Wednesday, November 30, 2022
In Christianity, Epiphany refers to the moment that a person believes that Jesus is the son of God. To symbolize this, Western Christian churches generally celebrate Epiphany as the arrival of the wise men from the east at the birthplace of Jesus (The Adoration of the Magi) 12 days after Christmas. Traditionally, Eastern Christian churches celebrated Epiphany (or Theophany) in conjunction with Christ's baptism by John the Baptist on January 19th. Some Protestant churches celebrate Epiphany as an entire religious season, extending from Christmas Day until Ash Wednesday.
The biblical Magi, also referred to as the Wise Men or Kings, were – in the Gospel of Matthew – distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh. Matthew is the only of the 4 canonical gospels to mention the Magi. Matthew reports that they came "from the east" to worship the "king of the Jews." The gospel does notmentions the number of Magi, but most western Christian denominations have traditionally assumed them to have been 3 in number, based on the statement that they brought 3 gifts. In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the Magi often number 12. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to the anticipatory Psalm 72:11, "May all kings fall down before him."
The phrase "from the east" (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, apo anatolon), more literally "from the rising [of the sun]," is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came. The Parthian Empire, centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea & Syria (except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast). Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism. Although Matthew's account does not cite the motivation for their journey, the Syriac Infancy Gospel provides some clarity by stating explicitly in the 3rd chapter that they were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht (Zoroaster).
There is an Armenian tradition identifying the "Magi of Bethlehem" as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, & Gaspar of India. Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (near Islamabad in Pakistan) that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting China & the Far East with the Middle East & Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China & closed them.
Sebastian Brock, a historian of Christianity, said: "It was no doubt among converts from Zoroastrianism that… certain legends were developed around the Magi of the Gospels." Central Asian Christian king, Prester John's Mongol descendants were sought as allies against the Muslims by contemporary European monarchs & popes.
Sempad the Constable of Armenia visited the Mongol court in Karakorum in 1247–1250 & in 1254. He wrote a letter to Henry I King of Cyprus & Queen Stephanie (Sempad’s sister) in 1243, in which he said: “Tanchat [Tangut, or Western Xia], which is the land from whence came the Three Kings to Bethlehem to worship the Lord Jesus which was born. & know that the power of Christ has been, & is, so great, that the people of that land are Christians; & the whole land of Chata [Khitai, or Kara-Khitai] believes those Three Kings. I have myself been in their churches & have seen pictures of Jesus Christ & the Three Kings, one offering gold, the second frankincense, & the third myrrh. & it is through those Three Kings that they believe in Christ, & that the Chan & his people have now become Christians”
Marco Polo claimed that he was shown the 3 tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s: In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; & in this city they are buried, in 3 very large & beautiful monuments, side by side. & above them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with the hair & beard remaining. (Marco Polo, Polo, Marco, The Book of the Million, book I, chapter 13)
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
However, in 1946, when rationing began to ease following the end of the WWII, a printer named Richard Sellmer once again introduced the colorful little Advent Calendar, and once again it was an immediate success. After the war, the production of calendars resumed in 1946, by Selmer. Selmer credits President Eisenhower with helping the tradition grow in the United States during his term of office. A newspaper article at the time showed the Eisenhower grandchildren with The Little Town Advent calendar.
Some European countries such as Germany, where the 1st Advent poster originated, also use a wreath of fir with 24 bags or boxes hanging from it. In each box or bag there is a little present for each day.
Monday, November 28, 2022
The origin of the Advent wreath is uncertain. It is believed that Advent wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of northern Europe; where in the deep of winter, people lit candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. It is believed that pagan Mid-Winter rituals sometimes featured a wreath of evergreen with four candles. The candles were placed in each of the four directions to represent the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. Rites were solemnly performed in order to ensure the continuance of the circle of life symbolized by the evergreen wreath.
Like many Church traditions, the use of candles in the late fall and winter was originally a pagan tradition. Rev. William Saunders wrote that “pre-Germanic peoples used wreaths with lit candles during the dark and cold December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended sunlight days of spring.” In the middle ages, the Germanic peoples began incorporating a lighted wreath into the Christian season of Advent. It didn’t gain widespread popularity until the 1800s, and it wasn’t until the 1900s, that German immigrants brought the tradition to America.There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold & dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm & extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, & prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days & restore warmth. Both the evergreen & the circular shape symbolized ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of the year, as people looked forward to the longer days of spring.
