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Grail: December 2010

Grail: December 2010

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02/10/2011

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We are now in the midst of the season of Advent and it seems appropriate to movefrom a discussion of the way in whichAdvent is a season of commemoration and preparation, and toward a reection on the background of the season. This season of the Church year is a time of commemora-tion of the rst advent or birth of JesusChrist in Bethlehem, as well as preparationfor the second advent, or the coming of Christ at the end of the age.From a very early time, the season that became known as Advent was observed ina manner similar to Lent, though in a lesssevere form. The way all of this began isan interesting tale related to geographyand the local customs of the Church in themany places that Christians came to callhome in the rst several centuries of theChurch’s life.The rst thing to keep in mind is thatChristmas actually caught on slowly as a popular holiday. The earliest cycle of feaststo develop in the Church was the pas-chal cycle (Lent, Holy Week and Easter).Christmas and the second cycle of thechurch year, the incarnational cycle, hadnot developed yet. Rather than Christmas, both in the eastern (Greek) and western(Latin) Churches, the feast of Epiphanygarnered a great deal of attention.The feast of Epiphany itself was seen tocelebrate different events in the life of Christ. As well as celebrating the incarna-tion, for many in the East, it was associatedwith the Baptism of Christ by John, and thedescent of the Holy Spirit in the form of adove as Christ began his earthly ministry.For Christians in the west, Epiphany wasseen as the time to commemorate the visi-tation of the Magi or Wise Men, to Bethle-hem where they honored the new born Je-sus. The Book of Common Prayer followsthe second tradition, as Epiphany— alwayson January 6th—has traditionally beengiven the title, “the Manifestation of Christto the Gentiles.” At the same time, thewestern Church has honored the associa-tion with Christ’s baptism by commemo-rating the baptism of the Lord on the rstSunday after Epiphany. Yet another eventassociated with the Epiphany was Christ’srst miracle at the Wedding at Cana, wherehe turned water into wine.Regardless of the particular event the feastwas thought to focus on, the theme of Christ’s manifestation, that is, the revela-tion of his identity as Messiah, was center stage. Because of this, the early churchoften “called this day ‘The Theophany’(manifestation of God) and some EasternOrthodox Churches still do” (White,
 Intro-duction to Christian Worship,
 p. 61).
D
ecember 
2010
Grail
The 
St. Joseph of Arimathea 
103 Country Club Dr. Hendersonville, TN 37075 | stjosephofarimathea.org | T: 625-824-2910 |info@stjosephofarimathea.org 
Our Mission: 
“To encourage and equip one another as the baptized peopleof God, to witness to the transforming and reconciling power of  Jesus Christ.” 

Continued on p. 2 
Want to see the Grail in Color? Interested in extended content, such as devotionals? 
If you’re receiving the Grail in printed form and would like to see it in color with more content, you can visit
http://stjosephofarimathea.org/congregational-resources/grail 
to download a PDF version.
C
onsidering
 
