11 December 2012
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple lights candles on the third night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, “The Festival of Lights” in Jerusalem on 10 December. In Israel, families gather each evening during the eight-day celebration to light a candle on the menorah, eat traditional foods and exchange gifts. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah began last Saturday night, and concludes this weekend. Last year, Catholic News Service offered an intriguing primer on this feast and its connection to Christianity:
While most Christians know that the Jews are celebrating Hanukkah this season, not all that many know the the story of the festival and the heroic deeds of the Maccabees, the Jewish martyrs who resisted Greek attempts to make them turn away from their ancient faith. Scripture holds that a mother and seven sons chose torture and death rather than renounce their faith. The Maccabees were regarded by the early church as proto-martyrs of the early Christians who died for their faith across the Roman Empire.
In fact, both the Catholic and Orthodox churches even today remember the Maccabean martyrs in their calendars of saints.
The Wall Street Journal noted:
To the martyrs, breaking faith with God is worse than death. In one version, their deaths are interpreted as “an atoning sacrifice” through which God sustained the Jewish people in their travail.
The tone here isn’t the lightheartedness of the Christmas season. The Christian parallels lie, instead, with Good Friday and the story of Jesus’s acceptance of his suffering and sacrificial death. In both the Jewish and the Christian stories, the death of the heroes, grievous though it is, is not the end: It is the prelude to a miraculous vindication and a glorious restoration.
The Roman Catholic tradition honors these Jewish martyrs as saints, and the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates 1 August as the Feast of the Holy Maccabees. By contrast, in the literature of the rabbis of the first several centuries of the common era, the story lost its connection to the Maccabean uprising, instead becoming associated with later persecutions by the Romans, which the rabbis experienced. If the change seems odd, recall that the compositions that first told of these events (the books of Maccabees) were not part of the scriptural canon of rabbinic Judaism. But they were canonical in the church (and remain so in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions).
And so we encounter another oddity of Hanukkah: Jews know the fuller history of the holiday because Christians preserved the books that the Jews themselves lost. In a further twist, Jews in the Middle Ages encountered the story of the martyred mother and her seven sons anew in Christian literature and once again placed it in the time of the Maccabees.
“Hanukkah” means “dedication.” Originally, the term referred to the rededication of the purified Temple after the Maccabees’ stunning military victory. But as the story of the martyrs shows, the victory was also associated with the heroic dedication of the Jewish traditionalists of the time to their God and his Torah. If Hanukkah celebrates freedom, it is a freedom to be bound to something higher than freedom itself.
Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and neighbors!
10 December 2012
Tags: Christian-Jewish relations Jewish Judaism
Michael prepares a cup of flowers for the dinner table as his mother prepares lunch for the family in their small apartment in Amman. (photo: Bryan Denton)
George Jaqamon and Elham Hanania live with their two sons, Michael and Johnny, in the Jabal Webdeh neighborhood of Amman, Jordan. Both are of Palestinian origin. Elham was born and lived much of her life in Bethlehem. George, who was a barber, is unemployed. He works part time as a driver and takes tourists to places like the Dead Sea and Petra. His wife Elham works at the Terra Sancta School located just a few minutes from their house. Making ends meet for the young family is difficult, as the cost of living in Amman has increased dramatically.
Read their story and learn more about the Christians of Jordan in this report from the September 2006 issue of ONE.
7 December 2012
Tags: Palestine Jordan
Ethiopian Orthodox deacons celebrate the feast of Mary of Zion in Aksum. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we looked at the changes confronting Ethiopian Orthodoxy —and how the role of the clergy, in particular, was evolving:
Traditionally, a priest’s primary duty is the celebration of the Qeddase — in Ethiopia, typically five priests concelebrate — and other liturgical rites, particularly burials. Liturgical festivals feature rhythmic dancing, the chanting of hymns and the recitation of religious poetry. They require the participation of numerous priests, deacons and scribes, or debtera, a class of learned men unique to the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox tradition. Knowledge of Ge’ez, the ancient liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches, is required of all clergy.
Monks and priests also function as nafs abbat (spiritual fathers), visiting families and serving as confessors and spiritual guides.
As a rule, parish priests marry and start families. When not attending to their liturgical and sacramental duties, they rear their children (of whom a few are expected to follow in their fathers’ footsteps) and till the soil as farmers. Parish priests survive on freewill offerings and fees for their liturgical duties, but subsist largely on their own earnings as tenant farmers.
