How Saint Nicholas Became Santa Claus

Last time, we talked about the origins of Christmas. Following that topic, let’s take a closer look at the yuletide season’s rather iconic character: Santa Claus. Most of us may already be familiar with the famous Christmas mascot with his signature red outfit and hat, paired with a sack full of presents. The information that may not be common knowledge is that the origins of the man called Santa Claus had very religious ties.

Around the 3rd century, a boy was born to rather wealthy parents in the city of Patara in Myra (currently present day Turkey). The boy was named Nicholas. Young Nicholas was very religious—something he learned from his parents. If it was believed, young Nicholas would strictly adhere to the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays.

After his parents died from an epidemic, young Nicholas was taken in by his uncle. His uncle, also named Nicholas, was the Bishop of Patara. The Bishop of Patara then had young Nicholas tonsured and had him become a reader during Mass and later on in his life, ordained as priest. As young Nicholas was left with quite the inheritance, he used his wealth to help the poor, the sick, and most particularly: children. When Nicholas matured, he was already quite well-known for his generosity and piety. So much so that he was eventually made Bishop of Myra.

Bishop Nicholas of Myra was gaining quite a following because of his concern for sailors and their ships as well. Things, however, weren’t always the best for Bishop Nicholas. When the Roman Emperor Diocletian came to power, Christians were persecuted without mercy; this led to Bishop Nicholas being exiled and imprisoned. He was eventually released and continued on with his service of the needy, the children, and the sailors.

It was on the 6th of December 343 AD that Bishop Nicholas died. In the crypt where he was buried, a rare relic called “Manna” formed. It was a clear liquid that purportedly smelled like rosewater. It was also said the liquid contained healing properties. It was because of this that Bishop Nicholas’ crypt became the point of pilgrimages made by thousands of believers. As the pilgrims made their way, stories of sightings of the kindly bishop were made.

As Bishop Nicholas had a special relationship with those who worked at sea, sailors used to pray to him for safe passage through storms. There were even stories where shortly after praying to Nicholas, he would appear before the sailors and calm the seas. As other stories and miracles made their way to different lands, around 200 years after Nicholas’ death, it was by everyone’s agreement that Bishop Nicholas was to be made a Saint. People also developed the tradition of exchanging gifts and making offerings to St. Nicholas on December 6th.

After the reformation in Northern Europe, the stories regarding St. Nicholas were no longer as popular. The thing that did survive was the love of exchanging or giving presents. In England, the character called “Father Christmas” became the star of many plays and bedtime stories. In the early years of the US, Father Christmas was called Kris Kringle. Later on, Dutch Settlers took the stories of the characters and turned them into “Sinterklaas”—this is where we got the name Santa Claus.

The red outfit that we know Santa wears was attributed to the red robes that Saint Nicholas liked to wear while he was still alive. So now as we enter into the Christmas season, the next time you see that jolly faced man in the red suit, spare a thought and share your knowledge about Saint Nicholas.

History Of Christmas – How Christmas Came About

History Of Christmas – How Christmas Came About

Christmas is one of the most emotional times of the year, a tradition through the world where families gather together to make merry and celebrate life as they give each other gifts. The funny thing is that little is known about the history of Christmas.

During this time of the year, houses are adorned with flashing lights and some trees decorated with small ornaments, ribbons, and lights. For many Christians, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ. In fact, many people believe or associate the origins of Christmas with Christianity. The truth is the origins of Christmas can be traced to Europe and have pagan roots.

Long ago, before the birth of Christ, Romans celebrated the winter solstice which coincided with similar winter solstice celebrations taking place around the same time in other pagan societies around the world. The Roman winter solstice celebrations were called Saturnalia, which was to honor Saturn (God of Agriculture). The solstice celebrations lasted a week starting on the 17th of December and culminating on the 25th of December and had many traditions that involved the sharing of foods. People would make merry as the streets were filled with people singing and entertaining each other from door to door, huge feasts and drinking.

In Europe, the pagans held their winter solstice celebrations in honor of Yule (Sun God). It was a time when the days were short and believed that it a time when Yule was giving birth to Mithras; the people would light candles, which is linked to the Hollyberries and mistletoe.

