twelve drummers drumming’
are the twelve doctrines in the Apostles’ Creed.

This interpretation is usually taught with a story, that British Catholics, suffering persecution in the 16th century, wrote the song with these hidden meanings. The song would have served as a pedagogical tool.

This particular version was taken from Wikipedia.org but there are several very close to it. Some dispute the whole idea, but as this story goes. I used the popular historical belief that the song was indeed coded for the faithful Catholics suffering persecution.


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*BEST OF DTB #42* The case for December 25th, 2 BC

Posted by John Benko - December 17th, 2013

(Editors note) Please check out the radio program “The case for 12/25″ (blogtalkradio) located on the right of the page. Just push play and follow along with John’s excellent show notes “The Case for December 25, 2 B.C.”

I have been asked by a number of people, rather, told by a number of people that the Catholic Church opened the doors to pagan influence beginning with the celebration of Christmas.

Some of them have developed wild imaginative developments showing some connection with the old Babylonian mystery religion with Christmas.

Sir Arthur Weigall, a noted Archeologist, said:

December 25th was really the date, not of the birth of Jesus, but of the sun-god Mithra. Horus, son of Isis, however, was in very early times identified with Ra, the Egyptian sun-god, and hence with Mithra…

Is he correct with this assessment? Anti-Catholics say the following:

“In the end the effect is the same: “Christmas” is the birth not of the “son of God” but of the sun. Indeed, there is much evidence—including many ancient monumental alignments—to demonstrate that this highly noticeable and cherished event of the winter solstice was celebrated beginning hundreds to thousands of years before the common era in numerous parts of the world. The observation was thus provably taken over by Christianity, not as biblical doctrine but as a later tradition in order to compete with the Pagan cults, a move we contend occurred with numerous other “Christian” motifs, including many that are in the New Testament”.

I know some Christians who have this mindset! John and I give what we believe strong evidence that Christ was born on Christmas Day. This is attested by what we want to show through science, the bible, Jewish tradition, and history. You can check out this radio program in the Archives and follow along with John’s Christmas story.

The following is a defense for the historic truth behind Christmas.  The opponents of Christmas coming from various points of view have a deep bias against the Catholic Faith.  They have a canned ready response to Christmas and we see this all the time from Atheists to Anti-Catholic Protestants.

Two things to consider that is happening almost simultaneously yet independent of each other that bares much into this discussion:

October 3 B.C. The Day of Atonement-Yom Kippur, the busiest Temple day of the Temple year (Luke 1:10) sometime late March early April. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah and announced the coming of John the Baptist.

September 3 B.C. The planet Jupiter was in conjunction with Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo-Leo the Lion. This would be the star the wise men would follow leading them to Bethlehem. They followed the star for about 16 months until the Star rested over Bethlehem for six days beginning on Dec 25, 2 B.C.

For many Catholics, it matters not the actual day, so they do not get into the arguments but are often stumped when pressed about the “pagan” roots of Christmas. 

The following research points to reliable, historical facts taken from scripture, history, tradition, and science.

“The Case for December 25, 2 B.C”.

Year after year, I hear the same arguments against the traditional date of December 25th as the date of the birth of Christ. Many of these arguments are based on incorrect interpretations and flawed logic. Some are downright silly.

The purpose of this article (and the accompanying show) is to refute the nonsensical claims that Christmas is derived from paganism. That case we will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Misconception #1 December 25th was only chosen because it coincided with a Roman pagan feast.

Though it is true that December 25th was a pagan feast under the Roman calendar, the same is true of just about every other day on the calendar. It is also true that the early church made December 25th a Holy day of obligation, at the council of nicea in 325 AD, as a strategic move to prevent Christians from attending that pagan feast, but that does not mean the date was chosen for that purpose.

The truth is that the celebration of December 25th as the Nativity of Our Lord can be traced back at least to 125 AD and the institution of the Midnight Christmas Mass by Bishop Telesphorus of Rome. Early Church Fathers Tertullion, Hippolytus, Cyril of Alexandria, and John Chrysostom all identified either December 25th or January 6th as Christ’s date of birth. Pope Julius in the 4th century examined census documents brought by Titus to Rome to calculate the birth date of Christ and he, also, arrived at the date December 25.

