Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

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Christmas 2013

December 25, 2013

godofLove

I’m allowed to have a couple of traditions after plugging away for almost 5 years here. Repeating Fr. Barron’s retelling of the nativity in Luke is one of them and this Christmas prayer is another.

Listen to Fr. Barron retell Luke’s story:

And steal this Christmas prayer and use it sometime Christmas Day:

God of Love, Father of All,
the darkness that covered the earth
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make us a people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word,
that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Merry Christmas.

dj

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Haddon Sundblom And The Real Father Christmas; James Thurber

December 24, 2013

Originally posted on Paying Attention To The Sky:

Haddon Sundblom was the artist commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company in 1931 to create a ‘wholesome’ version of Father Christmas, and it’s his jolly image that any kid asked today to draw Santa Claus would approximate, giving rise to the popular theory that ‘Coca-Cola invented Christmas’.

Haddon Sundblom was the artist commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company in 1931 to create a ‘wholesome’ version of Father Christmas, and it’s his jolly image that any kid asked today to draw Santa Claus would approximate, giving rise to the popular theory that ‘Coca-Cola invented Christmas’.

St. Nicholas rescued sailors, saved women from brothels, and was patron saint to pawnbrokers. Ms. Allen is the author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus.”

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Haddon Sundblom
It’s a question many children wonder at this time of year: just how old is Santa Claus?

The answer of course depends on which version of him you’re talking about. For most people today there is only one: the round-bellied, rosy-cheeked man in red who announces himself on our televisions every November with a convoy of Coca-Cola lorries and the hushed promise that ‘Holidays are comin’. That Santa, you can tell any…

View original 1,604 more words

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Our Christmas Posts 2012

December 25, 2012

godofLove

I’m allowed to have a couple of traditions after plugging away for almost 4 years here. Repeating Fr. Barron’s retelling of the nativity in Luke is one of them and this Christmas prayer is another.

Listen to Fr. Barron retell Luke’s story:

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2009/12/25/christmas-with-fr-robert-barron/

And steal this Christmas prayer and use it sometime Christmas Day:

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2010/12/25/god-of-love-father-of-all/

Merry Christmas 2013!

dj

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How Old is Santa Claus?

December 24, 2012

Haddon Sundblom was the artist commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company in 1931 to create a ‘wholesome’ version of Father Christmas, and it’s his jolly image that any kid asked today to draw Santa Claus would approximate, giving rise to the popular theory that ‘Coca-Cola invented Christmas’.

Haddon Sundblom was the artist commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company in 1931 to create a ‘wholesome’ version of Father Christmas, and it’s his jolly image that any kid asked today to draw Santa Claus would approximate, giving rise to the popular theory that ‘Coca-Cola invented Christmas’.

St. Nicholas rescued sailors, saved women from brothels, and was patron saint to pawnbrokers. Ms. Allen is the author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus.”

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Haddon Sundblom
It’s a question many children wonder at this time of year: just how old is Santa Claus?

The answer of course depends on which version of him you’re talking about. For most people today there is only one: the round-bellied, rosy-cheeked man in red who announces himself on our televisions every November with a convoy of Coca-Cola lorries and the hushed promise that ‘Holidays are comin’. That Santa, you can tell any inquisitive youngsters, is 80 years old this winter.

Haddon Sundblom was the artist commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company in 1931 to create a ‘wholesome’ version of Father Christmas, and it’s his jolly image that any kid asked today to draw Santa Claus would approximate, giving rise to the popular theory that ‘Coca-Cola invented Christmas’.

In fact, it wasn’t the first time they’d latched on to the legend of St. Nick to sell more soft drinks. Coca-Cola had been refining the idea since the 1920s when their first Santa ad featured a stern-faced man who more closely resembled Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast’s Union-supporting elf-Santa that first appear in Harper’s Weekly in 1862.

But by the ’30s, the penny had dropped — if Santa Claus looked like the very incarnation of happiness, then by association, a bottle of Coke would start to seem like the incarnation of happiness too.

