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Celebrating the Feast of the Ascension - Some Ideas for Festive Foods

  • Kathy Pozos
  • Thu 17th May 2012, 4:04 pm

As Catholics, we are a people who gather around a meal. Liturgically it`s the Eucharist, in which we receive Jesus` Body and Blood, under the appearance (taste, texture, smell) of bread and wine. As we join together as a community of faith, hear God`s word, bring our gifts and our lives to the altar, and remember Jesus` actions at the Last Supper, He comes to us and we share in his meal -- a meal that transforms us too into his Body here on Earth.

It`s no wonder, then, that we celebrate the feasts associated with Jesus` life by having special foods or meals. Just as traditional foods are eaten at Christmas and Easter, there are traditional foods for the Feast of the Ascension. However, in our busy lives today, we often don`t stop to notice or celebrate the Ascension of the Lord.

What is the Ascension? On this feast we remember that 40 days after Easter, Jesus met one last time in person with his disciples. After instructing them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come to them in fulfillment of the Father`s promise and assuring them that they would be his witnesses to people in all the ends of the earth, he was taken up before their eyes on a cloud. (Acts 1:4-9) The disciples returned to Jerusalem as he had instructed and nine days later, on the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did indeed descend upon them and the Church was born.

Foods that are traditional for this feast are varied. In some countries beans and grapes are featured, because traditionally these were said to be the first foods eaten by those who returned from the dead when Jesus rose on Easter. In other countries, the first fruits of the garden or fields are shared in a festive meal.

One interesting tradition is to go fishing and/or eat fish on this feast. I suspect there are a couple of reasons for this one. Of course the most obvious is that most of the Apostles were fishermen and Jesus promised to make them "fishers of men" when he called them. The other is that one of the earliest symbols for Jesus and the church community was a fish -- a literary allusion of sorts based on the letters spelling fish in Greek used as an acronym for Jesus Christ God`s Son Savior (also in Greek). For non-meat/fish eaters, cookies made in the shape of a fish might serve as a substitute!

In some countries, it`s traditional to eat fowl -- whether game birds or domestic ones. The symbolism here would be the rising into the sky and/or being hidden by the clouds that we see with birds in flight. Again, pastry shaped like a bird or bird-shaped cookies might be substituted.

Finally, and this is not necessarily a traditional food, some folks suggest making meringues or a meringue pie.

Whatever you choose to eat to celebrate the Ascension and whether the feast is celebrated on a Thursday (the traditional feast day) or on the following Sunday (so more people can celebrate it liturgically), may the blessings of Our Lord be with you and your family or community. And may we, like the disciples before us, enter now into prayer for the special coming again, ever more deeply, into our lives of the Holy Spirit.


Hot Cross Buns - A Treat for Good Friday

  • Kathy Pozos
  • Wed 28th March 2012, 3:54 pm

Hot Cross Buns are a traditional English yeast bread prepared to be eaten in celebration of Good Friday.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients for the sweet yeast bread:

1/2 C and 1 T Honey or well-packed brown sugar - divided
1 1/2 pkgs dry yeast (quick rising is faster)
4 3/4 C stirred whole wheat flour, add 1/4 C more if honey is used - divided (white whole wheat flour makes a lighter bun), and a bit extra for kneading
1/2 C cooking oil
1 scant T. salt
2 eggs
1/2 C powdered milk
2 C water - divided

Special ingredients for the Hot Cross Buns:

Grated peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon - alternative: 1/2 t dried orange peel, 1/2 t dried lemon peel
1/4 C honey
2 T butter or margarine
1 t cinnamon
1 C currants or raisins

Basic sweet roll instructions:

Mix 1/2 C warm water, 1T honey or brown sugar, 1 1/2 packages dry yeast. Set aside to begin growing/rising.

Mix 1 C stirred whole wheat flour with 1 1/2 C water. Cook until smooth and thick. Stir constantly. Put into large bowl once it is cooked. (It will be hot, so small children should not try to pour it into the bowl.)

Add 1/2 C oil, 1/2 C honey or well-packed brown sugar, 1 scant T salt and 2 eggs to the cooked flour/water mixture. Stir together.

In a separate container, mix 1/2 C powdered milk into 1 C whole wheat flour. Add gradually to the dough, stirring as you do. Add yeast mixture and stir into dough.

Add Special Hot Cross Buns mixture.

(Prepare separately to add to dough.)

Mix grated orange and lemon peels to 2T honey and cook at medium heat, stirring for a minute after it boils.