As Christianity grew in the Roman empire, many of their pagan practices were incorporated into those of Christianity, and these include elements of their winter solstice celebrations in honor of their God of Agriculture, which is widely linked to the history of Christmas.

According to some historian, the dates when Christmas is celebrated (December 25) is not the date when Jesus Christ was born; the exact date of Christ’s birth is not known for certain. The historians believe the date was picked, so ass to unite the Roman pagan traditions with those of the new and growing Christian ways. For the Christians, accepting some of the pagan ways was viewed as a means of making it easy to convert many pagans.

The origins of decorating of trees during Christmas can be traced back to the medieval days when pagans believed that even trees such as the palm and olive trees offered gifts to their gods of harvest. But, it only became famous thanks to the Germans who, back in the 1800s, used small colored glass balls to decorate trees during various festivals especially during Christmas. But, this only caught up with the English people only after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Germany.

The Christmas celebrations started in the United States around the start of the 19th Century with the arrival of the English Settlers. And while much of what people believe about Christmas and the different things they do that they have come to associate with this season, the history of Christmas proves that much of it come from many superstitious beliefs.

Religion and the Wedding

For Catholics, marriage is referred to as the sacrament of matrimony, whereby a man and a woman establish an eternal bond an partnership in life that is not broken until death.  The priest serves as the primary witness under God, and typically, the bride and groom invite their family and friends to be a part of the big day.  Weddings are special days in the religious calendar.

In the theme of religious ceremonies, our guest speaker Sarah has provided tips for wedding planning.

Planning a wedding requires many large and small tasks to be completed. Countless couples who have already survived their wedding day are happy to offer tips to those who are still in the planning process.

Couples need to carefully monitor their wedding budget to ensure that they do not go over or make sacrifices they later realize they didn’t have to make. Losing track of spending is easy to do when planning a wedding and many couples don’t realize it until they run out of money without having paid for everything they need for the big day. In general, half of a couple’s wedding budget will be spent on their reception. This leaves the other half of the budget to be divided up among everything else that is needed, including the limo service to and from the events. Couples should determine how much of their budget they are spending on each aspect of the planning process before they begin. Compiling a list of everything that needs to be rented or purchased for the wedding will make it easier to stick to the budget and ensure that nothing is overlooked.

One thing that every bride and groom needs to keep in mind during the planning is that it is best to determine the number of desired guests before booking a venue. The reason for this is because venues have requirements regarding the minimum and maximum number of people they are able and willing to accommodate. The standard is to have room for 25 to 35 square feet for each guest in attendance.

Setting the wedding date is also an important task that needs to be thought through before any decisions are made. Couples should look at a calendar of events for their local community to determine which dates they want to avoid for their wedding day. In general, holidays and holiday weekends should be avoided for many reasons, including excess traffic and higher costs for the venue and vendors needed.

An important aspect of the wedding planning process that not every couple is aware of is the fact that in most cases at least some of their invited guests will choose not to attend the wedding. This is another reason it is best to avoid getting married on or near a holiday. Out of town guests who have been invited might decline the invitation simply because they don’t want to travel on a holiday weekend.

When choosing vendors it is recommended that couples ask a specific vendor to recommend others. For example, a catering company that does weddings is likely to be able to point couples to a bakery that will make them a quality cake for their big day. Getting recommendations from a vendor is a much better option than choosing one randomly. At the time that vendors are booked, couples are urged to negotiate for any extras they may desire. This could mean extra time to allow for a cocktail hour while still being able to have the full wedding ceremony and reception.

