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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

23 October 2014
  + Saint James of Jerusalem +
23 October, New Testament

St. James the JustThe New Testament refers to this James as the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19). He led the Christian congregation in Jerusalem for many years, garnering the title "Bishop of Jerusalem" among many in Christendom. He is often credited with authorship of the Epistle of James, although the Epistle itself does not state this explicitly.

James is mentioned briefly in connection with Jesus' visit to Nazareth (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). John 7:2-5 tells us that Jesus' brothers did not believe in Him and from this, as well as references in early Christian writers, we infer that James was not a disciple of the Lord until after the Resurrection. When Paul lists our Lord's resurrection appearances (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), he includes an appearance to James. Peter, about to leave Jerusalem after escaping from Herod, left a message for James and the Apostles (Acts 12:17). When a council met at Jerusalem to consider what rules Gentile Christians should be required to keep, James formulated the final consensus (Acts 15:13-21).

On his last recorded visit to Jerusalem, Paul visited James (others were present, but no other names are given) and spoke of his ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 21:18).

Outside the New Testament, the Jewish historian Josephus called James "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ," and reported that even the Pharisees greatly respected his piety and strict observance of the Law but that his enemies took advantage of an interval between Roman governors in AD 62 to have him put to death. Numerous references in early Christian documents also show the esteem with which the early Church held him.

While debate continues, this particular James is likely the one called "James the Just" (or "James the Righteous") by much of the Church. The source of this appellation seems to come from an early tradition that James took vows as a Nazarite and that his life, both in Judaism and after conversion to the Faith, was marked by deep piety.

For a bit more on James' possible blood relationship to Jesus, whether they were "half- or step-brothers or cousins," see the Ask the Pastor post the Names of Jesus' Brothers. An explanation in the hagiography for Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles helps discern among the different New Testament people sharing this name.

Lection

Psalm 133
Acts 15:12-22a
James 1:1-12
Matthew 13:54-58

Collect

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just to lead and guide Christ's Church in her early days. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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18 October 2014
  + Saint Luke, Evangelist +
18 October, New Testament

Saint Luke Saint Luke the Evangelist was a physician (Colossians 4:14) and a companion of St. Paul on some of his missionary journeys (see Acts 16:10ff; 20:5ff; 27-28).

Material found in his Gospel account and not elsewhere includes the Annunciation and almost all we know of Jesus' birth, infancy, and boyhood. He recounts some of the most moving parables, including the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. He also provides three of the sayings of Christ on the Cross: "Father, forgive them (23:34)"; "Today, you will be with me in Paradise (23:43)"; and "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! (23:46)"

Luke's Gospel account emphasizes the human love of Christ, His compassion for sinners and for suffering and unhappy persons, for outcasts such as the Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, shepherds (not a respected profession), and for the poor. Christ's treatment of women and their important supporting role in His ministry is also emphasized in Luke more than in the other Gospels.

Much of Christianity uses each of the four living creatures (see Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4) as a symbol one of the four evangelists. While attributions vary in parts of Christendom, most of the Western Church assigns the winged ox to Saint Luke. The association probably comes because the ox was one of the major sacrificial animals under the Old Covenant while Luke strongly highlighted the sacrificial elements of Christ's life, suffering, and death. See the commemoration of Saint Matthew for details of the other evangelists' symbols in ecclesiastical art.

Lection

Psalm 147:1-11
Isaiah 35:5-8
2 Timothy 4:5-18
Luke 10:1-9

Collect

Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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17 October 2014
  + Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr +
17 October AD 107

Biblical Antioch St. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria (near contemporary Antakya, Turkey) at the beginning of the second century AD and an early Christian martyr. Antioch was a port on the Orontes River in Syria with access to the Mediterranean Sea, just north of the modern country of Lebanon. Its importance included spice and other valuable trades and it was closely connected to the Silk Road and the Persian Royal Road.

The city was important to early Christianity, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch (cf. Acts 11:26). Paul began three of his missionary journeys from there. It is believed that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Antioch.

The Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, was probably written in Syria and likely in Antioch. The city was one of five patriarchates of early Christianity under Constantine, along with Jerusalem, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. Saint John Chrysostom (AD 349-407), the Bishop of Constantinople, was born in Antioch. The Maronite Eastern Catholic Church of Lebanon originates from Christian Antioch.

Martyrdom of Ignatius Near the end of the reign of Trajan (98-117), Ignatius refused to worship the Roman emperor. He was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.

On the way to Rome, he wrote letters to the Christians at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and also to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the letters, which are beautifully pastoral in tone, Ignatius warned against certain heresies (false teachings). He also repeatedly stressed the full humanity and deity of Christ, the reality of Christ's bodily presence in the Lord's Supper, the supreme authority of the bishop, and the unity of the Church found in her bishops.

Ignatius was the first to use the word catholic to describe the universality of the Church. His Christ-centeredness, his courage in the face of martyrdom, and his zeal for the truth over against false doctrine remain his lasting legacy to the Church.

From His Writings

For I know and believe that he was in the flesh even after the Resurrection. And when he came to those with Peter he said to them: "Take, handle me and see that I am not a phantom without a body." And they immediately touched him and believed, being mingled both with his flesh and spirit. Therefore they despised even death, and were proved to be above death. And after his Resurrection he ate and drank with them as a being of flesh, although he was united in spirit to the Father. Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans III

I am writing to all the churches and am insisting to everyone that I die for God of my own free will — unless you hinder me. I implore you: do not be unseasonably kind to me. Let me be food for the wild beasts, through whom I can reach God. I am God's wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread of Christ. Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans IV

Lection

Psalm 116:1-8 or 31:1-5
Romans 8:35-39
John 12:23-26

Collect

Almighty God, we praise you for your bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept the willing tribute of our lives, and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Credits

Russian icon of Ignatius public domain. Biblical world map from Logos Bible Software.

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11 October 2014
  + Saint Philip, Deacon +
11 October, New Testament

Philip and the Ethopian The deacon Philip, was also called an evangelist (see Acts 21:8). He was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve Apostles and of the rapidly growing early church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor, especially to the widows who had limited support (6:1-6).

Unless Saint Luke omitted some portion of the selection process, this Philip is not the Philip we meet in the Gospels, whose feast is celebrated on 1 May with James, son of Alphaeus. For if they are the same person, why would one of the twelve Apostles separate himself from the ministry into which Christ had called him and go off to "serve tables" (Acts 6:2)? Therefore, we are dealing with at least two separate Philips in the New Testament.

Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa.

Here we make two historical asides. First, the "Ethiopia" known to the Mediterranean world of Philip's time may actually have been part of modern-day Sudan. Second, while a "eunuch" is technically a castrated male, it also served at times as a generic term for royal officials, including some where records indicate that they were capable of siring children.

Saint Philip's final appearance in Scripture comes in conjunction with Saint Paul. He hosted the apostle in the town of Caesarea before the apostle completed his final visit to Jerusalem (21:8-15). During this meeting, Luke also discovered and informs his readers that Philip "had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied (21:9)"

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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09 October 2014
  + Abraham, Patriarch +
9 October, Old Testament

Yahweh's Covenant with Abram The Lord called the Patriarch Abraham (first known as Abram) to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age 75, in obedience to God's command, he, his wife Sarai (later Sarah), and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There, the Lord cut a covenant with Abram (Genesis 15), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. In Genesis 17:1-16, the Lord established circumcision as a sign of His covenant people while also renaming Abram as Abraham and Sarai as Sarah.

At the age of 100 Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. A few years later, Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man's life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (22:1-19).

Despite having his only child born at such an advanced age, Abraham lived to see the births of Isaac's twin sons Jacob and Esau. Abraham finally died at the age of 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament Patriarchs — and for his "righteousness before God through faith. (Romans 4:1-12)"

The Offering of Isaac In the great "Faith Chapter" of Hebrews 11, Abraham holds a prominent place. The writer noted several instances where Abraham acted "by faith," contrary to worldly evidence but in accordance with God's will. "By faith," he "obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance (v. 8)"; he "went to live in the land of promise ... with Isaac and Jacob (v. 9)"; and he, "when he was tested, offered up Isaac. (v. 17)" Among the believers so listed, God also commended the faith of Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob through the epistle's writer.