Sundblom set to work, drawing inspiration from the real inventor of modern Christmas, poet Clement Clark Moore, whose 1822 poem A Visit From St. Nicholas – better known today as The Night Before Christmas – described Nick thus:

His eyes  –  how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow

Soon, arguably the most famous advertising icon in history was born as Michigan-born Sundblom spent the next 35 years painting the Father Christmas Coca-Cola still uses to this day. While earlier artists were first to give Santa a face, or even paint him as cheery, Sundblom was the first to give the world a consistent version of the man in the sleigh.

As Joanna Berry, Lecturer in Marketing at Newcastle University Business School, explains: “Whilst Sundblom didn’t invent Santa as the jolly, white haired rotund old man we all now expect, he certainly did more than anyone to imprint that image onto our minds in relation to Coca-Cola in one of the most enduring brand images ever to have been created.”

Sundblom had his racier side.

Sundblom had his racier side.

Despite this wholesome association, Sundblom had his racier side. He regularly took breaks from Santa Claus to paint pin-ups and glamour pieces for calendars, including his final assignment, a painting for the cover of Playboy’s 1972 Christmas issue. But to label him a one-character painter or simply a purveyor of saucy caricatures would, according to Berry, be doing him a disservice.

“Roger T. Reed wrote that ‘More than any artist including Norman Rockwell, Sundblom defined the American Dream in pictures, proved by his work for virtually the entire Fortune 500′. I think it’s important to remember that ‘Sunny’ was about a lot more than Santa.

“His ensuring legacy includes not only his body of work but also the many artists who went through his studio and came out influenced by his very clear style – including Howard Terpning, Gil Elvgren, Earl Blossom and Morgan Kane.”

Nevertheless for most of us, Sundblom will always be remembered for the modern day St Nick.

Seeking to create an advertising program that links Coca-Cola with Christmas, artist Haddon Sundblom created his first illustration showing Santa Claus pausing for a Coke. For the next three decades, from 1931 to 1964, Sundblom paints images of Santa that help to create the modern interpretation of St Nick.
Sam Parker in the Huffington Post

The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus
Nearly everyone knows that Santa Claus — the obese, old gent who squeezes himself down the chimney every Christmas Eve — is the American alter ego of St. Nicholas. Slimmer and less overtly jolly, St. Nicholas roams about Western Europe showering children with presents on his traditional feast day of Dec. 6. In the Netherlands and parts of Germany, children expect a visit from a white-bearded, ecclesiastically garbed “Sinterklaas” (his Dutch name), who decides whether they have been naughty or nice before handing out treats from his sack.

Dutch and German immigrants brought St. Nicholas to America in the early 19th century, and he began a process of assimilation, trading in his bishop’s miter and crosier for a fur-trimmed red suit and cap. The Santa we now know was the creation of poet Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), the author of “The Night Before Christmas”; cartoonist Thomas Nast; illustrators like N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell; and the magazine ads for painted by Sundblom starting in 1931, in which Santa took a break from the arduousness of setting up junior’s electric train by pausing to have a coke.

In “The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus,” Adam English, a religion professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, doesn’t spend much time exploring the various practices and traditions associated with this festive figure. Rather, Mr. English is in search of the man himself. He notes that the real St. Nicholas — if he even existed — is obscured not only by the trappings of Santa Claus but by the layers of medieval folklore that had grown up around him in earlier centuries. In one legend, Nicholas miraculously brings back to life three boys whom an evil innkeeper has murdered, chopped into pieces and thrown into a pickle barrel — hence Nicholas became the patron saint of children.

Another favorite story, first told by the eighth-century monk Michael the Archimandrite, concerned a once-wealthy man who lost his fortune and decided to sell his three daughters into prostitution because he couldn’t provide dowries. Nicholas, whose own parents had left him a large inheritance, sneaked up to the man’s house in the dead of night and threw three bags of gold through the window, enabling the girls to find respectable husbands. He thus became the patron saint of spinsters and of pawnbrokers (for whom he became a “guarantor of payment”); the three balls on pawnshop signs are stylized versions of Nicholas’s bags of gold.

“In this endearing and enduring story, we see all the raw materials for the magical Santa Claus tale,” Mr. English writes, “a mysterious night visitor who silently enters the home to bestow wonderful gifts to children.” Mr. English notes that Nicholas gives from his own pocket, secretly, and with a purpose of encouraging moral behavior.

