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14 September 2014
  Holy Cross Day
14 September AD 335

Constantine and Helena During the reign of Constantine the Great, the first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena went to Israel, hoping to find the places especially significant to Christians. Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that many modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was dedicated on 13 September 335.

On the next day, the purported section of the cross was brought outside the church for others to view. Thus began a day for recognizing the cross of Christ in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday. It stands as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ's victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32)"

The day is known by different names in various parts of Christendom. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches know it as "Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross" while the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church calls it the "Triumph of the Cross." Most other liturgical churches simply call it "Holy Cross Day."

The Feast of the Holy Cross The Christian custom of tracing the sign of the cross on people and things as a sign of blessing is very old. Some think that it goes back to the very origins of Christianity and earlier. In Ezekiel 9, we read that Ezekiel had a vision of the throne-room of God, in which an angel was sent to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the faithful few who mourned for the sins of the city. Afterwards, other angels were sent through the city to destroy all those who had not the mark.

We find similar visionary material in Revelation 7:2-4; 9:4; and 14:1, where the mark on the forehead again protects the faithful few in the day of wrath. There, it is said to be the name of the Lamb and of His Father.

What is the significance of the sign of the cross? In the first place, we often place our initials or other personal mark on something to show that it belongs to us. The cross is the personal mark of Our Lord Jesus Christ, often traced upon our foreheads and hearts at our baptisms. We mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to Him, just as in the book of Revelation, as noted above, the servants of God are sealed or marked on their foreheads as a sign that they are His.

One pastor noted that, if you were telling someone how to make a cross, you might say, "Draw an 'I' and then cross it out." As we make the sign, we first draw a vertical stroke, as if to say to God, "Lord, here am I." Then we cancel it with a horizontal stroke, as if to say, "Help me, Lord, to abandon my self-centeredness and self-will; make Yourself the center of my life instead. Fix all my attention and all my desire on You, Lord, that I may forget my self, cancel my self, abandon myself completely to Your love and service."

Lection

Psalm 40:1-11
Numbers 21:4-9
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 12:20-33

Collect of the Day

Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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05 September 2014
  + Zechariah and Elizabeth +
5 September, New Testament

Zacharias, Elisabeth, and JohnZechariah (or Zachariah) and Elizabeth were "righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. (Luke 1:6)" The angel Gabriel greeted Zechariah, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, announcing that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially he didn't believe Gabriel because of their old age. For this, Zechariah became unable to speak.

After their son was born, Elizabeth named the boy John, which means "Yahweh (the Lord) is gracious." As friends and relatives sought to change her mind, thinking that he should be named for someone in their family, they asked Zechariah to write down what the boy's name should be. Suddenly, his voice returned and he confirmed his wife's choice.

BenedictusIn response to receiving his son and the return of his voice, Zechariah sang the Benedictus. This canticle beautifully summarizes God's Old Testament promises and predicts John's work as forerunner to the Messiah, who would be born in three more months (Luke 1:68-79).

We remember the faithful and pious examples of Zechariah and Elizabeth and honor them for raising the last great prophet of the coming Christ, Saint John the Baptist.

Those familiar with older English language Bibles might remember them slightly differently. That's because the Authorized Version (King James) and some other translations use the Greek form of their names, calling them Zacharias and Elisabeth.

The Benedictus

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
   as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
   and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
   and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham,
   to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
   in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.

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04 September 2014
  + Moses, Prophet and Deliverer +
4 September, Old Testament

Red Sea Crossing Today we commemorate Moses, who was born in Egypt several generations after Joseph brought his father Jacob and his brothers there to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. Although Joseph certainly delivered Egypt from the effects of the famine, at some later time, a change in regimes brought a change in Egyptian attitude toward the Hebrews in their midst. As this happened, the sons of Israel began to know affliction.