By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition & used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. By 1600, both Catholics & Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
The wreath is made of various evergreens which are green yeear round. The Advent Wreath is endlessly symbolic. The evergreens in the wreath itself are a reminder of continuous life. The shaping of them into a circle reinforces that meaning. The circle is also a sign of the eternity of God.The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, & the everlasting life found in Christ.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. In some Christian churches, one purple or blue candle is lit each week, but the Catholic church uses a rose candle on the 3rd Sunday. Purple dyes were once so rare & costly that they were associated with royalty; the Roman Catholic Church has long used this color around Christmas & Easter to honor Jesus. The candles symbolize the prayer, penance, & preparatory sacrifices & goods works undertaken at this time. The light signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day wreaths include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ & is lit on Christmas Eve.
Sunday, November 27, 2022
The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light & birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them & they could look forward to longer days & extended hours of sunlight.
As far back as the 5C, there existed the custom of giving exhortations to the people in order to prepare them for Christmas. The oldest document, the 2nd book of the History of the Franks by St. Gregory Bishop of Tours (536-594), states that St. Perpetuus, one of his predecessors, had decreed a fast 3 times a week, from the feast of St. Martin until Christmas. St Perpetuus, who died December 30, 490, was the 6th Bishop of Tours, from 460 to 490. It is unclear whether St. Perpetuus established a new custom, or merely enforced an already existing law.
In the 4C & 5C, Advent was the preparation for the January "Epiphany" rather than Christmas. It was also a time for new Christians to be baptized & welcomed into the church, while existing members of the church examined their hearts & focused on penance. Religious leaders exhorted the people to prepare for the feast of Christmas by fasting. Early documents show that many church leaders treated Advent as a 2nd Lent.
The 9th canon of the first Council of Macon, held in 582, ordained that between St. Martin's day & Christmas, the Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, should be fasting days. In 567, the 2nd Council of Tours enjoined the monks to fast from the beginning of December till Christmas.
The obligation of observing Advent, which, though introduced so imperceptibly, had by degrees acquired the force of a sacred law, began to be relaxed, & the 40 days from St. Martin's day to Christmas were reduced to 4 weeks.
Sometime in 6C Rome, the focus of Advent shifted to the second coming of Christ. In the 9C, Pope St. Nicholas reduced the duration of Advent from 6 weeks to 4 weeks. The 1st mention of Advent's being reduced to 4 weeks is to be found in a 9C letter of Pope St. Nicholas I to the Bulgarians.
After having reduced the time of the Advent fast, the church seemed to change the mandatory fast into a simple abstinence & required only the clergy to observe this abstinence. The Council of Salisbury, held in 1281, seemed to expect none but monks to keep it. On the other hand Pope Innocent III, mentions that, in France, fasting was uninterruptedly observed during the whole 40 days.
By degrees, the custom of fasting fell into disuse; and in 1362, Pope Urban V asked only that the clerics of his court should keep abstinence during Advent. In his 4th Council, he enjoins the parish priests to exhort the faithful to go to Communion on the Sundays, at least, of Lent & Advent; & he strongly urges them to fast on the Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, at least, of each week in Advent.
And finally, sometime in the middle ages--approximately the 1500's--an additional focus on the anticipation before Christ's birth was added to that of His 2nd coming.
Today Advent in most Christian churches begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, & covers 4 Sundays. Because the day it begins changes from year to year, so does the length of each Advent season.
Saturday, November 26, 2022
"It is today associated with decorations, gift giving and indulgence. But how did the Romans celebrate during the festive season? English historian Dr Carey Fleiner, a senior lecturer in classical and medieval history at the University of Winchester, looks back at Saturnalia, the Roman mid-winter ‘festival of misrule’
"Q: What was Saturnalia, and how was it celebrated?
"A: It was the Romans’ mid-winter knees up!
"It was a topsy-turvy holiday of feasting, drinking, singing in the street naked, clapping hands, gambling in public and making noise.
"A character in Macrobius’s Saturnalia [an encyclopedic celebration of Roman culture written in the early fifth century] quotes from an unnamed priest of the god Saturn that, according to the god himself, during the Saturnalia “all things that are serious are barred”. So while it was a holy day, it was also very much a festive day as well.