The promised blessing of the nations came to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ. He was a son of Abraham by blood, by circumcision, and by His relationship with our heavenly Father. While the Jews traced their descent from Abraham according to his bloodlines, Christians are listed in Scripture as Abraham's true children by faith in Christ. Paul wrote that Abraham is "the father of us all" who share his faith in God (Romans 4:16). In Galatians, Paul also wrote, "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.' So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (3:7-9)"

We cannot definitively state that the patriarch saw his greatest Descendant "in the flesh" before he died, although some think that the Son of God was also the Angel of the Lord who spoke with him. However, whether by faith or by sight, we know from Jesus' words that "Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)" When the Jews before Him mocked such an apparently outlandish statement, our Lord continued, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am, (v. 58)" thereby claiming to be not only a son of Abraham but also Abraham's God (cf. Exodus 3:13-14).

While most people shudder at the thought of Abraham taking Isaac up Mount Moriah as an intended sacrifice, some are more pained by his having a son with Sarai's servant Hagar (see Genesis 16). I'm one of these and, for many of us, it isn't the odd sharing of the marriage bed but the result of this wrong relationship that's more disturbing. Certainly the Lord assured blessing for Hagar's son Ishmael, a child born through human manipulation. However, He reserved the greater blessing for Isaac, the child born to Sarah of His divine promise (Genesis 17:15-21).

Sadly, both blessings were later forsaken by their bearers. The vast majority of Ishmael's descendants do not have Abraham's God as their own but instead have given themselves over to the pernicious religion of Islam and its false god Allah. Meanwhile, much of Israel disappeared, first during the Assyrian invasion and, later, the Babylonian Captivity. Of those who returned to Palestine, many slowly turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the next four hundred years. When finally appeared the Blessing of the Nations, "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:11)."

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07 October 2014
  + Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor +
7 October AD 1787

H M MuhlenbergMoving from the Old World to the New, H. M. Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes and Lutheranism in general in America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711 and baptized Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, he came to the American colonies in 1742.

A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, established in 1748. He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was also largely responsible for preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy (also in 1748).

We remember Muhlenberg as church leader, journalist, liturgist, and — above all — as faithful pastor to those in his charge. He died in 1787, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting ecclesiastical and familial heritage. Although his beliefs and practices may have been tinged with pietistic tendencies, Muhlenberg paved the way for a wide variety of Lutherans — from orthodox and doctrinally sound to Lutheran in name only — to establish their respective presences in the United States.

Among his heirs were churchmen, politicians, and soldiers, including sons Peter Muhlenberg, a major general in the Continental Army and Frederick Muhlenberg, the first United States Speaker of the House.

Collect

Heavenly Father, Shepherd of Your people, we thank You for Your servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of Your flock, and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by Your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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04 October 2014
  + Theodor Fliedner +
4 October AD 1864

Theodor Fliedner The early Church entrusted some women, particularly widows, with helping to carry out the "social work" of the Church, particularly caring for the sick and needy of the congregation. From reading 1 Timothy 5:1-16, it appears that certain of these women were specially consecrated and made a lifetime commitment to works of mercy. The idea of a female deaconate or service order largely died out by the 7th Century AD, although some groups of nuns and a few informally organized groups undertook similar work.

The modern deaconess movement came mainly through the work of Theodor Fliedner, a German Lutheran. Born in Eppstein, Germany, in 1800, he became pastor of a small parish in Kaiserswerth in 1821 or 1822. Fliedner took the work of England's Elizabeth Fry and Dutch Mennonites as inspiration. Encountering Moravian deaconesses, he also drew from their example.

He began serving the Düsseldorf Prison, walking to and from Düsseldorf on alternating Sundays until the appointment of a regular prison chaplain. This led to more prisons engaging chaplains and establishing regular worship and aid services for the prisoners. He envisioned and opened a nursery school; eventually it became a sort of teachers' college and a starting point for what would become his first deaconess school.