Baptism as Dying and Rising with Christ

Baptism as Dying and Rising with Christ

Immersion into water as a participation in the death of Jesus and the emerging from it as participation, either now or guaranteed for the future, in the resurrection of Christ was apparently a widespread motif in hellenistic Christianity. The fullest early explanation is found in Romans 6, and many scholars have taken Paul’s approach to the ideas to indicate that he knew he could count on the Romans’ familiarity with them. Certainly the post-Pauline literature knows the motif, and in a slightly different form from Paul himself (e.g., Col 2:11-12; Eph 2:5-6; and perhaps by implication 1 Pet 3:18-22). In the synoptic tradition the motif appears only once, but that, significantly enough, is in Mark (10:38-39). In reply to the sons of Zebedee, Jesus asks if they are able to drink the cup which Jesus is to drink and to be baptized with that baptism which Jesus is to undergo. The context makes it clear that Jesus’ suffering and death is his cup and baptism in which the disciples are to participate. Although the cup is a recognized OT symbol of suffering, there is no pre-Christian evidence to suggest that this was also the case with baptism. Thus there can scarcely be doubt that Mark 10:38-39 makes oblique reference to the sacraments and that, furthermore, the baptism is seen as a dying in relation to the dying of Christ. It can hardly be accidental that Matthew, while he retains the symbol of the cup, omits that of baptism in his version of the story. In our judgment Mark 10:38-39 proves the author’s acquaintance with this interpretation of Christian initiation.

Session Topics

9 Session Topics

  1. The model “Church as a ‘community of disciples’” is one of Dulles’ most compelling presentations.  Taking the cue from Jesus himself, this model sets the disciple apart from the rest of the community as a kind of “contrast society”.  So, who comprises this “contrast society”?

The Community of Disciples is a variant of the Communion model.  The idea of a community of disciples was formed in the New Testament and through the Earthly ministry of Jesus.  It’s an alternative society with its own rules and way of life.  It appears that Christ’s original plan was to convert all of Israel, bringing it to do penance and to welcome the Kingdom of God.  This plan did not succeed because many leaders (scribes, Pharisees, and members of the priestly class) rejected this message.  Instead, Christ chose a small band of followers that he could teach and trust to understand his message and carry it on to others, even after his death.  This band of followers was a group of 12 disciples who accepted Jesus as a teacher sent from God.  These disciples made up the contrast society, which symbolically represented the new and renewed Israel.  This society maintained a critical distance from Pagan society.

  1. Discuss the difference between exterior discipleship and interior discipleship. Consider, too, whether one can exist properly without the other in the life of the Christian.

From my understanding, interior discipleship is embracing the values and priorities upheld by Jesus Christ.  Exterior discipleship is taking action to uphold those values and priorities.  Sacraments, which were defined as outward signs of an inward reality instituted by Christ to give grace, therefore, become very important to exterior discipleship.  All are obliged to accept with patience the poverty, humiliations, and sufferings that might come their way, and to renounce their abundance of goods in order to help the less fortunate.  The Cross is the source of strength and consolation in times of privation, sickness, and bereavement.

  1. Dulles infers that liturgy is necessary in the life of a disciple. Why is it?

Christians are bound to certain activities that pertain to discipleship, like worship.  This act is expressed best during the service of the Word in a full liturgy.  Jesus speaks to the community when the Scriptures are read and applied, through homilies, to the situation of the congregation today.  The community responds to this by contesting its faith and asking God for healing and help, just as the disciples did.  The liturgy reaches its highpoint in the performance of the sacraments, which we need to experience as Christians.

  1. After the resurrection of Christ from the dead, there is a new motivation for the Church to spread its life throughout the rest of the world…even today. What constitutes this ‘new motivation’?

The faithful are motivated because they know that the world has been redeemed and that external life can be enjoyed, through the transforming gift of the Holy Spirit.  As the community of disciples, the Church has an obligation to follow the mission set out by Jesus and to spread the Good Word.

  1. According to Redemptoris Missio (RM), why is the Church ‘missionary’? In other words, what is the reason that all of the faithful are called to be disciples & missionaries in the world in which they live?

The missionary work of the Church is inherent in the Trinitarian formula and is at the very basis of Christian life.  John 17:21 states, “that they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  The mission of the Church is to spread the Word of God and expose as many people as possible to the Christian faith in the hope that people covert.  All of the faithful are called to help with this process because the mission is still beginning in regard to the view of the human race; there is much work to be done.

