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Cradle Catholic with a lot of questions; such as, why am I just figuring this stuff out now?

April 24, 2011

Why Do We Decorate Eggs For Easter?

The birth of the Easter egg as we know it officially began in the Ukraine over a thousand years ago. Non-Christian egg decorating is much, much older. Ukrainians invented a unique and elaborate egg decoration art form, known as pysanka that likely dates back to ancient times. A pysanka is not just any kind of decorated egg, rather it is an egg created by the written-wax batik method. In pre-Christian times, Ukrainians worshipped a sun God by the name of Dazboh. During annual spring festivals, which held to celebrate the Sun God, the egg was the symbol of the earth’s rebirth following winter.
Ukrainians adopted Christianity in the year 988, which was the year that Vladimir the Great instated it as the official state religion.  Since then it has remained the dominant religion, however it has been blended with some Byzantine practices and Slavic mythology. The spring egg decorating was one of the traditions that gradually merged into Christianity. The symbolism behind the egg was changed. Instead of nature’s rebirth, the Christian egg came to represent the rebirth of Christ. The shell of the egg was likened to the tomb of Christ for which He rose. Over time, Christian symbols started being incorporated into these pysankas and the Easter egg was born.

April 19, 2011

The Jellybean Prayer

Today my 6-year old daughter brought home a cross made out of construction paper with a poem called the “Jellybean Prayer” on it. I’d never heard it before but she really seemed to like it. In fact, she insisted I read it while she ate a few jellybeans. Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas are frequently criticized for being overly commercialized and a mess of various, and sometimes non-religious, traditions. Why not use the candy to help deliver a positive message? For those of you that haven’t heard it before, here it is:

The Jellybean Prayer by Shirley Kozak

An egg is full of jellybeans,
Colorful and sweet,
Reminds me of God’s love for me,
With this Easter treat!
Red is for the blood He gave.
Green is for the grass He made.
Yellow is for the sun so bright.
Orange is for prayers at twilight.
Black is for the sins we made.
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for His days of sorrow.
Pink is for each new tomorrow.

Pass this along to others with kids!

April 18, 2011

When Did the Last Supper Occur?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke clearly state that the Last Supper occurred at the start of Passover, specifically on Passover Eve. John states that it happened the day before Passover Eve. This is just one of the discrepancies between John and the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, commonly referred to as the synoptic gospels, that has confounded scholars over the ages. When the focus of each of the gospels is on the events leading to the crucifixion and following the resurrection, why do the gospels differ on this very important date? Professor Colin Humphreys, a professor of materials science from the University of Cambridge and author of the book “The Mystery of the Last Supper”, thinks the answer lies in which calendar was used. Humphreys believes that the writers of the older synoptic gospels used an old Jewish calendar while the author of the gospel of John used a relatively newer, but more commonly used, lunar calendar to date the event. "In John's Gospel, he is correct in saying the Last Supper was before the Passover meal. But Jesus chose to hold his Last Supper as a Passover meal according to an earlier Jewish calendar," Professor Humphreys explained on the BBC's Today program.
Maundy Thursday, more commonly referred to as Holy Thursday in the United States, is the movable Christian holy day celebrated the Thursday before Easter. Maundy Thursday has traditionally commemorated the date of Last Supper. However, according to Humphreys calculations, the last supper actually occurred on Wednesday, April 1, 33.

April 10, 2011

Why Do Popes Change Their Name?

Within the Roman Catholic Church there is a long history and strong tradition of name changing associated with the Papal election. To this day, it is not mandatory to change one's name after being declared Pope, but it is very traditional. Typically, Popes select their favorite saint, or two, in the case of John Paul. Name changing can be traced to Saint Peter, the very first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Peter’s given name was Symeon or Simon. As the story goes, this is the name he went by until Jesus changed it to Peter, which means rock in Greek.
It is Pope John II that is often credited with reviving the ancient tradition of name changing. The given name of Pope John II, prior to his election in January 533, was Mercurius. He was named after the Roman god Mercury. Name changing did not catch really on until Pope Sergius IV in 1009. Ironically, Pope Sergius’s real name was Peter. In the last thousand years, only Pope Adrian VI and Pope Marcellus II have decided to keep their birth name after becoming Pope.
But was it really Pope John II that really revived this tradition? A great many of the early Popes, well into the Middle Ages, had Greek names, like Peter. Many scholars believe it is unlikely that all of these men were Greek in nationality. It is more likely that these men followed in Saint Peter’s footsteps, taking a Greek name following the Papal election. The Liber Pontificalis (literally Latin for “The Book of the Pontiffs”), which is a compilation of early Papal biographies, states that several of the early Popes were Roman or Italian. Pope Anicetus was Syrian.
Chronicle of the Popes by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

April 5, 2011

When is Lent Over?

Lent is a 40-day liturgical period that is observed between Ash Wednesday and Easter. (If you’re doing the math, it does not include the six Sundays of this period within the 40-day calculation.) For Roman Catholics, lent officially ends Holy Thursday evening, before Mass. Holy Thursday mass marks the beginning of the Sacred Triduum ceremonies, which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Lenten observances should be maintained until Easter Virgil mass, which takes place after sunset on Holy Saturday but before sunrise on Easter.

Catholic Q&A by Father John J. Dietzen