Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Love Like the Sun

IT IS TOUGH to find any positives from tragedies such as that which occurred Christmas Eve in Nag Hammadi. It is understandable to feel a certain anger and hatred to those who committed these heinous acts, and those related to them. It is also understandable to be upset at the Higher Being allowing such acts. More recently, the earthquakes in Haiti in which the death toll is feared to be in the "thousands."

I don't wish to talk about the "fairness" of what is going on in life, that subject has been heard and seems to be unconvincing to most. I'd rather talk about unconditional love. The type of love that asks for nothing in return. We must ask ourselves, where are we in our spiritual lives; are we able to forgive unconditionally?

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the Earth
"You owe Me."

Look what happens
with a love like that,
It lights the whole world.

We sometimes are under the impression that there is a certain account we have with God. As if we are doing Him a favor. With that mentality, we believe that God owes us. How preposterous an idea! All we have is a gift from Him. In the widsom of the Church Fathers, we recite in the liturgy that "we offer you Your own gifts from what is Yours." The fool becomes angry, the wise is thankful, and the loving help their brethren.

Throughout all this calamity, Christ is glorified. Thousands of people offering care, prayers, and help to strangers. Unconditional love, seeking nothing in return, simply because others are suffering. Why do terrible acts happen? Because this is what we need to remember that we are all family on this Earth.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Merry Christmas

THE COPTIC CHURCH, along with many other Orthodox Churches celebrates the birth of Christ on January 7th. I could write about the humility of our Lord being born in a manger, His sinless nature of a virgin-birth, or maybe the wisdom and faith of the wise men for following a star to offer gifts to a child. There is much to be learned, but it's already known.

The fact is, the earliest church didn't even celebrate the birth of Christ. St. Clement of Alexandria mentions that the Egyptians of his time celebrated the Lord's birth on May 20. At some point by the 3rd or 4th century, the Western Churches began celebrating Christ's birth in the winter. Around that time it was agreed by the Church (capital "C") to celebrate the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25 (or the 29th of Kiahk of the Coptic calendar). As a second grader asked me on Sunday, where the heck (not her words) did January 7th come from?

At that time, and up until about the sixteenth century, the calendar in use was the Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar who implemented it about 50 years before Christ was born. This calendar considered the year to be 365.25 days and, like the Coptic Calendar, had a leap year every four years. As was soon found out by Pope Gregory XII (who had an interest in astrology and wondered why the vernal equinox was now at March 11, when it used to fall on March 21), the calendar year was actually 365.2422 days. This equates to a difference of a full day every 128.2 years.

Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the Julian calendar should be shortened by 3 days every 400 years. He did this by making every year divisible by 100 not a leap year unless it is divisible by 400 (so since the decree, 1700, 1800, and 1900 have not been leap years, although 1600 and 2000 have). Most strikingly, in 1582AD, he advanced the calendar by ten days and made October 5th into October 15th. The new calendar came to be known as the Gregorian calendar and is now widely used throughout the world.

So the 13 day gap between Western Christmas and Orthodox Christmas is explained (in case you missed it, the ten days Pope Gregory advanced the calendar and the three missed leap years in 1700, 1800, and 1900), but the question is, why don't we (the Copts) align ourselves to the Gregorian calendar? Simple! Because we have always followed the Coptic calendar and we simply continued to do so. Imagine celebrating Christmas in the middle of Kiahk? Yikes!

So there you have it, the reason us Copts get to take advantage of after-Christmas sales, and procrastination. Merry Christmas all, for today, the Word is born.