October -- December 2016
From the book: The Way of the Fathers: Praying with the Early Christians / by Mike Aquilina, page 55:
Glory be to God for all things. I will never cease saying this, whatever befalls me. [St. John Chrysostom]
Nothing happens without God; we know this from many sources. And everyone who realizes that God is Reason, Wisdom, Perfect Goodness, and Truth -- and that He could not admit of anything that is not good and not consistent with His Truth -- everyone who realizes this will admit that God's dispensations have no element of chance and confusion. ... It befits us, then to acknowledge that these things happen for the best. [St. Gregory of Nyssa]
A troparion for today's saints [St. Maurice and Companions (Theban Martyrs)]:
The disciples' labor in spreading the gospel teaching would be rewarded and their zeal fruitful when they rely on God's divine power and submits to His guidance and direction. When Simon Peter obeyed the Lord's guidance and direction and launched out into the deep and let down the nets, he caught a great number of fish that needed the help of other laborers.
Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.
The Lord Jesus Christ has seen to honor His disciples by giving them (power) to forgive or retain the sins of any through His Holy Spirit. (St. Cyril)
Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
God never allows a burden
From the book: The Way of the Fathers: Praying with the Early Christians / by Mike Aquilina, page 55:
A blind, meaningless event can never be the work of God; for it is the property of God, as Scripture says, to make all things in wisdom (see Ps 104:24). [St. Gregory of Nyssa]
You have no reason to grieve for ill success. Perhaps it has seemed good to God to make my racecourse longer, so that my crown may be brighter. [St. John Chrysostom]
I do not despair of happier times, considering that at the helm of the universe is He who overcomes the storm not by human skill, but by His fiat. [St. John Chrysostom]
The one thing even God cannot do!!
St. Andrew was a native in Galilee. He with his brother Peter were fishermen. He preached in the area of the Black Sea and in Asia Minor. He preached in the city of Lydd with his disciple Philemon and led many to believe and baptized them. He also preached with Bartholomew and led many to Christ. In Achaia he was tortured by the idol worshipers. He was dragged around the city and cast into prison. Finally they crucified him and stoned him to death. May his prayers be with us. Amen.
The evil thought of Pharisees regarding Jesus that He casts out demons by Beelzebub comes from their pride and the love of power and dominion. Christians should forsake the friendship or the world and submit themselves to God.
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from vou. [Jas 4:7]
Dom James M. Deschene
We recently celebrated two major feasts in honor of the holy angels: that of Saint Michael and All Angels on 29 September, and that of the holy Guardian Angels on 2 October. Angels are rather fashionable these days, in a new-age sort of way. But for Orthodox Christians, angels are formidable and awesome creatures, far removed from the arena of fashion and superstition. It is no accident that most traditional appearances of an angel to a human being begin with the overwhelming terror triggered in us by the angel's presence. "Be not afraid!" is the angel's first message. This should remind us that sheer goodness is by no means comforting and cozy, but awesome and soul-blasting. Our God is a consuming fire; and his angels, reflecting some of his glory and goodness, terrify us by their appearing. God is not a kindly uncle or grandfather figure: it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Like C. S. Lewis's great Lion Aslan, God is not tame, but he is good.
Angels, frightening as they are, provide for us a pattern of a proper relationship to God. We know that when the angels were created, with their swift intelligences unencumbered by bodily processes, their first decision was whether to serve God or themselves. It should not shock us that a vast number of them chose to worship themselves -- we do it all the time. Fortunately, we, creatures in time with our sluggish intelligence and weakened, fallen wills, are given opportunity throughout our earthly years to continually revise that selfish turning by our repentance -- something a fallen angel cannot do. But that is the basic pattern of all rational creatures: to choose God or oneself. The evil angels chose themselves and turned from God, and they confirm this choice every time they succeed in tempting us to turn from God.
This battle plays out in our lives in terms of our attitude toward magic or mystery.
It may seem odd to claim that many people wish to be magicians. But if we consider what the basic attraction of magic is, it becomes perfectly clear why magic tempts us. For what is a magician but one who wields power and control over things and people, someone who desires to control the course of life and death with certain knowledge and assurance? C. S. Lewis warned us that one of the great dangers of our time was the rise of the scientist-magician: the one who uses technology to control human beings and to shape the world into a realm ruled by science and subject to no moral or spiritual supervision, critique or control. But we need not go to scientists to see Lewis's point. Our own hearts tell us that we wish to control and manipulate the world and those we know to make them into something we can look upon and call good -- that we can call ours. And we use all those tools a stage magician uses in his performance: manipulation, concealment, misdirection. Only when we perform our magic it is not for entertainment but for power, and its tools are more properly called using people, lying, and deceit. The psychology of a fallen angel is not (to our great embarrassment) entirely alien to us.
Yet we are not, like the fallen angels, fixed in our magician's role -- the way of repentance lies open to us. And so, while the daylight of our earthly life lasts, it is helpful to ponder the unfallen angels of God, those who resisted the temptation to selfishness, magic and power, and turned instead to adoring and praising the Mystery of God.
What do we discover when we turn from the selfishness of Magic to the selflessness of Mystery? We discover that God is not subject to our control and manipulation. It is sad to think it, but is not much of our daily personal prayer and behavior often a kind of negotiation with God in order to get something or make something happen? Even the prayer of a fallen creature can be touched with fallenness, selfishness and manipulation. And this discovery -- that God is not subject to our magic -- is either liberating or threatening. If we still cling to our own image as little magicians --little imperial selves whose will is law -- then the unbounded glory and power of God threatens our little empire of self. If I can't change God's mind, the choice becomes His way or my way -- only one of us, God or my Self, can rule the roost.
On the other hand, if, like the unfallen angels, I turn to God with absolute and utter trust in His truth, His will, His power, then I am not threatened. It is true that, in the presence of this awesome and fathomless Mystery, I will see that I am utterly without power or resources, utterly without influence or persuasion -- that all my pitiful attempts to find security and comfort and joy in my petty magic are doomed to utter frustration and failure. And yet, if (like the unfallen angels) I bow to the Mystery, the Mystery becomes precisely my security, my comfort and my joy -- in the knowledge that I am utterly and safely and lovingly in the caress and sustaining power of that burning Mystery of Love. It was in the mind and heart of this Mystery that I was first conceived; it is for life and joy within this Mystery that I was designed; and it is in this Mystery, and not in magic and the lust to control, that I must learn to live my earthly life, readying myself for that final endless and unwearying flight into the wild and fearsome Love of God.
Many of us will have read in school William Cullen Bryant's poem "To a Waterfowl." The last stanzas of that poem reflect on the water bird's serene trust in the guiding Mystery of God -- beyond all attempts at magic or control or certainty -- a trust that we cultivate in prayer of perfect submission to God's will:
There is a Power whose care
What a sober joy it was to be able to experience the Benedictine tradition fully within the context of the Church. I truly enjoyed the quiet weekend, the rhythm of the monastic office and the overwhelming hospitality of Father James. (Benjamin K., Orthodox layman)
My time spent at Christminster is hard to describe. In many ways, everything in my life stopped and was temporarily removed. I found myself left completely detached and alone with God. I truly began to understand the importance of silence in my life, through living in a community where silence is prioritized and so much is said through it. Having never spent such a long period in personal reflection, I feel that the support and love from those at Christminster guided me through and made me feel like I was in a welcoming and safe environment to do this. It really did feel like I joined the Christminster family for the time I was there. It is a simple environment, so conducive to both relaxing from the burdens of our life and fine-tuning your mind to the things so often missed from God. I know in my heart that I had never felt so connected to God as I did when I was at Christminster. I feel that I was able to accept the fullness of His love in such a complete way. Since then I have been able to grow on this and am slowly learning how to keep this connection with God, in my life outside of Christminster. It truly is a place of peace and simplicity, and through this, love. (Remy B., college student)
Dear Fathers: I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your generous hospitality during my recent stay at Christminster, especially as this was arranged at fairly short notice. I appreciated being able to join in familiar forms of worship beautifully prayed and offered and also to have a peaceful place to read, converse, and pray. Christminster is a haven of peace in a busy world. (Fr. Robert S. H. M., SSC, Anglican priest)
I visited Christminster at Pascha 2008. I spent 2 or 3 days with Fr. James and others who had come for the services of Holy Week and Pascha/Easter. My visit came just a few short weeks after Fr. James had moved in the newly renovated quarters. (Fr. Joseph was still undergoing medical treatment).