William Passavant Becoming more involved in Christian social work among the disadvantaged, Fliedner convinced himself that he should revive the order of deaconesses. He opened a hospital and deaconess training center in Kaiserswerth on 13 October 1836. Florence Nightingale heard of his reputation, visited the school in the 1840s, came back to study nursing, and graduated in 1851.

The program was so successful that he could send deaconesses to other hospitals by 1838. New deaconess motherhouses grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in Jerusalem, Paris, Berlin, and Strasbourg, and elsewhere. When he died, 30 motherhouses already stood and over 1500 deaconesses served around the world. The middle of the 20th century saw more than 35,000 deaconesses serving world-wide.

Lutherans in the United States may also want to remember William Passavant, who pioneered the American deaconess movement in 1849. He also founded missions, hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Passavant died 3 January 1894.

Additional information available from Wikipedia and James Kiefer.

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30 September 2014
  + Jerome, Scholar, Translator, Theologian +
30 September AD 420

Dürer: Jerome Saint Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus), translator of Holy Scripture, was born in a little Dalmatian village on the Adriatic Sea around the year AD 345. Although he came from Christian parents, he wasn't baptized until he went to study in Rome in about AD 360.

After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. However, the time spent there convinced him that the life of a hermit monk was not for him and he pursued holy orders and advanced education.

After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople (where he studied under Gregory of Nazianzus), Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time.

Jerome chose to use "street" or "vulgar" Latin rather than its classical form. Thus, his translation was called the Vulgate (from its vulgar Latin) and was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church for over 1,000 years.

Jerome by Ghirlandaio A man of considerable brilliance, Jerome could also be argumentative, arrogant, dogmatic in trivial matters, and easily swayed by people holding superior office. Yet he also was able to break with the influence of Origen under which he was raised and was a champion of understanding the original languages of Scripture and of exegesis over allegory in interpretation.

In Roman Catholic hagiography, Jerome is patron saint of translators and librarians. His symbol in Christianity is often a pen. In religious art, it isn't unusual to see him portrayed with an odd blend of clothing and trappings ranging from ascetic anchorite to opulently garbed cardinal. He is often posed with a crucifix, a skull, and a Bible.

Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, he is listed with Saints Augustine, Ambrose, and Gregory the Great as one of the original Four Doctors of the Western Church. These four, plus four Eastern theologians, compose the eight Great Doctors of the early Church (see this article on Saint Ambrose for the entire list).

Jerome died on 30 September AD 420. Originally interred at Bethlehem, his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

More information is available from James Kiefer's Hagiographies and Wikipedia.

Lection

Psalm 19:7-11(12-14) or 119:97-104
2 Timothy 3:14-17
Luke 24:44-48

Collect

O Lord, O God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant Jerome, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit will overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, will transform us according to your righteous will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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29 September 2014
  Saint Michael and all Angels
29 September

Saint Michael On the Feast of St. Michael and all Angels (or Michaelmas) we thank God for the many ways in which He lovingly watches over us, both directly and indirectly. We also remember that the richness and variety of God's creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The angels are referred to as "messengers of God," or simply as "messengers." The word for a messenger in Hebrew is malach, in Greek, angelos, from which we get our word "angel."

Saint Michael Michael (the name means "Who is like God?") is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. In the Scriptures, Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1) calls him prince of the people of Israel; Jude 9 notes an apocryphal story of a dispute with the devil about the body of Moses; Revelation 12:7 shows him leading the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon. He is often pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon.

Why do we call him "Saint" Michael? Isn't this word reserved for God's holy people? Well, the word actually means "holy," that is dedicated and set aside for a special Godly purpose or having an intrinisic goodness. All of God's people are holy because of Christ. Therefore, all are saints — especially the dead in Christ. Because they are completely sinless, Michael and all the angels are "holy" and thus may be called saints.

