What’s the Spiritual Season this week? Celebrate Sound of Music, tolerance, Velvet Revolution and Christ the King


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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(November 16 to 22, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton

THIS WEEK, tolerance is the theme as we remember
the peaceful Velvet Revolution and honor the International Day of
Tolerance. Also this week, we explore the truth behind “The Sound of
Music” on its 50th anniversary, and rev up anticipation for the
Christmas season (aka liturgical new year for many Western Christians)
as we pass through the Feast of Christ the King. Read all about these
events and observances below …

MONDAY, if you learned your musical scale from “The Sound of Music,”
you’re not alone—so join in the celebration of the musical’s 50th
anniversary! On this date in 1959, “The Sound of Music” made its first
appearance on Broadway. As the last musical by famed team Richard
Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, “The Sound of Music” was an immediate
hit and has maintained great popularity.
    Following opening night in 1959, “The Sound of Music” continued on Broadway for 1,442 performances (this Broadway site honors the musical’s 50 years).
The Broadway show won award after award, and the film version (1965)
ranks 7th in all-time movie ticket sales, when adjusted for inflation.
Despite having been deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of
Congress in 2001, the musical’s representation of the von Trapp family
is a little less than accurate. Among the misrepresentations: The
children’s names were changed and, in reality, the von Trapps escaped
Austria by boarding a plane to Italy, fleeing to London and eventually
settling in the United States. If the von Trapps had, in fact, escaped
the Nazi regime by climbing over mountains, the only country somewhat
within walking distance would have been Germany.
Salzburg, Austria, documents “The Sound of Music” as the third most
sought-after reason for tourist visitations in the city (following
Mozart and the Salzburg Festival). Surprisingly, the musical didn’t
make its way to Austria until 2005, where it was performed in Vienna. This Austrian travel site offers a humorous take on locals’ viewpoints on the musical.
According to the storyline, Maria was on her way to becoming a nun
when, ever the misfit, she was sent to the home of the von Trapp family
and found her place. Today, Elisabeth von Trapp—the granddaughter of
Maria—says that music was the core of her grandparents’ faith. When
times were difficult, as they often were in America, their family sang
to renew faith and hope. Elisabeth, today a musician herself, has spent
the past decade performing to raise monies for various charities (this article, from The Southern Illinoisian, gives more details).
“Song brings hearts together for an intention, a purpose,” says
Elisabeth, who is Episcopalian. “I’ve seen it happen, growing up in a
musical family that creates a moment almost as if it were a prayer.”

Also on MONDAY, take acceptance to the next level on the International Day for Tolerance (here is the official site from the UN).
Whether you choose to educate yourself on a minority group, learn more
about a common stereotype or just read up on your next-door neighbor’s
faith, take action today! Helen Keller once said that, “The highest
result of education is tolerance.”
        Government leaders from
around the world committed themselves to encouraging tolerance, respect
and communication between peoples of different cultures at the 2005
World Summit (UNESCO has some ideas on how to spread tolerance). Check with your city’s government to see if you can get involved at a local level. If you’re a teacher, check out this site for some great lesson plans on tolerance.
Tolerance is built into the United Nations Charter. According to the
Charter, “We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save
succeeding generations from the scourge of war. … to practice
tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good
    The Charter goes on to state that, ” … peace, if
it is not to fail, must be founded on the intellectual and moral
solidarity of mankind.”
    If you’re committed to understanding people of other faiths, check out this site from the Oslo Coalition.
According to Oslo-an international network of representatives from
various religious communities—the right to practice one’s religion of
choice is a basic human right.

TUESDAY, retain the feeling of peaceful tolerance as the world recognizes the 20th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution (Radio Prague gives a thorough explanation of the Revolution’s events). In just six weeks, the people of Czechoslovakia overthrew the Communist government on peaceful and non-violent terms.

    Click here to read a ReadTheSpirit overview of the crucial role
religious groups played in the revolutions that swept eastern Europe in
that season.

    On November 17, 1989, students in Prague,
Czechoslovakia, began protesting the oppressive Communist government.
Riot police put a violent end to the peaceful student protest by
beating the students with night sticks—when the police were offered
only flowers and other peaceful responses from the students. (Check out Wikipedia’s summary of events.)
When news of these violent actions by police spread across the country,
workers’ unions and thousands of citizens backed the students’ efforts.
From this date until November 27, demonstrations were seen across the
nation. Czechoslovakia halted performances in its theaters and held
discussions instead. One such discussion led to the establishment of
the Civic Forum, the official “spokesgroup” of those in favor of
democracy in Czechoslovakia. Vaclav Havel led the Civic Forum,
demanding that the Communist government resign. Unanimous support came
from the Czech citizens, and the Communist regime was both shocked and
unprepared for the peoples’ actions.
    Eventually, the Presidium
of the Communist Party resigned and Prime Minister Ladislay Adamec had
no choice but to talk with the Civic Forum and Vaclav Havel.
The two leaders agreed upon a new coalition government, and on December
10, President Gustav Husak announced his resignation. Vaclav Havel was
named the new president of Czechoslovakia. (Get an American view from The National Security Archives). Havel’s government worked on improving human rights, freedoms and business laws.
Although the Velvet Revolution—or “Gentle Revolution,” as the Czechs
prefer to call it—seemed quick and almost painless, credit must be
given to events in other Communist governments at that time. Poland was
losing its Communist rule; the Berlin Wall fell in Germany; the Iron
Curtain had been lifted, and soon after, Czechoslovakia followed suit
by eliminating its own Communist rulers.

Roman Catholics and many Protestants mark the last holy Sunday of the
Western liturgical year on the Feast of Christ the King, or the
Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI originally deemed this day
in 1925, and although the date has shifted throughout the years, the
observance has remained intact and is now a high-ranking feast on the
calendar. (Get more history from CatholicCulture.org.)
Many other churches recognize this as the last Sunday on the calendar,
too, including many major Anglican and Protestant churches:
Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans of America, United Methodists,
Presbyterians, those of the United Church of Christ and the Moravian
    The day’s name refers back to the anointing of King
David, and although the church had many leaders from the line of David
(“kings”), Christ is the king of them all. It is said that Pope Pius XI
so named this feast day for Catholics to make known God’s superiority
and royalty over all individuals, families, societies, governments and
nations. (This Catholic site, called Fish Eaters, gives some appropriate readings for the day.) According to tradition, Christ’s kingdom is fourfold: It is supreme, universal, eternal and spiritual.
    As many Western Christians observe the Feast of Christ the King,
Advent is just on the horizon. In one week, Western Christians will
begin the four-week preparation for Christmas (many Eastern Christians
already have started their Nativity Fast).
    Also, St. Nicholas
Day will be coming on December 6, a day when St. Nicholas of Myra is
honored and children around the world enjoy small-scale customs similar
to Christmas. This neat site, called the St. Nicholas Center, reveals the truth about this famed man and has fun activities for kids, to boot. Eager for more early Christmas fun? Try this site for holiday music, cookie recipes, craft ideas and more.

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