A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Navaratri (Nine nights). Start after the 6 October Mahalaya Amavasya of annual 9-day festival of music and dance to 15 October (Dussehra), when Hindus worship the female expression of the divine and the creative power of the Goddess is celebrated, personified in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, three different manifestations of cosmic energy. The festival staging normally includes pandals (temporary structures), plays, community gatherings, the recitation of scriptures, puja ceremonial worship, and fasting. Some performances such as the Ramlila or Vijayadashami tenth-day commemoration of Rama’s victory over Ravana the demon king of Sri Lanka may be virtual again this year due to Covid-19, although Durga idols are traditionally carried in procession and immersed in rivers or other bodies of water. The goddess Durga may be worshipped on the eighth day and Panjabis give food and other items to young girls. Last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Gujarat government cancelled for the first time in recent history the traditional garba street dances, a normal part of their ‘Longest Dance Festival of the World’. In Kerala, Navaratri celebrations include feasting on mouth-watering sweets and crunchy savoury snacks. Image: indianexpress.com.
Prayer For this nine-night, ten-day festival, we recite the mantra of the Goddess Durga Om Dum Durgayei Namaha, Om as the sound of the universe, Dum as the seed mantra sound, Durgayei for Maa Durga’s name and Namaha to bow to you, only you. We pray for protection against all harm. Om ॐ
Sts Sergius (Serge) and Bacchus (d303). Feast Day for the Fourth-Century martyrs and military saints who were Roman army officers and close friends. Exposed as secret Christians, they refused to enter the temple of Jupiter or to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. They were severely punished with Bacchus being flogged to death in Mesopotamia and Sergius being eventually scourged and beheaded at Rasafa, Baghdad. Their cult grew rapidly during the early Fifth Century, in accordance with the growth of the cult of martyrs, especially military martyrs, during the period by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, although it was suppressed in 1969. To 700, in Late Antiquity, Sergius and Bacchus were very popular and churches in their honour were built in several cities, including Constantinople and Rome. The close friendship between the two is strongly emphasised in their traditions, making them one of the most famous examples of paired saints. This closeness led to the historian John Boswell suggesting in the late Twentieth Century that their relationship was a romantic one and, although other historians have widely rejected this theory, it has led to popular veneration of Sergius and Bacchus in the gay Christian community. Venerated in Assyrian Church of the East, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodox Church. Major shrine Basilica of St Sergius, Rasafa. Patrons of Arab Christians, Syria, the army, soldiers. Image: amazon.com.
Sankta Birgitta av Sverige (St Birgitta of Sweden, Heliga Birgitta, Bridget Princess of Nericia, Birgitta Birgersdotter) (c1303-73). Feast Day in Sweden and Lutheran Commemoration of the death of one of the most celebrated Swedish saints and one of the six patron saints of Europe, with St Benedict of Nursia, Sts Cyril and Methodius, St Catherine of Siena and St Edith Stein. Although remembered as the Princess of Nericia, outside Sweden, Birgitta Birgersdotter, born just north of Stockholm, was not a member of the Swedish Royal Family, although her mother was related to the Swedish kings of her era and Birgitta herself was principal lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Sweden. Birgitta was a renewer of the Lutheran Church, Abbess of Vadstena, a mystic and the founder of the 1344 Order of the Most Holy Saviour, a monastic religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Augustine. They are now known as the Bridgettines (Birgittines) and include nuns and monks. Birgitta went to Rome in 1350 and, except for several pilgrimages, remained there for the rest of her life. She exercised a wide apostolate among rich and poor, sheltering the homeless and sinners, and she worked untiringly for the end of the Avignon papacy and for the Pope to return to Rome. After one of her many visions, she went on a 1372 pilgrimage to the Holy Land and died soon after her return to Rome. She was originally buried at San Lorenzo in Panisperna in Rome but her remains were translated to Sweden, where they are interred at Vadstena Abbey Church. Venerated in Catholic Church, Anglican Communion and Lutheranism. Major shrine Vadstena Klosterkyrka, Vadstena, Vadstena kommun, Östergötlands län, Sweden. Feast Day outside Sweden 23 July. Patron of Europe, Sweden, widows. Image: blackwells.co.uk.