Saint Michael Many theologians through the centuries have suggested that Michael is actually a theophany, a divine manifestation of the Son of God. Reading the passages where he is mentioned doesn't convince me entirely one way or another. The name itself is intriguing: If we answer the question, "Who is like God?" we must say, "No one — except God."

Also, while Christian literature, liturgics, and hymnody is filled with references to archangels, Michael is the only being in Scripture called an archangel. All other "archangel" names come from the Apocrypha or even more spurious writings. The prefix normally means ruling, chief, or principal and can also carry the meaning of a prototype or an earlier model.

Saint Michael We know that Jesus testifies of His Father: He was and remains the principal (arch-) messenger of God's grace. He also preceded the existence of the angels, being alive from all eternity. In fact, He not only is the great messenger of God's Word, He is God's Word. Thus, understanding the Son as the archangel, the primary and ruling messenger of the Father is totally congruent with Scripture's revelation.

I say this not to attempt to persuade the reader to accept the idea that Michael is the Son of God but to open the mind to the possibility that they could be one and the same.

Saint Michael As for the angels, there are numerous times and places where they are mentioned. Yet all the spirit beings who serve God are not called angels by Scripture. While we often in our thinking lump them together, a number of distinct created beings exist.

When reading the Pauline epistles, many early theologians took as titles some of the descriptive language he used in writing of the spiritual realm. They came up with nine "choirs" or ranks of angels, normally grouped in three triads. Their order varied among the different commentators. For example, Pseudo-Dionysias ranked them (in ascending order) as seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.

Saint Michael Cherubim, seraphim, angels and at least one archangel we know of definitely from the Bible. Whether or not "thrones, dominions, virtues," and the like are also specific creatures or whether they're rather general characteristics of the spirit beings, these lists appear to have identified the "four living creatures" mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation as cherubim.

These lists have made it into our liturgy, where the Communion Preface speaks of "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven." They've also been incorporated into our hymnody, most notably "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones."

Saint Michael James Kiefer's Hagiographies give even more details on the choirs of angels and related material with Mr. Kiefer's article on Michael and All Angels.

Lection

Psalm 91
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Revelation 12:7-12
Matthew 18:1-11 or Luke 10:17-20

Collect

Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Hymn

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

   Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
   Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
   Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
   Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
   Virtues, archangels, angels' choirs,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

   O higher than the cherubim,
   More glorious than the seraphim,
   Lead their praises, Alleluia!
   Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
   Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

   Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
   Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong,
   All saints triumphant, raise the song,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

   O friend, in gladness let us sing,
   Supernal anthems echoing,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   To God the Father, God the Son,
   And God the Spirit, Three in One,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!

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28 September 2014
  + Wenceslaus, Kníže of Bohemia +
28 September AD 935

The Good King Wenceslas of whom we sing is also known as Wenceslaw, Wenceslaus, Václav, Wenzel, and by other variations on his name. Wenceslaus actually wasn't a king; he was Kníže (Duke) of Bohemia. However, we still reckon Wenceslaus I as "good" because of his fidelity to the Christian Faith.

His grandfather, Bořivoj I, Kníže of the Czechs and his grandmother Ludmila (Ludmilla) were converted by the Lord working through Saints Cyril and Methodius, the noted missionaries to the Slavic people. After his father Wratislaus (Wratislaw, Vratislav) I died in battle against the Magyars, Wenceslaus was in line for succession. His grandmother's teaching slowly led him into following the teaching of the Christian Church rather than that of his mother Drahomíra the Arrogant, who was a token Christian while her husband lived but then reverted to the old religion upon his death. Wenceslaus's (twin?) brother Boleslaus I (the Cruel) apparently followed his mother's pagan ways. Their sister Střezislava received the appellation "the Pretty."

Death of Ludmilla After Wratislaus died, Wenceslaus was raised by Ludmila, who reared him in the Faith. Wenceslaus was a minor, so Ludmila governed as regent. A dispute between the fervently Christian regent and Drahomíra drove Ludmila to seek sanctuary near Beroun. Evidently, Wenceslaus's conversion had enraged his mother, who was also trying to gain support among the pagan nobility. Drahomíra purportedly gained revenge by having Ludmila killed by two nobles at Tetin on 15 September 921.

