Friday, 23 December 2011

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Icon -- "Mother Mary with Jesus on Her knee", drawn by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
This is the only icon I have ever drawn in which Jesus almost appears to be trying to play.  Of course, no self-respecting icon would show something so far removed from the glory and majesty of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  And, of course, even in this almost "playful" icon, we see the traditional right hand of Christ forming the sign of blessing while the left hand holds the traditional "Book" of Life.
However, the design of this icon was sufficient to cause me to reflect on the boy, Jesus, and what He might have done during the celebration in his home and village of the Festival of Hanukkah.  Perhaps Our Lord really was born in what is now our month of December around the time of the Hanukkah celebrations.  Would He have followed the traditions in His home.  I would think most certainly there would have been the nine-branched candelabra somewhere so that He could proudly light one candle for each of the days of Hanukkah.  Quite possibly He might have been given his own dreidel as a birthday gift and His blessed Mother would have served some of the traditional foods associated with the festival.

This reflection took me to the Internet where I sought to find out more about the dreidel.  The article below was written by Laura Beth Caldwell in 2008.
Boy playing with dreidel during Hanukkah

"Another tradition of Hanukkah is the dreidel game. The dreidel, or "Sivivon" in Hebrew, is a four-sided spinning top traditionally made of wood. Each of the four sides of the dreidel are marked with a Hebrew letter-"nun", "gimmel", "hey", and "shin". These Hebrew letters spell out the acronym for the phrase "nes gadol hayah sham" or "a great miracle happened there." This simple child's toy is used to tell one of the greatest stories in Judaism.

Nearly two centuries before the birth of Christ, the land of Israel, known as Judea at the time, was ruled by the Greek king of Syria. This king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was not tolerant of the Jewish religion. It was his goal to assimilate the Jewish people into Greek customs, including the worship of Greek gods. He thereby issued a decree in 167 BCE forbidding all Jewish worship and ritual. He went so far as to instill Greek gods and pagan ritual practices in the Temple in Jerusalem. Under the threat of death the Jews were forced to abandon their ancient customs, including the study of Torah. Many conceded, fearing for their lives, while others improvised.

Refusing to abandon their faith, many Jews continued to study the Torah in secret. Meeting in caves and forests, Judaism became a clandestine practice. And a very dangerous one. The foothills of Jerusalem were continuously patrolled by Syrian scouts in search of Jewish dissidents. This created a need for a decoy- something to divert the attention of the patrols in the event they came upon a group of Jews studying Torah. Hence the dreidel. This seemingly innocent child's toy was used to fool the patrols. When young Jews were approached by Syrian scouts they would quickly dismantle their Torah studies and toss down the dreidel. The scouts believed this simple wooden top was just a very popular game amongst the Jews. Legend has it that at the time the dreidel was marked with Hebrew letters symbolizing stories of the Torah. It actually became a coded way of studying the ancient scriptures.

The dreidel is a symbol of ingenuity and perseverance in the face of great oppression. In Israel the final letter on the dreidel "shin" is replaced by the Hebrew letter "pey" which changes the phrase "a great miracle happened there" to "a great miracle happened here". Today the dreidel continues to teach young and old alike. It is a beloved game, played amongst family and friends each year during the Hanukkah season to remind us of the power of faith."

Here is hoping that all our Jewish brothers and sisters had a Happy Hanukkah! 



Icon, Christ in the manger at the stable, drawn by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2008
And for us, it is almost that marvelous night when we re-live the birth of the one we call the Messiah, Jesus Christ, true Man and true God, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary.  The little Child depicted in the icon above and to the left is God from God, the very Word of God, begotten not made.  Through Him all things came into being.

I love to contemplate -- maybe "touch at the fringes" would be a better expression -- the faith I have been given that God has loved all creation into being, including each one of us.  Nothing would exist or could exist without God constantly loving us and all creation into being.  Do you know how loved a person can feel when this becomes Truth for them?  And our ever-expanding knowledge of this glorious Truth all begin when an unmarried Jewish girl told Almighty God that He could use her however it pleased Him.  How incredible that God should ask for and wait for permission to use the very creatures He created.  Yet without that Virgin's YES, the plan of God to show all creation, especially mankind, how incredibly, passionately we are loved would not have proceeded.  We look upon that wee babe lying in a manger (feeding trough for animals) and can only uncomprehendingly marvel that this is true God and true Man; Son of God and Son of Mary.  How can this be and yet Faith tells the heart that this is the very Truth itself.  For Christians, Truth is not a thing, it is a Person, the Person of Jesus Christ.  Let us rejoice that God loves us so much that He has given (is giving and will give) His only Son so that all who believe in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.  Alleluia. 


Suki-type Black Christmas Cat
by ~JacquiJax on deviantART
 Well, Christmas Day is almost here and so far, Suki has not destroyed any of the Christmas decorations.  I was particularly worried about my beautiful little tree made from metal coat hangers covered in strands of Christmas braid and bows with lots of little bright lights.  My friend, Jessie, made it for me a number of years ago and just this year she took it back home to "renovate" it.  It looks so pretty, but the only good place for it is on my dining table which Suki is able to reach easily.  Up to this point, she has shown no interest in it or in any of the other little ornaments and candles scattered about. 

The reason may be that I have already given her what Santa had brought for her -- her very own cat "tree"!  It has 4 levels, a crawl space, a ladder, a post with hanging toys and, best of all, is the plush circular bed at the very top.  She pays too little attention thus far to the various types of exercise equipment and too much attention to this lovely, comfortable bed!  She is perched there about 1/4 of the way up the bedroom window so she can even peer out at the pigeons without moving should she so desire.  Most of the time, however, she just sleeps.  I tell you the truth, I have never known a cat this young who sleeps as much as Suki.  If she was 10 year old, I would expect it, but she will only be three in March.

Oh, well, at least she isn't out getting into mischief!

As for myself, I am looking a slight bit better than I was when I posted on Monday.  I still have a huge goose egg on the top of my head, but most of the pain has subsided.  My biggest problem remains the reactions of other people -- strange as that may sound.  Let me explain.

Whenever I meet up with anyone who knows me even slightly, there is the initial reaction of distress and shock the person cannot hide as they look at me.  This is usually followed by either expressions of sorrow, such as "oh, you poor thing... what on earth have you done to yourself?" or else a lame attempt at making a joke, such as "well, I would hate to see how the other guy looks!"  I understand people's discomfort with the really awful way I look and do make allowances for their reactions.  If people could just leave it at that and be satisfied with my saying something like, "yes, I fell again -- hopefully for the last time this year!"  Instead, they begin to ask questions -- some of which are fairly intrusive.  It can take me half an hour to get from the elevator door to the exit doors of the building.

I understand where all of these reactions are coming from and don't really even object to their questions, it is just that looking as I do creates a sort of a negative attention getter.  After living in the same place for the past 15 years, I know, am acquainted with, am recognized by a large number of people which makes for very slow progress whenever I go even out into the hallway on my floor.  I can actually gather quite a crowd around me when I go into the lobby and can actually stop traffic in the aisles of St. Lawrence Market.  So, I am spending most of my time at home these days.  As you know from previous posts, this is not a problem for me, but it does limit my ability to get things done such as grocery shopping.

However, I continue to give thanks in all things and am seeing good which has come from even this latest fall.  Truly, I have discovered over and over again that "all things do work together for good to those who [try to] love the Lord (and try to walk in His paths)".  The best part of all this staying at home business is that I am having more time to get back to my art work -- something I have been having too little time for of late.

Now, may the peace of God be with us all as we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 
O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord! 

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