In fact, as far back as we can go, only two dates were generally excepted- December 25th and January 6th, with the majority adhering to the December date. This is why the early church established this space of time as the Christmas season.

In the 2nd century, a massacre in the catacombs on December 25th was recorded as having occurred on the date of the Nativity.

Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.”

Again, this does not prove that December 25th was in fact the birth date of Jesus Christ. however, it does prove- beyond a shadow of a doubt- that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, predates the edict of Milan by at least 200 years and can be placed within less than a century from the death of the Savior.
Misconception #2 There is nothing in Scripture that suggests late December as the birth of Christ.

This misconception springs from the assumption mentioned above that the date was chosen out of thin air or specifically to compete with (or worse yet, to incorporate) the pagan feasts. The fact is that the Biblical case for a late December Nativity is very strong.

The biggest misconception occurs with Luke chapter 1 and Zachariah’s service in the Temple.

5* In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, * of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9* according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.

Abijah was one of the 24 Priestly courses established under King David. You can read about it in 1 Chronicles. The rotation began with the start of the Jewish year. Abijah would have served in the 8th and 32nd weeks of the regular rotations, excepting the three major feast days. This filled the 51 weeks of the Jewish Calendar.

The biggest mistake many people make is that they go by the Priestly schedule set forth in 1 Chronicles 24:7-10 and apply it to Jesus time. The problem is that after the Temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av, B.C. 586 (Tish’a B’ Av), and rebuilt, this day of destruction became a fast day and was established as the new beginning day of the rotation.

We know that this new rotation was still in effect in 70 AD because the first course was serving on the 9th of Av of that year when- incredibly- the Temple was destroyed on the same day. Historical records prove this.

This means that Zechariah’s course would have been serving their second go around about October 2nd- 9th, commencing with the day of Atonement- Yom Kippor. As the busiest Temple day of the Temple year, it certainly would explain why the whole multitude was in the Temple (Luke 1:10).

The Scriptures tell us that Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary conceived ( Luke 1:26-35). That put us to Late March/ Early April. Add 9 months for her pregnancy and bang- Late December, Early January.

Misconception #3 The shepherds could not have been tending their sheep in the dead of winter. So Jesus must have been born in the spring or summer.

This argument really backfires on those who make it.

Southern Israel’s weather in late December is actually quite mild and would have have actually been the very best time for grazing sheep. This argues for the second course of Abijah in the Temple. If it had been the first course, it would have occurred in about February. Not only is this inadequate to explain the large multitudes, it places the sheep in the fields in late spring during the dry season when the fields would be barren.

The second- and even stronger- argument is the area of Israel that is cold and snowy- the hill country. If we are to believe that Jesus was born in spring or summer, then we must believe that Mary traveled to the hill country by herself, in the dead of winter, to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Misconception #4- Herod’s death Herod the Great died in the spring of 4 BC and this does not fit with a winter birth because the Scripture says that his death occurred soon after Jesus’ birth.

It was commonly believed that Herod the Great died following an eclipse in March of 4 BC. However, the Jewish writer Josephus doesn’t give the date per se. He simply mentions an eclipse and other events.

The late Father William Most, one of the preeminent Scripture scholars of our time has much to say on this.

The date of the birth of Christ hinges on just one thing, the statement of Josephus (Antiquities
17. 6-8) that Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the moon. Astronomers supply the dates for such eclipses around those years: None in 7 or 6 BC. In 5 BC, March 23: 29 days to Passover. Also in 5 BC, Sept 15: 7 months to Passover. In 4 BC, March 13: 29 days to Passover. In 3 and 2 BC, no eclipses. In 1 BC, January 10: 12 1/2 weeks to Passover.
Josephus also tells what events happened between the Eclipse and the Passover (cf. Martin pp. 85-87). They would occupy probably about 12 weeks. Martin also, pp. 99-101, shows that the eclipse of Sept 15, 5 BC could not fit with known data, especially the fact that Herod was seriously ill in Jericho (over 800 feet below sea level) when the eclipse happened – but Jericho was a furnace of heat at that time, Sept 15. Herod would not have stayed there when he could have had the much better climate of Jerusalem. But if the eclipse was in midwinter — Jan 10 — Herod would find Jericho comfortable.
So Herod died in 1 BC, and the birth of Christ cannot be put too much earlier than that.

For a Scripture scholar of Father Most’s stature to insist on the January, 1 BC date as the death of Herod lends great credence to this position.

Further, Father Most addresses 2 of the most common objections;

Objection 1: Josephus gives two indications of the length of the rule of Herod: A) He says Herod had a reign of 37 years from the time he was proclaimed king by the Romans and; B) 34 years after the death of Antigonus, which happened just after Herod took Jerusalem.
These would make the death of Herod come in 3 BC. But there was no eclipse of the moon in that year. Nearest one was March 13, 4 BC- – so scholars said they had stretch the statements of Josephus.
Reply to objection 1: Herod took Jerusalem late in 36 BC. Josephus says Herod’s siege of Jerusalem was during a sabbatical year, and 36 was a sabbatical year. Otherwise would need to be 7 years before or after 36. Also, all sabbatical years ended on Yom Kippur. Josephus said Herod’s capture of Jerusalem coincided with Yom Kippur. He and the Jews would remember it well, for it was an outrage to press a siege on Yom Kippur. Josephus said it was 27 years to the day that Pompey committed his abominations, which he did in 63 BC. This gives again 36 BC for Herod’s capture of Jerusalem. If we use the common accession method of counting years of rule, the date to start his 34 years is the first of Nisan in 35 BC. So Herod’s 34th year of rule would start with the 1st of Nisan in 2 BC. and end with first of Nisan in 1 BC. Now 34 years after 35 BC would give 1 BC for the death and end of the reign of Herod, his death, soon after the eclipse of Jan 10, 1 BC.
Objection 2: Herod’s three successors, Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip, seem to have their reigns starting in 4 BC.
Reply to objection 2: Herod had two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus by Mariamme, a Hasmonean. They were popular with the people, but Herod had designated Antipater his oldest son as his successor, who saw the 2 sons, Alexander and Aristobulus as a threat to him — so he made false charges, led Herod to have them executed. Antipater became co-ruler with Herod in 4 BC. But Antipater plotted to kill Herod, who found out, had him executed in 4 BC.
Archelaus and Antipas were sons of Herod by Malthace, a Samaritan. Philip was a son by Cleopatra of Jerusalem. Archelaus, Antipas and Philip counted their reigns as starting also in 4 BC. However, antedating reigns was common, as coins show, and Herod gave his kingdom to them before his death. It was tactical to antedate the reigns of these three to the death of the two “royal” sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, who were of Hasmonean descent, so that Archelaus, Antipas and Philip would seem successors to these two.
This reason was intensified by the fact that Herod had been demoted by Augustus in 4 BC. Herod had sent troops to Arabia to end activities of robbers and to collect a large debt owed him by the Arabian ruler. Syllaeus the Arabian misinformed Augustus about Herod’s actions–Herod really had permission from the governors of Syria for that. Augustus wrote to Herod: “Whereas of old he [Augustus] had used him as his friend, he should now use him as his subject.” This was politically devastating. He had to have Caesar’s representatives for Syria hear the case against Alexander and Aristobulus and the trial was held in Beirut. Later before executing Antipater, Varus governor of Syria heard the case. Also in 4 BC began the joint rule of Antipater with Herod.

Misconception #5 The Census. The Census could not have occurred in the winter and Quirinius was not Governor until 6 AD.

Once again, Father Most dashes this myth.

We know from an inscription from Paphlagonia in Asia Minor — cf. Lewis and Reinhold, Roman Civilization, Source Book II, pp. 34-35 — that in 3 BC all the people took an oath of allegiance to Augustus. The same oath is also reported by the Armenian historian Moses of Khorene, and by the later historian Orosius.
Augustus was to receive the great title of Pater Patriae on Feb. 5, 2 BC. So the actual governor of Palestine, probably Varus, would have had to go to Rome for the festivities, and since sailing on the Mediterranean stopped about Nov. 1, and did not resume until Spring, he must have gone in the early fall of 3 BC. But Quirinius was nearby, had just finished a successful war against the Homonadenses. So he was left as acting Governor. Luke does not use the noun governor, but the participle, “governing”.

Therefore, it is highly possible, even probable, that Quirinius would have been acting as Governor for the implementation of the census in late 2 BC.

The clincher

Now that these misconceptions have been dispelled, I would like to give the amazing evidence that I believe clinches it. The Star of Bethlehem.

Coinciding almost precisely with the time Zacharias would have been serving in the Temple, a mysterious star began rising over the middle east in what is now probably Iraq. This star was in fact the planet Jupiter. It would continue it’s rise for about 9 months.

What happens next is simply astounding. Again, Father Most;

In the evening of June 17, 2 BC, there was a spectacular astronomical event in the western sky. Venus moved eastward seemingly going to collide with Jupiter. They appeared as one star, not two, dominating the twilight of the western sky in the direction of Palestine. This conjunction had not happened for centuries, would not happen again for more centuries.
Jupiter was considered the Father, Venus the Mother. Then not many days later, Venus came within .36 degrees of Mercury. On Sept 11 came the New Moon, the Jewish New Year. This happened when Jupiter, the King planet was approaching Regulus, the King star. Further, there were three conjunctions of Jupiter and Regulus within the constellation of Leo, the lion which was considered the head of the Zodiac.
Now Gen 49:10 had foretold there would always be a ruler from Judah, whom Jacob called the lion, until the time of the Messiah. Leo was dominated by the star Regulus, which astronomers called the King Star. The Magi, being astronomers and astrologers, would surely read these signs. (The three conjunctions with Regulus were Aug 12, 3 BC; Feb. 17, 2 BC, and May 8/9 2BC). In Hebrew Jupiter was called sedeq, righteous, a term specially pertaining to the Messiah.
On Sept 11, Jupiter was close in the constellation of Virgo, the virgin. On Sept 3 of 3 BC Jupiter was in conjunction with Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo–Leo the Lion, which was associated with Kings, and the Lion of Judah, as foretold by the dying Jacob in Egypt in Genesis 49. 10.
Also, on Dec. 25 of 2 BC, Jupiter stopped for 6 days over Bethlehem.

The only thing that could add to this would be a neon sign saying Jesus Christ, born here December 25.

The June convergence of Jupiter and Saturn would have been so spectacular as to dwarf anything before or since. It also would have coincided with the birth of John the Baptist. The Magi would certainly have seen this as the sign and began their journey which would have led them to Jerusalem. As they arrive in Jerusalem and inquire about the child, Herod asks them when they first saw the star at it’s rising. This would have been about 15 months. It is not a stretch to say that Herod rounded this figure off to 2 years to determine which children to slaughter.

The star then went before the Magi and rested over Jerusalem on December 25th. It was about a 6-12 day journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. This does not take us beyond January 6th- the traditional day of the visit of the Magi.

It is less than a week to the eclipse that marks God’s judgment on the life of Herod for his abominable crimes.

After this, anyone who says there is no case for December 25th just isn’t being honest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsQbdeGym_k&NR=1&feature=fvwp


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The Catholic Defender: History of the Candy Cane

Posted by John Benko - December 17th, 2013

Christmas is about the birth of Christ pure and simple.

Over the years traditions have developed to help bring joy to the season of Christmas bringing many sub-traditions that help us focus on the reason for the season.

It is centered around family, faith, and love. It is about traditions that help people identify to the birth of Christ.

As deepertruth looks at the season of Christmas, I thought it was interesting to look at the history of the candy cane.

I remember growing up putting candy canes on the Christmas tree.  They were usually found in the stockings around the fireplace.  

The following is written by Mary Bellis of about.com

The origin of the candy cane goes back over 350 years, when candy-makers both professional and amateur were making hard sugar sticks. The original candy was straight and completely white in color.

Birth of the Candy Cane

Around the seventeenth century, European-Christians began to adopt the use of Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations. They made special decorations for their trees from foods like cookies and sugar-stick candy. 

The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar-sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s staff. The all-white candy canes were given out to children during the long-winded nativity services.

The clergymen’s custom of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America. The canes were still white, but sometimes the candy-makers would add sugar-roses to decorate the canes further.
The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when a German immigrant called August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.

The Stripes

About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes. 

Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then became the traditional favorites.

Sweet Secrets of the Candy Cane

There are many other legends and beliefs surrounding the humble candy cane. Many of them depict the candy cane as a secret symbol for Christianity used during the times when Christian were living under more oppressive circumstances. 

It was said that the cane was shaped like a “J” for Jesus. The red-and-white stripes represented Christ’s blood and purity. The three red stripes symbolized the Holy Trinity. The hardness of the candy represented the Church’s foundation on solid rock and the peppermint flavor represented the use of hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament.”

Gregory Keller

A Catholic priest called Gregory Keller invented a machine to automate candy cane production during the 1950′s.


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The Catholic Defender: Jeremiah 29:5

Posted by John Benko - December 11th, 2013

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens, and eat their fruits.” Jeremiah 29:4-5

This Prophet Jeremiah sent a letter from Jerusalem to the remaining elders who were exiled to Babylon.

This letter was addressed to the priests, the prophets and all the captives who were exiled by King Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah writes, “This was after King Jeconiah and the Queen Mother, the courtiers, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans and the skilled workmen had left Jerusalem.  Delivered in Babylon by Elasah, son of Shaphan, and by Germariah, son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah, king of Judah, sent to the King of Babylon” Jeremiah 29:1-3

Notice that the King of Judah, King Jeconiah is listed first and then the Queen Mother! The King reigned for only three months but he did what was not pleasing before the Lord.  Most of the Kings of Israel were not faithful which is why they were exiled to Babylon.

What is it that God was wanting to say to the People of God living in exile? To “build houses to dwell in, plant gardens, and eat their fruits.  Take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters.  There you must increase in number, not decrease.  Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare depends your own.”

Jeremiah 29:16 has this to say, “Thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on David’s throne, and all the people who remain in this city, your brethren who did not go with you into exile; thus says the Lord of hosts: I am sending against them sword, famine and pestilence.  I will make them like rotten figs, too bad to be eaten.  I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, astonishment, ridicule, and reproach to all the nations among which I will banish them.  For they did cot listen to my words, says the Lord, though I kept sending them my servants the prophets, only to have them go unheeded, says the Lord.”

When we see the conditions the people of God was having to deal with, this provides us today hope that no matter how difficult things are, God is with us.

Isaiah 51:14 states, “The oppressed shall soon be released; they shall not die and go down into the pit, nor shall they want for bread.”

Jesus is the one whom liberates his people through a new and everlasting Covenant.  Isaiah 61:1-3 states, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of morning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.  They will be called oaks of justice, planted by the Lord to show his glory.”

This is a great message for Advent and Christmas because Jesus is the Bread of life.  He is the Savior of the world.  For the exiles Jesus gives the foundation that we stand.  He is our Rock, giving us the Church to set the captives free.

We are living today as exiles, we are pilgrims living in a strange land.  So, as God’s people, the Catholic Church, let us build our houses and plant our crops, and eat the produce of the land.  We are not a people who believe in the “gospel” of wealth such as some of our Protestant friends believe, but to be responsible stewards of the earth.

Let us live out our faith in the face of war, famine, and pestilence being a sign for others in troubled times.  Where King Jeconiah was short lived and displeasing to the Lord, Our Lord Jesus Christ is without end and His Queen Mother is our spiritual Mother as well.  What a joy to remember as exiles living in a strange land, to know that the Kingdom of God is in our midst, in every Catholic Church around the world, in the hearts of all the faithful. 

Advent and Christmas reminds us of our ultimate future.  God bless you all.


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*BEST OF DTB #41* The Catholic Defender: Happy Hanukkah/Christmas

Posted by John Benko - November 27th, 2013

1 Maccabees 4:56-59 says, “For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priest’s chambers and furnished them with doors. There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.

St. John refers to the “Feast of Dedication” stating, “The feast of the Dedication” was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter”.

This celebration would be much like modern day Thanksgiving in the United States as the Jewish people celebrates the re-dedication of the altar and reconstruction of the temple in 164 B.C.

The Gentiles (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) desecrated the temple as prophesied by Daniel 8:13-14 which says: “I heard a holy one speaking, and another said to whichever one it was that spoke, ‘How long shall the events of this vision last concerning the daily sacrifice, the desolating sin which is placed there, the sanctuary, and the trampled host’? He answered him, ‘For two thousand three hundred 
evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be purified”.

Antiochus IV profaned the temple in Jerusalem by placing a statue of the Greek god Zeus Olympias in the Sanctuary.

After three years of resistance, the Jews were able to finally win as Daniel predicted.