  1. According to RM, why do Catholics have an even greater responsibility for discipleship & evangelization?

Grace was given to us by God, and we have a responsibility to spread his Good News to all of mankind age; all are called to it and destined for it.  Many people are searching for it, at times in a confused way, and have a right to know the value of this gift and to approach it freely. The Church and each of its members are required to communicate this to all.  The members of the Catholic Church should carry a sense of pride because they have received a privilege.  For this reason, they have a greater obligation of bearing witness to the faith and to the Christian life as a service to their brothers and sisters and as a fitting response to God.  They need to remember that they owe their distinguished status not to their own merits but to Christ’s special grace; and if they fail to respond to this grace in thought, word and deed, not only will they not be saved; they will be judged more severely.

  1. According to RM, what is ‘evangelization’ exactly?

The overlying term evangelization is helping others to live and act as sons of God, setting them free from injustices and assisting in their overall development.  There are multiple forms of evangelization.  The first form is witness.  This constitutes the life of the missionary, of the Christian family, and of the ecclesial community.   A second form of evangelization is proclamation.   It introduces man into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ and opens the way to conversion.  Faith is born from this preaching, and the personal responses of each believer to this preaching form the community of the faithful.  These communities are a tool for evangelization and a sign of life within the Church.  They help to create a new, ideal society based on a civilization of love.  Lastly, evangelization is proof of the mission of Christ.

  1. According to RM, developing conscience leads to the progress of peoples. How does John Paul II connect these two distinct elements?

The Church allows people to examine their consciences in order to correct their behavior, and adjust it to what the Gospel states to be right and good. The Church forms consciences by revealing to mankind the equality of all men and women as God’s sons and daughters, the power of man over nature, and the obligation to work for the development of the whole person and of all mankind.  Evangelization awakens the consciences, which allows for the creation of more mature ways of thinking and patterns of behavior; this, in turn, allows humans to make progress individually and as a people.

  1. What is the foundational/fundamental element of evangelization and discipleship?

The foundation of Evangelization lies in the proclamation of salvation.  Christ offers salvation to all people, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.  All forms of missionary activity are directed to this proclamation, which reveals and gives access to the mystery of Christ.  It introduces man into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ and allows for open communication.

Thank you to our friend and supporter, Micheal, who took care of our pest control issue for free before our meetup night.  Your gracious support means the word to us, especially with our tight budget.  Please visit Micheal’s website if you’re in need of this service.

Religion in Schools

Today’s topic was religion in schools.  We had a guest speaker share about his childhood and his observations.  A request came in to translate the talk into Spanish, so we’ve provided an essay summary below:

Hoy, la religión es un tema muy delicado.  ¿Debe ser permitida la religión en las escuelas públicas?  Después de pensarlo mucho, he decidido que la religión no debe ser permitida en las escuelas públicas porque la gente necesita una elección.  Si los padres querían que sus hijos aprenden sobre religión, ellos pueden matricularlos en las escuelas privadas.

En Blue Creek, mi escuela primaria, los maestros forzaban a los estudiantes a decir La Promesa de Lealtad cada día.  Si no dijemos La Promesa, hubo problemas porque ellos nos mandaron a la oficina.

La Promesa de Lealtad era controversial y aún es controversial porque tiene las palabras “… bajo Dios…”  Estas palabras se refieren a la religión.  Por lo tanto, había sido problemas.

En una escuela en el sur de Los Estados Unidos, una chica no dijo “La Promesa de Lealtad” en la mañana y como resultado, su maestro la molestó.  En repuesta, ella dijo a su maestro que ella tenía la libertad a decidir si quiera decir La Promesa.  Consecuentemente, un escritor escribió un artículo sobre esta chica y su maestro.  Por lo general, debe levantarse y escuchar a La Promesa para mostrar respecto a los soldados y toda la gente que luchaba por Los Estados Unidos.

Pienso que la religión debe ser enseñado en las escuelas privadas solamente.  Según a la Constitución, cada persona en Los Estados Unidos tiene la libertad de expresión y debe levantarse cuando ellos lo escuchan para mostrar respecto.

