A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
St Wenceslaus (Václav, The Good, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (Kníže)) (c911-35). Commemoration of the death of the Chalcedonian Christian who was born in Prague, Bohemia and in whose assassination his younger brother, Boleslaus the Cruel, was complicit. Many opposed Wenceslaus but he held his faith and is hailed today as an outstanding King in Eastern Europe. He introduced German priests and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic that had fallen into disuse in many places for the want of priests. He also founded a rotunda consecrated to St Vitus at Prague Castle that exists as the present-day St Vitus Cathedral. Wenceslaus was murdered on 28 September 935 in Stará Boleslav 30 km from Prague. His martyrdom gave rise to a reputation for heroic virtue that resulted in his elevation to sainthood and he came to be seen as the patron saint of the Czech state, having ruled with a clear vision of what a Christian leader should be. He was posthumously declared to be a king and is the subject of the well-known Good King Wenceslas 1853 carol for the 26 December St Stephen’s Day. During the Nineteenth Century, the cult of Saint Wenceslas was one of the most passionate themes taken up during the Czech Nationalist Revival, which intended to revive the Czech language, culture and national identity. The Bohemian Kingdom ceased to exist in 1918, when it was incorporated into Czechoslovakia and, in 1993, it peacefully separated into two independent countries, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Patron of Czech Republic. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.
Arba’een (الأربعين, İmamın Qırxı, চল্লিশা, Çilroj, چهلم, چاليهو, Erbain, چالیسواں, Arba’in-e Hosseini, Martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali). Annual Shi’a Muslim religious observance celebrated forty days after the Day of Ashura, falling on 20 Safar, the second month in the lunar Islamic calendar. Ṣafar (صَفَر) means empty, as in the pre-Islamic Arabian era people’s houses were empty, as they were out gathering food. Arba’een commemorates the martyrdom of Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) grandson Husayn ibn Ali, the son of Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter Fatima Zahra and the first Imam of Shi’a Islam Ali ibn Abi Talib. Husayn became the third Shi’a Imam in 669, following the death of his brother Hasan ibn Ali, and remained Imam until he and 71 companions were killed by the army of Yazid I in the 61 AH (680 CE) Battle of Karbala. Shi’a and Sufi Muslims commemorate the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. That day is the Day of Ashura and the beginning of a traditional forty-day period of mourning, Arba’een being the culmination of the mourning period and marked by a large pilgrimage, normally with up to 45 million Muslims going to the city of Karbala in Iraq, where Husayn ibn Ali died and was buried. This is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world and the pilgrims visit the Imam Husayn Shrine, which comprises his burial site and a mosque. Although Arba’een is a Shi’a observance, many Sunni Muslims also join the pilgrimage. Forty days is the usual length of mourning after the death of a family member or loved one in many Muslim traditions. Arba’een is now a secular public holiday in Iran, where Shi’a Islam is the official state religion. A 2020 World Values Survey found that 96.6% of Iranians believe in Islam but another 2020 survey conducted online by an organisation based outside Iran found a much smaller percentage of Iranians identifying as Muslim, with 32.2% Shi’a, 5.0% Sunni and 3.2% Sufi, and 22.2% not identifying with any organised religion. Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism are officially recognised and protected, with reserved seats in the Iranian parliament, and Iran has the second-largest Jewish community in the Muslim world and Middle East. The largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran is the Baháʼí Faith, which was founded in its present form in 1844 in Persia, the country that became Iran in 1935. The Baháʼí community has been persecuted throughout its existence in Iran and, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Baháʼís have been barred from entering the nation’s universities, more than two hundred have been executed and hundreds more imprisoned and tortured. Christianity, to which there were Persian conversions at Pentecost, after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, is the second-largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran but their persecution dates from 313 and continues unabated. Image: ashuraaa.wordpress.com
Confucius (孔子誕辰 / 孔子诞辰, Kongqiu) (551-479 BCE). Chinese celebration, on the twenty-seventh day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, of the birthday in the 770-481 Spring and Autumn Period of the paragon of all teachers. Confucius was born in Qufu, now in Shandong province, and was an impecunious philosopher and political theorist who symbolises the philosophy of educating all without discrimination. After a series of modest government positions, he became minister of works and then minister of crime but he resigned after a protracted struggle with the hereditary families opposing the ruler, in 498 leaving his home for self-exile on a 14-year journey with his younger disciples before returning to become his home state’s elder (guolao). Confucius described himself as a yellow chi (homeless dragon) swimming in the turbid water but drinking from the clear and said that learning without thought is labour lost. According to his disciples’ Analects of Confucius (sayings and ideas) written on bamboo strips, he said of himself: “I am the sort of man who forgets to eat when trying to solve a problem, who is so joyful that I forget my worries and do not become aware of the onset of old age. At 70, I followed what my heart desired without overstepping the line.” He died at 73 on the eleventh day of the fourth lunar month in the year 479 and the Analects were included among the grave objects that accompanied the prince to the afterlife. Confucianism is the way of life propagated by Confucius and followed by the Chinese people for more than two millennia. Although transformed over time, it is still the substance of learning, the source of values and the social code of the Chinese. In 2009, the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee released the fifth edition of the Confucius’ family tree, the world’s longest, in book form weighing more than half a ton and covering 83 generations. Teacher’s Day in China and Taiwan. Image: parade.com.
Prayer May we never do to others what we would not like them to do to us. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Wheresoever we go, may we go with all our hearts, hearing and forgetting, seeing and remembering, doing and understanding. It does not matter how slowly we go so long as we do not stop. Death and life have their determined appointments and riches and honours depend upon heaven. Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated, so may we choose a job we love so that we will never have to work a day in our lives. Amen