O God, whose blessed Son became poor, that through his poverty we might be rich : deliver us, we beseech thee, from an inordinate love of this world; that, following the example of the holy elders of Optina, and holpen by their prayers, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain unto the riches of the world to come. Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.
On the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary
THE Virgin royal of the lineage of David was chosen to become fruitful with the divine Offspring. For she who was thus chosen to bear the God-Man had already conceived Christ in her soul before she conceived him in her body. And first she learned the counsel of God from the Angel, lest the unwonted events should alarm her. So the future Mother of God knew what was to be wrought in her by the Holy Ghost, and that her honour would in no way be lost. For why should she, unto whom was promised all-sufficient strength through the power of the Highest, feel hopeless merely because of the unexampled character of such a conception? Nay, she believeth, and her belief is confirmed by the attestation of a miracle which hath already been wrought, namely, that Elisabeth receiveth fruitfulness, before unhoped for. Hence she might not doubt that God, who had given conception unto one that was barren, would give the same unto her that was virgin. And so the Word of God, (the Son of God, who was in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not anything made that was made,) was made man to deliver man from eternal death.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ, descending from his throne in heaven, but leaving not that glory which he hath with the Father, cometh into this lower world by being born after a new order and in a new kind of birth. He cometh after a new order in that he who is unseen of us in his own nature was seen amongst us. Thus the Incomprehensible was fain to be comprehended. And he that is from everlasting to everlasting began to be in time. And by a new kind of birth was he begotten : conceived of a Virgin and born of a Virgin ; without the intervention of any fleshly father ; without any breach of his mother's virginity. For such a birth beseemed the coming Saviour of mankind who was to have in him the nature of man's being, and to be free of any defilement of man's flesh. Though he sprung not as we spring, yet is his nature as our nature. We believe that he is free from the use and wont of men, in that it was the power of God which wrought this ; namely, that as a Virgin she conceived, as a Virgin she brought forth, and yet abode she a Virgin still.
Wilfrid, at the age of thirteen, left home to escape from mistreatment by his stepmother ; and thenceforth he found little peace on earth ; for he fought vigorously all his life long to bring the Christians of England who followed the peculiar national Celtic customs into accord with the more general usages of the Church of God, under the discipline of the Holy See. Being the son of a Northumbrian thane, he went first to the court of King Oswy, and thence was sent, at the age of fourteen, to Lindisfarne and Whitby for instruction in divine science. He also studied the Roman usages at Canterbury ; and in 654 set out for Rome with Saint Benedict Biscop on the latter's first journey to the eternal city. There he tried to perfect himself in holy things, and was finally made secretary to Pope Saint Martin. When he returned to England, Ald-frid, son of Oswy, appointed him to instruct the Northumbrians in the Roman usages, for that prince liked not the Celtic customs concerning the date of Easter and various other matters, any more than did Wilfrid. And when Aldfrid required the monks whom he had placed in his newly-built monastery at Ripon to give up their peculiar Celtic usages, many of them returned to their former monastery of Melrose ; whereupon Wilfrid was made Abbot of Ripon. * Now when the dispute regarding the two ecclesiastical observances became more acute, a synod was held at Whitby to decide the matter. For the Celtic party said that their usages came through France from the tradition which Saint John the Evangelist had established in Asia Minor, whereas the Roman party claimed the authority of the Prince of the Apostles for their customs. And when most of those present at the council decided in favour of Roman canon law and discipline, the others withdrew from work in Northumbria, and retired to the holy island of Iona. Whereafter Wilfrid was chosen Bishop of the Northumbrians, and went to Paris for consecration, for he held the neighbouring bishops as schismatics. But he was so long delayed on this journey that King Oswy grew impatient, and had Saint Chad consecrated in his stead. Which was the occasion of fresh controversy when Wilfrid returned and went to live in his Abbey of Ripon. However, in 699 Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, set him up as Bishop of York, and Chad went to work among the Mercians. But Wilfrid incurred the enmity of Egfrid, after the latter became King ; which same moved Saint Theodore to divide the northern territory into four dioceses, leaving one for Wilfrid, and intruding three others into the rest of Wilfrid's former jurisdiction. * Then was made the first appeal to the Holy See, namely, from Wilfrid as Bishop of York against the Archbishop of Canterbury ; to which end Wilfrid set out for Rome a second time. And on his way thither he preached the Gospel mightily in Friesland, converting many heathens, and thereby opening the way for the harvest of souls which Saint Willibrord and his companions gathered in. Now when Pope Saint Agatho had decided the case in Wilfrid's favour, he returned to King Egfrid with the decree, who promptly cast him into prison, and kept him there many months. And when he was set free, he was obliged to flee from one place to another, until he came into the region of the South Saxons. There he settled down, and laboured greatly in the Gospel, converting many, and establishing a bishoprick which afterwards became the See of Chichester. But in 686, after King Egfrid had died, Wilfrid was recalled to York, through the intervention of Saint Theodore and others. However, so many difficulties arose that he went to Rome for a third time, to make a second appeal to the Holy See. As a result of which he was again, by papal decree, awarded all his former authority in Northumbria. But he was then seventy-two years old, and shortly thereafter died in peace, namely, on April 24th, 709. But his feast is usually kept on October 12th, being the day of the translation of his relicks.
In speaking of the body and matter in general, the Church Fathers emphasise their divine origin. 'I declare that matter is the creation of God, and a good thing', says John of Damascus' 'I do not worship matter; 'I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for me . . . and accomplished my salvation through matter'.(21) Christianity is sometimes falsely accused of preaching that the flesh should be despised and the body treated with contempt. These views, held by a number of heretics (the Gnostics, Montanists, Manichees) and by some Greek philosophers, were subjected to rigorous criticism by John Chrysostom:
Many of the Greeks and heretics say that the body was not even created by God. It is not worthy of having been created by God, they say, pointing towards the impurity, sweat, tears, labour, exhaustion and other imperfections of the body . . . But do not speak to me of this fallen, condemned and degraded person. If you want to know how God created our body originally, then let us enter Paradise and look at the first-created person(22)
In Christian ascetic literature, whenever questions of enmity between flesh and spirit arise -- beginning with St Paul: 'For the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh' (Gal. 5:17) -- they concern fallen flesh as the totality of passions and vices, not the body as such. The expression 'mortification of the flesh', found in monastic sources, refers to putting to death the sinful desires and 'lusts of the flesh', not a contempt for the body itself. The Christian ideal is not to debase the flesh, but io purify it and transfigure it, to liberate it from the consequences of the Fall to return it to its primordial purity and make it worthy of assimilation to God.
(21) On the Divine Images 2, 14 (translated by David Anderson) pp. 60-1).
(22) On the Statutes 11, 2 (PG 49, 116 BC).
From: Chapter 5 (The Human Person: Soul and Body) of the book The Mystery of Faith : An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church / by [Metropolitan] Hilarion Alfeyev ; edited by Jessica Rose [St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, NY, 2011, page 62.
Today we remember Sts. St. Callistus (Bishop and Martyr) and Venantius (Bishop and Confessor).
CALLISTUS, the first Pope to bear that name, was in youth a slave. His master was a Christian of the imperial household, and gave into his charge the funds which he had received on behalf of certain Christians and their widows. These funds were somehow lost, and for this Callistus was blamed by his master. Whereat he fled from the punishment which he knew was coming, and went to Oporto, and there took ship. Wherefrom He jumped over-board when his pursuers caught up with him. But they apprehended him, and afterwards he was sentenced to hard labour as a disgraced slave. Howbeit, the Christians secured his release, that he might help recover the lost funds. In pursuance of which, he followed certain Jewish moneylenders to their synagogues, where he importuned them, and was by them turned over to the judge as one who had made a disturbance during a religious service. This time he was sentenced to hard labour in the mines of Sardinia. But he was afterwards returned to Italy, and Pope Saint Victor gave him a pension. When Saint Zephyrinus became Pope, he recalled Callistus to Rome, and made him superintendent of a catacomb on the Appian way, which same he greatly improved, so that it came to be called after him, and is known even to this day as the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. * He thus grew well-known and much beloved, and in 217, after the death of Zephyrinus, was elected by the clergy and people of Rome to be the next occupant of Peter's Chair. His short pontificate was made notable by his condemnation of the Sabellian heresy, and by his fight against rigorism. He was strongly opposed by the anti-pope Hippolytus, and by Tertullian, whose writings against him are the chief source of our knowledge of his early life. Hippolytus complained that Callistus was unwilling to depose a bishop who had sinned mortally and done penance for the same, and that he had reconciled the excommunicate who expressed penitence. However, Callistus was a man who had done much penance, and had suffered greatly at the hands of rigorists, and it is in no small measure due to him that the Church for all time accepted the compassion of Christ as the guiding rule in dealing with penitents, Hippolytus (who is now venerated as a Saint) not withstanding. * Callistus is said to have sat as Pope five years, one month, and twelve days ; and to have held five December Ordinations, wherein he ordained sixteen priests, four deacons, and eight bishops. Tradition also saith that, after being long starved, and repeatedly flogged, he was pitched headforemost down a well, and so was crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Alexander. His body was buried on the Aurelian Way, at the Third Milestone, upon October 14th, but was afterwards by Pope Saint Julius I taken to the Church of Saint Mary beyond the Tiber, where it lieth beneath the high altar, and is held in great reverence of all men.
Today we remember the Theotokos under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham. The following link may be of interest regarding the history of Walsingham and the Orthodox presence there.
GALL was the most eminent of the personal disciples of Saint Columbanus, both as to holiness and apostolic labours. He was a learned man, trained under the Abbot Saint Comgall of Bangor ; whence he was chosen as one of the twelve monks to accompany Columbanus to France ; whom he assisted in founding the monasteries at Anegray and Luxeuil. And he was exiled with Columbanus; but when his master went to Italy, he stayed in Switzerland, and lived as a missionary hermit in several places. From his labours there came into existence the great Abbey of Saint-Gall and the town of that name. About the year 640 he went to his heavenly reward.
Three things God requires of all the baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body. (St Gregory the Theologian)
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. [I Thess 5:6]
Homily by St. Gregory the Great
OUR Lord and Saviour counsels us, beloved brethren, sometimes by word, and sometimes by deed. For his very deeds are commandments; while he works in silence he demonstrates what we ought to do. And now, behold, he sends his disciples two and two to preach, because there are two commandments of love, that is, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour, and love cannot exist between less than two.
No one can properly be said to have charity towards himself, for love tends outwards towards another, and only so does it become charity. Behold, the Lord sends forth his disciples two and two to preach, and thus he silently demonstrates that no one lacking in charity towards another should on any account take upon himself the Office of a Preacher.
It is fittingly said, He sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself would come. For the Lord does follow his preachers; preaching prepares the way, and then the Lord comes to the dwelling-place of our minds, when the words of exhortation have been the fore-runners, and thus truth is received into the mind.
Isaiah speaks thus to these preachers, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. And thus the Psalmist addresses the children of Israel, Magnify him that rideth upon the heavens. Now the Lord has indeed ascended above the heavens, for he fell asleep in his Passion and thus showed his greater glory by his Resurrection. Truly he ascended above the heavens; by undergoing death he trod it underfoot by his Resurrection. Now we prepare a way for him who rideth upon the heavens when we set forth before your minds his glory, that he himself may come afterwards to these minds of yours, and enlighten them with the presence of his love.
St Luke lived in the city of Antioch. He was a physician, an artist and a writer. He painted an icon to the Virgin Mary. He wrote the gospel bearing his name and the book of "Acts". He accompanied the apostles Peter and Paul in their missions and persecuted for his faith in Christ. Through his suffering many believed in Christ and they were beheaded. St. Luke was also beheaded and gained the crown of martyrdom in heaven.
From the book: The Way of the Fathers: Praying with the Early Christians / by Mike Aquilina, page 56:
Your will should be corrected to become identified with God's will. You must not bend God's will to suit yours. [St. Augustine]
To serve God is nothing other than maintaining and preserving justice by good works. [Lactantius]
What then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is Life and Light, and those who are in God's hand are in life and light. [St. John of Damascus]
By cleansing the temple, the Lord Jesus vigorously protects the purity of worship against commercialism, likewise, He zealously desires His church to be a holy, pure house of prayer.
Do not make My Father's house merchandise.
When the heart is full of the love of God more than anything in the world, it is an indication of the fullness of the Spirit. Nobody can speak about the love of God, it is a gift of the Spirit which overwhelms us if we beseech it earnestly. [Fr. Pishoy Kamel]
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
Today is the second anniversary of the repose of Fr. Joseph DelGiorno. Memory Eternal!
I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One. Then they were both troubled, and fell upon their faces: for they feared. But he said unto them, Fear not, for it shall go well with you; praise God therefore. For not of any favour of mine, but by the will of our God I came; wherefore praise him for ever. All these days I did appear unto you; but I did neither eat nor drink, but ye did see a vision. Now therefore give God thanks: for I go up to him that sent me; but write all things which are done in a book. And when they arose, they saw him no more. Then they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and how the angel of the Lord had appeared unto them. [Tobit 12:15-22]
CRISPIN, and his brother Crispinian, were preachers of Christ, who, in imitation of the Apostle Paul, supported themselves by their own handwork. During the day they preached Christ, and at night they worked as shoemakers. According to the story which was widely circulated concerning them in later times, they came from Rome to spread the Faith in Gaul, toward the middle of the third century. And there they abode in Soissons, where they astonished the heathen by their words and lives, and led many to Christ. For which reason they were tortured in divers cruel ways by Rictiovarus, under the Emperor Maximian, by whose order they were beheaded, about the year 285. According to a local tradition at Faversham in Kent, during one time of their persecutions they fled thither, and followed their trade of shoe-making in that place. They are said to have taken no payment for their work, unless it was offered to them. By which means they disposed men to listen to the Gospel. And they are venerated as the Patrons of shoemakers, cobblers, and other workers in leather.
The Lord Jesus desires that we His flock live like the lilies of the field having glory that is not the result of own toil but the work of His great grace ... not seeking the worldly things because He gives all these things to us.
But seek the kingdom of God, and these things shall be added to you.
GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that as we approach the glorious birthday of thine Apostles Simon and Jude, so they may approach thy Majesty, for us, that we may be made worthy of all thy benefits. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. [Collect, Vigil, Apostles Simon and Jude]
THIS Simon the Apostle was called The Zealot, which in Greek is Zelotes, but from the Aramaic form of the word is oft-times rendered as Canaanite. And the other Apostle whom we commemorate today, Judas Thaddaeus, hath by many been identified with that Jude who wrote the General Epistle, wherein he saith that he was the brother of James. But by others it is taught that the Jude who was of the Twelve was not the brother of the Lord's brother James, since it is written : Neither did his brethren believe in him : which words seem to mean that none of the Lord's brethren was numbered amongst his disciples before the resurrection. Many different parts of Christendom have claimed Simon Zelotes as the Apostle who laboured therein, and the like is true of Judas Thaddaeus. But according to the tradition commonly received in the Western Church, the former preached the Gospel throughout Egypt, and the latter throughout Mesopotamia. It is said that they afterwards began to work together in Persia and that thereabouts, by their teaching and wonders, they spread the Faith amongst the barbarians of those wild regions, whereby they begat many children in Christ Jesus, to whose holy Name they finally gave honour by a glorious joint martyrdom, namely, at Sudnir in Persia.
From the book: The Way of the Fathers: Praying with the Early Christians / by Mike Aquilina, page 57:
Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved. [St. John Chrysostom]
It is impossible that He Who holds perfect excellence should not also possess perfect patience. [Lactantius]
The Christian life is the true Jacob's ladder on which the angels ascend and descend. Meanwhile, the Lord stands above, holding out His hand to those who slip, sustaining by His vision the weary steps of those who ascend. [St. Jerome]
The tribute or tax that the Lord Jesus was asked to pay refers to the temple Tax. According to St. Cyril of Alexandria this tribute had to be paid according to the Law of Moses. This money was paid as a ransom and was used for the service of the temple (Ex 30:11-16). Christ paid the tribute to set an example of paying our tributes to support the public worship places.
Let the peoples praise You, O God, let all the peoples praise You. [Ps. 67:3]
Aflame with the love of God, you gave your life for Christ as a martyr and neighbor. Therefore, you received a crown of righteousness from Him, O Hieromartyr John. Entreat the Most Merciful God, to preserve the Holy Church in peace and to save our souls. [Hieromartyr John (Kochurov) of Chicago and St. Petersburg, Missionary]
From a Sermon by St. Venerable Bede the Priest...
Dearly beloved : Today we keep holy-day, with one great cry of joy, in memory of all the Saints ; whose presence is a gladness to heaven ; whose prayers are a blessing to earth ; whose victories are the crown of holy Church ; whose testimony is now to be honoured in proportion to the glory imparted to it by the agony which was endured in the giving of it. For the greater the torment, the richer the reward ; and the fiercer the battle, the brighter the glory of the fighters whose triumph in martyrdom was in this wise adorned with more sufferings. Our mother the Catholic Church, which is spread far and wide throughout all this planet, hath learnt, from Christ Jesus her Head, to fear neither shame nor cross nor death, but to increase in strength by enduring suffering rather than by resisting it. Therefore she was able to breathe into each one of that noble band, which persevered under condemnation to suffering, a spirit of courage like unto her own, even the hope of conquest and glory, whereby they were envigorated to persevere manfully in conflict unto the very end.
O truly blessed mother Church, whom God's mercy doth so illumine! Whom the glorious blood of victorious Martyrs doth adorn! Whom the inviolate virginity of so many pure souls doth clothe with raiment white and glistering! Neither roses nor lilies are wanting to thy garlands. Therefore dearly beloved, let each one of us strive to attain the goodly crown of one or the other of these dignities, either the glistering whiteness of chastity, or the red dye of suffering. In the heavenly army both peace and war have chaplets of their own, to crown Christ's soldiers withal.
Moreover, the unutterable and infinite goodness of God hath provided this, namely, that the time of working and wrestling is not over-long, much less everlasting, but as it were for a moment. That is, only in this short and scanty life is there wrestling and working, but the crown and the prize endureth for a life which is eternal. The work is soon over, but the wage is paid for ever. And when the night of this world is ended, the Saints see the clearness of the essential light, and receive a blessedness outweighing the pangs of any torment, as testifieth the Apostle Paul : The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
From the Treatise on Caring for the Dead
All such things as embalming the body, selecting a fitting place for burial, and bearing the corpse thereto with due dignity, are comfort for the living, rather than help for the dead. Nevertheless, it doth not follow that the bodies of the departed are to be despised, or treated as naught, and specially in the case of just men and faithful ; for the bodies of such men were used by their spirits in this life for godly purposes, that is, as organs and vessels of all good works. [And there is not only the sacredness of the body to consider, but also the demands of filial piety.] Hence, if a father's garment or ring, or any like thing, is dear to his bereaved family because of their natural affections, in no wise ought the dead body of the deceased to be held in dishonour. For man doth wear his body in more familiar and intimate wise than anything he putteth thereon. Furthermore, the body doth not belong to anything which is applied outwardly for its adornment or welfare. Rather the body belongeth to the very nature of man. Wherefore, as we know from the records of just men of old, funeral rites have been wont to be fulfilled as a matter of dutiful piety, and have been reverently celebrated, and decent graves provided. Yea, such men of old, whilst still alive, often charged their children, as a matter of filial duty, with directions concerning their burial, and even concerning the future translation of their bodies.
Hence, remembrance of the departed, and prayers for them, are tokens of true affection. And since the faithful are moved thereto by filial piety, doubt not that this same remembrance and prayer is profitable unto everyone that so lived in this world, as to attain profit from such things after death. But even if some necessity permitteth not the body to be buried, or from lack of proper facilities giveth no opportunity for burial in a sacred place, yet should not prayers for the soul of the departed be omitted. The duty of such prayers is taught us by the Church, which hath undertaken, as an obligation, to offer them for all the departed of the Christian and Catholic fellowship in a general commemoration without mention of names. By this observance, such departed souls as lack the assistance of parents or sons, or any kindred or friends whatsoever, may have such assistance afforded unto them by the one loving mother which is common to us all. And I give it as my opinion that, if there be lacking prayers of right faith and piety to any of the dead, the mere burial of their lifeless bodies, even if it be done in a most sacred spot, doth not one whit benefit their souls.
If these things be so, then let us not think that anything reacheth unto the dead, unto whom we would extend our care, save such things as we solemnly supplicate for them by means of sacrifices, either of the altar, or of prayers, or of alms [given to God in their name]. And even so, such sacrifices be not profitable unto all for whom they are offered, but to them only who so lived their lives on earth as to merit that such things should be profitable after death. But forasmuch as we know not who these be, it is meet to offer them for all regenerate persons, lest anyone be passed over whom these benefits may and ought to reach. Far better it is that these things be needlessly done on behalf of them whom they neither hinder nor help, than that they be lacking unto them whom they aid. And it is natural that one should do these things right diligently on behalf of his own kin, in the hope that by his kinsfolk the same likewise will some day be done on his behalf. But so far as the burying of the body is concerned, whatsoever is bestowed on that, is no aid to salvation, but a mere duty to humanity ; for it cometh naturally from that affection by which it is said that no one ever hateth his own flesh. Wherefore it is fitting that man should take whatever care he can for the flesh of his neighbour when he that once tabernacled therein is departed thence. And if they, that believe not in the resurrection of the flesh, do these things, how much more ought we, that believe, so to do? For are not such offices, bestowed upon a dead body, which yet shall rise again and remain unto eternity, a kind of a testimony to our faith in the resurrection? [Al Souls' Day, November 2/15]
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God who didst bestow on thy blessed Winifred the crown of virginity : grant, we pray thee ; that by her intercession, we may be enabled to put behind us the delight of all things earthly, and to attain with her to the place of everlasting glory. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. [Collect, St. Winifred, November 3/16]
WINIFRED was born of an important Welsh family, and Saint Beuno was her mother's brother. To whose instruction she listened eagerly, and with the consent of her parents consecrated her virginity to God. Whereupon Caradoc, son of King Alan, who was ready to die for love of her, sought in every way to shake her resolution. Now one day, when she was fleeing from his advances to take sanctuary in the church which Saint Beuno had built, he overtook her, and wounded her with his sword. * And thereafter, through the ministry of her holy uncle, she was healed. And an old story saith that Caradoc had beheaded her, and that Saint Beuno caused her head to grow upon her body again, and so raised her from the dead ; for which reason she hath sometimes been venerated as a Martyr. It is also related that, after her healing, she lived fifteen years, and became the abbess of a nunnery in Denbighshire ; but in 1138 her relicks were translated to the Abbey of Shrewsbury. * In 1198, her feast was ordered to be kept throughout the province of Canterbury. And on the spot which is shewn as the place of this Virgin's martyrdom, there is a spring, namely, Holywell of Welltown, or Tre Efynnon, in Wales. Which same is a place of pilgrimage, where people seek the grace of God through the intercession of holy Winifred. [Life, St. Winifred, November 3/16]
"Joy" is one of the essential characteristics of the Church who is guided by the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). Though we are called to participate in His crucifixion, but He grants us His Spirit, the Comforter (Jn 14:16, 16:1) who dwells within us even during tribulations and makes our hearts flow with unceasing joy (Phil 4:4).
Fear not Zachary; thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shall call his name John; and he shall be great before the Lord and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb; and many shall rejoice at his birth. [Ps. xx] In Thy strength, O Lord, the king shall find joy, and in Thy salvation he shall rejoice exceedingly. Glory be.... Fear not Zachary; thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shall call his name John; and he shall be great before the Lord and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb; and many shall rejoice at his birth. [Introit: (Luke i: 13, 15, 14) -- Feast of Sts. Elizabeth and Zachary]
Attend, O Lord to our supplications, which we offer Thee on the solemnity of Elizabeth and Zachary; that we who trust not in our own justice, may be helped by the prayers of them who pleased Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. [Ps 51:12]
These words of David's prayer were after his sin with Bethsheba. Following the act of sin man fails into despair. However, if man believes in Jesus' salvation, He will sustain him. David believed that God's salvation is coming and thus he asked God to restore him that joy he used to have through the belief in His salvation.
Feast of St. Willibrord
O GOD, who didst vouchsafe to send thy blessed Saint Willibrord to preach thy glory to the Gentiles : we humbly pray thee ; that, by his intercession, we may both see and know the things which we ought to do, and by thy mercy be enabled to perform the same. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.
WILLIBRORD was born in Northumberland, being the son of a godly Englishman named Wilgis, who became a monk, and was a most holy man. Before Willibrord was seven years of age, he was taken to the monastery of Ripon, and given in charge to Saint Wilfrid, the founder and ruler thereof, to be trained up in a holy life and learning. There, in a short while, he wonderfully stepped forward, not in knowledge only, but also in grace, and led the life of a monk until the twentieth year of his age. Then he had a desire for a harder life, and with the leave of his Abbot and brethren, went into Ireland to the holy men Egbert and Wigbert, who both had journeyed thither for the love of heavenly things. In their devout companionship and conversation, and amid the most excellent teachers of godliness and sacred learning, with whom the Isle of the Saints then abounded, this future teacher of many nations passed twelve years, and himself gained learning and character.
Somewhere around the age of thirty he was ordained priest, and was sent by Egbert to convert the pagans of Friesland, along with eleven companions of his own countryfolk eminent for learning and holiness of life, among whom were Saints Swithbert and Adalbert. He landed at Utrecht, and was welcomed, along with his companions, by Pepin of Heristal, who had brought Southern Friesland under his power, and who mightily helped the preaching of the Gospel, so that in a short while many were turned from the worshipping of idols unto the Christian Faith. Thereafter Willibrord journeyed to Rome to seek a wider knowledge of missionary work in that great Christian centre, where he was welcomed by Saint Pope Sergius I who sent him back much comforted. Later, when Saint Wilfrid had consecrated holy Swithbert as regionary bishop, Pepin sent Willibrord to Rome to be consecrated Archbishop by the same holy Pope Sergius.
Willibrord returned to Friesland as soon as he could, and established his See at Utrecht. He proclaimed the Word of God with much fruit in Friesland, Holland, Zeeland, and Flanders, (even unto the uttermost tribes of those countries,) brake their idols, destroyed their temples and shrines, dedicated many temples to Christ, and established bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church, eminent for knowledge and grace. He founded houses of religious of both sexes, among which the principal was that for monks at Echternach, in Luxemburg, the government whereof he himself took, and held until his death. At length, after a life of holy and unwearied apostolic labours, he passed away, to be ever with Christ, on November 7th, 739, and of his own age the eighty-first. He is usually reckoned as the Apostle of the Frisians, for it was through his labours and those of his blessed companions, especially of Saint Swithbert, that this barbarous people were made gentle in Christ. He was buried in the Abbey of Echternach. After his death his apostolic labours were taken up by many other Englishmen, eminent among whom were Saints Willehad, Marcellinus, and Lebwin, all of whom are commemorated in the Martyrology.
OF this Theodore (known as The Tyro, that is, the recruit) a panegyric is extant, attributed to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in which the Saint is thus invoked : As a soldier, fight for us! as a Martyr, win us peace! He is reputed to have been a Christian soldier, who was arrested in the fourth century, during the reign of the Emperor Maximian, for having set on fire a temple of idols. And it is said that the Commander of the Legion offered him pardon if he would but profess repentance for his act, and curse the Christian Faith, and that, as he stedfastly refused, he was cast into prison. And that there he was tormented with iron claws, and yet whilst they tore the flesh off his ribs, he sang joyfully the thirty-third Psalm : I will bless the Lord at all times. And that thereafter he was thrown upon a pile of burning wood, whereupon still praising God and praying, he gave up his soul to Christ, about the year 306. And the Lady Eusebia is said to have wrapped his body in a winding-sheet and buried the same on her own farm. [Commemoration of St. Theodore]
Seven times a day have I praised Thee for Thy righteous judgments. (Ps. 118:164). Every day, clergy and pious laity of the Western Rite keep seven Hours of Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline, redeeming the time.
It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to thy name, O thou Most High; to proclaim thy mercy in the morning, and thy truth by night, on a psaltery of ten strings, with a song on the harp. For thou, O Lord, hast made me glad with thy work: and in the operations of thy hands will I exult.
