Tag Archives: church calendar

Observations on Good Friday

Observed this week #1: Overcrowding at the cheese factory outlet store at the end of my street. The last three mornings when I left for work there was a line-up to get into the place, down the steps and onto the sidewalk. Who is buying all this cheese for Easter weekend? Where does it fit into the menu?

Observed this week #2: Rabbit in the meat department at the grocery store. Someone is eating the Easter bunny. It isn’t me, though the last time I ate rabbit I liked it.

Observed this week #3: Sometimes it seems like we get stuck in Good Friday and forget to move toward Easter Sunday. Friday has all this interesting dramatic visual imagery and Sunday has a mysteriously empty tomb. Do we get stuck on the things we can see and forget to engage the unseen as well?

We’re waiting, waiting in the darkness, waiting for the light.

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Holy Week

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. To all my friends who are Anglican priests, I hope your week goes smoothly and the great long gospel readings do not wear you out too much. Just think, you get to say the A-word after the vigil next Saturday!

I work in a bookshop that serves a theological school, and that school has its final week of classes this coming week. That means exams are the week after Easter. The cycle of the academic year means I’m usually exhausted by Easter weekend. The academic cycle doesn’t make the spiritual focus of Lent any easier either. I wonder about that and how to adjust things so I don’t end up a crisp piece of toast ready to sleep for a week straight by this time of year. I’m pretty sure that Lent and slowing things down to be spiritually focussed should help with that. So far I haven’t figured that one out very well.

Maybe, on the other hand, this whole tired thing is appropriate for Holy Week. It is an emotionally draining week with the Hosannas of Sunday turning into the Crucifys of Friday. The silence of the vigil on Saturday is broken by the excitement of the good news and feast-day of Sunday. The very thought is exhausting. So maybe it is a good spiritual thing, this tiredness. Maybe. But I’m not sure.

 

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Lent and Friends

One should never give up friends for lent.

Possibly this should be rephrased: Spending time with friends can be a positive Lenten discipline. Friends can point us to God in ways that solitary disciplines cannot. Friends remind us of the grace and mercy of God. Friends are evidence of things unseen. They remind us of the ways faith really works in the world every day.

I’ve said before that one cannot be a Christian alone. Christianity is a faith of individuals who are called to live in community. There are a number of ways of describing this community of faith with “the body of Christ” and “the communion of saints” being two very common phrases. “The body of Christ” is a biblical phrase — look in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 for more about the body of Christ. The communion of saints is a phrase from the apostles’ creed. Both the body of Christ and the communion of saints extend through space and time. This large community of faith does not only include people we count as friends, but also people we don’t like much. And while I think spending time with friends can be a positive Lenten discipline, it seems that spending quality, life-giving time with any member of the body of Christ can be a positive Lenten discipline. We need each other. Community is not optional.

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Penitential Psalms 6: Psalm 130

Psalm 130 is a song of ascent, one of a cluster found in Psalms 120-134. Ascent songs are festival songs, songs for pilgrims to sing on the way to the Temple in Jerusalem. This cluster of Psalms are mostly about worship and celebration, but it does make sense for a penitential Psalm to be in the group. Why? Because people going up to celebrate a festival at the Temple would probably need to confess their sins in order to celebrate before the Lord. Confession restores good relations with God for a proper celebration. This is a helpful reminder during Lent. We are heading toward a huge celebration at Easter, the biggest celebration of the Christian year. Before this great feast, we have a season of repentance. We acknowledge our sins. We do what is required on our end to stay in a proper relationship with God, realizing that Easter celebrates what God in Christ did to reconcile us to God.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk theology with people learning about baptism and leadership. These conversations have reminded me what fun it is to teach, particularly motivated students, eager to learn, eager to grow in faith. It is a happy reminder.

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Zed

is the very last letter of the English Alphabet. As related to books I read, or how I choose books, Z (pronounced “Zed”) is for Zany

Zany. Crazy. Funny. Edgy. I like all these things in books. I tend to like the quieter sort of Zaniness, the kind that comes out in edgy wit or in crazy stunts that take brains to plan and pull off, not the kind that runs around screaming mindlessly just to appear fun and crazy. I like the Starbuck sort of character (Battlestar Galactica people, get on board). That’s my idea of a good zany character. Gaius Baltar (still BSG), he’s just weird. He’s not even a good geek. Ick. But I’m supposed to talk about reading here, not (excellent) TV shows. Zany means Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It means books by Adrian Plass. It means the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. What? You’ve not heard of Thursday Next? Go now to the library, do not pass Go, collect The Eyre Affair, and meet Thursday Next. You’ll be pleased to know that the series gets better and better as it goes along. I think I liked First Among Sequels the best. I’d have to revisit them to make sure though.

On a completely different note, Lent starts today. I hope you had all your pancakes and goodies last night, because Lent is a fasting and penitential season. Some of you may be wearing ashes as you read. I’m not giving up blogging for Lent, but I’m going to blog about Lent and my understanding of the 40 days before Easter. I learn about Lent mostly from reading theology and the Bible, so books will still be included. Hopefully I’ll learn more about Lent and the spiritual disciplines in the next 40 days. Sundays are non-fast days during Lent. If I’ve got something to say about current reading or something pops up that needs an update, I’ll post non-Lent things on the occasional Sunday.