By the time Jacob's descendants had lived in Egypt for 400 years, they were in slavery. Because they were worried about a rapidly expanding population of Hebrews, the Egyptians ordered the Israelites to kill their male children. When Moses was born, his mother had his elder sister put him in a basket and set it afloat among the reeds in the Nile River. Pharaoh's daughter found him and raised by her as her own son (Exodus 2:1-10). At age forty Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled to Midian, where he worked as a shepherd for most of his exile. There he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian (2:11-22).

After another 40 years had passed, the Lord called him through the burning bush to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release Israel from its bondage (Exodus 3). The Lord appointed his brother Aaron to assist him before Moses came to Pharaoh and told him that the Lord said, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness. (5:1)" After a series of plagues, the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, the Lord struck down the first-born males throughout Egypt, Pharaoh capitulated, and Moses led them out. Often, Moses and Aaron were aided by their sister Miriam.

10 Commandments At the Red Sea the Egyptian army was destroyed and the Israelites passed to safety on dry land (Exodus 12-15). At Mount Sinai they were given the Law and then erected the Tabernacle (19ff.). Because of disobedience, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his own sin of failing to uphold the Lord "as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel" (see Numbers 20:10-13), although God allowed him to view it (Deuteronomy 34).

Before Moses' death, the Lord appointed his faithful assistant Joshua to assume the mantle of leadership for Israel. It was he who led Israel into Canaan and directed the conquest of many of the hostile peoples who occupied Palestine.

In the New Testament Moses is referred to as lawgiver and prophet. Before his death, Moses promised Israel that the Lord would "raise up for you a prophet like me from among you. (Deuteronomy 18:15)" This prophecy found fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the Pentateuch, are attributed to Mosaic authorship.

Q: Who is the world record-holding chiropractor?
A: Moses. He dealt with a million stiff-necked people.


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03 September 2014
  + Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church +
Consecrated Bishop of Rome on 3 September AD 590

Gregory I Living at a time when political and religious leadership in Europe often depended upon force of arms or strength of will more than the rule of law, Gregory became one of the continent's greatest leaders in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. Born around AD 540, he became Prefect of Rome. In this capacity, he restored economic vitality to his native city following years of political upheaval and invasions by various Germanic tribes.

He later sold all his properties, donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church as a monk. Although he seemed content with the monastic life, his intellectual abilities and theological acumen led him on to ordination, which finally climaxed with his election on 3 September 590 as Bishop of Rome.

In this office, he oversaw growth in church music and liturgical development; the style of liturgical music known as Gregorian Chant is still used in much of Western Christendom. He also established a church-year calendar still used by many churches in the western World today. His concern for the poor continued and he oversaw the construction of a hospital that served dinner to the underprivileged next to his home.

A chance encounter led to his championing of missionary outreach to northern Europe: After meeting English prisoners in a Roman slave market, he directed a monk and prior of the Monastery of Saint Andrew named Augustine to begin mission work in the British Isles. This man, later known as Saint Augustine of Canterbury (not to be confused with the better-known Augustine of Hippo), did much to spread Christianity throughout Britain.

Gregory was the first pope of the Roman Church to come from a monastic background. His book Liber Regulae Pastoralis (The Book of the Pastoral Rule) was a standard text until the 20th Century. Church historians consider Gregory to be the last of the Latin Church Fathers and count him among the Doctors of the Church (see the commemoration of Saint Ambrose for the list of the eight great doctors). The Eastern Church remembers him as Gregory Dialogus in honor of the Dialogues he wrote.

Gregory died on 12 March AD 604. Rather than keeping the commemoration on his death date (or "heavenly birthday"), the LCMS moved it to the date of his consecration in order to avoid its observation during the penitential season of Lent.

Lection

Psalm 57:6-11 or 33:1-5, 20-21
1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8
Mark 10:42-45

Collect

Almighty and most merciful Lord, who raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the people of God and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people, preserve in Your Church the catholic and apostolic faith he confessed, that Your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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02 September 2014
  + Hannah +
2 September, Old Testament

Hannah and Samuel Hannah was the favored wife of Elkanah the Ephraimite. For many years she remained barren, suffering the insults of Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah — even though he said what he could to try comforting Hannah.

