A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Vassa (พรรษา, วรรษา, 结夏安居; ဝါတွင်း, དབྱར་གནས, วันออกพรรษา, Khao Phansa, Vassavasa, Rains Retreat, the Buddhist Lent). Start, on the day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month in the Theravada Buddhist lunar calendar, of the three-lunar-month-long annual retreat observed by Theravada Buddhists to 21 October. During the wet season, Buddhist priests must meditate in temples and observe strict rules, young men being enrolled in the temples until Auk Phansa, the October full moon at the end of the rainy season. Vassavasa originated in India as a period during which the ancient monastic order ceased itinerant activity for three months during the monsoon season. The Buddha advised his disciples to observe the Rains Retreat for two main reasons: the monsoons make travel on foot in India dangerous; and there is a greater risk of inadvertently causing harm to wildlife on the ground. All monks and nuns were expected to observe the Rains Retreat, but the Buddha granted a leave period of up to seven days under certain circumstances, such as attending to matters of the sangha monastic community, giving a Dhamma Buddhism teaching, or visiting a sick relative. In Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, many devoted lay Buddhists observe Vassavasa by adopting more ascetic practices such as giving up meat, alcohol and tobacco and engaging in meritorious activities, including offering alms to the sangha, observing the Eight Precepts of lay Buddhist observance, practising meditation and listening to Dhamma talks. In the morning, laypeople gather in the temple to undertake the Five or Eight Precepts for the day, with chanting, paying homage to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the sangha, accompanied by offerings of food, flowers, incense and lamps. Monks and nuns observing the Rains Retreat perform these ceremonies after taking a vow on the retreat’s first day by reciting: “Iimasmiṃ vihare imaṃ temasaṃ vassaṃ upemi,” “I will stay in this monastery during the three months of rainy season.” Vassavasa fasting predated the Christian Lent by more than five centuries and so the term Buddhist Lent is a misnomer. Three classes of candle procession take place in Thailand: the royal ceremony conducted by the King; ritual ceremonies for lay followers of Buddhism; and ceremonies performed by monks and nuns in the temples. The end of the Rains Retreat is marked by the Pavarana ceremony, during which sangha members have the opportunity to admonish oneanother for any misdeeds committed during the retreat. This is followed by the Kathina robe-offering and alms-giving festival, which continues for a month until 19 November. Image: holidify.com.
Dormition of the Righteous Anna, Mother of the Most Holy Theotokos (חַנָּה, Ḥannah, St Anne) (d BCE). Orthodox minor feast commemorating the falling asleep (death) of the mother of the Theotokos (Θεοτόκος, Dei Genitrix, God-bearer) Mary, mother of Jesus. Anna was the daughter of a priest and of the tribe of Levi and the lineage of Aaron. As the mother of Mary, she was the maternal grandmother of Jesus. Mary’s mother is not named in the Canonical Gospels but her name and that of her husband Joachim are in the New Testament apocrypha, of which the Greek c150 Gospel of James was the earliest that mentioned them. In the West, that Gospel was questioned in the Early Medieval period. The mother of Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an. Ancient belief, attested to by a sermon of John of Damascus, was that Anna married once but a Late Medieval legend held that she was married three times: first to Joachim, who died before Mary was born, then to Clopas and finally to Solomas, with each marriage producing one daughter: Mary the Theotokos, mother of Jesus; Mary who later married Clopas; and Mary Salome. In the Fourth Century, a belief arose that Mary the Theotokos was conceived of Anna without original sin. This belief in the Immaculate Conception states that God preserved Mary the Theotokos’ body and soul intact and sinless from her first moment of existence, for the merit of Jesus Christ. The Immaculate Conception, often confused with the Annunciation of the Incarnation, Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus, was made dogma (Ineffabilis Deus) in the Catholic Church in 1854. Tradition is that Anna died peacefully in Jerusalem at 72, before the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos. In the Eastern church, the cult of Anna developed from c550, when churches were built in her honour in Constantinople and at the Jerusalem Sheep Gate, the latter being restored in the Seventh Century after she appeared to the Emperor’s pregnant wife. In 710, St Anna’s relics were translated to Constantinople, along with her veil, and kept in the 537 Church of Hagia Sophia as late as 1333. Venerated in Eastern Christianity as the wife of St Joachim. Alternative commemoration 9 September. Invoked for conceiving children and helping difficult childbirths. Patron of Canada, children, grandparents, lacemakers, lost articles, miners, mothers, moving house, poverty, pregnancy, seamstresses, stablemen, teachers, against sterility. Image: orthchristian,com.
Prayer Divinely-wise Anna, you carried in your womb the pure Mother of God, who gave life to our Life. Therefore, you are now carried joyfully to the inheritance of heaven, to the abode of those who rejoice in glory, where you seek forgiveness of sins for those who faithfully honour you, ever blessed one. We celebrate the memory of the progenitors of Christ, and with faith we ask their help, that deliverance from every affliction be granted to those who cry out: “Be with us, O God, who in Your good pleasure glorified them.” Amen אָמֵן
St James the Greater (יַעֲקֹב, Yaʿqob, Iacomus Maximus, Ἰάκωβος, James son of Zebedee, Santiago el Apóstol) (d44). Western Christianity Feast Day for one of the first Disciples to join Jesus, with his brother John the fishermen Sons of Thunder. James was one of only three Disciples taken by Jesus Christ to witness His Transfiguration, which revealed Him as the Second Person of the Trinity. Following the Crucifixion, James spread spread the word of Jesus across the Roman world, making a pilgrimage to the Iberian Peninsula. When he returned to Judea he was beheaded for his faith by King Herod Agrippa and was the first Apostle to be martyred. Refused burial where he died, his relics were taken by his followers along the Roman trade route to the Atlantic coast of Galicia that ended at the present Cape Finisterre (End of the World, Land’s End), for burial there. In the Ninth Century, his tomb was discovered and his remains were translated to Santiago de Compostela, which is named after Saint James (Santiago) who is the patron saint of Spain. The traditional pilgrimage to his tomb is known as the Way of St James (Camino de Santiago), the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from Early Medieval times, its modern revival involving a final 100 km walk or 200 km cycle ride to Santiago to qualify for a Compostela from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela to certify completion of the pilgrimage, as it has since the Ninth Century. When the Feast Day falls on a Sunday, it is a Holy Year (Año Santo Jacobeo) and a special east door is opened for entrance to the Cathedral. Such years follow a 6-5-6-11 pattern, except when the last year of a century is not a leap year that can give a gap of 7 or 12 years. In the 2004 Holy Year, nearly 180,000 pilgrims received a Compostela, in 2010 over 270,000 and 2021 is unpredictable due to the pandemic. The 25 July Feast Day is celebrated on the liturgical calendars of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and certain Protestant Churches. St James the Great is commemorated on 30 April in the Orthodox Christian liturgical calendar for those churches that follow the traditional Julian Calendar, which is currently 13 May on the Gregorian Calendar. The National Day of Galicia is celebrated on 25 July, as St James is the patron saint. St James the Great Church, Winscombe is dedicated to him and is located a mile from the main village now known as Winscombe after the closed railway station. Patron saint of Spain, Galicia, parts of Mexico, pilgrims, labourers, lost souls, veterinarians and pharmacists. Image: aciprensa.com.