13 December 2016 – Astro-Weather: The Geminid meteor shower should be at its peak late tonight, & there’s no Moon to interfere. Bundle up, bring a reclining lawn chair to a dark spot with no glary lights & an open view of the sky. Lie back, gaze into the stars, & be patient. Under a dark sky you might see a meteor at least once a minute on average. Light pollution cuts down on the numbers.
You’ll see the most meteors from about 10 pm, but any that you may see early in the evening, when the shower’s radiant in Gemini is still low, will be long, dramatic “Earth-grazers” skimming into the upper atmosphere at a shallow angle.
For all you all nighters or the early risers: In the early dawn of Thursday December 14th, Jupiter shines below the thin waning crescent Moon. A nice sign-off for an early-morning Geminid watch!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
The Feast of Santa Lucia
2nd Night of Chanukah
662- Feast Day of Saint Odilia, patron saint of good eyesight, & of Alsace.
By tradition she was born blind. Her father did not want her because she was a girl & handicapped, so her mother had her brought to Palma where she was raised by peasants there. A tenth-century legend relates that when she was twelve, Odile was taken into a nearby monastery. While there, the itinerant bishop Saint Erhard of Regensburg was led, by an angel, to Palma where he baptized her Odile (Sol Dei), whereupon she miraculously recovered her sight. Her younger brother Hughes had her brought home again, which enraged her father so much that he accidentally killed his son. Odile miraculously revived him, & left home again.
She fled across the Rhine to a cave near Freiburg Germany. It is said the cliff face opened up in order to rescue her from her plight. In the cave, she hid from her father. When he tried to follow her, he was injured by falling rocks & gave up.
When her father fell ill, Odile returned to nurse him. He finally gave up resisting his headstrong daughter & founded the Augustine monastic community of Mont Ste. Odile in the Hochwald, Bas-Rhin, where Odile became abbess.
Some years later Odile was shown the site of Niedermünster at the foot of the mountain by St. John the Baptist in a vision. There she founded a second monastery, including a hospital. The local well is still said to cure eye diseases.
St. Odile died about 720 at the convent of Niedermünster. At the insistent prayers of her sisters she was returned to life, but after describing the beauties of the afterlife to them, she took communion by herself & died again.
1204 – Deathday of Maimonides, a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific & influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Cordova, (present-day Spain) on Passover Eve he worked as a rabbi, physician, & philosopher in Morocco & Egypt.
During his lifetime, most Jews greeted Maimonides’ writings on Jewish law & ethics with acclaim & gratitude, even as far away as Iraq & Yemen, his copious work comprises a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. He is sometimes known as “ha Nesher ha Gadol” (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.
Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic & Arab sciences. Influenced by Al-Farabi, Avicenna, & his contemporary Averroes .He in his turn influenced other prominent Arab & Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher & polymath in both the Jewish & Islamic worlds.
Maimonides exerted an important influence on the Scholastic philosophers, especially on Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas & Duns Scotus. He was a Jewish Scholastic. Educated by reading the works of Arab Muslim philosophers , he acquired an intimate acquaintance not only with Arab Muslim philosophy, but with the doctrines of Aristotle. Maimonides strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy & science with the teachings of the Torah.
1294 – Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit. He was elected pope in the Catholic Church’s last non-conclave papal election, ending a two-year impasse. Among the only edicts of his to remain in force was the confirmation of the right of the pope to abdicate; nearly all of his other official acts were annulled by his successor, Boniface VIII. On 13 December 1294, a week after issuing the decree, Celestine resigned, stating his desire to return to his humble, pre-papal life. He was subsequently imprisoned by Boniface in the castle of Fumone in the Campagna region, in order to prevent his potential installation as antipope. He died in prison at the age of 81. Celestine was canonized by Pope Clement V. No subsequent pope has taken the name Celestine
Madonna of the Clouds
1466 – Deathday of Donatello, Italian painter & sculptor
1476 – Birthday of St. Lucy Brocadelli, mystic & stigmatic. Lucy was born in 1476 on the feast day of St. Lucia, the eldest of eleven children in the town of Narni (then called Narnia) in the region of Umbria. When she was only five years old, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Two years later, she had another vision, this time of the Virgin Mary accompanied by Saint Dominic. Dominic is said to have given her his scapular at this time. When she was twelve years old, Lucy made a private vow of chastity, & she determined to become a Dominican nun.