The regency passed to Drahomíra, who evidently gave good account of herself in that area. She strengthened Czech borders against foreign incursions and suppressed the rival Slavnik clan. However, she still worked to reconvert her son to paganism, but Wenceslaus continued practicing Christianity in secret.

Upon attaining his majority, Wenceslaus assumed the rule and exiled Drahomíra. He aided Christianity's spread throughout Bohemia by building churches and cathedrals and also by accepting the influence of the Holy Roman Empire. To the nobles, such behavior threatened both their pagan traditions and Czech sovereignty. He became a vassal of Henry I (the Fowler) of Saxony in 929. This submission, whether by choice or by force, further increased the hostility of his non-Christian lieges.

Wenceslaus' Death Boleslaus gathered some of these disaffected nobles around himself for several overlapping purposes. First of all, Wenceslaus was a threat to their paganism (unlike Wenceslaus, Boleslaus completely agreed with his mother's beliefs). Secondly, they considered Wenceslaus a "sell-out" if not an outright traitor to Czech heritage and governance. Finally, Boleslaus was next in line for the throne — something he strongly coveted.

These factors led the younger brother to invite the elder to a celebration of the Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian. On the way there, Boleslaus or his henchmen murdered Wenceslaus — the most commonly purported venue being at the very doors of the church toward which they traveled. Bolesaus claimed the title "Prince" — "Duke" being considered recognition of vassalage to the Holy Roman Empire.

Upon the death of Boleslaus I, his son Boleslaus II became Duke of Bohemia. Contrary to the father's nickname "the Cruel," the son embraced Christianity and became known as Boleslav the Pious. Included among his accomplishments was the establishment of the Bishopric of Prague.

King Wenceslaus Meanwhile, the legend of Wenceslaus continued to grow in the telling. His piety and refusal to abandon Christianity remain part of the story of the Faith. The Church considered him a martyr and purported miracles followed his invocation. Thus, he was canonized as Saint Wenceslaus and remains primary patron of the Czech people and the Czech Republic.

The carol Good King Wenceslas connects him with the earlier Saint Stephen and is based upon the general perception of his piety, humility, and desire to serve. Whether or not grounded in an actual event, it reflects the esteem in which the Czech people hold him.

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26 September 2014
  + Lancelot Andrewes +
26 September AD 1626

Lancelot Andrewes was born in London in 1555. Possessed of a keen intellect, he studied at Cambridge and Oxford, was a distinguished lecturer, and entered religious orders in 1580. A career that saw him enjoy working among the people while still challenging himself and others intellectually led to royal associations and eventual consecration as Bishop of Chichester in 1605 and a position as lord almoner. In 1618, he attended the Synod of Dort, was made dean of the Chapel Royal, and became Bishop of Winchester.

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Active in church and secular politics, especially in their overlap, Andrewes advised James I of England and was on the committee of scholars responsible of the Authorized Version of the Bible. Indeed, his name is first on the list of translators, since he both provided translations of early parts of the Old Testament and served as an editor general of the entire work.

Versed in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and eighteen other languages, Andrewes enjoyed popularity during his life for writings. With Bishop Ussher, these two may have been the most learned and intellectually brilliant churchmen of the day. His apologetic writings included two essays against Robert Bellarmine. Large collections of his sermons remain and may still be read profitably both by lovers of Christ and by lovers of the English language.

Perhaps one of his finest works was the Preces Privatae (Private Prayers). The collection was, however, unavailable to contemporaries but were published after his death. Some sections are complete prayers and collects, other appear to be guides to devout meditation. A biography by James Kiefer includes quotes from the Preces. These selections from the Thursday prayers emphasize three important happenings on that day — the creation of birds and fish on the Fifth Day of Creation, the institution of the Lord's Supper, the Ascension of our Lord on Easter's 40th day.

Andrewes' impact on English arts and letters extended well beyond his life. T. S. Eliot considered him a major influence and wrote an essay in his honor.

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