A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Dassehra (Vijayadashami, Dashami Tithi, Dasara, Dashain, the victorious tenth). Major Hindu annual festival from 14 October, at the end of the 7-15 October Navratri (Asuj Navratras). The festival celebrates Goddess Durga’s triumph over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Durga, the embodiment of shakti, the powerful feminine force that governs all cosmic creation, existence and change, is the Hindu ten-armed supreme mother goddess responsible for the triumph of good over evil whom we meet in Diwali. The people of West Bengal celebrate Durga Puja from 11 October to mark Goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura but the Dassehra celebrations also include other major deities of Hinduism such as: Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; Saraswathi, the goddess of knowledge and music; Ganesha, the god of good beginnings; and Kartikeya, the god of war. Huge figures of Ravana (रावण), a demon king of the island of Lanka, filled with fireworks are normally burned on Ram Lila ground (public areas). Dassehra is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. In the southern, eastern, north-eastern and some northern states of India, it also marks the end of Durga Puja and Durga’s restoration and protection of dharma (good). In the other northern, and central and western states, the 6-15 October festival of Ramlila recalls the God Rama’s victory over Ravana, the demon King of Sri Lanka. On that occasion, the God Indra’s son Arjuna alone decimated more than 1,000,000 soldiers and defeated all the northern Indian Kuru warriors including Bhishma, Drona, Ashwatthama, Karna and Kripa, a significant example of a victory of dharma over evil (adharma). Alternatively, Dassehra marks a reverence for one of the other aspects of Durga, such as Saraswati, the godess of education, creativity and music. Punjabis mark the day by giving food and other gifts to young girls. Celebrations include processions to a river or the sea carrying clay statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya, with music and chanting, to immerse them and say farewell. In the UK, some temple congregations celebrate on a small scale. The festival also marks the start of the preparations for the 4 November Diwali, the Festival of Lights, celebrated 20 days later. Image: ganeshaspeaks.com.
Santa Teresa de Ávila (St Teresa of Avila OCD, Teresa of Jesus, Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada) (1515-82). Feast Day and Lutheran Commemoration of the death of the Castilian Spanish-Jewish noblewoman, Carmelite nun, theologian, teacher and renewer of the church. She was contemplative virgin, mystic, ecstatic, writer on mental prayer, religious reformer, administrator, prolific correspondent and possibly temporal lobe epilepsy sufferer. She became the central figure of a movement of spiritual and monastic renewal borne out of an inner conviction and honed by ascetic practice. She was also at the centre of a deep ecclesiastical controversy, as she took on the pervasive laxity in her order against the background of the Protestant Reformation sweeping over Europe and the Spanish Inquisition asserting church discipline in her home country. The consequences were to last well beyond her lifetime. One papal legate described her as a restless wanderer and a disobedient and stubborn woman who, under the guise of devotion, invented bad doctrines moving outside the cloister against the rules of the Council of Trent and her prelates and teaching as a master against Saint Paul’s orders that women should not teach. Her reforms met with determined opposition and interest from the Spanish Inquisition, but no charges were ever laid against her. Active during the Catholic Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites and a formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580. Teresa’s writings form part of the literary canon of Christian mysticism and the practice of Christian meditation and continue to attract interest from people both within and outside the Catholic Church. A Santero image of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo (La Chinita), said to have been sent by her with a brother emigrating to Peru, was canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II at the Shrine of El Viejo in Nicaragua. After her death, Teresa’s reputation grew and she continues to be widely noted as an inspiration to philosophers, theologians, historians, neurologists, fiction writers and artists, as well as to countless ordinary people interested in Christian spirituality and mysticism. Teresa died on 4 or 15 October 1582 in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca. Major shrine Convent of the Annunciation, Alba de Tormes. Venerated in the Catholic Church as Reverend Mother, Prioress and the first female Doctor of the Church in recognition of her centuries-long spiritual legacy to Catholicism, and in the Anglican Communion and Lutheranism. St Teresa was considered as national patron saint of Spain but this honour was awarded to St James the Apostle. Teresa is a patron of Spain, sick people, religious orders, people ridiculed for their piety, lacemakers, Požega, Croatia, Talisay City and Cebu, The Philippines. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.
Prayer Following the words of St Teresa of Avila, let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, remember that all things are passing away, that God never changes, that patience obtains all things and that whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices and we pray that He hears our plea. Amen
Heilige Aurelia von Straßburg (St Aurelia of Strasbourg). Feast Day for Fourth-Century friend of St Wolfgang, a British virgin princess who became a hermitess and spent more than half a century as a recluse in a Benedictine abbey in Salzburg. She accompanied Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins from Roman Britain to Cologne, where they were favourably received by Bishop Aquilin. From Cologne they travelled to Basel and then went down the Rhine to Strasbourg where St Aurelia succumbed to a violent fever, dying after a few days. Three virgins who had been left to care for her lived for many years in Strasbourg and were buried there. Some centuries later, their tomb was opened and their bodies were found completely incorrupt, marked with titles bearing their names. The church of Sainte Aurélie in Strasbourg is said to have been built over the crypt in which the tomb of Saint Aurelia was situated, which had by the Ninth Century become the centre of a popular cult, her name being particularly invoked against fevers in the church. In 1524, when the Protestant Martin Bucer had been appointed as pastor of the church, he asked the members of the gardeners’ guild to open the tomb and remove the bones, justifying this on the grounds that the tomb had become an object of idolatry. The church is one of those with the longest recorded history in Strasbourg. It has been a Lutheran church since the Reformation and the present Baroque church on Rue Martin Bucer, opened in 1765, is of particular historical and architectural interest. Image: picturesongold.com.