Her uncle tried to get her to marry Count Pietro di Alessio of Milan, an acquaintance of the family. Lucy was actually quite fond of him, but felt that her earlier vow of perpetual virginity made the marriage impossible. The strain Lucy felt as a result of the conflicting feelings made her seriously ill. During this time, the Virgin Mary & Saint Dominic again appeared to her, this time accompanied by St. Catherine of Siena. They reportedly advised Lucy to contract a legal marriage to Pietro, but to explain that her vow of virginity would have to be respected & not violated. Pietro agreed to the terms, & the marriage was formalized.
Lucy performed austere penances, which included regularly wearing a hair shirt under her garments & spending most of the night in prayer as well as helping the poor. The servants told her husband that Lucy was often visited in the evenings by Saint Catherine, Saint Agnes, & Saint Agnes of Montepulciano, who helped her make bread for the poor.
However, when one of the servants came up to him one day & told him that Lucy was privately entertaining a handsome young man she appeared to be quite familiar with. He took up his sword & went to see who this person was. When he arrived, he found Lucy contemplating a large crucifix. The servant told him that the man he had seen Lucy with looked like the figure on the crucifix.
Later Lucy left one night for a local Franciscan friary, only to find it closed. She returned home the following morning, stating that she had been led back by two saints. That was enough for Pietro. He had her locked away for the bulk of one Lenten season. She was visited only by servants who brought her food. When Easter arrived, however, she managed to escape from Pietro back to her mother’s house &, on 8 May 1494, became a Dominican tertiary. Pietro expressed his disapproval of this in a rather dramatic form—by burning down the monastery of the prior who had given her the habit of the Order.
The next year she was sent to Viterbo to establish a new convent & here she found she was frequently the object of unwanted attention, as she was reported to have received the stigmata. Lucy did her best to hide these marks, & was frequently in spiritual ecstasy. T
The local Prior Provincial of the Dominican Order would not permit any member of the Order to see her. There are records that at least one Dominican, Catherine of Racconigi, did visit her, evidently by bilocation, & that Lucy’s earlier visitations by departed saints continued. This punishment was to last her entire life. When she died her body was laid out for burial & so many people wanted to pay their last respects that her funeral had to be delayed by three days. Her tomb in the convent church was opened four years later & her perfectly preserved body was transferred to a glass case.
When the French Revolutionary Army suppressed the convent in 1797, her body was transferred to the Cathedral of Ferrara, & then in 1935 to the former Cathedral of Narnia. Lucy was beatified by Pope Clement XI on 1 March 1710.
1545 – Council of Trent begins, one of the Catholic Church’s most important ecumenical councils. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation. Four hundred years later, when Pope John XXIII initiated preparations for the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), he affirmed the decrees it had issued: “What was, still is.”
1938 – The Neuengamme concentration camp opens in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg, Germany
1977 – Air Indiana Flight 216 crashes near Evansville Regional Airport, killing 129, including the University of Evansville basketball team
1981 – General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland, largely due to the actions by Solidarity
1982 – The 6.0 Ms earthquake shakes southwestern Yemen with a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe), killing 2,800, & injuring 1,500.