Finally the Lord relieved her of her bitterness (1 Samuel 1:6-8). After she poured herself out in prayer before the Tabernacle, the priest Eli sent her on the way with the promise that the Lord would hear and answer her prayer.

While Scripture gives no indication that Eli even knew the specifics of her petitions, his promise to the distraught woman came to pass and she bore a son, whom she named Samuel ("Heard by God"), "for she said, 'I have asked for him from the Lord.' (vv. 9-21)"

After weaning him, Hannah expressed gratitude by returning Samuel for a life of service in the House of the Lord with Elkanah's consent and blessing (1:24-28). Her prayer of thanksgiving (2:1-10) foreshadows the Magnificat, the Song of Mary which would be sung centuries later during the Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55).

The name Hannah comes from the Hebrew word for "grace" or "favor," the same root as the name John. We remember Hannah for joyfully keeping the vow she made before her son's birth. We also praise our God who lavished His favor upon a childless woman and upon the Children of Israel — both through the gift of Samuel.

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01 September 2014
  + Joshua, Son of Nun +
1 September, Old Testament

Joshua, the son of Nun, was first mentioned in Exodus 17:8-16. The Lord chose him through Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. According to Exodus 24, Joshua became close to Moses and accompanied him when he went up Sinai with "Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. (v. 9)" We know this since Scripture says that after he sent the others down the mountain, "Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. (v. 13)"

He was devoted to the Lord's Presence in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:8). He and Caleb were the only two "spies" who provided honest reports which fully trusted in the Lord to deliver the Promised Land to His people (Numbers 14:6-9).

Moses Commissions Joshua God later appointed him to succeed Moses as Israel's leader. First, "Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.' (Deuteronomy 31:7)" Shortly thereafter, "The Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.' (v. 23)"

Joshua eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, directing the capture of Jericho (Joshua 6), during which he commanded that the lives of the prostitute Rahab and her family be spared (v. 17). We also remember him for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (24:1-28), declaring, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (24:15)"

No Israelite should have been at all surprised with Joshua's successes. That's because Joshua is a shortened form of Jehoshua, which means "Yahweh (the Lord) saves." Through Joshua, the Lord defeated many armies and enemies, established His people in the promised land, and prepared them for their new life as a nation. This name becomes even dearer to Christians when we realize that the name of Jesus comes from the Greek transliteration of Joshua, "for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)"

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29 August 2014
  + The Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist +
29 August, New Testament

Beheading of John According to the structure of the Christian calendar, the feast commemorating the death of St. John the Baptist comes only two months after the celebration of his nativity. His birth is observed by the liturgical color of white, standard for the principal Christological feasts since, as the Forerunner, John prepared the way for the coming Messiah. This day, however, is colored red, emblematic of the blood of the martyrs.

While all four Gospels mention John, only the three Synoptics tell of his beheading at the command of Herod Antipas. These accounts tell us that Herod imprisoned John because he strongly rebuked the king for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then entering into an unlawful marriage with Herodias, who had been married to Herod Antipas's brother Philip I.

Mark makes it clear that Herodias held a stronger grudge than her new husband: "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (6:20)" However, when Herodias's daughter (traditionally named Salome*) danced for the king on his birthday, Herod was so pleased that he foolishly promised to give her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was "exceedingly sorry" at her request, he reluctantly agreed "because of his oaths and his guests. (6:27)"

Herod had John beheaded in the prison. The executioner then placed the head on a platter and delivered it to the girl, who passed it on to her mother. John's followers then came and asked for his body, which they buried before going to tell Jesus. It was at least in part Jesus' sorrow over the death of John that led him to leave the crowds in Galilee: "He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. (Matthew 14:13)" However, the crowds followed Him, leading him to show compassion by healing the sick and then feeding the crowd of "five thousand men, besides women and children. (14:21)"

While Scripture is silent, some ancient traditions say that Herodius had John's head buried in a dung heap. These accounts claim that Joanna, wife of Herod's steward and a follower of Jesus, later retrieved the head and reburied it on the Mount of Olives. Later stories tell of three separate findings of his severed head. The first two later led to it being lost again for extended periods of time after being hidden. The third purported finding came in AD 850 and led to the head being transferred to a court church in Constantinople.

Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also tells of Herod's beheading of John the Baptist in his Jewish Antiquities. However, the reason he gives is different. Josephus wrote that the king killed John "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." Josephus also said that many Jews believed that Aretas (Herod's father-in-law) dealt Herod a severe military defeat as divine punishment for his wickedness.

While not the first regularly observed Christian feast honoring a saint, the commemoration of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist is one of the earliest. It has been observed in both the Eastern and Western Church nearly as long as the celebration of his Nativity. Because of the differences in calendars, much of the East celebrates on the same date, but a different day. Also, many devout Eastern Christians remember keep John's feast by refusing to use a knife, eat from a flat plate, or eat any food that is round.

* Josephus wrote extensively on the entire Herodian family. It is from the Antiquities that we are fairly sure that Salome was, indeed, the girl who danced and who asked for the Baptist's head. Ironically, the root of her name in Hebrew is "shalom" (שלם), that is, "peace."

Lection

Revelation 6:9-11
Psalm 71:1-8
Romans 6:1-5
Mark 6:14-29

Collect

Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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28 August 2014
  + Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church +
28 August AD 430

Saint Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin church fathers and was among the most significant influences in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. He was born to Monica and Patricius, a Christian mother and a pagan father, in AD 354 in Tagaste, Numidia (now Souk Ahras in Algeria).

Augustine's early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. He described his life before his conversion to Christianity in his book Confessions. He was drawn into the moral laxity of the day, plagued by lust, and fathered an illegitimate son. He also joined himself to the Manichaeian religion.

Baptism of Augustine Although he wandered (and sometimes wallowed) through a sinful, unchristian life for many years, Monica continued faithfully praying for Augustine's conversion. During his times of spiritual unrest, he moved first to Rome and later to Milan in order to find and hold teaching positions.

Monica's prayers were answered as her son responded to God's Word and the work of the Holy Spirit through the the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Certainly Monica must have rejoiced to see her son baptized by Ambrose during the Easter Vigil of 387. However, her earthly joy was short-lived; she died at Ostia Antica, just outside Rome, as she was beginning a journey back to Africa with her sons Augustine and Navigius.

During the Pelagian Controversies* of the Fifth Century, Augustine fought the notion of salvation by works and emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. The great theologian served as Bishop of Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in 430. Augustine was a man of immense intellect and deep love, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to his Confessions, Augustine's book City of God (De Civitate Dei) had great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

His monastic rule was used and emulated in much of the Western Church. The Order of Saint Augustine adhered closely to his teachings. Through the Order, Augustine's theology had a profound impact upon the thinking of the young German monk, Martin Luther. Luther espoused and refined Augustine's understanding of divine grace and of original sin, becoming part of the theology that forged the Reformation.

The barbarian invasions of the 5th Century form the backdrop for his death. Saint Augustine died during the Vandal siege of Hippo. He urged resistance, at least in part because the Vandals held to the Arian heresy.** He is listed with Saint Ambrose as two of the Western (or Latin) fathers among the eight great Doctors of the undivided Church. Jerome and Gregory the Great are the West's other representatives; Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus represent Eastern (Greek) Christendom.

The picture above represents Augustine's baptism at the hands of Ambrose. The text behind his head is the opening of the medieval hymn, Te Deum Laudamus. Some legends tell of Augustine and Ambrose jointly improvising it at this moment.

Lection

Psalm 87 or 84:7-12
Hebrews 12:22-24,28-29
John 14:6-15

Collect

Lord God, the Light of minds who know You, the Life of souls who love You, and the Strength of hearts who serve You, help us to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, knowing You that we may truly love You, and loving You that we may fully serve You, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Hymn: Holy God, We Praise Your Name

   Holy God, we praise your name;
   Lord of all, we bow before you.
   All on earth your scepter claim,
   All in heaven above adore you.
   Infinite your vast domain,
   Everlasting is your reign.

