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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(October 5 to 11, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton
FRIDAY is Leif Erikson Day—the first of two annual observances marking what might be described as the real-life moments in history “When Worlds Collided.” (The other is Monday October 12, Columbus Day.)
The name of this heroic figure shows up spelled and configured in various ways—often as Eric or Erik the Red. He was probably the first European to visit the lands now known as the Americas, roughly 500 years before Columbus.
His holiday was authorized by Congress in 1964. No, October 9 wasn’t a key date in his life or voyages—but it was marked as a key date in Scandinavian immigration. A ship of immigrants from Norway showed up in New York harbor in 1825.
Want to read part of the “Saga of Eric the Red”? One version of it in English is available online through the Bartlby Web site. OR, if you’re really a fan of languages, the Icelandic Saga Database has versions of Erik’s adventures in English and Old Norse.
FRIDAY NIGHT, two closely related Jewish holidays end Sukkot—the ancient harvest festival of outdoor “booths” that began a week ago—and draw the cycle of new-year holidays to a close. Jews now are well into the new year 5770.
In some places and traditions, the two holidays—Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah—are celebrated together. In other places and traditions, they’re two separate days—one starting Friday night and one starting Saturday night.
The basic idea of Shemini Atzeret is that the day is spent in appreciating the love of God. Some Jewish accounts say that it’s a special day God set aside as Sukkot closes to spend a little more intimate time with God’s people.
Simchat Torah marks a more specific event—the ending of the Torah readings for the year. Christians don’t read their entire Bible in the course of worship, each year, but they do follow a schedule of readings that cycles year to year. Jews mark the end of the completion of the Torah readings—and the beginning of a new annual cycle on this day. It’s a joyous day and there are processions with Torah scrolls. (The photo at right shows a Simchat Torah procession.)
Here’s an interesting overview of both holidays from the Judaism 101 Web site.
EARLIER THIS WEEK …
THIS WEEK BEGINS with World Teachers’ Day on MONDAY,
a special annual celebration of teachers inaugurated by the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in
1994. The basic idea is to highlight the critical need for education
around the world by devoting a day each year to thanking our teachers.
Who can disagree with that motive? And, nations around the world now take part. Here’s an index of Teachers’ Day in various countries. Many do observe October 5, but many have selected other dates.
The best online resource, though, is this cool Web site designed by Education International to promote the event.
Education International is a global network of teachers’ unions and
professional organizations. The 2009 World Teachers’ Day site includes
a series of visually striking posters you can download in a variety of
languages—then print out to hang on your wall. These are great for
foreign-language classrooms and you’ll enjoy the photography. The image
at the top of today’s Spiritual Season column is featured on one
poster. Also, via that Web site, you can send an E-card to a teacher
you want to honor personally.
TUESDAY, although few people will mark this remarkable anniversary—it’s the 120th anniversary of movies!
On October 6, 1889, Thomas Edison had a terrific day. He received good
news from the courts in his defense of a patent on the light bulb, and
he demonstrated his first two movies. Each one was a long strip of
photographs of an assistant—arranged to roll through a series of gears
so that the assistant moved his arms and gyrated for viewers. (Yes,
we know there are many ways to mark milestones in the birth of
cinema—but this certainly is one key date worthy of note here since
ReadTheSpirit often recommends movies with spiritual themes.)
Below you should see a YouTube screen. Click on it to view a
3-and-a-half-minute historical video about these first movies. Toward
the end, you’ll see the actual clips, which look a lot like ghostly
apparitions. You’ve probably never seen the world’s first movies
before—so spend a moment and enjoy the experience. (If you don’t see a video screen on your Web browser, click here to go directly to YouTube to see the clip.)
WEDNESDAY is the feast day of Saints Sergius and Bacchus—a
couple of saints among the thousands listed in church records and
perhaps not a pair you’ve heard much about over the years. They were
3rd-Century Roman soldiers, who were martyred when their secret
devotion to Christianity came to light.
Renewed public attention fell on this ill-fated pair in the
early 1990s when new historical research was published, arguing that
they were more than just loyal friends. Advocates of gay rights argue
that Sergius and Bacchus were a same-gender couple and that some
Christians in earlier centuries looked to them as a model of pure
Christian devotion, even though they may have been what we might
describe today as a gay couple.
Historical judgment hasn’t been
settled concerning their legacy, but suddenly—after many centuries—a
small but growing number of Christians are recalling these Roman
martyrs once again.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)