Thursday, December 5, 2013
What is a Jesse Tree?
Image from http://domestic-church.com/
As mentioned earlier this week, people all over are buying, erecting and decorating Christmas trees. But many Christians are also creating Jesse trees for Advent. What is a Jesse tree? Why is it so appropriate for Advent?
“Jesse” refers to the father of King David, a key figure in the human genealogy of Jesus. For each day of Advent, people add one ornament to their Jesse tree, with a symbol that represents a key figure or event in the Old Testament.
The Jesse tree is an appropriate Advent activity because the season consists of approximately four weeks of waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Jesse tree reminds us that God’s people had been waiting for thousands of years for the birth of the Savior. During that time, though, they were not ignored. God worked through the history of His people to prepare them for their Messiah.
As each ornament is added to the Jesse tree, there is a corresponding Scripture reading from the Old Testament and usually a meditation highlighting how the Old Testament event or person was a preparation or prefiguration of Christ.
The Jesse tree is a great tradition to help children and adults alike see how God has worked in the history of Israel, and recognize the continuity of the Old Testament with the New. We can’t really understand the depth and meaning of the Old Testament without relating it to the revelation given to us through the Incarnation of Christ.
There are numerous variations of the Jesse tree. The link below gives one example of ornaments and related Scripture. A simple Internet search can produce other ideas and accompanying meditations. Catholic stores or companies often have Jesse tree kits for purchase as well.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Link - The Advent Wreath
Yesterday I posted an article about the history of the Christmas tree. At the link below, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur explores the history and meaning of the Advent wreath.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
St. Boniface and the Christmas Tree
Millions of people have begun flocking to stores to buy their Christmas trees. It's a nice tradition of the holiday season, but many have stripped it of its religious significance and many more have no idea where the tradition came from.
I've known people who refuse to have a Christmas tree because they claim it is a pagan tradition. While it is true that paganism does play some part in the history of the Christmas tree, it is a thoroughly Christian custom.
We can trace the Christmas tree to St. Boniface in the eighth century. Boniface was an English Benedictine missionary sent to evangelize the pagan tribes of Germany.
The pagans of southern Germany used trees in their worship and in a famous, historically documented story Boniface used this to bring about their conversion. At the time of Christmas in the year AD 723, Boniface saw that a young man was to be sacrificed under Odin's oak. Boniface responded by taking an axe to the sacred tree. Not only was Boniface not struck dead, legend has it that at his first blow, a miraculous wind blew the tree over. The people recognized the power of the true God and mass conversions began.
Boniface took the customs of the local people surrounding tress and “baptized” them. It was customary for people to bring trees into their homes around the time of the winter solstice, so Boniface decided this custom could be transformed into one that honored the true God.
At Christmas, the people brought in evergreen trees, symbolizing peace and life, and pointing toward Heaven, and decorated them to honor the birth of the Lord.
The rest, as they say, is history. The tradition spread to England and eventually to the United States and the Christian West. So this year as we trim our trees, may they point our eyes Heavenward, and may we use these beautiful gifts of nature to be offerings to the true God, the Baby born among nature's beasts in a stable so many years ago.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Christ the King
Image from http://cs-lyrics123.blogspot.com/2011/11/christ-king-sunday.html#chitika_close_button
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, is the feast of Christ the King. This feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Quas Primas, in response to a rising secularism that denied Christ’s authority in this world.
The feast of Christ the King reminds us that Jesus is not just Lord of Heaven, but of earth as well. The king of this world is not the government, or the United Nations, or the popular culture; it is Jesus Christ.
With secularism in our time taking the false notion of “the separation of Church and state” to ridiculous conclusions, it is a good time for us to meditate on just Whose world this is, and where true authority comes from.
This Sunday’s feast is also a reminder that Christ must be the King of our hearts. Does He rule in our hearts? In our lives? Is He the end toward which we strive? Do we allow Him to guide our thoughts, our words, and our actions? And do we submit ourselves to His authority, which He has left us in His Church?
As we approach Advent, when we will be preparing to welcome Christ anew by celebrating His coming in history, these are essential questions to ponder. And hopefully our meditations surrounding the feast of Christ the King can help us to make changes in our own lives if need be. Once we, His people, unashamedly allow Christ to be the King of our hearts and submit ourselves to His loving authority, we can lead our culture down the same path.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Link – Navigating ‘Francispoloza’
Since his election, many people have been trying to paint Pope Francis in different ways. Often, they try to paint him in their own image. Liberal media outlets have taken numerous comments out of context to try and convince people that the teachings of the Church are about to radically change. However, to most people paying attention, I think the pope has made clear that is not about to happen. (People of Faith knew that all along.)
Pope Francis has demonstrated a genuine humility, a deeply pastoral heart, and an authentic love for Christ and His Church. As Catholics, we may be on the receiving end of many questions about this shepherd of ours, who has so captivated the world and also so confused it. The link below gives an interesting perspective on how to respond to such questions.