   Hark! The glad celestial hymn
   Angel choirs above are raising;
   Cherubim and seraphim,
   In unceasing chorus praising,
   Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
   "Holy, holy, holy Lord!"

   Lo, the apostolic train
   Join your sacred name to hallow;
   Prophets swell the glad refrain,
   And the white robed martyrs follow;
   And from morn to set of sun
   Through the Church the song goes on.

   You are King of Glory, Christ;
   Son of God, yet born of Mary.
   For us sinners sacrificed,
   As to death a Tributary,
   First to break the bars of death,
   You have opened heaven to faith.

   Holy Father, holy Son,
   Holy Spirit, three we name you,
   Though in essence only one;
   Undivided God we claim you
   And, adoring, bend the knee
   While we own the mystery.

Canticle: Te Deum Laudamus

*See Alex Klages' blog A Beggar at the Table for details on this heresiarch, his false teachings, and the implications of his corrupt doctrine with Pelagius, Part 1 and Part 2.

**Pr. Klages also has more information on Arius.

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27 August 2014
  + Monica, Faithful Mother +
27 August — Transferred from 4 May AD 387

Saint Monica A native of North Africa of Berber descent, Monica was the devoted mother of one of the great theologians of early Christianity. She was born to a Christian family in Tagaste, Numidia (now Souk Ahras in Algeria) but her parents married her to a pagan named Patricius. Throughout her life she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son, Augustine, who provides us with the details of his mother's life.

Patricius was prone to both adultery and violent rages. Still, Augustine reported that his father never beat Monica, likely because she remained obedient and faithful to her husband. She also faced ongoing interference and resentment from her mother-in-law. After she was widowed at a fairly young age, Monica devoted herself to her family. She prayed especially for many years for Augustine's conversion from Manichaeism, a dualistic religious philosophy, and for his release from an immoral lifestyle that included a concubine and a son born out of wedlock.

When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son's conversion to the Christian faith and his baptism by the Bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose.

Following her son's conversion and baptism, Saint Monica hoped to travel back to Africa with her sons Augustine and Navigius. However, her travels weakened her and she died at Ostia Antica, Italy, the Roman seaport. On some ecclesial calendars, Monica is remembered on 4 May. Following changes during Vatican II, many churches have moved her commemoration to the day before Christendom celebrates the life and work of her famous son.

The customary spelling of this saint's name has been with one "n." However, her original tomb in Ostia was discovered after World War II bearing the name "Monnica." Was it for many years misspelled (even by her son) or did an artisan make a mistake when carving her inscription? Whichever the spelling, her remains no longer rest in the tomb in Ostia; they were transferred in 1430 to the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.

That she remains in Italy is, in part, testimony to her own thoughts and beliefs. Just before she died, she told her sons, "It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord." When asked of her fears at the thought of leaving her body in an strange land, she replied, "Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world."

Because the region was visited by missionaries on her feast day, the city of Santa Monica, California was named in her honor.

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24 August 2014
  + Bartholomew, Apostle +
24 August, New Testament

Saint BartholomewThe name "Bartholomew" appears in the New Testament only on lists of the names of the twelve apostles. John gives no list of the Twelve, but refers to more of them individually than do any of the Synoptic writers. He doesn't name Bartholomew, but early in his account (John 1:43-50) he tells of the call to discipleship of one Nathaniel who is supposed to be the same person.

The reasoning is as follows: John's Nathanael is introduced as one of the earliest followers of Jesus, in terms suggesting that he became one of the Twelve. He is clearly not Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, or Judas (not Iscariot), all of whom John names separately.

Symbol of Saint BartholomewHe isn't Matthew, whose call is described differently. This leaves Bartholomew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot. Of these, Bartholomew is the leading candidate for two reasons: (1) "Bar-tholomew" is a patronymic (a father-based name), meaning "son of Tolmai (or Talmai)." Thus, it's quite likely that he had another name. (2) Nathanael is introduced in John's narrative as a friend of Philip. Since Bartholomew is paired with Philip on three of our four lists of Apostles, it seems likely that they were associated.