The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor is it in man, but in God. By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a piece of His divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering. (St. Theophan the Recluse)
JESU, who camest the world to save,
From the book: The Way of the Fathers: Praying with the Early Christians / by Mike Aquilina, page 57:
Most gently, the finger of Your justice, in love and compassion, touches the wounds of him who is to be healed. [St. Ephrem of Syria]
Those who know that His voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the Gospel. [St. Gregory of Nyssa]
Why rely on yourself and fall? Cast yourself upon His arm. Be not afraid. He will not let you slip. Cast yourself in confidence. He will receive you and heal you. [St. Augustine]
Today on the monastic calendar is the commemoration of all departed monastics. On this day we commend them again to the mercy of God. Because monks have no families of their own, and no children, there are rarely people in later generations to pray for them. And so on this day, we remember them in a special way in the liturgy and in the hours. We commend to your prayers today and every day the following prayer:
O God, the Giver of pardon and the Author of man's salvation: we humbly beseech thy mercy to grant our monastic brethren, who have departed out of this world, blessed Mary ever Virgin and all thy saints praying for them, may attain to the fellowship of everlasting blessedness. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.
A person who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. Listen to the wisdom of king Solomon saying: "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." (Prov 28:13)
HILDA of Whitby was born a princess of the blood-royal, but until the age of thirteen, she was an heathen, at which time along with her great-uncle, King Edwin of Northumbria, she received the light of faith in Baptism at the hands of Saint Paulinus. Whereupon, for over thirty years she lived very nobly amongst her fellows, and then understood that God had called her to leave her country and kindred and her royal honours, and become a nun. Whereat she planned to cross over to France, and enter there one of the monasteries whither many Saxon maidens had already gone, including (as some maintain) her sister Saint Hereswitha. But Saint Aidan sent for her, and after twelve months of religious discipline with some companions in a place on the north bank of the Weir, he made her Abbess of Hartlepool, which convent she set in order and wisely ruled for nine years. Then she founded a new religious house on a high headland overlooking the sea, which same became a great abbey, afterwards called Whitby, wherein she ruled with wisdom and holiness for many years. * God had bestowed upon her not only high rank, but a rare prudence in the government of souls, and a zeal for knowledge and ecclesiastical discipline, whereby she became a choice instrument in his hands during the troublous times when the infant Church was carrying on a great battle with paganism. All who knew her, that is to say, common and simple folk, as well as monks and bishops, princes and kings, sought to profit by her clear judgement and wise experience, insomuch that she was honoured as the mother of her country. Truly was she so called, for both in her own land and in distant places whither her fame had gone, she was the mother of spiritual sons and daughters. And in later days many of her kinswomen followed her on the road to sanctity, such as Saints Sethrida, Audrey, Sexaburga, Ermenildaand Werburga. According to the Celtic custom, a place for monks was joined to the nunnery at Whitby, and Hilda ruled over both. She so inspired these monks with zeal for the rule, for study and for good order, that their house became a school of missionaries, of whom no less than five became bishops ; and of these were Saints John of Beverly and Wilfrid of York. Also a poor cowherd who worked on the monastic lands was encouraged by her to become an ecclesiastical bard, namely, Caedmon, the father of English poetry; which same was admitted to monastic vows, wherein he lived in holiness till death, and ever after, even unto this present, hath been revered as a Saint. * A council was called at Whitby whilst Saint Theodore ruled the Church of Canterbury, to wit, in the year 664, to decide whether or not the Celtic customs should continue to be observed in respect to the date of Easter Day and other moot questions. Persuaded by Saint Wilfred, King Oswy moved the synod to adopt the Roman customs in these things, whereby the Saxon Church did greatly benefit from closer unity with Western Christendom and the larger culture and growing power thereof. Yet out of this council grew certain difficulties and controversies, albeit Saint Theodore and Saint Hilda liked not these things. During the last six years of her life a grievous fever never left her, yet failed she not this while to return thanks to her Maker, nor to instruct and rule her flock. She called the monks and nuns to her death-bed at early cockcrow, and exhorted them to peace amongst themselves and all men, and then passed by death to life eternal, in the year of salvation 680. The tolling of her passing bell was wondrously heard at Harkness, thirteen miles away, where also Begu, a devout soul, saw her blessed soul borne by Angels to heaven. [St. Hilda, November 17/30]
Jesus' calling to Levi the publican to follow Him indicates the wonders of His grace. Though those who worked as tax collectors usually had little liking to religion, but this publican rose up and followed Christ. There is no heart too hard for the grace of Christ.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.
The parable of the wicked tenants' records what God did for His people, and what the people did to His messengers, to His prophets. Finally, God sent His beloved Son. God (the owner of the vineyard), Israel (the vineyard), its tenants (the leaders), and the beloved Son (Jesus) are the main figures in this parable. (Mt 25:14-26:2)
In the world there will always be troubles, sadness, failures and pain. But there will always be God. When you feel at a loss trust Him and He will be your strength.
It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in man. [Ps 118:8]
by St. John of Damascus
JOACHIM took to wife that most eminent and praiseworthy woman, Anne. And even as before her time the holy Hannah (being stricken with barrenness) by prayer and promise became the mother of Samuel, so likewise this holy Anne, through prayer and promise, received from God the Mother of God, that in fruitfulness she might not be behind any of the famous matrons. And thus Grace (for such is the signification of the name of Anne) is mother of the Lady ( for such is the signification of the name of Mary). And indeed this child of grace became the Lady of every creature, since she hath been Mother of the Creator. She first saw the light in Joachim's house, hard by the Pool of Bethesda, at Jerusalem, and was carried to the temple. There planted in the Lord, the dew of his Spirit made her to flourish in the courts of her God, where she was like unto a green olive tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. And there she in such wise raised her mind utterly above the pride of life, and the lust of flesh, that she kept her soul virgin in her virgin body, as became her that was to receive God into her womb. [Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary]
CECILIA was early recognized as one of the most illustrious of virgin martyrs. Therefore, along with Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha, her name is mentioned in the Gregorian Canon. But nothing can now be surely established concerning her, nor of her companions Valerian and Tiburtius, save that they were martyred and buried in Rome, in either the second or the third century. The written acts of Saint Cecilia (on which this legend and the Propers of her Office are based) were probably compiled toward the end of the fifth century. Hence from then onwards her story s told as followeth. Cecilia was a Roman maiden of noble birth, trained up from her earliest years in the teaching of the Christian Faith, who vowed herself unto God in virginity. Given in marriage, against her will, to Valerian, she said to him on their wedding-night: Valerian, I am under the guardianship of an Angel who keepeth me always a maiden ; therefore touch me not lest the anger of God be aroused against thee. And Vaerian was in such wise moved at her words that he dared not touch her, and even said that he fain would believe in Christ if haply he might see the Angel. Whereupon Cecilia urged him to be baptized, and for the sake of seeing the Angel he was willing. So she bade him go unto Urban the Bishop, who was hiding in the sepulchre of the Martyrs on the Appian Way, on account of the persecution. And he went and was bap-zed.
Thence he came back to Cecilia, and found her praying, and the Angel with her, shining from the glory of God. Whereupon, as soon as he had recovered from the wonder and fear thereof, he brought his brother Tiburtius, whom Cecilia also taught Christ, and who was baptized by the same Urban, and who also was vouchsafed to see the Angel. A little thereafter the brothers both bravely suffered martyrdom, thereby converting the pagan officer Maximus who chose death with them. The Prefect Almachius then took Cecilia and asked of her, first of all, where was the property of Tiburtius and Valerian.
To him the virgin answered that all their goods had been given to the poor. Thereupon, filled with fury, he commanded her to be tortured by the heat of the bath. But after she was unharmed in that place a day and a night, he sent the executioner, who gave her three strokes of the axe. But nevertheless her head was not thereby cut off, although he left her half dead. Three days thereafter, namely, upon the twenty-second of November, she winged her flight to heaven, glorified with the two palms of virginity and martyrdom. Her body was buried in the Cemetery of Saint Callistus, and her own house was consecrated as a church, and named after her. At the beginning of the ninth century her relicks were brought into the City by Pope Paschal I, along with those of Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus, and all laid together in the said Church of Saint Cecilia.
