Eid al-Adha

October 5-6 (+/- 1), 2014

The Muslim prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in Judeo-Christian tradition) is one of the most remarkable figures in religious history. He is the father of three great religions, the first to believe in one God, and his tales are recounted by all three faiths.

Eid al-Adha, the holiest feast of the Muslim calendar, marks the end of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj.) Eid Al-Adha begins on the tenth day of Dhu’l-Hijja and lasts four days.

It commemorates an event roughly three thousand years ago, when the prophet Ibrahim took his son Ishmael/Ismail to be sacrificed at the command of the Lord. But before Ibrahim could go through with the act God gave Ibrahim a ram to be sacrificed in the place of his son.

There are two major distinctions between the this and the Judeo-Christian version as written in Genesis.

First, in Genesis the son to be sacrificed is not Ishmael, but Isaac.

And second, in the Qur’an Ishmael is aware of his father’s intentions and agrees to be sacrificed. Thus, Eid al-Adha remembers not only Ibrahim’s sacrifice, but Ishmael’s as well.

Arguably the figure of Ibrahim is more prominent in the Islamic faith than in either Judaism or Christianity. Even though he lived twenty-five hundred years before the Prophet Muhammad, Ibrahim is said to have lived a life consistent with Muhammad’s teachings. In addition to nearly sacrificing Ishmael, Ibrahim also broke ties with his own father Azar, an idolator who refused to follow the teachings of the one true God.

Traditionally Eid al-Adha was been celebrated through the sacrifice of an animal such as a sheep, goat, camel or cow. (In recent years the practice has become more controversial. Animal sacrifice is not one of the five pillars of Islam and Muhammad himself did not eat much meat.) The meat of the animal was split into three parts. One part for themselves and family, one part for friends and neighbors, and one part for the poor.

Eid al-Adha also recalls the journey of Hajar, mother of Ishmael, and her search for water:

…Prophet Ibrahim brought Lady Hajar and their baby son Ismail, by the command of God, to the deserted uncultivable valley of Makkah where the sacred house, Ka’bah, is now located. Prophet Ibrahim left Lady Hajar and their son alone by the order of God, and Lady Hajar said, “never ever will God neglect us.” Eventually, she ran out of provisions. Shortly thereafter, she ran up and down two hills, Safa and Marwa, seven times looking for water. Finally, a spring of water gushed at her baby’s feet. God had not neglected them. That same water is still gushing (Zamzam Well).

The Big Feast Eid al-Adha – Ahmed Shoker

 animal market - kashgar

Corpus Christi

June 7, 2012
June 23, 2011
June 3, 2010

Corpus Christi ain’t just a city in Texas.

Short for Corpus et Sanguis Christi, aka the Body and the Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi is one of the holiest Thursdays of the year.

The feast of Corpus Christi is one time when our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is exposed not just to faithful Catholics but to all the world.


Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru

According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1113The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments.”

The seven sacraments are:

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. Eucharist
  4. Penance
  5. Anointing of the Sick
  6. Holy Orders
  7. Matrimony
Seven Sacraments Altarpiece, Rogier van der Weydan,

The Eucharist originates from Jesus’s words at the Last Supper.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:26

Or, as Paul retold it to the Corinthians:

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenants in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Corpus Christi came about in the 13th century, when a 16 year-old girl named Juliana began having visions. Juliana had been placed in a convent at age 5, upon the death of her parents. At 13 she decided to become a nun. At 16 the visions began, first with a vision of the moon, shining bright, but with one black spot.

Saint Juliana and the Sista’s adoring the Virgin’s presentation of the Sacrament

She puzzled over the vision. It wasn’t until many years later when subsequent visions and conversations with the Holy Spirit revealed to her that the black spot represented the absence of a joyful celebration of the “Most High and Most Holy Sacrament of the Alter.” The only observance of transubstantiation at that time was Maundy Thursday during Holy Week, which emphasized the Jesus’ suffering and death, but not the aspects of joy, love, and salvation that the Eucharist offered.

Juliana breached the subject of a feast for the blessed sacrament with the Archdeacon Jacques Pantaleon–originally a cobbler’s son two years Juliana’s junior–and the Bishop de Thorete of Liege. The Bishop , enamored by the idea, officiated the holiday on a local scale in 1246.

When Jacques, the former cobbler’s son, became Pope Urban IV in the 1260s, he recalled the holiday envisioned by Juliana and extended Corpus Christi to be celebrated across Christendom. It has been celebrated by the Catholic Church every year since 1264.

Corpus Christi is also observed by the Anglican Church. John Donne wrote of the Eucharist:

He was the Word that spake it;
He took the bread and brake it;
and what that Word did make it;
I do believe and take it.


Date varies. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) falls on February 21, 2012


Scores of cities from Rio to Cologne host their own Carnival festivities during the week before Lent, but not many can boast a party that dates back to 1268.

In those days, the Venice Carnevale was frowned upon by the local authorities and the Church. The debauchery and gluttony of the celebration recalled ancient pagan rites that flew in the face of the austerity of the 40-day Lent.

The Carnival before Lent is kind of like the “Boycott Gas for a Day” movement. It takes the punch out of not consuming something for a day if you consume twice as much the day before.

But don’t tell this to the Venetians. The Carnevale is a symbol of the city. And the symbol of Carnevale is the mask. Celebrants don their “masquerade” masks and costumes for both outdoor and indoor celebrations. During Carnevale neighbors become strangers and strangers become friends.

Despite being the biggest and most famous Carnival celebration in all Europe, the current incarnation of Carnevale is only a few decades old. The festival has been banned numerous times by the authorities during its 800-year history, notably in 1797 when Napoleon conquered the Venetian Republic, and more recently by dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1930s.

The Venice Carnevale differs from its counterparts because Venice lacks the streets required for the processions which are the main event of other celebrations. But Venice more than makes up for it with indoor banquets and masquerades and outdoor parties.

“…the whole town was transformed into a vast theatre, full of music, dance and festivities. The various ‘campi’ or small squares throughout the town were traditionally used to stage various events, as they still are today.”

Melanie K. Smith, Issues in Cultural Tourism Studies

Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach Mardi Gras

Every Day’s a Holiday didn’t have the resources to make it to Venice or Mardi Gras this year, but we did attend the next best thing: the Venice Beach Mardi Gras in California, which as it falls on Saturday, is technically a Samedi Gras.

The word carnival — literally “farewell to the flesh” — refers to the period before Lent during which Catholics could still eat meat. “Carnival” has since come to mean any large communal party with rides and cotton candy. So the term “Mardi Gras” (Fat Tuesday — the day before Ash Wednesday) has been mistakenly used to refer to all the festivities leading up to the big day itself.

Saturday’s Venice Beach Mardi Gras featured locals in outlandish costumes, loud musicians, ecstatic crowds of bewildered tourists, and merry-making all around.

So really it was indistinguishable from any other day at Venice Beach.

The Bushman of Venice Beach
The Bushman of Venice Beach

I spoke with “The Bushman”, a Liberian who’s been on the boardwalk for ten years, and who shouted at passersby in his distinct African accent the same question many of us have been asking this Carnival season:

“Where’s my stimulus package!”

Judging by the amount of bills tourists tossed his way…he may have entered a new tax bracket.

See you in Venice!

Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach Mardi Gras
Venice Beach mural
Venice Beach apartment building
Venice Beach apartment building

Venice Beach: California Carnivale

Originally posted Feb. 23, 2009