We have no certain information about his later life. Some writers, including the historian Eusebius, say that he preached in India. The majority tradition, with varying details, is that Saint Bartholomew preached in Armenia, and was finally skinned alive and beheaded in Albanus or Albanopolis on the Caspian Sea, as shown above. His emblem in art is, therefore, a flaying knife or knives. Michelangelo also followed this tradition but imposed his own face on Bartholomew in his "Last Judgment" fresco, as shown in a previous commemoration.

Lection

Psalm 121
Proverbs 3:1-8
2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Luke 22:24-30 or John 1:43-51

Collect

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an apostle to preach the blessed Gospel. Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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20 August 2014
  + Samuel, Judge and Prophet +
20 August, Old Testament

Samuel and EliSamuel was the final Old Testament judge. Besides Deborah and an anonymous man in Judges 6:7-10, he is the first prophet mentioned after Moses, although we could consider some of the other judges among the prophets. He lived during the 11th century B.C. Samuel's mother Hannah was unable to have children and she prayed desperately before the tabernacle that the Lord would grant her to bear children to her husband Elkanah, an Ephraimite. Because the Lord heard and answered, Hannah called her son "Samuel," which can be translated "heard by God." This account is in the first chapter of 1 Samuel.

In response to God's love for them, Samuel's parents dedicated him to the Lord's service: "And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli [the priest in the Lord's house]. And she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.' (1:24-28)" He entered sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh under Eli.

Samuel Anoints DavidGod called Samuel to speak for Him in a series of night messages and established him as His prophet. One of Samuel's most difficult assignments came immediately after his call. Eli was allowing his sons to abuse their priestly offices and through the young man, the Lord condemned their behavior and pronounced God's judgment upon them (see chapter 3).

Samuel's own life didn't always go smoothly. Just as Eli's sons had betrayed their sacred trust as priests, so also "Joel and ... Abijah ..." the sons of Samuel, became unrighteous judges who "took bribes and perverted justice. (8:1-3)" Perceiving this as a problem in God's leadership as well as that of Samuel, Israel demanded that they be given a king such as the surrounding nations had. Samuel warned them that this would lead to even more problems and woes, but when they kept insisting, the Lord told him to do as the people requested.

Samuel anointed Saul to be Israel's first king (10:1). Because of Saul's continuing, flagrant disregard for God's Word, Samuel repudiated Saul's leadership and traveled to the house of Jesse, where he anointed David to be king in place of Saul (16:13).

Samuel's loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel's great leaders. When he died, "all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah. (25:1a)"

For more on this man of God, see an earlier post that focuses on a series of deceiving appearances in his life.

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19 August 2014
  + Bernard of Clairvaux +
Died 20 August AD 1153

Bernard of Clairvaux ernard of Clairvaux, a leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble Burgundian (Fontaines, near Dijon) family in 1090, he was drawn toward the Church by his own nature and encouraged by his mother's desire. His family opposed His desire to enter a monastery and sent him to study at Châlons in order to qualify him for higher ecclesiastical office. However, Bernard left his affluent heritage, entering the monastery of Citeaux at age 22. He persuaded four of his brothers, an uncle, and 26 other men, mainly the sons of nobles, to join him.

After two years he and several others were sent to a new monastic house at Clairvaux, where Bernard soon became its abbot. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses.

During the disputed papal elections between Anacletus II and Innocent II, he took the side of Innocent. From 1130-38, Bernard worked to solidify the papal claim through ecclesiastical and secular politics. He battled against the "New Teaching" espoused by Pierre Abélard at the University of Paris, resisting a broad-based liberal arts education using the philosophy of Aristotle. Instead, Bernard insisted that such an education was only to be used in preparation for the priesthood.