1988 – PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat gives a speech at a UN General Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, after United States authorities refused to grant him a visa to visit UN headquarters in New York. Arafat engaged in a series of negotiations with the government of Israel to end the decades-long conflict between it & the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords & the 2000 Camp David Summit. His political rivals, including Islamists & several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government. In 1994 Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin & Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. During this time, Hamas & other militant organizations rose to power & shook the foundations of the authority that Fatah under Arafat had established in the Palestinian territories. In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat became ill, fell into a coma & died on 11 November 2004 at the age of 75, the cause of Arafat’s death has remained the subject of speculation. Arafat remains a controversial figure. The majority of the Palestinian people view him as a heroic freedom fighter & martyr who symbolized the national aspirations of his people, while most Americans & Israelis came to regard him as an unrepentant terrorist
POD (Poem Of the Day)
To comprehend Holy Wisdom
To understand knowledge
To inquire, to ponder, to render it evident
& lead the Creatrix back to Her Throne…
What do Norse Vikings, Swedish farmers, an Italian peasant girl, & an English Bishop have in common? Well since today is the feast of St. Lucia you have a clue. The interesting story is in who & the why. Let’s start with the Norse Vikings. According to the old Julian calendar, December 13 was the darkest day. In modern times with our Gregorian calendar, we know this to be the Winter Solstice, usually falling on December 21st or 22nd; the shortest day & the longest night for those of us, like the Vikings, in the Northern Hemisphere. This darkest day was not a day to be out on a boat, better to be inside, possibly burning a log to keep warm -a tradition that would later become part of the winter festival – the burning of the Yule Log. But in those days, December 13 was the time of year when the ancient pagan Scandinavian farmers offered sacrifices for good crops for the coming summer. These sacrifices would usually involve building a ceremonial fire to light the night.
The name Lucia comes from Lux which means light. An old legend from Sweden, names Lucia as the bride of light. The story says that on December 13, Lucia will appear riding in a lusse-cart, similar to a chariot, & if the cart breaks down, you will get lice in your hair. On Lucia night, the threshing of grain must be finished to insure a bountiful crop the next year, the horses should have on winter shoes, & all new-born babies should be baptized before Lucia night or the trolls would come & whisk them away forever.
Another old legend tells of Lucia being seen in the Swedish province of Vermland during a great famine. Lucia, robed in white came across the Lake in a large ship. She commanded the ship to dock at different places & distributed food to the starving people. The people who lived in Vermland claimed Lucia was the queen of supernatural beings & was a worker of miracles.
St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Chiesa d’Oro
To understand why we celebrate St. Lucia Day today, we need to look at the actual person. An English bishop from the Seventh Century, St. Aldhelm, gave us the story of St. Lucia as we know it today. Lucia was born in Syracuse, Sicily in Italy. Her mother, a widow, raised her in the Christian faith. Lucia made a vow to God never to marry & to devote her life to serving Christ & the poor. There was a young man who wanted to marry Lucia. But Lucia told her mother the secret vow & asked for her inheritance which would have been her dowry. Lucia used her inheritance to help the poor & needy. The story tells of Lucia bringing food to the Christians hiding in the caves. In order to bring with her as many supplies as possible, she needed to have both hands free. She solved this problem by attaching candles to a wreath on her head. Meanwhile, the rejected young man accused her of aiding & abetting the Christians. Lucia was brought before the Court & was asked to renounce her faith in Christ, but she refused. The court condemned her to die a martyr’s death. Later the Church declared Lucia a saint of the Church & patron saint of the blind, as she had brought so much light to the world & it is believed her eyes were plucked out during her persecution.
‘Crown of Light’ by Sulamith Wulfing
The story of St. Lucia resonated particularly in Scandinavia where it became mingled with those earlier Norse legends. Today it is one of the very few saint days observed in Scandinavia. Put the two together, the religious & the folklore, & you create a warm & joyous day dedicated to the finding of light in the darkness.
St. Lucia’s feast Day is a preparation for Christmas in the same sense as Advent is. The life of St. Lucia directs us to Christ – the Light of the World. It is a reminder of her sacrificial giving to the poor. A St. Lucia celebration stresses the importance of the coming of light – light as warmth, light as promise, light as hope, light as life & light shining in the darkness. – The Light of Christ shining in our dark world. Today we celebrate that light just as the Norse Vikings, Swedish farmers, an Italian peasant girl, & an English Bishop all did.
