No Room At The Katalyma

nativity+angel+1+001-1Poor Joseph and Mary. No room at the ________.

Hmmm . . . how ’bout katalyma? It’s a Greek word, but I’d wager you’ll do a pretty good job of filling in the blank based on more commonly used English words. After all, Joseph and Mary are one of the most famous couples in history. Right away you know this is the Christmas story. Right away, you know it’s a reference from either Matthew or Luke’s Gospel.

(It’s Luke 2:7, for those, like me, that are never 100% sure about the distinctive settings of the two Christmas stories. I usually sneak a scriptural peek to make sure, for example, that the shepherds only appear in Luke and the Magi are Matthew’s special guests.)

How would you express katalyma in today’s English? There was no room at the . . . Motel 6? What about The Four Seasons? Why not the BB&B (the Bethlehem Bed & Breakfast)? Couldn’t the word translate to “the family room with a convertible sofa?”

A likely answer could be: “Poor Joseph and Mary. No room at the . . . inn.”

I’d certainly give that answer, but it’s probably better to translate katalyma as “the lodge.” However, ye olde King James Version (KJV) from the 17th Century and the 20th Century’s New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) read “the inn.” Who wants to argue with the King of England, anyway? Continue reading →

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HANNAH, Backwards or Forwards

I Samuel 1:4-20 & I Samuel 2:1-10 – The 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 18, 2012

“…He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap…” (I Samuel 2:8)

Once we were younger…

We did not name our dog Hannah after the Bible’s Hannah. However, over a dozen years ago we gave our golden retriever puppy the same name as the prophet Samuel’s mother.

We’d thought of dubbing her Chardonnay (we love wine) or Sierra (our favorite mountain range) or even Ginger (after the only other dog I’d owned). We tossed various names around in the weeks between her birth and when she’d be old enough to bring home.

Then one day, while my wife and I window-shopped at a Fresno mall, an older gentleman ambled by, trailed by a girl perhaps five years of age. I guessed them grandfather and granddaughter.

The older fellow slowed, turned back, and said something like, “Come on, Hannah, we have to walk a little quicker.”

That was it. They were gone.

Suddenly we were talking about Hannah as a possible name. Who knows why something not thought of a moment before can become the perfect choice?

Then and now I enjoy word games and the notion of naming my future dog with a palindrome added to the pleasure of the name. Words or sentences that are the same if spelled backwards intrigue me, like . . .

  • The brief . . . Hannah (duh!)
  • The four-word sermon . . . Live not on evil.
  • A dog owner’s foolish hope . . . Dog saw I was God.
  • And even the longer longing of . . . Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

Clever, eh? Forwards and backwards, the same word or sentence.

Hannah she became. She got us coming and going.

Here, since I know my dog Hannah far better than the Biblical Hannah, I could expound on life lessons my puppy has taught me. Don’t folks always love tales about wagging tails? Indeed, dogs are always safer to talk about than any of the tough subjects like religion, politics or whose mother made the best potato salad.

When I walk alone people ignore me or perhaps mention the weather, and we keep moving apart. When I walk with Hannah, conversations blossom. At the least folks will say, “What a pretty dog!” (And never acknowledge I’m a decent looking dude.) On many occasions, people will stop me and ask to pet our pet and then we’ll swap dog owner stories or childhood memories or about the difference between dogs and cats. We’ve had fellow golden retriever owners grab on to Hannah and cry, eventually sharing about their best four-legged friend who died a year or a decade ago.

Walk a dog, invite a conversation. Continue reading →

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