At the command of Pope Eugenius III in 1146, Bernard preached in favor of a new effort to free the Holy Land from the Mohammedans. This gave life to the previously moribund Second Crusade. While the results of the campaign were certainly mixed, events during it served to enhance Bernard's perception among non-Christians: When a monk named Radulf (or Raoul) incited the populace of Mainz against the Jews, Bernard vigorously opposed him, calling the monk arrogant, without authority, a preacher of mad and heretical doctrines, a liar, and a murderer. Radulf slipped away, the riots ended, and Bernard became known as a "righteous gentile." His reputation among Rhine valley Jews remained so good that his name is still given to some of their descendants. The most famous of these would probably be American businessman and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch.

Certainly, we remember St. Bernard for his charity and political abilities. Even more, we honor his preaching ability and, especially, his poetry and hymn writing (cf. NetHymnal and Hymnuts): The texts of O Jesus, King Most Wonderful (MIDI audio) and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (MIDI audio), as well as others, remain vital parts of our Christian heritage.

Bernard of Clairvaux
Martin Luther cited Saint Bernard in a number of his writings. When Bernard spoke of justification by grace through faith, Luther commended the teaching. For example, in his commentary on 10, the reformer wrote, "This is the kind of joy and comfort St. Bernard had in his heart, so that he could say, on the basis of this article: 'How can I ever become sad and mournful or discouraged? After all, my flesh and blood sits in heaven above. I expect He will not be my enemy.' For St. Bernard to apply this to himself and to boast this way is certainly a genuinely spiritual, heavenly, and divine thought, derived from his faith. For he had also amounted to something in the world. He had been rich enough, noble, learned, and holy. But before God St. Bernard knows no other boast or comfort than this Lord. (LW 13:245)"

Where Bernard lapsed into exalting the office of the papacy or waxed eloquent on the merits of the saints — particularly Mary — Luther condemned these works as false and misleading. Yet the reformer appreciated and held close the monk's death-bed confession of personal unworthiness and total reliance on Christ's merits: "That is how St. Bernard was saved. He was an exemplary monk; he observed the rules of his order scrupulously, and he fasted so assiduously that his breath stank and no one could abide his presence. But on the threshold of death he exclaimed: 'Oh, I have lived damnably! But heavenly Father, Thou hast given me Thy Son, who has a twofold claim to heaven: first, from eternity, by reason of the fact that He is Thy Son; secondly, He earned heaven as the Son of man with His suffering, death, and resurrection. And thus He has also given and bestowed heaven on me. [Sermones in cantica, Sermon XX, Patrologia, Series Latina, CLXXXIII, 867]' Thereby St. Bernard dropped out of the monastic role, forsook cowl and tonsure and rules, and turned to Christ; for he knew that Christ conquered death, not for Himself but for us men that all who believe in the Son should not perish but have eternal life. And so St. Bernard was saved. (LW 22:360)"

In case you're wondering, the Saint Bernard dog is not named for Bernard of Clairvaux but indirectly for Bernard of Montjoux (or Menthon), an earlier monk who founded a travelers' hospice and monastery in the Pennine Alps and another hospice in the Graian Alps. Both of these passes were later named for him and and the large rescue dogs for these places where they were stationed.

NB: I followed the LCMS Calendar of Commemorations and listed Bernard on 19 August, even though his death date is normally listed as 20 August and occasionally as the 21st. Roman Catholicism celebrates his feast on the 20th.

Suggested Lection

Psalm 139:1-12 or 19:7-11
Sirach 39:1-10
John 15:7-11

Collect

O God, by whose grace Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux, kindled with the flame of Your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, walking before You as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Be Thou my Consolation, My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well!

(P. Gerhardt; from Bernard's Salve caput cruentatum)
Hymn texts and MIDI audio linked from the Lutheran Hymnal Project.

Martin Luther quotes from Volume 13: Luther's Works, Selected Psalms II, © 1956 by Concordia Publishing House and Volume 22: Luther's Works, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, © 1957 by Concordia Publishing House.

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