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Tag: religious traditions

Which saints do we honor on All Saints Day? It depends on what cultural tradition we're talking about.

Which saints do we honor today?

Blessings on All Saints Day

The words "All Saints Day" and "Los Días de los Muertos" float above a fabric pattern of sugar sculls and circles of colorful dots.

This is one of those “universal” days celebrated in several cultural traditions. But exactly which saints are we venerating on this day? Who are they, and where did they come from? That depends on which tradition you mean. 

The ever-flexible early Christian Church adopted Celtic Samhain and reframed it in a culturally Christian way. Robust traditions in Poland and other Slavic countries point to pre-Christian roots as well. Missionary priests rediscovered it in their Mesoamerican and Filipino converts a few centuries later

Thus, neopagans todaytraditional Christians, and followers of Aztec, Maya, and other native/First Nations traditions of North America all find themselves in a similar place at this time of year, venerating (or at least remembering) some group of the dead. 

So, which saints are which? 

That’s a good question. The answer has changed over time. As early as the fourth century, Christians at Antioch gathered to honor those who had been martyred. In the seventh century, church leaders set the Day of the Dead on May 13thAt that point, “saint” apparently meant “martyr.”

The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th-Century manuscript now at Trinity College Dublin, was inscribed and illustrated by Matthew Paris.
The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th-Century manuscript now at Trinity College Dublin, was inscribed and illustrated by Matthew Paris

Later the definition of All Saints was broadened to all venerated saints. This included a great many “baptized” local gods and goddesses. Also , the observation moved to the fall season.

While not precisely the midpoint between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it’s within a week of it. Since the earliest pre-Christian observances lasted over several days, it might be called a “season.” 

Converts from many traditions came under the umbrella of Christianity. The early break between the Eastern and Roman churches, and later the Reformation (Might note that Reformation Day is October 31) divided Christians into yet more subgroups and denominations. Each developed its own focus. 

Protestants, who don’t venerate capital-S Saints with the same understandings as Roman Catholic traditions, often speak “the saints” in terms of “the Church Triumphant.” By this they mean all Christians who have died

But no matter which saints you understand it to mean, I hope you have a blessed day.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to OneQuirkyMoose on Etsy, for the “Day of the Dead” fabric pattern that forms the background of my “All Saints Day” image. The photo of The Martyrdom of St. Alban by Matthew Paris, is courtesy of Wikipedia.

Eid-al-Adha Mubarak, hope-faith-and-joy.

Hope faith and joy

This evening begins the holy festival of Eid-al-Adha for our Muslim friends. From what I’ve been able to learn, an appropriate greeting is “May the divine blessings of Allah bring you hope, faith, and joy on Eid al-Adha and forever.”

This design image shows a beautiful repeating design in blues and greens, and the words "Eid-al-Adha Mubarak" to wish you greater hope, faith, and joy.

I’m trying to stay current with holiday greetings for major religions throughout this year, instead of only thinking about holidays in December! This festival changes dates, based on a lunar calendar, but if I got this right, it runs from this evening through Wednesday evening. We all could benefit from greater hope, faith, and joy, in the spirit of this festival!

I remain convinced that we must seek stronger bonds of understanding across cultural differences, so that we may build bridges (PLEASE, not walls!) between ourselves and our neighbors. Eid Mubarak, my friends.

IMAGE CREDIT: many thanks to Religion World, for this beautiful design.

Let there be light!

This morning . . . 

The first Sunday of Advent is when we light the “Hope” candle. Image by Erika Sanborne.

This evening . . . 

The first evening of Hanukkah, in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Photo by Sebi Berens, taken 12/24/2016.

Whatever your heritage, may your winter nights be filled with the light of love.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Rachael A. Keefe, whose “Bidding Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent – Hope” offers a lovely little prayer litany for those who might like one for the occasion, for the “Hope” Advent image by Erika Sanborne; and to Jewish News Syndicate and photographer Sebi Berens, for the First Night of Hanukkah photo.

For Religious Freedom

Day One: Grateful for Religious Freedom

On many calendars, this is the first day of the week, so I figure this is a good place to start my Seven Days of Gratitude project for the week of the US Thanksgiving holiday. Throughout my life, gratitude and thankfulness have repeatedly come up as important themes. I welcome this holiday each year as an opportunity to explore them once again.

My daughter recently started a “Gratitude Journal,” a daily recording of at least one thing each day for which she is thankful. Thinking about her project has given me my theme. As a practicing Christian, it is my belief that I have myriad blessings each day to celebrate with joy and thanksgiving to my God.

Massive among of those blessings, for me, it the United States Bill of Rights guarantee that I may practice my religious faith freely, without fear of persecution. It should be a source of great joy to everyone in the USA that this not only is guaranteed to me, but to everyone in my country, whatever tradition of faith–or however much absence of religious expression–they cherish.

Ironically, I think this is the single most important reason why so many people in the United States still say they believe in God (89%, according to a 2016 Gallup Poll. Compare that to most other industrialized nations, many of which have long histories of state religions). It seems to me that if you are free to believe in the God of your innermost spiritual being, you are more able to find reasons to believe in any God at all.

Or not. And that won’t get you thrown in prison either, thank . . . the Bill of Rights.

Our strength, yet again, lies in our diversity. That’s why I shudder when I hear people say “America is a Christian nation!” Many of the founders may indeed have been some variety of Christian (pretty broadly defined, though: consider how many were Deists, or how Thomas Jefferson felt free to create his own “good parts” version of the New Testament), but asserting any specific religion as “the” American religion would have been “fighting words” to them.

And rightly so. I believe that all of us in the United States should be deeply thankful for our guarantee of religious freedomand I believe that we must remember and defend it, any time we see the rights of any religious community under attack. Bad as that is, though, I think it’s even worse when the values of any particular religion are imposed upon others, especially by people acting in the name of some level of government. Any advocacy for either abuse should be “fighting words” for all true Americans.

IMAGES: The “Seven Days of Gratitude” design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You’d like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. The illustrated quote from Sir Patrick Stewart is courtesy of We F**king Love Atheism. Many thanks!

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