Peace on Earth, goodwill to all
"Orthodox Christians celebrated a low-key Christmas on Monday, overshadowed by the threat of possible Israeli retaliation for twin Palestinian suicide attacks that killed 22 people in Tel Aviv a day earlier," the Associated Press reports. Celebrations were short, quiet, and sparsely attended, says the news service.
"There is no joy in Bethlehem," said George Bassous, one of the few who came to watch the annual procession of the four Orthodox patriarchs. "The violence, the suffering, the dead economy have stolen the happiness. There is a lack of peace. The people have lost the hope in the future and to reach a peaceful solution. There is no peace in Bethlehem during the birth of the lord of peace, Jesus Christ."
As Orthodox Christians, who follow a different calendar from the West, celebrate Christmas, many Western Christians join in celebrating Epiphany today (Orthodox, however, celebrate Jesus' birth and baptism today; Western Christians today commemorate the visit of the Magi). In any case, while today is the first day of Christmas for Eastern Orthodox, for Western Christians, it's the 12th.
One popular item connected with the 12th day of Christmas is an explanation of the old song. A prevalent e-mail message claims that the song is a secret catechism created during a period of persecution—but it isn't. Christian History's Elesha Coffman laid out the arguments against the claim last year, but this weekend so did New York Times "Beliefs" columnist Peter Steinfels. "There may be a lesson in this, but it probably has more to do with the affirmation that people find in accounts of being persecuted and, maybe, with the allure of secret decoder rings than with 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.'" he concludes.
Meanwhile, says another Associated Press story, Pope John Paul II's visit to Bulgaria may help to heal tensions between Eastern and Western Christians there. "This is what we need—the hand of God, divine intervention," said Archimandrite Augustine. "We mortals seem incapable of overcoming this schism."
- Witnesses tell of 'frenzied assault' | Eyewitnesses have told of their terror as a man wielding two axes went on the rampage in the historic Waltham Abbey in Essex. (BBC)
- Axeman runs amok in medieval abbey | Two injured (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Prayers said at damaged abbey | Services will go ahead as normal over the weekend, but without the accompaniment of the organ which was smashed (BBC)
- Man with axes smashes up historic abbey (Associated Press)
Yemen missionary attack:
- Bin Laden tapes found at home of alleged killer of U.S. missionaries | Yemeni officials earlier said they believed the cell had been plotting attacks against at least eight targets, including foreigners and Yemeni politicians. (Associated Press)
- Aussie doctor's survival story | A South Australian doctor has told how he survived a terrorist attack on a missionary hospital in Yemen in which three colleagues were shot dead (News.com.au)
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