Nicholas of Myra is believed to have been born around 270 A.D. and died in 343. Unlike other church fathers, he left no writings, and the first mention of him dates from only the sixth century. In 325 he supposedly attended the Council of Nicaea, the gathering of churchmen that affirmed the divinity of Christ. There, according to legend, Nicholas was briefly imprisoned for slugging the heretic Arius in a fit of righteous rage. But the earliest lists of attendees don’t mention a “Nicholas,” and many historians of Christianity have concluded the saint never existed.

Mr. English nonetheless builds a convincing case that there really was a St. Nicholas. Around the middle of the fourth century, he points out, the name “Nicholas” (a combination of the Greek words for “victory” and “people”), hitherto virtually unknown in public records and ledgers and on tombstone inscriptions, suddenly became popular in Asia Minor and elsewhere. A still-extant tomb at Myra (modern Demre), a Mediterranean coastal town in southwestern Turkey, dates archaeologically to the right period.

When the Seljuk Turks, who were Muslims, swept through western Asia Minor in 1087, Italian sailors transported the bones that were in the tomb to Bari, on the heel of Italy, where they are venerated to this day. The bones seem never to have been carbon-dated, but imaging tests conducted in 2004 revealed that they belonged to an elderly man who had suffered a broken jaw — perhaps as a result of that scuffle with Arius, or torture in the vicious persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire during the early fourth century.

On this hair-slender historical record, Mr. English attempts to reconstruct a biography of the historical Nicholas and uses data from the ancient world to argue that at least some of the legends that grew up around St. Nicholas might have been based on fact.

He suggests that the story of the sisters saved from prostitution plausibly reflects fourth-century social realities. The practice of destitute or debt-ridden parents selling their offspring to brothels or slave-traders was so common that the Emperor Constantine made public funds available to families so that they wouldn’t abandon their children.

The author seeks a historical basis for other St. Nicholas tales: his miraculous appearance aboard a foundering ship that guided it to safe harbor (an incident that made him the patron saint of sailors) and his intercession via a dream that prompted Constantine to spare the lives of three Roman military officers unjustly condemned to death. But while these stories might have some grounding in the perils of ancient sea travel or the vicissitudes of ancient justice, they reflect the devotion of the faithful toward a beloved holy man more than anything that might have actually occurred in fourth-century Myra.

In the end, the “true” St. Nicholas is as unknowable, and possibly as fictional, as a shopping-mall Santa. But does it matter? Whether historical, fantastical or a combination of both, he meant so much to those who revered him that he became forever associated with the gift of love that is Christmas. Today is a good day to eat a speculaas (the traditional St. Nick’s Day cookie in the Netherlands and Belgium), or slip a pre-Christmas gift into our children’s shoes — and consider just why we buy all those presents every December.
Charlotte Allen, The Real Father Christmas from the WSJ

 

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The Shadow Of The Cross Falling Upon The Stable At Bethlehem — Anthony Esolen

December 19, 2012
Moonlight over Montmartre, 2002

Moonlight over Montmartre, 2002

Mr. Esolen, a professor at Providence College, is the author of “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.” You can find more of his writings under the category Anthony Esolen. This particular essay, coming as it does on the heels of Fr. Norris’ essay on Person Being and St. Thomas shows how the phrase “ground of being” needs to be further explicated for the Church to make herself known in the world. This review was recently featured in the WSJ.

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Imagine touring the Sistine Chapel with someone who has done more than merely read some learned commentary on the paintings of Michelangelo. He has looked at them, pondered them, loved them, even waited upon them to reveal their inner harmony, and now he seeks to hand on to you what he has found. Imagine listening to a master organist, not playing the whole St. Matthew Passion but showing you, as he touches a chord here and makes a progression there, some hint of the grandeur of Bach’s composition that you might miss in the overwhelming storm of its performance. Then you have an idea of what Pope Benedict XVI has attempted in his three-volume work on the life of Jesus, but most humbly and sweetly in the “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.”