This celebration begins before dawn, with the oldest girl in the family rising to make saffron buns & Coffee for her parents. She wears white, with a red sash & a wreath of candles on her head. Other girls in the family are dressed in white as attendants & the boys are dressed as “star boys” with pointy star hats. In the pedagogy of the Waldorf schools, the 2nd grade studies the Saints, so they take up this festival. The youngest in the class wears the candle crown & the class processes thru the hallways singing:
Santa Lucia, Thy light is glowing
All through the darkest night, comfort bestowing
Dreams float on wings of night,
Comes then the morning light
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Through silent winter gloom, Thy song comes winging to
Waken the Earth anew, Glad carols bringing,
Come thou, oh queeen of Night,
Wearing thy crown so bright,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia, Christmas foretelling,
Fill hearts with hope and cheer, Dark fear dispelling,
Bring to the world’s call,
Peace and goodwill to all,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Saint Lucia led to the martyrdom by Luca Giordano (1634-1705, Italy)
Santa Lucia was born around the year 300 A.D. to a wealthy Sicilian family. Although her father died when she was a baby, he left plenty of money for Lucia & her mother to be cared for. As she grew Lucia learned of The Christ & was raised in the Christian faith. She made a secret vow never to marry but instead to spend her life serving the poor. Her mother was unaware of this vow, & pressed her to marry a man who was pagan. Although she resisted, Lucia became engaged to this man.
Around that time, her mother suffered from unexplained bleeding, & Lucia persuaded her to go to the tomb of St. Agatha to pray. Miraculously, her mother was healed. After this, Lucia told her mother of her vow never to marry, & persuaded her that in gratitude to God they should give away their wealth to the poor of the city. So, by candlelight, the mother & daughter went about the city secretly ministering to the poor. Some even said she would bring food to the poor people living in caves, & that because she needed both hands to carry the food, she strapped candles to her head.
As a result of her vow, the young man she had been engaged to was furious. Not only did he lose the opportunity of having the beautiful Lucia as his wife, he also missed out on the great amount of money that would have been her dowry that he would have received in the event of their marriage. He went to the governor & accused her of both being a Christian, & aiding other Christians. At that time, it was illegal to be a Christian. Lucia was called before a judge & given the chance to renounce her faith, but she refused.
The judge ordered her to be taken away & executed, but the soldiers who came to drag her away could not budge her. Instead, they put wood around her & laid a fire beneath her, but the fire would not light. Finally, the judge called forth one of the soldiers & told him to kill her with his sword, which he did.
Many years later, Sweden was in the grip of a terrible famine. At the height of that dark, icy winter, hunger & suffering were at their worst. People were reduced to grinding tree bark to bake into bitter bread. But on the long night of Santa Lucia Day a brilliantly lit ship came sailing across the stormy waters of Lake Vannern. At the helm stood a beautiful young woman dressed all in white, with a face so radiant that there was a glow of light all about her head. As the vessel touched shore, great quantities of food & clothing appeared with her for the starving. When asked her name, she simply replied “Lucia”. When all were fed & cared for, the vessel disappeared as quickly as it had come. To this day, the people of Sweden celebrate the remembrance of Lucia, & how she came to save the people of their country.
The emblem of eyes on a cup or plate recalls her torture & suffering & reflects popular devotion to her as protector of the light which brings sight. In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown in Gothic art holding her eyes on a golden plate. She also holds the palm branch, symbol of victory over evil.
In Scandinavia (as late as until the mid 18th century) this date was the longest night of the year, coinciding with Winter Solstice, this was due to the Julian Calendar being employed at that time. This can be seen in the poem “A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day” by the English poet John Donne.
Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy’s Day is viewed as an event signaling the arrival of Christmastide, pointing to the birth of the Light on Christmas Day. It is said that to vividly celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.
St. Lucy is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse (Sicily). On 13 December a silver statue of St. Lucy containing her relics is paraded through the streets before returning to the Cathedral. Here, it is traditional to eat whole grains instead of bread on 13 December. This usually takes the form of cuccia, a dish of boiled wheat berries often mixed with ricotta & honey, or sometimes served as a savory soup with beans.