CLEMENT was chief pastor of the Church in Rome in the earliest days of Christianity, when to be bishop was almost surely to live in persecution and to die in martyrdom. He is believed to have been the son of Faustinus, a Roman citizen of the Emperor's household, and to have received the Faith directly from blessed Peter himself. And he is the first of that Apostle's immediate successors concerning whom we have any certain knowledge. In the Gregorian Canon, Linus and Cletus are mentioned before Clement, and according to this order blessed Clement was the third successor of the Apostle Peter in the Holy See. It is supposed that he was martyred about the year 99. He is therefore reckoned as the first of the apostolic Fathers, and in the early Church his writings were esteemed next to the canonical Scriptures themselves. Holy Irenaeus testified that Clement had talked with the blessed Apostles, so that their preaching was still in his ears, and their tradition yet before his eyes. Origen identified him with the one whom Saint Paul, writing to the Philippians, called his fellow-labourer. He is therefore venerated as one of the foremost bishops and shepherds of holy Church, and that both as to time and greatness. For it was such as he that shewed how a bishop in the Church of God should work live and die.
However, aside from the things mentioned above, concerning which there are some historical records, almost nothing is certainly known of his life, and nothing at all of his death. It is well believed that by his teaching he brought many to Christ, and therefore he was marked for persecution. In after times, probably in the fourth century, a book known as the Passion of Saint Clement was circulated amongst both the Latins and the Greeks, wherein were written many things strange and wonderful concerning him, and from which the proper antiphons and responsories of this feast are taken. Which same are not received in all details as literal truth, but as figures of the true. According to the aforesaid Passion, he was exiled by Trajan to the remote City of Cherson, across the Black Sea, in the Crimea. where he found two thousand Christians at work in the marble quarries, condemned thereto by Trajan. Which same suffered much from want if water until Clement prayed and, whilst in the spirit on the mount hard by, saw the Lamb of God, with the water of life proceeding out from under his feet, wherewith they all quenched their thirst. And from this wonder many unbelievers were brought to Christ. For so a true pastor of the flock careth for the sheep, and useth their very necessities, whether in peace or persecution, to bring them unto salvation.
The Passion of Saint Clement saith that Trajan was enraged at the mighty deeds of this holy man, and sent an order to cast him into the depths of the sea, with an anchor tied about his neck. And that some-whiles afterwards, when the Christians were praying on the shore, the sea receded three miles. And that on the ocean floor in a grotto of fair stone, shaped like unto a temple, they found the body of the Martyr resting in a depression like unto a stone coffin, and hard by the anchor wherewith he had been weighted down. And that thereafter many of the people that were round about came to the Faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. In which story is set for the certain hope, which hath ever sustained Christians in all the trials of this life, that Christ careth for us, even in death, and preserveth us unto resurrection, whereby our worth in his sight is to be made manifest to all. The reputed relicks of Clement were brought to Rome by Saints Cyril and Methodius in the time of Nicholas I, and buried in church dedicated to him, which was built over the place supposed to have been his residence. Likewise in the Crimea a church was built to mark the reputed spot of his vision and the gift of the living waters. It is said that Clement lived as Pope nine years, six months, and six days, and that he held two December ordinations, wherein he made ten priests and two deacons, and for divers places, fifteen bishops.
Collect for St. Chrysogonus --
You need not to be afraid to carry Christ's yoke, for it is easy and light. It is an easy yoke that is lined with love. Such is the nature of all Christ's commands, all summed up in one word, and that a sweet word, love. It may be a little hard at first, but it is easy afterwards; the love of God and the hope of heaven will make it easy.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
One ritual during the Feast of the Tabernacles was the pouring out of water in the temple. It was a reminder that God gave Israel water in the wilderness. Water for drinking pictures the Holy Spirit who is given to those who trust Christ. The world is thirsty and can find its thirst quenched only by coming to Christ.
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
Season of Advent
In the old Roman rite, Nov. 15 was the first day of a 40-day fast (Lent) before Christmas. This is documented in the Poenitentiale of St. Theodore of Canterbury (7th c.) and the Capitula of Charlemgne (9th c.), which document refers to this as a tradition kept among Christians of the West since time immemorial. Where the Gallican rite prevailed, however, it began on Nov. 12 (the day after Martinmas). The Roman rite Nativity Lent is similar to, but distinct from, the liturgical season of Advent.
ANDREW the Apostle was born in Bethsaida, a town in Galilee. He was the brother of Peter and a disciple of John the Baptist. When he heard John's words concerning Christ, Behold the Lamb of God, he followed Jesus, bringing his brother along with him. Later on, when Andrew and his brother were fishing in the sea of Galilee, Christ called both of them to be his first followers, before he chose the other disciples, with these words, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. After the Lord's Passion and Resurrection, Andrew went to Scythia the province assigned to him, to propagate the Christian faith; then he spread it through Epirus and Thrace. By his teaching and miracles he converted countless souls to God.
Andrew then went to Patras in Achaia, and led many in that city to believe the Gospel truth. The pro-consul AEgeas opposed the preaching of the Gospel, and Andrew rebuked him boldly, for wishing to be acknowledged as a judge of men, while he was hindered by devils from recognizing Christ as the God and Judge of all men. Then AEgeas was enraged. Cease this talk of Christ, he said, for words such as these availed him nothing, since he was crucified by the Jews. Notwithstanding, Andrew continued to preach Christ fearlessly, that he gave himself up to be crucified for the salvation of mankind: AEgeas interrupted him with blasphemous words, and finally ordered him to look to himself and sacrifice to the gods. Andrew answered, I do offer sacrifice every day to Almighty God, who is the One true God; I offer on the altar, not the flesh of bulls, nor the blood of goats, but the spotless Lamb; and when all the faithful have partaken of his flesh, the Lamb that was sacrificed remains whole and living.
AEgeas was inflamed with wrath at these words, and ordered Andrew to be cast into prison: the people would have speedily delivered him, had not he himself quietened the multitude, earnestly beseeching them not to hinder his approaching crown of martyrdom for which he so greatly longed. Therefore, after a short time had passed, he was brought before the tribunal. AEgeas could no longer bear Andrew's extolling of the mysteries of the cross and his rebuking of his own wickedness, and gave orders that he was to be crucified, and to follow the death of Christ.
Andrew was led to the place of martyrdom, and when from afar he saw the cross, he began to cry, O goodly Cross, that hast been honoured by the members of the Lord, so longed for and so dearly loved, ceaselessly sought after, and now made ready for my eager spirit: take me from among men, and give me to my Master; that through thee he may receive me, who through thee hath redeemed me. Thereupon he was fastened to the cross, on which he hung alive for two days, during which time he never ceased to preach the faith of Christ; whose death he had so ardently desired to imitate. All the priests and deacons of Achaia who wrote of Andrew's passion testify that they had seen and heard those things that they recorded. His relics were first brought to Constantinople, during the reign of Constantine, and later transferred to Amalfi. His head was brought to Rome during the pontificate of Pius II, and placed in the Basilica of St. Peter.
Zacharias' disappointment at not having a son did not keep him from serving the Lord. He had the faith to keep on praying; but when the answer came, he did not have the faith to accept it. He looked at his limitations rather than God's great power.
They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
PETER, surnamed Chrysologus, because of his golden eloquence, was of gentle birth, and came from Imola. From his earliest years he showed a leaning towards religion, and was tutored by Cornelius of Rome, then Bishop of Imola, by whom he was deservedly ordained Deacon. He was proclaimed Archbishop of Ravenna, although unwilling, by Xystus III, and was received with great reverence by the people of Ravenna. He was outstanding in the fulfilment of his pastoral office; by his preaching he put an end to the pagan games and performances still prevalent, and a noteworthy saying of his was, He who would jest with the devil will not be able to rejoice with Christ. He received a divine premonition of his approaching death, and retired to his birthplace; there, he entered the Church of St. Cassian and offered a precious gift, humbly beseeching God and St. Cassian his patron graciously to receive his soul. He passed from this life on December 2, in the eighteenth year of his episcopate. His sacred body was honourably entombed near to the body of St. Cassian.
O GOD, who didst point out blessed Peter Chrysologus the illustrious Doctor, and divinely choose him to rule and instruct thy Church: grant, we beseech thee, that we may be worthy to have him as our intercessor in heaven, whom we had as our teacher here upon earth. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. [Collect, St. Peter Chrysologus]
The repetition of this same voice, "This is My beloved Son", to show that this thing was established. What God has spoken once and twice, no doubt He will stand to. It was repeated, because He was entering upon His suffering, to arm His disciples against the offence of the cross.
This is My beloved Son. whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!
Titus Flavius Clemens, commonly called Clement of Alexandria, was gifted with a good mind and a zeal for free enquiry, which in ripe manhood brought him out of paganism into Christianity. This same spirit drove him on journeys to many countries, that he might obtain instruction from all the eminent teachers therein. Finally he took up his abode in Alexandria, where in the year of our Lord, 189, he became head of the catechetical school, and thereafter by his writings gained wide fame amongst Christians. * His mastery of all branches of the wisdom of his day, both sacred and profane, and his intellectual bravery, made him a pioneer in theology, wherein he tried, as he said, to take spoils of the Egyptians and make them into the furniture of the tabernacle. The mass of facts and citations which he put together in his writings is unexampled amongst writers of antiquity. He was the first Christian apologist to justify Christianity before the pagans in a reasoned, philosophic form. * Not many of his works have come down to us ; but through his best known pupil, Origen, he had a lasting effect upon Christian theology. In the seventeenth century, however, his name was deleted from the Roman Martyrology because some of his speculative teaching had become suspect, as were those of his pupil Origen. But from his brave spirit of enquiry into fact and truth, his place amongst the foremost of the holy fathers of the Church is unquestioned. He went to God about the year 210.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Sabas, may commend us unto thee : that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. [Collect, St. Sabas, December 5/18]
Take notice, brethren, of the Commemoration of Saint Sabas, which same is made today throughout the entire Church, East and West, being the memorial of one of the greatest of the early monks ; for this man founded the famous monastery, beyond Jerusalem toward the Dead Sea, which hath his name, and is still inhabited by monks ; wherein Saint John of Damascus was trained for God, and many other great and holy men ; and from whence Sabas himself went to heaven in 532, and after being Abbot-General of all the monks of Palestine, and a great power in the Church against heresy and other evils ; for which he is known in the Eastern Church as The Star of the Desert.
O God, who didst adorn thy blessed Bishop, Saint Nicholas, with power to work many and great miracles : grant, we beseech thee ; that by his prayers we may be delivered from the fires of everlasting torment. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. [Collect, St. Nicholas, December 6/19]
Of Nicholas, little is now certainly known except that he was a most holy bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, who died about the year 352, and was there buried, and thence onwards held in highest veneration. However, the Greek histories of his life all agree that he suffered imprisonment for the Faith, and made a glorious confession thereof in the latter part of Diocletian's persecution, and that he was one of the conciliar fathers at Nicaea. But the extraordinary devotion to him from the earliest days, which hath but increased with time, in the West as well as in the East, and the extraordinary stories which have grown out of affection for him, as a result of this devotion, would seem to be a witness to his extraordinary holiness, and his consequent glory with God. * In the West he is reverenced as the patron of children, because of his concern, as shewn by his reputed miracles, to protect their innocence, and because of the reputed prodigies of his own precocious devotion ; whereof it is related that as an infant he kept the fasts prescribed for adults, and hence never suckled more than once on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that always after sunset, according to the Canon Law of that day. In exemplification of his great charity, it is also related that he secretly helped a certain poor man with three marriageable daughters, who for want of a dowry were in danger of being forced into harlotry; for it is said that he went to their house by night, and threw in a window money sufficient for a dowry ; and this he did a second and a third time, so that by his charity all three were honourably given in marriage. * In the East he is reverenced as the patron of sailors because he is said, at their behest, to have stilled a great tempest by his prayers whilst journeying by ship on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; so that the eastern greeting to seafarers is : May Saint Nicholas hold the tiller. It is also related that, on his return from this pilgrimage, he came to Myra when the bishops of the province were deliberating as to the choice of a bishop for that See ; and that they were warned from heaven to choose the first man that crossed the threshold of the church, which same was Nicholas, who entered therein to make his devotions. By the Russians he is accounted with Saint Andrew the joint Patron of their nation. In addition to this, he is reckoned as the Patron also of Greece, Apulia, Sicily, and Lorraine. In 1034 his great shrine at Myra passed into the hands of the Saracens, whereat the merchants of Venice and Bari tried to outbid each other for the ransom of his relicks, and in 1087 the latter were permitted to carry them to Bari in Apulia, where they are still venerated by pilgrims from all over the World.
O GOD, by whose providence Saint Ambrose was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation : grant, we beseech thee ; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. [Collect, St. Nicholas, December 6/19]
Ambrose was born when his father was Prefect of Gaul, about the year 340. He received a liberal education at Rome, and was afterwards made governour of the province of which Milan was the capital. Now when Auxentius died, (who was the Arian who had been intruded into the Bishoprick of Milan,) the most violent disputes arose about the choice of a successor, and Ambrose urged upon the contending factions the necessity of keeping the public peace ; whereupon a child suddenly cried out : Ambrose, Bishop : and the whole assembly took it up, and unanimously called for his election.
Ambrose refused the office, but when the will of the Emperor was added to the desire of the people, he yielded, and received Baptism, (for hitherto he was only a Catechumen,) Confirmation, and Communion, and then the several Orders on successive days, till on the eighth day, which was the seventh of December, in the year 374, the weight of the Episcopate was laid upon his shoulders. Therein he ever shewed himself a stout upholder of Catholic faith and discipline, and turned to the truth great numbers of Arians and other hereticks. Among them, he begat in Christ Jesus that burning and shining light of the Church, the holy Doctor Augustine.
After the massacre which the Emperor Theodosius had commanded at Thessalonica, in 390, he refused to permit that prince to enter a church. The Emperor pleaded that he was no worse than David, who had been guilty of adultery and murder, to which Ambrose answered : As thou hast followed him in sin, follow him also in repentance : whereupon Theodosius humbly did public penance. At length, worn out with his continual labours, this holy bishop knew that death was near. After he had received the Body and Blood of Christ, and with his hands stretched out in the form of a cross, he gave his spirit to God, namely, on April 4th, in the year of Christ, 397, but his feast is kept in most places on December 7th, which is the anniversary of his consecration. He was the author of many hymns for the liturgy and many homilies and treatises. He is regarded as one of the greatest and best-beloved bishops of all time, and is honoured as one of the first four western Doctors of the Church.