Archive for November, 2010

St. Andrew
November 30, 2010

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew. Fisherman, brother of Simon Peter, friend and apostle of Christ, evangelist, and martyr. Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist and, according to John the Evangelist, was the first disciple called by Christ. After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, St. Andrew went out to preach the Gospel. He travelled as far north as the Black Sea (which is why he is patron saint of Russia and the Ukraine) but was finally martyred in Achaea, Greece.  Ancient sources say Andrew was bound, not nailed, to a cross.  Iconography from the middle ages shows his cross to be raised in the shape of an X, hence the familiar “St. Andrew’s Cross” on the Scottish flag.

For today’s feast we made fish in remembrance of St. Andrew’s first profession. I don’t know exactly what kind of fish Andrew would have caught. But I read that tilapia are still caught in the Sea of Galilee and they’re an easy fish to find at the grocery store so we went with that. Then I found this Middle Eastern recipe for fish with tahini sauce and adjusted the proportions. Here are the ingredients for the sauce:

We also had couscous and sautéed greens from our garden. Spinach, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, and parsley.

Here’s the final product. Note the Advent candles and wreath in the background. More on that later.

I found this prayer on the interweb:

O glorious St. Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Lamb of God. With your friend, St. John, you remained with Jesus for that first day, for your entire life, and now throughout eternity. As you led your brother, St. Peter, to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to Him. Teach us to lead others to Christ solely out of love for Him and dedication in His service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and to carry our daily crosses without complaint so that they may carry us to Jesus. Amen.

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The Beginning
November 30, 2010

And so, it begins again. The Christian year began last Sunday, four Sundays before Christmas. We wait now, with prayer and fasting, until we celebrate Christmas, a 12 day feast. For those of us who did not grow up participating in the season of Advent, the practice is a major shift from the cultural norm. For most people, the season of Christmas begins immediately after Thanksgiving and fizzles out around mid-afternoon on December 25, just around the time when Christians were traditionally just getting things going.

Although this will be our first Advent since being confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church last Easter, it will not be the first time my wife and I have celebrated the season. The “liturgically minded” Baptist church we attended in Waco made a valiant attempt to mark the times of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Holy Week with appropriate colors and trimmings as well as adaptations of traditional services (think solemnly shared goblets of grape juice for Maundy Thursday). However, even liturgical Baptists are still a little nervous about celebrating the Saints, especially Mary, and so the calendar was still rather sparsely filled.

As my wife and I moved towards Catholicism, we also moved towards a more complete celebration of the Christian year. Starting with Michaelmas 2009, we tried to find traditional ways to celebrate the major feasts of the Church. This has turned out to be more difficult than we thought. Part of the difficulty is that we do not live in a homogeneous Christian culture with ancient traditions, a common food culture, or a close connection to the agricultural systems that sustain us.

Take Michaelmas, for example, which has long been an important holiday in Britain (my wife was actually familiar with this feast from its mention in Jane Austen’s novels). The British celebrate the feast of St. Michael the Archangel with carrots, blackberries, daisies and a roast goose. All of these things are presumably readily available on the day of the feast, September 29. The same is not true for those of us on the other side of the pond. September is as good a time as any for carrots and there are daisy-like flowers that happen to grow near our home. But blackberries are long out of season by September and geese are simply not carried by most grocery stores at any time of the year (I offered to catch one of the wild Canadian geese that live in holding ponds around Tallahassee but my wife didn’t go for this idea). Even without the most authentic ingredients, my wife prepared a wonderful Michaelmas feast with organic frozen blackberries baked into a cobbler and an especially fat chicken as a fine substitute for a goose.

We are often able to find traditional ways of celebrating some holidays but recipes and detailed suggestions for activities and prayers are not so easy to find no matter how many search results Google returns. My wife reads many Catholic Mom and family blogs but often finds their culinary suggestions to be… lacking. For Michaelmas, one blog suggested Little Debbie’s angel food cake. With 2,000 years of Christianity and a globe of diverse culinary schools to draw from, surely we can do better than processed snack foods.

When celebrating our faith, we want to feed our family healthy food while also making sure this food is ethically produced. For most of Christian history, this was a lot easier to do than it is now. Almost all food was “seasonal” and “organic” while most livestock was treated humanely, especially in comparison to modern factory farms. I am not trying to discredit all modern agriculture, grocery stores, and nutrition science. However, I do believe that we have lost much in our divorce from where our food really comes from. But this is too long a digression for now. The important point is that what we eat and how we treat creation is not incidental to our celebration of our faith.

I guess that seems like a lot to consider when you just want to have a simple feast, but we’re going to give it a shot. We’ll record out attempts here by posting some of our research, recipes, prayers and whatever else we happen to stumble on.

Here’s a list of what we hope to celebrate:

  1. The Christian year.
  2. The lives of the Saints and Martyrs.
  3. The global Church.
  4. The earth’s bounty.
  5. The goodness of creation.