Remove mixture from heat and add 1 T butter/margarine, 1/2 t. cinnamon and 1/2 C currents or raisins.

Gradually add remaining 2 3/4 C stirred whole wheat flour. (If you have used honey, add the extra 1/4 C flour.) Mix well. This will be a thick, sticky dough.

Let rise, covered, until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Stir down well and let rise again. Knead on a floured board until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Cut dough into 24 pieces and shape into buns. Place on greased cookie sheet to rise until doubled again. Leave a bit of space between buns so there`s room for the rising. Cut a shallow cross in the top of each bun with a sharp knife or scissors.

Bake at 375º for 20-30 minutes, or until browned. Brush immediately with milk. (Gives the buns a nice sheen.)

Let cool before adding the icing cross to the buns.

Prepare icing using powdered sugar, water, lemon juice and a touch of butter/margarine. Fill the cross with the icing.

Enjoy this treat as you remember God`s great Love in coming to experience our lives in all their joys and sorrows through the life and death of Jesus!


Being true to the Latin: Good idea? Bad Idea?

  • Rafael Pozos
  • Sun 20th November 2011, 9:12 am

The church’s decision to adopt a translation of the mass that’s more “true” to the master Latin text for English speaking Catholics has been met with controversy in all quarters. In the end it came down to a battle between two groups of bishops, ICEL, or the International Committee for English in Liturgy and Vox Clara, a group headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell who has a bit of a conservative and traditionalist bent to it. In the end ICEL lost and Vox Clara won, leading to the changes we’re going to see come the beginning of advent this year.

While being close to the Latin is laudable, it does cause some issues because it expresses a different mode of thinking that is in a number of ways radically different than English. Also, as liturgical language, the mass has much more in common with lyric poetry than with narrative. As such, most experts in translation would say that the main task is not so much to be slavishly literal to the original language as it is to find a way to covey the same basic meaning or feeling in the language the original is being translated into. Because of this, a lot of the new translation comes off in English as being a bit stilted. A classic example of this is the way the Gloria comes out from the new translation. While it more closely resembles the Latin word for word, it doesn’t flow as lyric poetry at all – which it should and does in Latin. Instead of “Lord God, Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks we praise you for your glory” it says: “We praise you, we bless you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly king, O God almighty Father” – no flow to it whatsoever. And this isn’t the only place you see this kind of destruction either. The Confetior ends up pretty badly mangled as are the prefaces for the Eucharistic prayers. At a conference for priests in the Archdiocese of Portland OR about a year ago, the justification was made that the Latin version of the prefaces of the Eucharistic prayers really makes up a crescendo of titles for God the Father himself and that in order for it to be a proper sacrifice, this form must be followed. That goal is laudable, however it needs to be done and can be done in a way that makes more sense in English than what is coming – something Vox Clara seems to have forgotten or just utterly ignored.

All of this and the fact that we’re headed into Advent lead me to think of the old Advent Hymn “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel.” Its English form has been accepted for a long time. In Latin, its language of composition, it makes more sense and has much more powerful imagery. If we were to translate it in a way that is truer to the Latin, we’d loose the lyric poetry that the English translation currently has. On in the first verse for example it goes:

Veni Veni Emmanuel
Captivum Solve Israel
Qui Gemit in exilio
Privatus Dei Filio

We translate that as:


Oh come Oh come Emmanuel
And ransome captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of God appear 

That’s good Lyric poetry in English. However it’s not as true to the Latin as it could be. Therefore, if we’re going in the vein of Vox Clara, the lyric should be:


Oh come oh come Emmanuel
Release Israel of captivity
Who groans in exile

Deprived of the son of God 

Then the refrain:

Gaude, Gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te Israel

Current translation:

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to you oh Israel 

Literal (Vox Clara)

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Will be born for you oh Israel.

 If we were to use the literal translations, as Vox Clara would have us use, this hymn would completely fall apart even with use of Gregorian chant. While the imagery might be better conveyed in some of the verses with a literal translation and some of the allusions to early Roman culture might be better preserved, it would make no sense. For example “oh come oh dayspring from on high” becomes “oh come, oh come Oh East” (Veni Veni O Oriens). “Oh come Oh Come thou Lord of Might” becomes “Oh Come Oh Come My Lord” (Veni Veni Adonai). That verse in English looses some of its punch from the Latin, but that’s largely because English expression is understated when compared to Latin. In Latin, it’s clear from the first line that you’re talking about Moshe (Moses) ascending Sinai to get the Torah (law) and that it’s a story from Hebrew due to the word “Adonai” which means “My Lord/Master” and is what is said in spoken Hebrew instead of the proper name of the god of Israel. In English, it’s only clear after the verse is over what just happened and the imagery isn’t quite as striking. Yet if we were to translate it literally, the poetry would die completely and look something like this:


Veni Veni Adonai
Qui populi in Sinai

Legem dedisti vértice
In majestate gloriae

 Vox Clara English:

Oh come Oh Come My Lord
Who to the people in Sinai
You gave the points of law
In majestic glory.