"The ordinarily rigid and conservative social restrictions of the Romans changed – for example, masters served their slaves during a feast and adults would serve children, and slaves were allowed to gamble.
"And the aristocracy, who usually wore conservative clothes, dressed in brightly coloured fabrics such as red, purple and gold. This outfit was called the ‘synthesis’, which meant ‘to be put together’. They would ‘put together’ whatever clothes they wanted.
"People would also wear a cap of freedom – the pilleum – which was usually worn by slaves who had been awarded their freedom, to symbolise that they were ‘free’ during the Saturnalia.
"People would feast in their homes, but the historian Livy notes that by 217 BC there would also be a huge public feast at the oldest temple in Rome, the Temple of Saturn. Macrobius confirms this, and says that the rowdy participants would spill out onto the street, with the participants shouting, “Io Saturnalia!” the way we might greet people with ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy New Year!’
"A small statue of Saturn might be present at such feasts, as if Saturn himself were there. The statue of Saturn in the temple itself spent most of the year with its feet bound in woolen strips. On the feast day, these binds of wool wrapped around his feet were loosened – symbolising that the Romans were ‘cutting loose’ during the Saturnalia.
"People were permitted to gamble in public and bob for corks in ice water. The author Aulus Gellius noted that, as a student, he and his friends would play trivia games. Chariot racing was also an important component of the Saturnalia and the associated sun-god festivities around that time – by the late fourth century AD there might be up to 36 races a day.
"We say that during Christmas today the whole world shuts down – the same thing happened during the Saturnalia. There were sometimes plots to overthrow the government, because people were distracted – the famous conspirator Cataline had planned to murder the Senate and set the city on fire during the holiday, but his plan was uncovered and stopped by Cicero in 63 BC.
"Saturnalia was described by first-century AD poet Gaius Valerius Catullus as “the best of times”. It was certainly the most popular holiday in the Roman calendar.
"It was the result of the merging of three winter festivals over the centuries. These included the day of Saturn – the god of seeds and sowing – which was the Saturnalia itself. The dates for the Saturnalia shifted a bit over time, but it was originally held on 17 December.
"Later, the 17th was given over to the Opalia, a feast day dedicated to Saturn’s wife – who was also his sister. She was the goddess of abundance and the fruits of the earth.
"Because they were associated with heaven (Saturn) and Earth (Opalia), their holidays ended up combined, according again to Macrobius. And the third was a feast day celebrating the shortest day, called the bruma by the Romans. The Brumalia coincided with the solstice, on 21 or 22 December.
"The three were merged, and became a seven-day jolly running from 17–23 December. But the emperor Augustus [who ruled from 27 BC–AD 14] shortened it to a three-day holiday, as it was causing chaos in terms of the working day.
"Later, Caligula [ruled AD 37–41 ] extended it to a five-day holiday, and by the time of Macrobius [early fifth century] it had extended to almost two weeks.
'As with so many Roman traditions, the origins of the Saturnalia are lost to the mists of time. The writer Columella notes in his book about agriculture [De Re Rustica, published in the early first century AD] that the Saturnalia came at the end of the agrarian year.
"The festivities fell on the winter solstice, and helped to make up for the monotony of the lull between the end of the harvest and the beginning of the spring.
"Q: Were gift-giving and decorations part of Saturnalia?
"A: Saturnalia was more about a change in attitudes than presents. But a couple of gifts that were given were white candles, named cerei, and clay faces named sigillariae. The candles signified the increase of light after the solstice, while the sigillariae were little ornaments people exchanged.
"These were sometimes hung in greenery as a form of decoration, and people would bring in holly and berries to honour Saturn.
"Q: Was Saturnalia welcomed by everyone?
"A: Not among the Romans!
"Seneca [who died in AD 62] complained that the mob went out of control “in pleasantries”, and Pliny the Younger wrote in one of his letters that he holed up in his study while the rest of the household celebrated.
"As might be expected, the early Christian authorities objected to the festivities as well.
"It wasn’t until the late fourth century that the church fathers could agree on the date of Christ’s birth – unlike the pagan Romans, Christians tended to give no importance to anyone’s birthday. The big day in the Christian religious calendar was Easter.
"Nevertheless, eventually the church settled on 25 December as the date of Christ’s nativity. For the Christians, it was a holy day, not a holiday, and they wanted the period to be sombre and distinguished from the pagan Saturnalia traditions such as gambling, drinking, and of course, most of all, worshipping a pagan god!