Life After Death

There are a number of key concepts to grasp from today, so we’ll detail these out below:

Crusades: The first crusade was initiated by Pope Urban in 1095. The Crusades were initially aimed at recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule. The Byzantine empire called for help to fight the Muslim Turks, so an attack was launched in response to that. During the 16th century, various armed battles were held in the Middle East against people that had been banned from society for a variety of reasons, religious and otherwise.

Zionism: An effort led by founder Theodor Herzl to re-establish Israel as a free Jewish land. This ideology was opposed by many as it appeared to call all Jewish people to one “holy” land and opposed any other forms of religion or religious beliefs about life or death.

Islamic Empires: The Mughals were from what is now Afghanistan. The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur, a descendant of both Genghis Khan and Timur. Akbar ruled after Babur. He instated a tax on everyone, called zakat. He also promoted religious toleration, which was surprising and also meant less funerals. The Mughal Empire consisted of many non-Muslim people (mostly Hindu), ruled by a few Muslim people (Sunnis). They got their independence in 1947.

The Safavids were from what is now Iran. The founder of the Safavid Empire was Ismail I. There were 12 divinely guided imams (Islamic leaders). The Safavids were Shii Muslims. Their main enemy was the Ottoman Empire. Tahmasp, Ismail’s son, waged numerous campaigns against the Ottomans to protect the empire. The last Safavid Shah was killed in 1722 by the Afghans.

The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman (Uthman), the leader of a Turkish tribe. The Ottomans are from Byzantium. The early Ottomans prided themselves on being “holy warriors” (ghazi), defending and spreading the Muslim faith. The Ottomans also had the Janissary, “new troops”, who were a group of elite soldiers. We know little about funerals or burial of the dead in this case. One of the rulers was Sulayman “the Magnificent”, also known of the “Law-giver”.

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all believe in some form of life after death, in addition to the preparation of a body in order to be passed on into the next phase of new life. In most cases, a funeral service would serve this purpose by allowing friends and family of the deceased to pay their respects, gain closure, and honor the life of the dead. Different religions have different rules and guidelines on how this is done. In the US, funeral homes and mortuaries play this key role, as opposed to individuals; our friends at Heritage Mortuary are a great example of this. They spend weeks planning in order to ease the burden on the family and prepare for the future. After someone dies, it’s very common to hold a funeral or memorial service in honor of their life, although it will differ dramatically by faith.

Key Terms:

  • Patronage- support of the arts during the Renaissance period
  • Leonardo Da Vinci- Italian painter, most famous paintings were Mona Lisa and Last Supper
  • Erasmus- Erasmus was a Dutch Humanist who exposed the abuses of the church.
  • Martin Luther- Martin Luther’s ideas inspired the Protestant Reformation. He posted 95 theses on the door of a church in 1517. One of his biggest problems with the church was the sale of indulgences.
  • Henry VIII- Henry VIII was the king of England. He argued that the king should be the head of the church. He broke up the monastic communities in England and confiscated their property. This was called the Suppression of the Monasteries, or the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • John Calvin- believed in predestination and that even those people destined to go to Hell had a chance to get to Heaven if they kept their faith.
  • John Locke- believed in the separation of church and state
  • Decart- “I Think Therefore I Am.” Ideas are imprinted on the mind by God (called apriori knowledge). Our thinking is all we have (called empirical). Senses fail.
  • Pascal- He wrote Lettres Provinciales and Pensees. He also expressed that rigorous logic and the revelation of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were complementary.
    West Phalia- region in Germany
  • Secularization is the process of a society moving away from religion.
  • Pakistan- The Muslims of India were a minority. Modernists such as Muhammad Iqbal called for a separate Muslim state. Pakistan was created in 1948. It was inspired by Sayyid Ahmad Khan.

Judaism Origins

What is Judaism? 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Judaism as “the profession or practice of the Jewish religion; the religious system or polity of the Jew.”  Based on this definition, Judaism is a religion.  Judaism is not a religion; it is more than that.  Judaism is the combination of a religion, a culture, and a race.  The history of Judaism dates back to the creation of the world and of mankind, and has shaped the Judaism into what it is today.

