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962Jon Kennedy's blog for Friday

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Jan 3, 2014

      Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
      his soj
      ourn in Northern Ireland'

      My Google+ diary and Belfast blog

      Jon Kennedy        
      JONAL ENTRY 1369 | FRIDAY, JANUARY 3 2014

      Today's Scripture: . . . the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
      He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
      And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?" And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."

      From the Gospel of St. Luke chapter 3,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below.

      Today's diary
      Bitterly cold winds are keeping most people inside today, though the temperatures are in the mid-40s F. I've done my cafe duty this morning and have to catch a bus to the Dock Cafe as the prayer conscript of the hour between 5 and 6 p.m., and I have a stuffed chicken casserole in the oven.
      Cinema Paradiso, a mini-review
      After Taize chants and readings at the Dock last evening, four of us went to Queens Film Theater to see a classic Italian film, Cinema Paradiso, which has been released in a newly digitized version that is somewhat different than the one I saw around 1990, the year it won the Oscar for best foreign film.

      It captivated me originally because it dealt with the effect a small town often has on people growing up in such an environment. Toto (nickname for Salvatore) is a young boy captivated by the movies and the theater (Paradiso) in the town where they are shown. When it is reported that his father, who had been missing in action in Russia since World War II, has now been classified as killed in action, the movie projectionist, Alfredo, takes a fatherly interest in the lad after previously trying to dissuade him from coming to the theater.

      Alfredo, left, tends the projector while Toto, right, examines a kissing scene cut out on orders of the town priest who doubles as the theater's censor.
      Eventually, the Paradiso is destroyed by fire, as many movie theaters were when the celluloid used for films in the movies' early years was highly flammable. And though Alfredo is blinded in the fire, Toto runs into the burning building and pulls him out, saving his life. Though still only about 10 years old, Toto then becomes the projectionist at the new Paradiso, built by a benefactor who won a lottery in the small Sicilian town of Giancaldo. Now Alfredo and Toto become as close as any father and son, as Toto becomes Alfredo's "eyes" and Alfredo becomes the boy's main confidante and friend.

      As a teenager, Toto meets a girl who captivates him, falls in love, and tries to win her. But her father discourages the relationship, and Alfredo is also not supportive. Toto never got over his first infatuation and in middle age is depicted as having a series of relationships, none of which end in marriage. After finishing his military obligation, Alfredo counsels Toto to leave Giancaldo and never look back. He follows this advice and becomes a successful filmmaker in Rome. But when his mother finally reaches him to tell him that Alfredo has died, he returns to the village 30 years later for the funeral. It may be then that he realizes that the theater of his childhood had been his "paradiso," and the greatest influence on all of his adult decisions.

      Though the film has a number of portals for discussion and reflection, it leaves a number of loose ends. I give this version of it seven points on my 10-point grading scale; good, but not great.

      Today's Christmas fare
      The Twelve Days of Christmas in Orthodox tradition
      By the Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse
      . . . In the Christian tradition of both east and west, the twelve days of Christmas refer to the period from Christmas Day to Theophany. The days leading up to Christmas were for preparation; a practice affirmed in the Orthodox tradition by the Christmas fast that runs from November 15 to Christmas day. The celebration of Christmas did not begin until the first of the twelve days. As our culture became more commercialized, the period of celebration shifted from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.
      Christmas celebration increasingly conforms to the shopping cycle while the older tradition falls by the wayside. It's a worrisome shift because as the tradition dims, the knowledge that the period of preparation imparted diminishes with it. Our Orthodox traditions—from fasting cycles to worship—exist to teach us how to live in Christ.

      The traditions impart discipline. These disciplines are never an end in themselves but neither can life in Christ be sustained apart from them.

      Today's quotes
      Filmmaker Kevin Smith, best known for directing "Clerks," "Dogma," and "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," announced on Facebook on Monday that the plot of his next film would involve "mankind teaming up with Hell to save existence from extinction at the hands of a Rapturing giant Jesus." 
      — Christian Post

      I don't believe that good work is ever done in a hurry. — C.S. Lewis
      Homiletical thought: I wonder how many times I have scanned through this story of the calling and the ministry of John the Baptist without considering what it is really saying. First, the word of God came to him. The point seems to be that when a prophet receives the word, he has no alternative but to preach it. He went out in the desert; there he received and confirmed the word of the Lord, and there he began to preach it. But who was there to hear and believe it?
      Those who are thirsty for the word go out looking for it, and so they did. And when they heard it, they recognized it for what it was, the word of God. So John became the protoevangelist of our Lord Jesus Christ, the forerunner. Multitudes, we read here, went out to hear his word and be baptized. It must have been to them what Narnia was like when, Lewis says, Aslan began to be on the move. The God of the prophets, the God of Abraham and Moses, was again on the move in Israel, and great things were about to happen.
      And so we begin looking toward the feast of the epiphany, better known in Orthodoxy as theophany, the disclosure or revelation of the deity of Jesus Christ as God incarnate in human flesh at His baptism by John, at the climax of John's prophetic ministry.
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      Please pray for my mission to Northern Ireland. You can read my background overview of this undertaking here. My residence/postal address is 227 Crumlin Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT14 7DY, UK. Mobile: 44 7455 980890.


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      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence