Friday, December 30, 2016

12 Days of Christmas : More on the Magi

Magi
BIBLICAL FIGURES
Magi, singular Magus, also called Wise Men , in Christian tradition, the noble pilgrims “from the East” who followed a miraculous guiding star to Bethlehem, where they paid homage to the infant Jesus as king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1–12). Christian theological tradition has always stressed that Gentiles as well as Jews came to worship Jesus—an event celebrated in the Eastern church at Christmas and in the West at Epiphany (January 6). Eastern tradition sets the number of Magi at 12, but Western tradition sets their number at three, probably based on the three gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11) presented to the infant.
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Adoration of the Magi, oil on wood by Perugino, c. 1496–98; in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, France.

Adoration of the Magi, oil on wood by Perugino, c. 1496–98; …
Photos.com/Jupiterimages
The Gospel of Matthew relates how at Jerusalem they attracted the interest of King Herod I of Judaea by announcing Jesus’ birth: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Matthew 2:2). Having already learned the place of Jesus’ birth from the priests and scribes, Herod extracted from the Magi the exact date on which the star heralding the birth appeared as confirmation of the biblical prophecy. He then sent them to see the infant Jesus, requesting that they disclose upon their return his exact location. They continued on to Bethlehem, where they worshipped Jesus and offered him gifts. Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, “they left for their own country by another road” (Matthew 2:12).
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The Adoration of the Magi, oil painting by Albrecht Dürer, 1504; in the Uffizi, Florence.

The Adoration of the Magi, oil painting by Albrecht Dürer, 1504; …
SCALA/Art Resource, New York
Subsequent traditions embellished the narrative. As early as the 3rd century they were considered to be kings, probably interpreted as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalms 72:11 (“May all kings fall down before him”). In about the 8th century the names of three Magi—Bithisarea, Melichior, and Gathaspa—appear in a chronicle known as the Excerpta latina barbari. They have become known most commonly as BalthasarMelchior, and Gaspar (or Casper). According to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.
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Adoration of the Magi, tempera on wood by Gentile da Fabriano, 1423; in the Uffizi, Florence. 3 × 2.8 metres.

Adoration of the Magi, tempera on wood by Gentile da Fabriano, 1423; …
SCALA/Art Resource, New York
Their supposed relics were transferred from Constantinople, possibly in the late 5th century, to Milan and thence to Cologne Cathedral in the 12th century. Devotion to the Magi was especially fervent in the Middle Ages. The Magi are venerated as patrons of travelers; their feast day is July 23.
The Adoration of the Magi—i.e., their homage to the infant Jesus—early became one of the most popular themes in Christian art, the first extant painting on the subject being the fresco in the Priscilla Catacomb of Rome dating from the 2nd century. In the Middle Ages the Adoration of the Magi was often associated with two other major events of Jesus’ life: his baptism, during which the voice of God publicly declared Jesus to be his son, and the wedding at Cana, at which he revealed his divinity by changing water into wine. The three events, all celebrated on the same feast day, were frequently represented together in the monumental sculpture that decorated the churches of the period.
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Adoration of the Magi, centre panel of a triptych by the Antwerp Mannerist painter Jan de Beer, c. 1520; in the Brera, Milan.

Adoration of the Magi, centre panel of a triptych by the Antwerp …

SCALA/Art Resource, New York
What are wise men (magi), anyway?
The Greek word Matthew uses for magi, or wise men,  is mágoi: astrologers, sorcerers, or priests. In addition to the wise men of Jesus’ childhood, this word only refers to a few other people in Scripture:
  1. The sorcerers and dream interpreters of Babylon. Back in the book of Daniel, the Babylonian emperor has a distressing dream. He calls on his magicians to interpret the dream, but they are completely unable to do so (Da 2:210). The king almost wipes them out, but God interprets the dream through Daniel, saving all the wise men of Babylon. When the Jews translated the Old Testament into Greek, they used the word  mágoi for the magicians in this passage.
  2. A Jewish magician and false prophet named Elymus. In the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas spread the gospel through the island of Cyprus, but Elymus opposes them. The mágos particularly tries to turn the ruler of the province away from the faith. According to Paul, this magician is “full of deceit,” a “son of the devil,” and an “enemy of all righteousness.” You can read the whole story in Acts 13:4–12.
The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible sheds some more light on the role of the wise man:
The historian Herodotus mentions “magi” as a priestly caste of Media, or Persia, and, as the religion in Persia at the time was Zoroastrinism, Herodotus’ magi were probably Zoroastrian priests. [. . .] Believing the affairs of history were reflected in the movements of the stars and other phenomena, Herodotus suggests the rulers of the East commonly utilized the magi’s knowledge of astrology and dream interpretation to determine affairs of state.1

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

12 Days : More on the Shepherds

Here is an interesting post about Shepherds from  Meridian Magazine

A Deeper Look: the Shepherds of Bethlehem

By John A. Tvedtnes

 
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:8-20)

A group of shepherds living near Bethlehem were privileged to receive the news of Christ’s birth from an angel. They hurried into town to see for themselves, then spread the good news abroad.[1] Significantly, Jesus’ ancestor David was a Bethlehem shepherd who became king of Israel. About a millennium before the Savior’s birth, the prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse.
Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The Lord hath not chosen these. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep.[2]

And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:10-13).



This event was recalled later in a Psalm attributed to David, not included in today’s Western Bibles, but known from the Greek Septuagint and Syriac versions and was also included in one of the psalters found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.[3] Here is a portion of that psalm:
Halleluia of David, son of Jesse.
I was smaller than my brothers
and younger than my father’s sons;
he put me as shepherd of his flock
and master of his kid goats . . .
God saw everything
he heard everything
and listened.
He sent his prophet to anoint me
Samuel, to make me great.
my brothers went out to meet him
well built,
very presentable.
They were quite tall,
they had attractive hair,
but YHWH [Jehovah] God did not choose them,
instead he sent to fetch me from following the flock
and anointed me with holy oil
and set me as leader of his people
/and chief of/ the sons of his covenant[4]

The Sacrificial Lambs
St. Jerome wrote to Eustochium of “the tower of Edar, that is ‘of the flock,’ near which Jacob fed his flocks, and where the shepherds keeping watch by night were privileged to hear the words: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’ While they were keeping their sheep they found the Lamb of God whose fleece bright and clean was made wet with the dew of heaven when it was dry upon all the earth beside, and whose blood when sprinkled on the doorposts drove off the destroyer of Egypt and took away the sins of the world” (Letter 108 to Eustochium 10).[5]
In medieval times, Migdal-Eder was considered to be the spot where the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ, and, according to Gaulish Bishop Arculf, who visited the site ca. AD 700, a church stood there with monuments to the three shepherds.

The Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God
Old Testament sometimes compares Israel to a flock of sheep who are admonished to follow the Lord as sheep follow their shepherd.[6] In the New Testament, Jesus is the good shepherd, while his followers are compared to sheep.[7] One of the most well-known Bible passages begins “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
The patriarch Jacob (renamed Israel), spoke of “the shepherd, the stone of Israel” (Genesis 49:24).[8] This sounds very much like a messianic declaration, for Christ is both the “good shepherd” (John 10:11; John 10:11, 14; cf.Alma 5:38-39, 41, 57, 60; Helaman 7:18) and the stone of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:4). Indeed, D&C 50:44 calls Jesus both “the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel,” reflecting Jacob’s words. Some early Christian writers saw Isaiah 1:3 as an allusion to the manger used as the newborn Christ’s bed. This passage uses the term “master's crib” as an analogy for Israel’s misunderstanding God’s plan.[9] The English term “crib,” used in our day to denote a baby’s bed, originally denoted the place where food was placed for animals (cf. Proverbs 14:4).
The Akathist Hymn, adopted for the liturgy of the eastern orthodox churches in A.D. 626, but perhaps dating from as early as the third century, has the shepherds coming to see the newborn Christ “as a spotless lamb being pastured in the womb of Mary” and calls Mary “mother of the lamb and shepherd . . . fold of spiritual sheep” (Ikos 4).[10] Compare this with Nephi’s vision, “And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Nephi 11:20-21).
Joseph, son of Jacob, is said to have experienced a similar vision: “And I saw that a virgin was born from Judah, wearing a linen stole; and from her was born a spotless lamb” (Testament of Joseph 19:8).[11] In the book of Revelation, the lamb represents Christ.[12] Testament of Benjamin 3:7-8 also speaks of “the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world . . . the unspotted one . . . the sinless one.”[13] The apostle Peter wrote of “Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).
Melito, a second-century bishop of Sardis, described Christ, saying “He is the lamb being slain; he is the lamb that is speechless; he is the one born from Mary, the lovely ewe-lamb; he is the one taken from the flocks, and dragged to slaughter, and sacrificed at evening” (On Passover 71).[14] Melito had in mind not only the Passover lamb as described in the book of Exodus, but Isaiah’s prophecy of the Savior “as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers” (Isaiah 53:7; cited in Acts 8:32; Mosiah 14:7; 15:6). Elsewhere, Melito wrote of Christ, “He was seen as a lamb, but remained a shepherd.”[15] He also compared the slaughter of the Passover lambs at the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt with Christ (On Passover 31-32). In the Acts of Saint Eustratius, Christ is said to have put on the sheepskin (his humanity) to lure on the wolf, Satan.
The fourth-century A.D. Syriac Christian writer Ephraim composed a number of Hymns on the Nativity to commemorate the birth of Christ, in which he provided details missing from the Bible but evidently in circulation among Christians of his day. Terming Christ “the True Lamb [who] redeemed us” and noted that “the early lamb no one ever used to see before the shepherds: and as for the true Lamb, in the season of His birth, the tidings of Him too hasted unto the shepherds . . . the Shepherd of all became a Lamb in the flocks” (Hymns on the Nativity 3.12).[16]
Ephraim further wrote that “In March when the lambs bleat in the wilderness, into the Womb [of Mary] the Paschal Lamb entered!” (Hymns on the Nativity 3.10).[17] In his commentary on Exodus 12:3, he noted that “the Lamb is a type of our Lord, who on the tenth of Nisan entered into the womb.”[18] By this, he intended to demonstrate that Mary conceived Jesus just a few days before Passover (15 Nisan in the Hebrew calendar), nine months before the celebration of his birth in December. Thus, in Hymns on the Nativity 4.11, he wrote that “Moses shut up a [Passover] lamb in the month Nisan on the tenth day [Exodus 12:3]; a type of this the Son that came into the womb and shut Himself up therein on the tenth day. He came forth from the womb in this month in which the sun gives longer light.,” i.e., December.[19]
Ephraim’s reasoning was actually backward, for Christ was born, not conceived, at the same time that lambs are born, i.e., the end of the Hebrew month of Nisan (also called Aviv), which overlaps the latter part of March and beginning of April.[20] Indeed, Ephraim contradicted himself in another of his hymns, where he suggested that Christ was, in fact, born in the lambing season:
At the birth of the Son, there was a great shouting in Bethlehem; for the Angels came down, and gave praise there. Their voices were a great thunder:[21]at that voice of praise the silent ones [the shepherds] came, and gave praise to the Son . . . The shepherds also came laden with the best gifts of their flock: sweet milk, clean flesh, befitting praise! They put a difference, and gave Joseph the flesh, Mary the milk, and the Son the praise! They brought and presented a suckling lamb to the Paschal Lamb, a first-born to the First-born, a sacrifice to the Sacrifice, a lamb of time to the Lamb of Truth. Fair sight [to see] the lamb offered to The Lamb! The lamb bleated as it was offered before the First-born. It praised the Lamb, that had come to set free the flocks and the oxen from sacrifices: yea that Paschal Lamb, Who handed down and brought in the Passover of the Son. The shepherds came near and worshipped Him with their staves. They saluted Him with peace, prophesying the while, “Peace, O Prince of the Shepherds.” The rod of Moses praised Thy Rod, O Shepherd of all. (Hymns on the Nativity 5.1-4)[22]
Like other early Christian writers, Ephraim termed Christ the “First-born,” usually in the context of his mortal birth (Luke 2:7 says that Mary “brought forth her firstborn son”).[23] But he also alluded to the symbolic meaning of this title. For example in his Hymns on the Nativity 5.2-3, he wrote that “the shepherds also came laden with the best gifts of their flock . . . They brought a suckling lamb to the Paschal Lamb, a first-born to the First-born . . . The lamb bleated as it was offered before the First-born.”[24]

