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The Feast Day of Saint Bernadette

16 Apr

469px-Bernadette_Soubirousimage via Wikipedia

Bernadeta Sobiróus was only thirty-five years old when she passed away. A miller’s daughter from Lourdes, France, Bernadette was fourteen years old when she first saw a “small young lady” appear to her while she was out fetching firewood in Massabielle. This apparition requested that a chapel be built in the grotto near there, and later it was revealed that she was the Immaculate Conception. Indeed, a number of chapels were built at Lourdes, and today Bernadette is remembered as a saint even though many did not believe she’d had visions at the time.

In Jack Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, where many French-Canadian Americans resided, there is a a Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which he writes about it. I’ve visited it twice and wrote about it as part of my Church Hopping column.

 

 

 

Victory Hellas!

25 Mar

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Happy Greek Independence Day!

Find out about Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.

And read my previous post on the history of March 25 being Greek Independence Day here.

I’m Leading a Free Writing Worshop Tonight

24 Mar

writers

From the website:::

March 24, 2014. 7-9pm. Stephanie will lead a writers workshop with Nana and Maurice at the Redeemer Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room. Admission is free. Please bring 1-2 pages of your writing for critique.

See you there!

Clean Monday

3 Mar

Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

~Isaiah 1: 13-17

In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.

Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.

The Mardi Gras of Greece

28 Feb

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This weekend is the big Carnival weekend in Greece. Don’t let New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro get all the glory. Patras is the number 3 for Carnival.

Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.

Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!

This Year, Our Calendars Unite!

25 Feb

“Are you in a cult?” my friend once asked me.

My friend and I led a Protestant ministry for young adults, and I had mentioned that I actually celebrate Easter on a different day than most Protestants. Growing up, I had always celebrated Easter at the Greek Orthodox Church. Granted it was the only time of year my family went to the Greek Church (we went to a Protestant church the rest of the year), but we were pretty adamant about that being Easter.

No, I’m not in a cult, I sighed, aggravated that she would think that. In fact, there’s much more tradition and practical reason for celebrating Easter when I do.

The Greek Orthodox Church follows the old calendar system, the Julian calendar. Protestant and Catholics later decided to follow the new Gregorian calendar. What this means, though, is that sometimes Protestants and Catholics celebrate Easter before Jewish observers celebrate Passover. And if you know anything about these religions at all, you know that that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since Jesus’ Last Supper is suggested to be a Passover meal.

This year, however, our calendars happen to coincide!

…I guess that means no discounted Easter candy for me this year.

Resources:

  • For a very thorough explanation on the calendar differences by an esteemed authority, I recommend this article by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos.
  • For a more conversational approach yet also thorough, I recommend “A Tale of Two Easters” by Borgna Brunner.

The Smell of Meat Lofting in the Air

20 Feb

 

Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.

Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.

Do you fast?

Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:

Happy Tsiknopempti!

Hello, Carnival; Good-bye, Meat

 

Bernadette Sees Visions

11 Feb

Bernadette_soubirous_2_publicdomainimage via Wikipedia

While out collecting firewood near a French grotto near Massabielle, on February 11, 1858, a fourteen-year-old miller’s daughter by the name of Bernadette Soubirous had a vision of the Immaculate Conception. Some people believed her; others did not. Bishop Laurence questioned her and believed, and today Bernadette is recognized as a saint. The message she had heard from the Immaculate Conception was to build a chapel in the grotto. Today there are many chapels in Lourdes.

There is also a grotto devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac wrote about it, and Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Bob Dylan have visited it when stopping by the Beat novelist’s hometown.

I had the good fortune of visiting Lowell’s Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with eminent Beat scholar Roger Brunelle, who shared some of his own stories. I wrote about it in my Church Hopping column for Burnside Writers Collective. Two years later I visited again, this time with my Kerouac biography coauthor Paul Maher Jr.

 

Friday Links: Clips of the Week

17 Jan

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Burnside published my top 10 art picks of 2013

Largehearted boy mentioned my book picks of 2013

Burnside re-published my essay “Does God Laugh at Our Resolutions?” along with several other archival articles on New Year’s resolutions. Did you make any resolutions this year?

A Perfect Morning to Jump Into the River

6 Jan

739px-Cross_being_thrown_at_Theophanyimage by Jim Maggas via Wikipedia

After a weekend of trudging through dirty city snow, I was surprised—and thankful!—this morning to discover the temperatures had risen enough to melt away the large icy barricades surrounding every crosswalk. I changed out of my snow boots and put on ballet flats. Ballet flats! In the winter! Even my puffy black jacket didn’t seem necessary, but perhaps that’s because a few days before it had been so cold I was wearing my jacket in my apartment.

The warmer winter temperatures had perfect timing. Today is the day in the Greek Orthodox religion where the priest throws a cross into the river and boys jump in to save it. We call it Theophany, but many religious New Yorkers would more likely know it as Epiphany. It refers to the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River and is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. You can read my explanation here.

I wouldn’t recommend actually jumping into the river yourself, but I have witnessed the Blessing of the Water ceremony. If you ever get a chance, it’s quite a sight to see here in New York City!