The history of Judaism began in the biblical book of Genesis.  Abraham, who is considered the father of Judaism, created a covenant with God.  God promised Abraham heirs who would be circumcised as a sign of the everlasting covenant.  From that point on, Abraham did God’s work on Earth.  The next major event in the history of Judaism took place in Egypt.  Because of a famine, the Hebrew people migrated to Egypt, where they were enslaved.  God is said to have saved the Hebrew people from the Egyptians by enveloping Egypt with multiple plagues that targeted only the Egyptians.  The Hebrew people were very grateful for the work of this divine figure, and they began to praise him.  The faith in this divine figure came to be called Judaism, and evolved into a religion.

In order to classify Judaism as a religion, the reader must understand what a religion is.  Religion can be defined as both “a particular system of faith and worship” and as “action or conduct indicating a belief in reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this.”  Judaism contains all of the required elements of a religion.

Although there are many separate groups within Judaism, a number of basic beliefs and principles stand as common ground.  The first and most important basic belief of all the groups within Judaism is that there is only one God, which classifies Judaism as monotheistic.  God created the Heavens, the Earth, and the inhabitants of the Earth in his image; so, we are all equal in God’s eyes.  The second belief, which closely relates to the latter idea, is that because God created the Earth and all of its inhabitants, he is the father.  The Jewish faith sees the people of the world as one big family because we are all God’s children.  A third piece of common ground in Judaism is that for the most part, all Jewish people partake in the same festivals and celebrations; a number of common prayers are shared as well.  A very important, shared principle among the people who practice Judaism is that God forgives those people who are truly sorry for whatever they have done.  Finally, every group within Judaism reads the Torah, which is a set of laws and guidelines showing people how they should live.

Each of the beliefs and principles that the Jewish people share are based on the idea that there is one god, who they can talk to whenever they want.  The Jewish people pray to God to show him respect and give him praise at places called synagogues.  The belief in a divine, ruling power and the fact that the Jewish people praise a higher being qualify Judaism as a religion, but Judaism is multifaceted in that it is more than just a religion.  There are many cultural, fraternal, and philanthropic institutions that are associated with Judaism, and therefore, are considered part of the Jewish community.  The members of these institutions don’t necessarily worship at the synagogues or believe what people of the Jewish faith believe, but they are still considered Jews.

For many years, the word “Jew” has been used to describe both the people that practice Judaism and those people that are affiliated with Judaism in some other way.  Because of how tightly-knit the Jewish communities are, it is easy to see why people would assume that “Jew” is a race.  Technically, Jews are not a race of people.  A person’s race is based on genetics, not on their actions or their faith.  In the case of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, in 1987, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Jews are a race of people.  This was meant to protect them from racial discrimination.

Judaism is a blend of a religion, a culture, and a race of people.  Judaism began because of God’s actions in saving the Hebrew people.  The Hebrew people praised him out of gratitude.  Over the years, this new faith attracted millions of followers and grew to into more of a way of life than just a religion.

Christ the Redeemer

There are several titles for Jesus Christ: What are they and what do they signify?

  •  God – This title is the basic, overlying word that signifies the Trinity of the three divine persons.
  • Father – The Father is a distinct, divine figure (part of the Trinity)
  • Son of God – Jesus is the Son of God, and is a distinct, divine figure (part of the Trinity)
  • Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit is a distinct, divine figure (part of the Trinity)
  • Jesus – Jesus means “Savior.”  This was the name given by the archangel Gabriel.  This signifies that Jesus is our savior.
  • Christ – This means “the anointed one” or “the promised one.”  This signifies that Jesus was the one that God promised through the prophets.
  • Lord – This is a divine title.  The Greek translation is “YHWH,” meaning “I am.”  This signifies that God is the only god.

How does John Paul II’s theology  view the human person?