St. Lucy is also popular among children in some regions of North-Eastern Italy, where she is said to bring gifts to good children & coal to bad ones the night between 12 & 13 December. According to tradition, she arrives in the company of a donkey & her escort, Castaldo. Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, a carrot for the donkey & a glass of wine for Castaldo. They must not watch Santa Lucia delivering these gifts, or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them.
In Hungary & Croatia, a popular tradition on Saint Lucy’s Day involves planting wheat grains that will eventually be several centimeters high on Christmas; this new wheat serves as symbolic of the new life born in Bethlehem, the Nativity, & a candle is sometimes placed near the new plant “as a symbol of the Light of Christ”.
Although St. Lucy’s Day is not an official holiday in Sweden, it is a popular occasion in Sweden. At many universities, students hold big formal dinner parties since this is the last chance to celebrate together before most students go home to their families for Christmas.
The modern tradition of having public processions in the Swedish cities started in 1927 when a newspaper in Stockholm elected an official Lucy for Stockholm that year. Today most cities in Sweden appoint a Lucy every year. Boys take part in the procession, playing different roles associated with Christmas. Some may be dressed in the same kind of white robe, but with a cone-shaped hat decorated with golden stars, called stjärngossar (star boys); some may be dressed up as “tomtenissar” (Santa’s elves), carrying lanterns; & some may be dressed up as gingerbread men. They participate in the singing &also have a song or two of their own, usually Staffan Stalledräng, which tells the story about Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, caring for his five horses.
In Denmark, the Day of Lucy (Luciadag) was first celebrated on 13 December 1944, as an attempt “to bring light in a time of darkness, a passive protest against German occupation during the Second World War, but it has been a tradition ever since.
Historically Norwegians considered what they called Lussinatten the longest night of the year & no work was to be done. Between Lussi Night & Yule, trolls & evil spirits, in some accounts also the spirits of the dead, were thought to be active outside. It was believed to be particularly dangerous to be out during Lussi Night. According to tradition, children who had done mischief had to take special care, since Lussi could come down through the chimney & take them away, & certain tasks of work in the preparation for Yule had to be finished, or else the Lussi would come to punish the household. The tradition of Lussevaka – to stay awake through the Lussinatt to guard oneself & the household against evil, has found a modern form through throwing parties until daybreak. Another company of spirits was said to come riding through the night around Yule itself, journeying through the air, over land & water. This might be an echo of the myth of the Wild Hunt, called Oskoreia in Scandinavia, found across Northern, Western &Central Europe. Legend also has it that farm animals talked to each other on Lussinatten, & that they were given additional feed on this longest night of the year.
In Saint Lucia, a tiny island in the Caribbean named after its patron saint, St. Lucy, 13 December is celebrated as National Day. The National Festival of Lights & Renewal is held the night before the holiday. In this celebration, decorative lights (mostly bearing a Christmas theme) are lit in the capital city of Castries; artisans present decorated lanterns for competition; & the official activities end with a fireworks display. In the past, a jour ouvert celebration has continued into the sunrise of 13 December.
Dante also mentions Lucia in Inferno Canto II as the messenger “of all cruelty the foe” sent to Beatrice from “The blessed Dame” (Divine Mercy), to rouse Beatrice to send Virgil to Dante’s aid. She has instructed Virgil to guide Dante through Hell & Purgatory.
Born of darkness comes the sacred light. What would it be like to use this feast day as an opportunity to ‘see’ the growing darkness with eyes of hope, knowing that in the dark womb the light will be reborn, again & yet again.
Pop Up Christmas Market – Sunday December 17th Noon-9pm
at the Elderberries Three-Fold Chicago – Urban 1st Aid – Art is Medicine space 4251 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago
Locally Hand-Crafted: Clothing, Art, Jewelry, Soy Candles;
+ Fair-Trade, Face painting, Essential Oils, Supplements, HippocraTeas…
20 per cent of sales goes to help us afford a new heating system !!!
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