Traditionally, Orthodox parents offer one or two sons — in rural Ethiopian families, five to six children are the norm — to the local parish priest for the priesthood or monastic life. The boy, called a kollo temari, or “grain student,” joins other boys (all of whom are between 10 and 12 years of age) who gather around a priest or scribe for daily instruction.
The boys are expected to memorize passages of Scripture, the works of the church fathers, liturgical texts and religious poetry: Some priests can recite entire books of the Bible. After a kollo temari masters his subject of study with one instructor, he tackles another field of enquiry with a new teacher, often in a different church or monastery.
This period of tutelage can last as many as 10 years, at which point the student will decide if he wants to commit himself to celibacy and enter a monastery or marry, seek ordination and join the ranks of the eparchial (diocesan) priesthood.
But as Ethiopia changes, the Orthodox laity, particularly among the urban population, are demanding more from their clergy. Long-held religious traditions are weakening. Days of abstinence from meat, fish and dairy products have long been a cornerstone of religious observance. But today, many young Ethiopian Orthodox Christians no longer observe these dietary restrictions.
Read more about Ethiopian Orthodoxy at a crossroads at a crossroads in the November 2007 issue of ONE.
6 December 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Orthodox
In the Christian village of Taybeh in Palestine, a child plays near Santa suits on the grounds of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. (photo: Miriam Sushman)
Last year, we profiled the village of Taybeh, a devoutly Christian enclave in Palestine that is facing a time of transition:
At most, 50,000 Christian Palestinians live in the West Bank — less than 2 percent of the population. Since 1967, the number of Christians in Gaza and the West Bank has dramatically declined; today, 35 percent fewer Christians reside in these territories. Intermittent war, Israeli blockades, the nearby separation barrier and the resulting economic stagnation have prompted Christians to leave en masse.
Though Taybeh’s residents remain entirely Christian, the village did not survive unscathed. Prior to 1967, more than 5,000 people called Taybeh home. But since then, most have emigrated to the Arabian Peninsula, South America, the United States and elsewhere in search of a better life. Those who stayed behind continue to struggle. Israeli occupation and tight restrictions on movement, particularly in and out of Jerusalem, have devastated the local job market. At present, Taybeh’s unemployment rate hovers at a whopping 40 percent.
“Villagers emigrate every year; the population of Taybeh now is what it was three or four thousand years ago,” says Mary Michael, Mofeed’s mother. An elementary school English teacher, Mrs. Michael also volunteers at the Taybeh Cooperative for Country Development, a women’s organization, where several times a week she coordinates events for senior citizens.
Read more about A Town Named ‘Good’ in the July 2011 issue of ONE.
5 December 2012
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Palestinians Christian
Anticipating the feast of St. Nicholas on 6 December, a man dressed as the saint attends Pope Benedict XVI's general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Read more about the papal audience here. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
4 December 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Saints
Sister Jiji Puthuparambil, D.D.S., makes her nightly rounds in the female ward of Deivadan Center in Kerala, India. To learn more about the remarkable work she and other sisters are doing, check out Peter Lemieux’s story Fearless Grace in the July 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
3 December 2012
Tags: India Sisters Kerala Health Care Mental health/ mental illness
Pope Benedict XVI, who is known for his love of cats, greets one on Saturday, petting a lion cub during an audience with circus performers in Paul VI hall at the Vatican.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
30 November 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during a private audience at the Vatican in 2008. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Both the Latin and Orthodox churches celebrate the feast of St. Andrew today, 30 November. As Michael La Civita noted last year:
On this feast, the successor of St. Peter sends a delegation to the Turkish city of Istanbul — the former imperial city of Constantinople — where they honor the memory of Peter’s brother with the ecumenical patriarch, who according to tradition is the successor of St. Andrew.
The image above captures the fraternal closeness of the successor of St. Peter and the successor of St. Andrew.
29 November 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Turkey Orthodox
While reporting on the restoration of a Russian cathedral in Moscow in 2003, journalist Sean Sprague encountered this local entrepreneur, preparing to sell apples. Read more about the impact of the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer in our July/August 2003 issue. (photo: Sean Sprague).
28 November 2012
Tags: Russia Eastern Churches Russian Orthodox Church Eastern Europe
In this 2011 image, Msgr. John Kozar captured a lovely moment at Our Lady of Peace Center outside Amman, Jordan, just before Christmas. The center offers programs for mentally and physically handicapped youths. When Msgr. Kozar visited, the people at the center were enjoying a Christmas show and visit from Santa Claus. Curious? Read more about the
2011 Journey to the Holy Land. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
Tags: Jordan Health Care Msgr. John E. Kozar Amman Mental health/ mental illness