The Council views humans as the children of God.  God created us and loves all of us like a father loves his son.  The council views Christ as perfect, whereas humans are far from it because of their knack for sin.  This is to be expected, so Christ bears the consequences for us (81).  Pope John Paul II has a similar view to that of the Council; he views humans as “the beloved sons and daughters of God”.  Both views of the human person are considered Christocentric because they view the faith from the bottom-up.  They both believe that people can only know God through Jesus Christ.  This places the job on us to make an attempt to better know God.  The following statement is an example of this: “…through Him is accomplished our full and authentic liberation from evil, sin, and death.”


 Why is the Incarnation a significant key to understand humankind?

The Incarnation unites Jesus Christ with humankind.  Christ was human in every way except for his lack of sin.  This allows us to find true meaning in our lives.

What Was Christ’s Suffering?

Through the Incarnation, Christ became man.  He experienced pain and suffering when he was beaten, tortured, and hung on the cross to die.  He persevered because of his faith in God, and we can too.  By having faith in God, we can get through whatever pain and hardship we suffer in our lives knowing that we are not alone.  In the past, I have thought “why is this happening to me?”  After it’s over, I’m able to think about what happened more clearly, and my answer is usually “It could have been worse.  I was lucky.”  But, maybe it wasn’t luck at all.  I’d like to believe that God helped me through the painful times, whether it was physical or emotional.

What is the mission of Christ the Redeemer?

The mission of Christ the Redeemer is still ongoing because not everyone believes in Christ.  In order to be saved, you must believe in Jesus Christ, his crucifixion, and his resurrection.  The Church lives out the mission of bringing people to the Christian faith; this is missionary work, and is not even close to complete.  I am assuming that the mission is to educate as many people as possible about the saving power of Jesus Christ.

christ the redeemer

Christianity vs Islam

Christianity and Islam are two very different religions.  Each has its own theological beliefs and rituals, but they do share one common thing.  Christians and Muslims both believe in the same God.

Christianity is a monotheistic religion.  The Christians call their higher being, God.  In Christianity, God created the world and everything in it in his image and likeness.  God is a higher power that exists outside the material universe; God is does not walk among us.  This idea makes God seem somewhat distant, as compared to other religions, like Islam.

One reason that Christianity does not seem like a monotheistic religion to non-Christians is the idea of the trinity.  The Trinity is a holy doctrine that states that there is one God, who is composed of three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each of these three persons is equal, eternal, and combined, make up one God.  People of other faiths tend to see the Trinity as a group of three equal gods, marking Christianity as a polytheistic religion.

The religion of Islam is different from Christianity, but still believes in one God.  The God in Islam is known as Allah.  Allah is both transcendent and immanent (Abd-Allah 1).  This means that Allah is exists both inside and outside the material world. Unlike God, Allah walks among the people.  In Islam, the believers can become very close to Allah because he is involved in even the most mundane affairs of everyday life (Abd-Allah 2).  Islam is purely monotheistic because there is one higher being, Allah.

Christianity and Islam both share the idea that their respective being, whether it is God or Allah, created the Heavens and the Earth.  Also, the scriptures of each religion are not the same, but they have the same basic ideas.  The holy texts of both Christianity and Islam are meant to be guides for how the believers should live their lives everyday.  Although Christianity and Islam have theological and ritual differences, both religions believe in the same God; the only difference is etymological.

Christianity’s higher being is known as God and Islam’s higher being is known as Allah.  The name God and the name Allah are both derived from the root word, Elohim.  Elohim is either Hebrew or Aramaic/Syriac (Abd-Allah 1).  This is really the only difference one can see from looking at the respective texts of each religion.

Another idea that may support the statement that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God is that when people share a religious faith, they each choose what to believe in and what not to believe in.  Umar F. Abd-Allah once said,

“When a creedal formula is shared, each person sharing it forms, nonetheless, a unique psychological construct for what he or she believes about it.  At the empirical level- alone with God- all believers, the religious, and the less deeply religious alike, posit their own predicates…” (3).

This statement means that people of the same faith each create their own way of viewing the religion.  Islam and Christianity are not that different after all.

Christianity and Islam are two separate religions.  Both religions are monotheistic and share the same higher being, whether it is God or Allah.  This etymological difference can’t be used to say that Christians and Muslims don’t believe in the same God because they do believe in the same God.

The Development of Christianity

The Development of Christianity

5/16/16 Conference

By converting to Christianity and declaring it the state religion of Constantinople, Emperor Constantine laid the foundation for the development and solidification of Christianity as a new religion.  The Christian philosophers around time of Emperor Constantine enabled the church to develop a sense of its own identity, and accelerated the toleration of Christianity through their teachings.

The first teacher who was crucial to the development of Christianity was Iranaeus.  He was born in Asia Minor, growing up in culture of Christianity.  His attitudes were shaped by his background.  His biggest contribution was his work toward the development of the relationship between Adam and Christ based on the readings of the letters of Saint Paul.  Iranaeus believed that God had a divine plan for the new covenant.  According to Iranaeus, Adam was made in the image and likeness of God (Neusner 178).  When he sinned, by eating the apple from the Tree of Life, his moral likeness to God was lost, but his image lived on.  Iranaeus believed that the human race must remain steadfast in their faith in Christ to recover the lost moral likeness.  He also believed that humans were exposed to sin, but were not incapable of being “transformed” (Neusner 179).  His conviction that if we live a “good” life, we will be rewarded in the end, led to the both the idea of Heaven and the idea that at the end of time, we will be judged based on our actions here on Earth.  These beliefs sum up Iranaeus’s theory of recapitulation.

The second important teacher to the development of Christianity was Origen.  Origen, who many consider to be the most powerful thinker of his time, was born in Alexandria in 185.  Like Iranaeus, Origen had strong beliefs and opinions on Christianity, but did not support any theory of the history of Christianity.  Unlike Iranaeus, Origen saw the necessary transformation of the human race as a “radical spiritualization” of the human body. This was part of his theory of apokatastasis, which was a restoration of all things in Christ (Neusner 181).  Basically, Origen believed in spiritual change instead of worldly change.

The efforts of Iranaeus and Origen in promoting and spreading Christianity had a profound effect on the Roman Empire.  Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and then made Christianity the state religion of Constantinople, the center of the Roman Empire.  At that moment, the religious thinkers of the time realized the importance of the history of Christianity.  Eusebius would be the first Christian thinker to be conscious of history.

Eusebius, born in 260, was the bishop of Caesarea.  Eusebius’s main contribution to the development of Christianity was presented the basis upon which the Roman Empire could be called the Holy Roman Empire, and the justification for claiming the divine rights of rulers (Neusner 183).  Eusebius said that Constantine was chosen by God, having the divine right to rule over the empire so long as he ruled by the convictions of Christ.  Eusebius also said that Constantine unified the Roman Empire, mimicking the empire under the reign of Augustus.  Constantine would rule over the Roman Empire by God’s will, making it the Holy Roman Empire.  Eusebius would record the history of Christianity from the birth of Christ through the reign of Constantine, in the belief that a new age would come with its solidification as a religion.

The final contributor to the development of Christianity was Augustine, who was born in North Africa in 354.  He wrote about how to teach Christianity to new converts, and composed many homilies which made him famous.  Two major works of his were the Confessions and City of God (Neusner 187).  Confessions was a group of letters in which Augustine examined his life in order to describe the forces at work inside the human soul.  This relates closely to City of God, a collection of 23 books in which Augustine wrote about the history of the world, beginning with the creation story in Genesis.  In his works, Augustine explained that humans have freedom, and the power to choose between good and evil.  He believed that the Roman Empire would remain only if people realized that the ultimate struggle is not between good and evil, but between love of God and love of self.  Selfishness will lead to the downfall of humanity.  Augustine’s largest contribution to Christianity would probably have been his opinion of history.  He said that history needs to be recorded without bias, telling the full truth of what happened, in detail (Neusner 188).  This would allow humanity to learn from its mistakes.

The Christian philosophers Iranaeus and Origen began laying the foundation for the development of Christianity early on.  Emperor Constantine learned of this new religion, and not only converted to Christianity, but made it the state religion of Constantinople as well.  The philosophers Eusebius and Augustine continued to foster the growth of Christianity by spreading Christian teachings and recording the history of Christianity.