The Message of the Angel
The message delivered to the shepherds has, in our day, been the subject of much commentary. The King James version of the Bible has the angels declaring that there should be “on earth peace, good will toward men.” Some scholars render the Greek as “peace toward men of good will,” while others prefer “peace toward those who please him,” meaning God.Peace is also associated with sheep in Hebrews 13:20, which speaks of “the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep.”
__________________________
[1] Book of the Bee 37 names seven shepherds, Asher, Zebulon, Justus, Nicodemus, Joseph, Barshabba, and Jose. All of these names appear in the Bible, from which they were undoubtedly borrowed.
[2] Anciently, as today, the youngest son or prepubescent daughter often led the sheep to water and pasture and guarded them against predators. A man without sons typically hires shepherds to do the job. Thus, Laban’s youngest daughter Rachel kept the sheep (demonstrating that she had not yet reached puberty) until her cousin Jacob arrived and took over the task (Genesis 29:6-10; 30:27-33). Though Jacob kept Laban’s sheep and goats, he put his own flock in the keeping of his sons (Genesis 30:35-36; see also Genesis 37:2). It is likely that one of the reasons Jacob’s older sons hated Joseph is that his father sometimes broke with tradition and kept his younger son with him rather than sending him out with the flocks (Genesis 37:12-14). In Bible times, as among most Middle Easterners today, once a girl reaches puberty, she did not go out alone, for fear that she might be seduced or raped (cf. the story of Dinah in Genesis 34), so only a younger girls would be alone with the flock, as was Rachel. (Jewish tradition holds that Jacob met her when she was ten years old, which would have made her seventeen when he married her.) Jethro allowed his daughters to keep the flock because they were seven in number (Exodus 2:16-19). But when Moses married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah, he became the family shepherd (Exodus 3:1).
[3] 11QPsa, also known as 11Q5. All five of the additional Psalms known from the Syriac Bible were included in one of the Dead Sea scrolls, which have many other psalms that are unattested elsewhere.
[4] Florentino García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (2nd ed., Leiden: Brill, 1994), 310.
[5] Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 6:200. The set fleece is an allusion to the story of Gideon in Judges 6:36-40.
[6] Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; Psalms 77:20; 78:52; 79:13; 80:1; 100:3; Ecclesiastes 12:11; Isaiah 40:11; 44:28; 53:6; 63:11; Jeremiah 13:17, 20; 23:2; 25:36; 31:10; 51:23; Ezekiel 34:5, 8-19, 23; 36:37-38; 37:24; Micah 2:12; 7:14; Amos 3:12; Zechariah 9:16; 10:2-3; 11:11, 15-17; 13:7. Note that in some of these passages, the Lord selects a proxy (e.g., a prophet or king) to serve as shepherd over his sheep.
[7] Matthew 9:36; 18:12-14; 25:33-35; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 15:4-7; John 10:1-16; Romans 8:36; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:3-4. In the Book of Mormon, see 1 Nephi 13:41; 22:25; Mosiah 8:20-21; Alma 5:37-41, 57, 59-60; 25:12; Helaman 7:18-19; 15:13; 3 Nephi 15:17, 21-24; 16:1-3; Mormon 5:17.
[8] These words derive from Jacob’s blessing of his son Joseph. For a discussion of Joseph as possible ancestor of Christ, see the discussion in chapter 2, Mary and Joseph.
[9] The passage reads, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: [but] Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider..”
[10] The translation used here is from an unpublished paper by Margaret Barker of Cambridge University, which she shared with the author and other faculty members during a visit to the Brigham Young University campus in 2003.
[11] James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), 1:824. The Armenian version of this passage notes that the virgin who would bear the Messiah was “wearing a multicolored stole” (ibid.)—an obvious reference to Joseph’s “coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3), which was interpreted by the early rabbis as the priestly garment. For a discussion, see John A. Tvedtnes, “Priestly Clothing in Bible Times,” in Donald Parry, ed.,Temples of the Ancient World (Salt Lake City: Deseret FARMS, 1994), ____-____.
[12] Revelation 5:6-5-13; 6:1, 16; 7:9-10, 13-17; 12:11; 13: 8:11; 14:1, 4, 10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7-9; 21:14, 22-23; 22:1-3.
[13] Ibid., 1:826.
[14] Stuart George Hall, Melito of Sardis: On Pascha and Fragments (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1979),, 39.
[15] Fragment 14, in ibid., 81.
[16] Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 13:232.
[17] Ibid., 13:230.
[18] Ibid., 13:235, n. 2.
[19] Ibid., 13:235. In Ephraim’s time, the winter solstice, marking the shortest day of the year, fell on 25 December, after which the days began to lengthen.
[20] By Ephraim’s time, many Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on 25 December, which is evidently why he here considers that his conception was nine months earlier, in March.
[21] Angels are frequently said to speak with a voice of thunder. See the discussion in John A. Tvedtnes, “The Voice of an Angel,” in Noel B. Reynolds, Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo: FARMS, 1997).
[22] Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 13:237.
[23] See Hymns on the Nativity 3.12, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 13:232; 14.1, 5, 22, 26 (ibid., 13:250, 252); 16.8 (ibid., 13:256); 19.1, 13 (ibid., 13:261-2); Hymns for the Feast of the Epiphany 1.12 (ibid., 266).
[24] Ibid., 13:237.

Monday, December 3, 2012

12 Days of Christmas : Day 12 : Trees : Jesus Christ the Apple Tree



One of my favorite Christmas carols is "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree," set to the music of Elizabeth Poston (1905–1987).  



My daughter, Heather, sang this carol while touring in England with the Oberlin Choristers in York Minster under the beautiful Five Sisters window.

Written anonymously ("R.H.") as a poem published in 1761 in New England, the lyrics may be a reference to Song of Songs 2:3 :3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.



The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

[With great delight I’ll make my stay,
There’s none shall fright my soul away;
Among the sons of me I see,
There’s none like Christ the apple tree.

I’ll sit and eat this truth divine,
It cheers my heart like spirit’l wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me,
That grows on Christ the apple tree.]
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree

12 Days of Christmas : Day 12 : Trees



The Symbol Dictionary has this to say about TREES: 

The Tree of Life is an important symbol in nearly every culture. With its branches reaching into the sky, and roots deep in the earth, it dwells in three worlds- a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. It is both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance, and a masculine, visibly phallic symbol- another union.


In Jewish and Christian mythology, a tree sits at the center of both the Heavenly and Earthly Edens. 

The Norse cosmic World Ash, Ygdrassil, has its roots in the underworld while its branches support the abode of the Gods.








The Egyptian’s Holy Sycamore stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the worlds.




 To the Mayas, it is Yaxche, whose branches support the heavens.

The tree has other characteristics which lend easily to symbolism. Many trees take on the appearance of death in the winter- losing their leaves, only to sprout new growth with the return of spring. This aspect makes the tree a symbol of resurrection, and a stylized tree is the symbol of many resurrected Gods- Jesus, Attis, and Osirus all have crosses as their symbols. Most of these Gods are believed to have been crucified on trees, as well. 

A tree also bears seeds or fruits, which contain the essence of the tree, and this continuous regeneration is a potent symbol of immortality. It is the fruit of a tree that confers immortality in the Jewish creation story. In Taoist tradition, it is a divine peach that gives the gift of immortality. In ancient Persia, the fruit of the haoma bears this essence. The apples of Idun give the Norse gods their powers, much like the Gods of the Greek pantheon and their reliance on Ambrosia. This aspect of the tree as a giver of gifts and spiritual wisdom is also quite common.

It is while meditating under a Bodhi tree that Buddha received his enlightenment; the Norse God Odin received the gift of language while suspended upside down in the World Ash (an interesting parallel is the hanged man of the tarot). In Judeo-Christian mythology, the Tree of heaven sits at the center of creation, and is the source of the primordial rivers that water the earth.   The Tooba Tree of the Koran is a similar idea, from whose roots spring milk, honey, and wine.

This tree and its gifts of immortality are not easy to discover. It is historically difficult to find, and almost invariably guarded. The tree of Life in the Jewish bible is guarded by a Seraph (an angel in the form of a fiery serpent) bearing a flaming sword. To steal the apples of knowledge, the Greek hero Hercules had to slay a many-headed dragon Ladon. In Mayan legends, it is a serpent in the roots that must be contended with. Similarly, the Naga, or divine serpent guards the Hindu Tree. The Serpent Nidhog lives under Ygdrassil, and gnaws at the roots.


The tree as the abode of the Gods is another feature common to many mythologies; in some, the tree itself is a God. The ancient Sumerian God Dammuzi was personified as a tree, as is the Hindu Brahman. The Byzantine World tree represents the omnipotence of the Christian god.

Another form, the inverted Tree, represents spiritual growth, as well as the human nervous system. This tree, with its roots in heaven, and its branches growing downward, is most commonly found in Kabbalistic imagery.

A similar tree is mentioned in the Vedic Bhagavad Gita: “The banyan tree with its roots above, and its branches below, is imperishable.”

In Jewish Kabbalah, the inverted tree represents the nervous system as well- the ‘root’ in the cranial nerves, with the branches spreading throughout the body; it also represents the cosmic tree- rooted in heaven, the branches all of manifest creation.




You can read more about trees in the Bible HERE



My favorite Biblical verses about evergreen trees are these from (surprise!) Isaiah.

Isaiah 60:13   The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree,



 the pine tree, 



and the box together,



 to beautify the place of my sanctuary; 


and I will make the place of my feet glorious.




So, as I write this in Germany, the HOME of the Christmas tree, I encourage you to bring in branches of all the trees you can to decorate your homes and churches (and, yes, I DO know what "Church Policy" says, so be discrete).  Just remember WHO the Tree of Life truly represents.


And enjoy the fruits of the season.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Compass Pilot Lessons : 1956


After I looked through all The Children's Friend magazines and scanned all of LaFawn's artwork in them, I decided to also scan the Primary manuals I knew she had done artwork in, especially the Gaynote manual.  When I searched  in the Church History Library, they did not have ALL the Primary manuals on the shelves. But they did have some from the 1950's.  At random, I pulled out this Compass Pilot manual from 1956 and found Mom's artwork in it!  These turned out to be the earliest pieces of artwork  Mom did for the Primary.







I vividly remember many 'posting charts' around our house that Mom made and used in her teaching.  Some held wordstrips like this one.  It was important to make sure there was enough blank cardboard on the bottom of the wordstrip or picture to lift the words above the folded paper.  Twenty years later, when LaFawn published her "Learning Cards," posting charts were included, as were other teaching ideas she illustrated in 1956. 


The most creative posting chart was a huge one (about 3 feet x 4 feet) she made out of brown butcher paper on one 'wall' of a cardboard appliance box for a fold-up play kitchen.


In the photo below you can see LaFawn's fold-up kitchen : three panels from a cardboard appliance box.  Behind her grandkids (r to l) Adam, Ryan and Chrissa on the left is the "kitchen cupboard" posting chart.


  Mom cut out the cardboard fronts of dry soup and cereal boxes; paper labels from cans were glued onto cardboard to stiffen them.  We had at least 50 products in an envelope that we could then "buy" at a pretend grocery store, and "bring them home" and put the groceries "in the cupboard" (the rows of the posting chart) in the play kitchen. 



 Mom also made small versions of this game which fit inside the flat boxes that nylon stockings were purchased in.  The 'groceries' were pictures of food products from magazine ads which she glued onto cardboard and covered with clear contact paper for durability.



Storage ideas like this hanging pocket also showed up in the "Learning Cards." (see below)




 In the Compass Pilot manual, they encouraged children to play musical instruments like the shepherd boy David had played his harp.




Although LaFawn did not play any musical instruments, she loved music and rhythm, especially as aids to memorization. She had her students sing scripture words to popular tunes or tap out rhythms to songs they were learning




Friday, June 10, 2011

LaFawn's Art in The Children's Friend


I spent several hours today at the Church History Library scanning Mom's artwork in old copies of The Children's Friend magazine.
Prior to the new library, you could only print from old microfiches and the quality of the pictures was poor due to bad lighting and bleed-through from the reverse side. Now they let you do high quality scanning from original magazines, which you can save to a thumb drive or SD card. I only finished 2 1/2 years worth and will need to go back again. Lots of memories in the pages I skimmed today. I will be posting all of LaFawn's Children's Friend artwork and activity pages on this blog.




The Children's Friend was the official magazine of the LDS Church for children between 1902 and 1970. May Anderson, a convert and immigrant from Liverpool, England was the first editor-in-chief of The Children's Friend, as well as the second general President of the Primary. During her tenure, Anderson initiated the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake. I well remember the Primary penny collection fund drives to support Primary Children's. Mom did the artwork for at least one fund drive.


The women I remember Mom working with in the 1950's were LaVern Parmley and Erma Gardner.

Parmley served as Primary president until she was succeeded by Naomi M. Shumway in 1974; in total, she served 23 years as president and 32 years as a member of the presidency.


During Parmley's tenure, Scouting was integrated into the Primary program for boys ages eight through eleven. The Primary curriculum was also revised and became more centered on teaching doctrines of the LDS Church, as did the magazine. "I Am a Child of God", written by Naomi W. Randall, was introduced to Primary in 1957 as part of the annual Primary sacrament meeting program. It was first printed in the same issue as Mom's first artwork in The Children's Friend, June, 1957. From 1951 until 1970, Parmley was the final editor of The Children's Friend. Parmley oversaw its phase-out and the launch of the church's new magazine for children, The Friend.


Erma and Harold Gardner lived near our Wyoming Street home. They had about 12 kids and owned a fruit farm on the east bench of Salt Lake City and sold bedding plants and fruit for many years. I remember watching the kids make lunches in their kitchen in an assembly line : sandwiches from homemade bread at the two picnic tables they used for meals.

Erma served on the Primary General Board, Adult Correlation Committee and Children's Writing Committee. She wrote Three Steps to Good Teaching, which Mom illustrated, numerous lessons for family home evening and other parenting articles in the Children's Friend, which Mom illustrated, and primary manuals, especially the new manuals for the girls 8-11: Gaynotes, Firelights and Merrihands. LaFawn worked on covers and interior art for all three; her favorite was the Gaynote manual, for which she did the cover artwork. Karen found that Helen Stay, her other grandma, had torn off and saved the cover from that manual in her Primary files; it was beautiful.





Sadly, Mom was never called to the General Board, as Dad was not a full-tithe payer during the years she served, but she had a tremendous impact on Primary by improving the quality of artwork and increasingly using Gospel-related materials in the curriculum and magazine rather than talking animals and fairy stories.