For now, from the Canadian Book of Common Prayer, a prayer from the penitential service on Ash Wednesday:

Almighty and everlasting God, who forgavest the people of Nineveh when they repented in sackcloth and ashes: Mercifully grant that we, truly repenting of our sins, may obtain of thee perfect pardon and release; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Happy New Year or 7th Day of Christmas

In the church calendar this used to be known as the feast day of the Circumcision of Our Lord. Usually the circumcision bit now gets ignored (people are squeamish) and the day is celebrated as the Baptism of Our Lord. I still think it would be more accurate to think about Jesus’s circumcision than his baptism today. Ah well.

In other news, the Rose Bowl Parade and the football game, along with many other US College Bowl games will happen tomorrow, not today, in deference to people being at church on Sunday. True story. Happy parades and football day — tomorrow. It’ll be a nice brain-free way to wrap up the holidaze.

I’ve been promising an announcement of the Best Book I Read in 2011 category. Others have already published their picks. It is hard to pick just one books, so I won’t. I’m in good company as only a few of the people who published a pick chose only one book. I’ll be looking over my books read in 2011 list in the next few days as I update my database, a task that usually begins my year. As I go through the list I’ll mention other books of note. But for now (drumroll) my most memorable read of 2011 is Room by Emma Donoghue.

Why Room? A couple of reasons. First, 2011 will always be an important year for me personally as I met 1Mom at the beginning of the year. Room was the first book (of many) she passed on to me to read. Second, this is a really really really good book. How do I know? A. Donoghue took a major risk in making her point-of-view character a small child, but she fully pulls this off. B. There are few books that pull me in entirely so that I lose track of time anymore. This is sad, but the bright side to this fact is that there are some books that so have the loss-of-time effect. When it happens, I know I’m reading a great book. C. Though I don’t usually judge a book by how it does on the bestseller list, Room has done very well — it is on both the hardcover and paperback top-selling books of 2011 lists. D. At one point the author used a TV talking head to comment on the story she was telling. I found this quite brilliant.

Obviously there are loads of reasons Room was a memorable read for me. If I remember a book, if it sticks with me, then I think the book is a good one. Room is the book that stuck to me like glue for 2011. Check it out if you haven’t already. Let me know what you think.

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Days/Daze of Christmas: Day One

Previously I noted my dismay that people were counting down the 12 days of Christmas as though they were before Christmas, not after Christmas. Please note that 12th night is the 5th January, that is Epiphany Eve. This means we are now in the 12 days of Christmas-tide. There is some debate about whether the twelfth day of Christmas follows the twelfth night and co-incides with Epiphany, or whether the first day of Christmas is Christmas Day, and thus the 12th day is the 5th January. Because I didn’t post yesterday, I declare that in this blog, this year, we begin the day count today, and days change over at sundown.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the business of the first day of Christmas. For the next twelve days I’m going to include a link to a rendition of a version of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” In order to remind ourselves of the original words, we begin with some puppets and a person singing the lyrics that include “… and a partridge in a pear tree.”

Muppets 12 Days

On the First Day of Christmas I’d also like to note that I got the following books for Christmas:

1. Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader Edited by Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims. Hot off the press, published this fall by Westminster John Knox Press.

2. The Hunter by Richard Stark, adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke. A graphic novel, given to me as an introduction to graphic novels by YoungestBrother (YBro).

3. Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. Omnipresent on this year’s (Canadian and Commonwealth) book award shortlists. Won the Giller. From RestorationArchitectBrother (RABro).

4. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Also omnipresent on this year’s (Canadian and Commonwealth) book awards shortlists. Won the Governor General’s (G.G.) Award & Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. From RABro.

5. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. New! Eugenides novel much reviewed and hallooed this fall. From RABro.

Last, but certainly not least, and sure to rise to the top of my pile,

6. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. Wahoo!! P.D. James does Austen fanfic! Can’t wait. Am only waiting as am in the middle of re-reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson and it is really really good. DCTP is next. Also from RABro, but I asked for it.

Pretty good pile. OK, off to eat gingerbread cookies and read.

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Sunday List: End of Year Round-Ups

Lots of Best of 2011 lists appeared this week in time for Christmas shopping. Its exciting that Advent 1 comes right after American Thanksgiving, so I don’t feel like I’m totally out of synch by insisting that celebrations be muted until Advent begins. It’s Advent!

Globe and Mail 100

Publisher’s Weekly best of 2011

Library Journal best of 2011

and the Guardian best of 2011

And a hymn for the first Sunday in Advent:

Lo He Comes

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Sunday Lists: End of Year (it begins) and Famous Authors

It is time for the Sunday lists. I’ve got two for your listing pleasure this week.

A. The Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction of 2011 list — it is that time of year when all and sundry publish lists of the Year’s Best Books. Since this is a blog about back list books, these are mostly my future reading. I have read one book from the Kirkus Reviews 2011 list — Reamde by Neal Stephenson. I got on the library wait list early and got it almost as soon as it was released. I don’t usually do that, but hey, Stephenson takes his time between books and this one looked interesting.

B. 50 Famous Writers Name Their Favourite Book list. I’m not sure about the provenance of this list given the hosting site, but it is an interesting list. Possibly take it with a grain of salt or two, but maybe some of these are worth checking out.

Happy Sunday reading on Christ the King Sunday.

(This means Advent begins next week!)

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