Again – does not work as lyric poetry.


Since liturgical language needs to be handled ala lyric poetry, what Vox Clara has rammed through the Vatican, while laudable in its focus on staying close to the Latin, did it so slavishly that the net effect is some English that’s pretty badly mangled and does not generally stand up as lyric poetry. When translating lyric poetry the main task is to preserve the meaning and not necessarily be slavishly literal. The old translation did loose some of the subtleties of the Latin, yet the new one does not express them in a way that makes sense in modern English lyric poetry. Again, while laudable in its goal and overall a good idea. This translation in the end falls far short in terms of what it was intended to do for Catholics whose main language is modern English. Further, it’s sad because Vox Clara, is Latin for “Clear Voice” and the translation they put out is anything but.

"Love your enemies" does not equal "Burn their holy scriptures!"

  • Kathy Pozos
  • Thu 9th September 2010, 3:44 pm

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain. It’s the section that begins, “To you who hear me, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” (Lk 6:27-28)

The reading spoke loudly to me today because of Pastor Terry Jones’ announced plan to have a burning of the Qur’an ceremony on September 11, the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon, a date that this year also coincides with the feastive end of the penitential season of Ramadan. The plans sparked protests from believers of all faiths, leaders of Christian and Jewish faith communities, and governments around the world. Reports are that the burning has been cancelled because plans to build a mosque near the “ground zero” site in New York have been cancelled.

Both the threat to burn the Qur’an and the opposition to the construction of a mosque, a place of prayer, near a site of unspeakable tragedy for people of all faiths speak to me of a huge lack of faith among us as Christians. How can we possibly reconcile “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” with the idea that all members of another faith are enemies because a few of their number carried out acts of terrorism? And even if all members of that faith were our enemies, we would not be justified in responding in kind if we are to be faithful to the new command given by our Lord.

The kind of spouting of hate filled rhetoric that we have seen in recent weeks is not consistent with the love of God. It comes from the Deceiver, who whispers coyly to us about how we have been wronged and how others can only be trusted to harm us and how all members of another community wish us harm or are evil. It all sounds so smooth and reasonable, especially when we see wars being waged and combatants couching their actions in religious language overlaid with centuries of injustice and misunderstandings.

The desired effect of the Deceiver’s whispering has already been attained, even without a single text being burned. People all over the world are stirred up. Protests are raging. Hatreds are reignited. It matters not a whit that leaders of the United States and of all major religious have condemned the plan. Extremism doesn’t deal in facts or the distinction between truth and falsehood, regardless of which extreme is in question. I can just imagine the delighted smiles on the faces of the evil spirits involved in this huge deception.

The example of St. Peter Claver, whose feast we celebrate today, speaks to us still today. Working in Cartagena, during the early 17th century, caring for the slaves who arrived from West Africa and serving as their advocate with their new owners, Peter Claver did not ask people about their religious beliefs before ministering to them. Once their illnesses had been treated, their wounds healed, their needs for nutrition and shelter addressed, he spoke to them of the love of Jesus and many became Christians because of the love he and his helpers extended to them.

The slave trade itself was “justified” by a series of Papal decisions based on the ongoing conflict between Christians and Moslems. Basically, the reasoning was that peoples living in areas of the known world where they might have had the chance to become Christians but did not do so could be enslaved as punishment/consequence for their failure to accept Christianity. Moslems were the original target of these rulings, but they were extended to include the peoples of the entire continent of Africa on the assumption that missionaries might have reached them. The peoples of the Americas eventually were specifically protected from enslavement for the same reason. Missionaries had not reached them before the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him.

Peter Claver and his helpers rightly reasoned that it didn’t matter in the least whether a slave was a Moslem or a beliver in a tribal religion or a believer in no religion at all. That individual was a human being, a brother or sister who deserved care and respect. Through that outpouring of love, care and respect, God reached out and touched thousands of people.

May we have the courage as people of faith to do the same.

St. Peter Claver, pray for us.

(Reprinted with permission from