the
t
imes
 
2
Continued from p. 1
But what does any of this have to do with Advent? Theobservance of Advent comes from (at least) two sources.Beginning in the fourth century, the new festival of Christ-mas, which was celebrated on December 25 and competedwith the new Pagan festival of the Unconquered Sun (SolInvictus), became more popular and took over part of thecommemorations which had earlier been part of Epiphany.St. John Chrysostom told a congregation in Antioch, onChristmas day in 381 “This day … [which] has now been brought to us, not many years ago, has developed so quick-ly and borne such fruit” (White, p 62). But still, Epiphanywas seen as the greater feast for reasons Chrysostomshares, “For this is the day on which he was baptized, andmade holy the nature of the waters. … Why then is this daycalled Epiphany? Because it was not when he was born thathe became manifest to all, but when he was baptized; for up to this day he was unknown to the multitudes” (White, p 62).As one commentator notes “The Epiphany, then, is older than Christmas and has a deeper meaning. For instead of simply being the anniversary of the birth of Christ, it testi-es to the whole purpose of the incarnation: the manifesta-tion of God in Jesus Christ...” The importance of Epiphanyas a sort of book end to Easter, led a local council in Spainin 380 AD to decree that no one should be absent fromChurch from December 17th through January 6th. By thefollowing century a forty-day preparation for Epiphany was practiced in parts of Gaul (modern France) and was knownas St. Martin’s Lent, beginning at roughly the same timethat Advent now begins. It is from St. Martin’s Lent thatAdvent receives its moderated penitential character and itsfocus on the second coming of Christ. As the importance of Christmas as a festival increased, the Church adapted these practices and eventually established Advent as a four week season of preparation for Christmas, adding the celebrationof Christ’s birth to the preparation for his return.The Season of Advent is a wonderful time to form the habitof short family devotionals. This can be made especiallyenjoyable through the use of an Advent Wreath. Below is asuggested form of devotions for the evening that the wholefamily can enjoy, perhaps before the evening meal.The following devotion is based on the short form of AnOrder of Worship for the Evening (Book of CommonPrayer, 109-112). Rather than the Short Lesson of Scripture provided in the Order, one of the readings from the DailyOfce Lectionary may be used, in whole or in part.Alternatively, some other plan of Bible reading may befollowed.
 Phos hilaron
is always appropriate but an Adventhymn may be substituted for it.
An Advent Devotion
Leader: Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
 People:
Thanks be to God.
 A reading from the Daily Ofce Lectionary (BCP page 934.We are now in Year One) or some other Short Lesson of Scripture appropriate to the occasion or to the season, maythen be read.
Scripture Reading
The Ofciant then says the Prayer for Light, using any oneof the following or some other suitable prayer, rst saying 
Let us pray.Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the timeof this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came tovisit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shallcome again in his glorious majesty to judge both the livingand the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; throughhim who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, oneGod, now and for ever.
 Amen
.
The candles of the Advent Wreath are now lit, as are other candles and lamps as may be convenient. During the candle-lighting, an appropriate anthem or  psalm may be sung, or silence kept. The following hymn, or a metrical version of it, or some other hymn, is then sung (or said)
O Gracious Light
 Phos hilaron
O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! Now as we come to the setting of the sun,and our eyes behold the vesper light,we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,O Son of God, O Giver of life,and to be gloried through all the worlds.
 Devotions may conclude with the Lord’s Prayer or with a grace for mealtime as may be suitable.
o
bserving
A
dvent
: t
he
A
dvent
W
reAth
 
3
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At thetime the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devoutChristian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was stillyoung. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and givethe money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritanceto assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicatedhis life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra whilestill a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known through-out the land for his generosity to the those in need, his lovefor children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his
faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of  bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the realcriminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He diedDecember 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathe-dral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed inhis grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers,fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversaryof his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day,
December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).Through the centuries many stories and legends have beentold of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help usunderstand his extraordinary character and why he is so be-loved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In thosedays a young woman’s father had to offer prospective hus- bands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry,the better the chance that a young woman would nd agood husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely tomarry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, weretherefore destined to be sold into slavery.Mysteriously, on threedifferent occasions,a bag of gold ap- peared in their home- providing the neededdowries. The bags of gold, tossed throughan open window, aresaid to have landed instockings or shoes left before the re to dry.This led to the customof children hangingstockings or puttingout shoes, eagerlyawaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the storyis told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is whythree gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are oneof the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is agift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeo- ple of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete cameinto the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leavingtown, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into aslave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personalcupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would notunderstand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his winein a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastatedat the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, lledwith grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached,Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it wasnow a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded tohave a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulll-ing his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked upand away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terried boy, blessedhim, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imaginethe joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. Thisis the rst story told of St. Nicholas protecting children— which became his primary role in the West.Another story tells of three theological students, travelingon their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbedand murdered them, hiding their remains in a large picklingtub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along thesame route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamedof the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nich-olas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored tolife and wholeness. In France the story is told of three smallchildren, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and cap-tured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appealsto God to return them to life and to their families. And soSt. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.
Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he wasyoung, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage tothe Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, hesought to more deeply experience Jesus’ life, passion, andresurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatenedto wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terriedsailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenlycalmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patronof sailors and voyagers.
W
ho
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s
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iCholAs
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St. Nicholas Artist: Susan Seals 
Continued on p. 4 

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