With Jerusalem finally back into the hands of the Jews, Judah Maccabees led his soldiers into the holy Temple finding the place totally decimated, things were stolen, religious objects were found broken to include a golden menorah.

Judas Maccabees appointed men to build a new altar with uncut stones in accordance of the law.

They repaired the sanctuary and purified the surrounding area in and outside the temple.

“They reconsecrated the temple with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success” (1 Maccabees 4:54-55).

They repaired and purified the temple, and after completing the task they decided to have a dedication ceremony and light the great lamp (1 Maccabees 4:49-50).

What is omitted from the biblical text is that the men looked everywhere for oil, but found only a small flask that contained enough oil to produce light for a day.

Miraculously, this oil lasted for eight days, giving them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit.

This year the Jewish celebration Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication (Josephus Flavius refereed this as the festival of lights) begins on December 2 and runs through 10 December.

Jesus is the light of the world and his light always burns for love of us. Jesus cleansed the temple of the “marketplace” it had become. The people asked Jesus, “What sign can you show us for doing this” Jesus responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews did not understand that Jesus was refering to himself. Matthew 26:61 speaking at the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin says, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it”.

Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem stating, “You see all these things, do you not? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down… When you see the desolating abomination spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, a person on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house, a person in the field must not return to get his cloak. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days. Pray that your flight not be in winter or on the Sabbath, for at that time there will be great tribulation” (Matthew 24).

Jesus accurately predicts the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. by the Roman General Titus. This was the result of the Roman/Jewish war of 67-70 A.D. Many Jews were crucified, it would have resembled a huge forest. The Church had already left Jerusalem by this time and actually set up it’s headquarters in Rome!

Jesus is the light of the world. Revelation 1:20 Jesus says, “This is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches”.

As our Jewish Brothers celebrate the miracle of the menorah this December, let us remember that Christ is the light and he radiates in his Church the seven lampstands. The seven angels of the seven churches seems to be the pastor of each church.

Revelation 2:7 says, “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God”.

This could be a Eucharistic promise as Jesus is the tree of life. The garden of God might be a reference to the Church. The Catholic Church is the Kingdom of God on earth.

This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas and Jesus first coming to the world through a humble virgin Mother, we look for his Second Coming when he returns to judge the living and the dead. May he find us with our flask of oil full and ready.


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The Catholic Defender: A Quick Look At Advent

Posted by John Benko - November 27th, 2013

It is interesting that Advent begins the Church year reminding us the need to be ever vigilant.

From The Apostolic age, the Apostles encouraged the Church to follow their example.

People believed that Our Lord was returning very soon and so the expectation was high.

St Paul teaches us to be ever vigilant writing, “Concerning times and seasons, brothers, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, ‘Peace and security’, then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape”.

St. Paul says, “For you yourselves know very well…” indicating that he had already been preparing the people to be steadfast. This is exactly what the Church continues to do.

St. Paul continues, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).

Because of the many who proclaimed teachings contrary to the Apostles, St. Paul writes, “We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit’, or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand”.

From the beginning there were those who took things out of context. People still do. Other voices that proclaim teachings that are not recognized by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church take the scriptures promoting new gospels.

The doctrine of the “Rapture” comes to mind, placing dates to the Lords Second Coming also is a deception.

The Apostles instructs us to be ever vigilant, alert, and awake. St. Peter writes, “Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2 Peter 3:14).

This has been the mindset of the Church forever. The actual practice of Advent as part of a church calender was a development. Pope Telephorus (125) began developing such a calender but it appears that the Catholic Church instituted the Season of Advent in 567 through the Council of Tours.

This Council also proclaimed the twelve days of Christmas (25 December) to Epiphany (manifestation) (6 January) a sacred, festive season.

Following the Apostolic Tradition, the Church universal proclaims our vigilance of the Second Coming of Christ. The Scriptual readings will reflect this during Advent.

This is a rich season intending to bring in a heightened Christmas celebration. To keep Christ the center of Christmas.


The History of the Advent Wreath
FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

(A Baptist friend asked me about the Advent wreath — its history, meaning, etc..)

I think I gave her a pretty good answer. Perhaps you could provide a little more information.

From www.catholiceducation.org

The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

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By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.

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In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.

Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.