Modern men too often see things only by the guttering firelight of politics. Pope Benedict, who wrote many works of deep scholarship while simple Joseph Ratzinger, also served as the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, earning him a reputation among the ignorant as combative — “God’s Rottweiler.” It may surprise some, then, to read that Pope Benedict has written about one topic all his life long. Love is the key to his work, as it is the theme and lesson of this work. Indeed, the Pope has written that in Jesus, the man and the mission are one, and the mission is the holiness of love — of being entirely for and with God, and for and with mankind, without reserve. Now Benedict shows how this understanding of Jesus is manifest from the beginning, in his conception, his birth and his childhood.

Any scholar who would write on the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke faces two problems. The first is the opinion that the narratives about the birth of Jesus are add-ons, not central to the mission and the person of Jesus. The second is that we are too familiar with them. We have heard the carols and seen the crèches. We do not see the shadow of the cross fall upon the stable at Bethlehem.

Benedict addresses both problems at once, affirming the historicity of the narratives and showing that the question of who Jesus is hinges upon the question of whence he has come. People who encountered Jesus, whether they chose to follow him or not, claimed that they knew exactly where he came from, the no-account village of Nazareth. Yet they did not know where he came from — whence he derived his authority. The early Christians, by contrast, saw the life of Jesus as a coherent whole. The end of Matthew’s Gospel, says Benedict, when Jesus commissions his disciples to go forth to the ends of the earth, baptizing all nations, is present in the beginning, in the genealogy that links Jesus with Abraham and God’s promise of universality. Abraham is the essential wayfarer, Benedict writes, whose “whole life points forward,” a dynamic of “walking along the path of what is to come.”

Even to those who think themselves familiar with these texts, every page of “Jesus of Nazareth” will present some pearl of great value, something that should have been obvious but that has been passed over in haste or inattention. For example, when Luke places Jesus’ birth in the context of the Augustan empire, and notes that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to register for the tax, he expects his readers, Benedict argues, to compare one “prince of peace” with another, for that is what Augustus styled himself (“Princeps Pacis”).

The epithet was more than propaganda, Benedict says. It expressed a heartfelt longing in the people of the time, racked by the Roman civil wars and conflicts between the Roman empire and her rivals to the east. We might see how seriously it was taken if we study Augustus’s Altar of Peace in Rome, consecrated a few years before Jesus’ birth. It was so placed that on the emperor’s birthday, between morning and evening, the sun cast the shadow of an obelisk, says the Pope, along a line that struck the very center of the altar, where Augustus himself was portrayed as supreme pontiff.

But Augustus belongs to the past, Benedict notes, while Jesus “is the present and the future.” That is because the salvation we yearn for is not simply a truce, with some economic prosperity, but the healing of our very selves. Man is “a relational being,” Benedict writes, by which he means that we only know ourselves when we give ourselves away in love. More to the point, Benedict teaches, God allows us to know Him by giving Himself in love to us. This gift, though grand, is necessarily also secret and humble, seeking not to overmaster but to invite.

In speaking of an intimate love, all the Gospel writers speak the same language, Benedict explains, whether it is Matthew showing that the birth of Jesus occurs outside of and against the predilections of the grand court of Herod, or Luke stressing the quiet interior life of Mary, or John saying that God has pitched his tent among us, submitting to the infirmities of the flesh, and to rejection.

This love is no mere sentiment. It is the ground of our being. Yet Benedict points to the gospels themselves for examples of how often we seek less than love, even while we believe we are seeking more. Jesus’ own disciples believed that he would reestablish the earthly kingdom of David — and Matthew takes trouble both to establish Jesus’ descent from David (it is why Joseph had to travel to the city of David, Bethlehem) and to show that this kingship is wholly new, and not of this earth.

Thus Joseph is told that the child’s name will be called Jesus, a name derived from the Hebrew word meaning “to rescue,” because “he will save people from their sins.” That seems at once too little and too much, Benedict says. He compares the verse with the episode of the paralytic in Luke, who hears Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven.” But he wanted to walk — and the Jews wanted freedom from their overlords. The paralytic would indeed rise up and walk, but the point is clear: The gospel calls people to no less than complete love of God and neighbor — to the surrender of illusions that we can heal ourselves.

“The Infancy Narratives” is a short volume but for that very reason may be an ideal introduction to Benedict’s writings, and for that matter Jesus’ message of love.

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