"But their attempts to ban Saturnalia were not successful, as it was so popular. As late as the eighth century, church authorities complained that even people in Rome were still celebrating the old pagan customs associated with the Saturnalia and other winter holidays."
Friday, November 25, 2022
In the Northern hemisphere, many ancient people believed that the sun was a god & that winter came every year because the sun god had grown weak. They celebrated the solstice, because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong & summer would return.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk & wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from his weakness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes symbolizing the triumph of life over death.
Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes & temples with evergreen boughs.
In Northern Europe the Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.
Decorating one’s house with natural boughs has been a Christmas tradition since Celtic times in England. Boughs of holly with their bright red berries were especially coveted.
"Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.”
- William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Thursday, November 24, 2022
St James Episcopal Church, Monkton, Maryland. 2014
At a Blessing I attended a few years ago, the rector began, "In less than an hour we will hear hoof beats, and the crying of hounds. As the final echoes of the Lord's Prayer and an Anglican blessing fade from this hilltop into the silence of the trees, the horse and riders will pick up speed, seek a scent, and pass quickly out of our sight."
Informal fox hunts with private packs of dogs were popular in Maryland throughout colonial times, when rural neighbors applauded fox hunting as a husbandry necessity -foxes were destroying livestock. Early Marylanders did not see fox hunting as a blood-sport of the privileged. After the Revolution, the first few formal foxhunting clubs were organized near the towns of Baltimore, Washington, & Annapolis. Contemporary newspaper accounts show that the Baltimore Fox Hunting Club was active near the Chesapeake Bay as early as 1793.
The rector continued, "Into the beauty of God's creation they will move. We will hear them even when we cease to see the red of their jackets or the dark flanks of the very last horse. Even when they are gone from our hearing, we will remember the sound of our voices raised in song and prayer within these walls. And those who go a hunting and those that can't tell a stirrup from a saddle will leave this church today connected through a common cup, one bread broken for us all, and blessings from ancient times that are carried, still, by stories like voices on the wind."
Our local Elkridge Fox Hunting Club was incorporated on March 6, 1878, and is believed to be a descendant of the 18th-century Baltimore Fox Hunting Club. As downtown Baltimore grew, it combined with the more rural Harford Hunt club. Now the Elkridge-Harford Hunt roams over about 120 square miles of rolling farmland, with wooded areas & pastures. It has over 60 hounds in its kennels. Neighborhood obstacles are post-and-rail fences, fallen trees, cold streams, & board fences.
The rector concluded, "In less than an hour we will hear hoof beats, and the crying of hounds. God's blessing will roll across the landscape, seeking those who would enter a kingdom raised by more than human hands. All we have to do to enter is to be willing to love, willing to risk, willing to ride out and meet God where He dwells. Let us all prepare our hearts for the blessing of the hunt, the search for God. For everyone that draws breath is on this life-long journey. Ride well, and may the peace of God be with you."
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Early American Thanksgivings - 1860s "Mother of Thanksgiving" gets Lincoln to Proclaim the National Holiday
The author of the children's poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was persistent in arguing that establishing the national November holiday could help heal wounds from the Civil War.
A prominent writer & editor, Hale had written the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” originally known as “Mary’s Lamb,” in 1830 & helped found the American Ladies Magazine, which she used a platform to promote women’s issues. In 1837, she was offered the editorship of Godey’s Lady Book, where she would remain for more than 40 years, shepherding the magazine to a circulation of more than 150,000 by the eve of the Civil War & turning it into one of the most influential periodicals in the country.
In addition to her publishing work, Hale was a committed advocate for women’s education (including the creation of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York), & raised funds to construct Massachusetts’s Bunker Hill Monument & save George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
The New Hampshire-born Hale had grown up regularly celebrating an annual Thanksgiving holiday, & in 1827 published a novel, Northwood: A Tale of New England, that included an entire chapter about the fall tradition, already popular in parts of the nation. While at Godey’s, Hale often wrote editorials & articles about the holiday & she lobbied state & federal officials to pass legislation creating a fixed, national day of thanks on the last Thursday of November. She believed that such a unifying measure could help ease growing tensions & divisions between the northern & southern parts of the country. Her efforts paid off: By 1854, more than 30 states & U.S. territories had a Thanksgiving celebration on the books, but Hale’s vision of a national holiday remained unfulfilled.
The concept of a national Thanksgiving did not originate with Hale, & in fact the idea had been around since the earliest days of the republic. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued proclamations declaring several days of thanks, in honor of military victories.
In 1789, a newly inaugurated George Washington called for a national day of thanks to celebrate both the end of the war & the recent ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Both John Adams & James Madison issued similar proclamations of their own, though fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson felt the religious connotations surrounding the event were out of place in a nation founded on the separation of church & state, & no formal declarations were issued after 1815.
The outbreak of war in April 1861 did little to stop Sarah Josepha Hale’s efforts to create such a holiday, however. She continued to write editorials on the subject, urging Americans to “put aside sectional feelings & local incidents” & rally around the unifying cause of Thanksgiving. And the holiday continued, despite hostilities, in both the Union & the Confederacy.
In 1861 & 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued Thanksgiving Day proclamations following Southern victories. Abraham Lincoln himself called for a day of thanks in April 1862, following Union victories at Fort Donelson, Fort Henry & at Shiloh, & again in the summer of 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Shortly after Lincoln’s summer proclamation, Hale wrote to both the president & Secretary of State William Seward, once again urging them to declare a national Thanksgiving, stating that only the chief executive had the power to make the holiday, “permanently, an American custom & institution.”
Whether Lincoln was already predisposed to issue such a proclamation before receiving Hale’s letter of September 28 remains unclear. What is certain is that within a week, Seward had drafted Lincoln’s official proclamation fixing the national observation of Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November, a move the 2 men hoped would help “heal the wounds of the nation.”
After more than 3 decades of lobbying, Sarah Josepha Hale (& the United States) had a national holiday.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Monday, November 21, 2022
The First Presidential National Day of Thanksgiving
The resolution was opposed by Anti-Federalists, who opposed increased power of the central government. Chief among the opposition were Aedanus Burke, & Thomas Tudor Tucker.
Burke was of the opinion that the holiday was too "European." He "did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings." Burke was referencing the fact that at thanksgivings, both sides of a war often sang Te Deum, a hymn of praise. He was objecting that both the winners & losers in a war gave thanksgiving. Tucker however, felt that the federal government did not have the power to propose a day of thanksgiving. He was of the opinion that "If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the States."
Tucker also worried about the separation of church & state, as in his opinion, proclaiming a day of thanksgiving was a religious matter.
In the end, the resolution passed the House & the Senate, & a committee of Elias Boudinot, Roger Sherman, Peter Silvester, William Samuel Johnson, & Ralph Izard delivered the message to Washington on or before September 28, 1789. President Washington noted that "both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested [him] 'to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving & prayer.'"
It was formally declared on November 26 to "be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be." President George Washington made this proclamation on October 3, 1789 in New York City.
On the day of thanksgiving, Washington attended services at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City, & donated beer & food to imprisoned debtors in the city.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, & humbly to implore His protection & favor, & whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving & prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety & happiness. Now therefore I do recommend & assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere & humble thanks, for His kind care & protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal & manifold mercies, & the favorable interpositions of His providence, which we experienced in the course & conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, & plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable & rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety & happiness, & particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil & religious liberty with which we are blessed; & the means we have of acquiring & diffusing useful knowledge; & in general for all the great & various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us. & also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers & supplications to the great Lord & Ruler of Nations & beseech Him to pardon our national & other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several & relative duties properly & punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, & constitutional laws, discreetly & faithfully executed & obeyed, to protect & guide all Sovereigns & Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) & to bless them with good government, peace, & concord. To promote the knowledge & practice of true religion & virtue, & the increase of science among them & Us, & generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my h& at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Saturday, November 19, 2022
The Continental Congress, the legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, issued several "national days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving", a practice that was continued by presidents Washington and Adams under the Constitution, and has manifested itself in the established American observances of Thanksgiving and the National Day of Prayer today.
This proclamation was published in The Independent Gazetteer, or the Chronicle of Freedom, on November 5, 1782, the first being observed on November 28, 1782:
By the United States in Congress assembled, PROCLAMATION.
It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict, in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs, and the events of the war in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States and those of their allies; and the acknowledgment of their Independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States; Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.
Done in Congress at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.
JOHN HANSON, President. CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary.