Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

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

25 March 2017
  The Annunciation of Our Lord
25 March, New Testament
Transferred to 4 April AD 2016

The Annunciation Luke 1:26-38 tells us how the angel Gabriel announced to Mary of Nazareth that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Christ and her response. Mary, a virgin pledged to marry Joseph, briefly wondered how this could be, since she had not had sex with any man.

Once Gabriel told her that the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, she humbly accepted this sacred obligation: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. (v. 38)"

Nothing prevents us from supposing that Our Lord was conceived immediately after this. Since the Church from early days observed 25 March as the date of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Christ's Nativity is observed on 25 December, nine months later.

For centuries in vast parts of Europe, 25 March also marked the change to the new year. While it seems somewhat odd and abrupt to change years in the middle of a month, we can imagine that those accustomed to that calendar easily made the adjustment. Furthermore, they could take to heart the reminder that God's chosen time, that most special time when He sent His Son into human flesh, merited such a "strange" circumstance.

Even though the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth took place six months later (see Luke 1:39-56) — as Elizabeth neared the end of her own pregnancy with the child who would grow to become John the Baptizer — Mary's song of celebration at that time is also appropriate to remember on the Feast of the Annunciation. In the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) the virgin mother of God celebrated God's gift to her, to Israel, and to all people.

Martin Luther wrote a commentary on this canticle. About verse 49, he said, "The 'great things' are nothing less than that she became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed upon her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among whom she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in Heaven, and such a child.

"She herself is unable to find a name for this work, it is too exceedingly great; all she can do is break out in the fervent cry: 'They are great things,' impossible to describe or define. Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God.

"No one can say anything greater of her or to her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees, or grass in the fields, or stars in the sky, or sand by the sea. It needs to be pondered in the heart, what it means to be the Mother of God."

The Annunciation is such an important Christological feast that it takes precedence over even the Sundays in Lent in much of Christendom. See Looking Ahead at Weedon's Blog for details.

Lection

Psalm 45:7-17
Isaiah 7:10-14
Hebrews 10:4-10
Luke 1:26-38

Collect

O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by His cross and Passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

NOTE: Regarding the occasional transfer of this major feast, the Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book states on page 960, It is appropriate to observe this feast day in all its fullness during Lent. However, according to historical precedent, when the Annunciation falls during Holy Week or on Easter Day (or also on the Fifth Sunday in Lent in the one-year series), it should not be observed at those times but may be transferred to a weekday following the Second Sunday of Easter. In most of Eastern Christendom, rather than transferring the Annunciation, it is celebrated fully. In Orthodoxy, this normally means the celebratory Liturgy of John Chrysostom.

Luther quote from Luther's Works, Vol. 21, p. 326, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Concordia Publishing House © 1956.

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23 March 2017
  + Gregory the Illuminator +
23 March AD 332

Gregory the Illuminator Christian pastor, evangelist, and bishop Gregory the Illuminator (or Enlightener; Armenian: Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ, transliterated Grigor Lusavorich) was born sometime between AD 240 and 260 and lived until around AD 311 or 312. He is the patron saint of Armenia and was first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Armenians were the first people to adopt Christianity as their state religion. Tertullian and Eusebius of Caesaria suggest that Christianity was practiced in Armenia as early as the 2nd Century AD.

Sometime before AD 301, the Lord used Gregory as his instrument to convert King Tiridates (or Trdat) III. For some twelve to fourteen years previously, he'd been imprisoned in a deep pit and possibly tortured. This was likely due in part to his father's participation in a plot against Khosrov II, Tiridates' father, and partially because of his steadfast refusal to participate in pagan rites. His recall came around the year 297, when he was asked to restore to sanity Tiridates III, who lost his mind after being betrayed by Diocletian.

In 302, Gregory was ordained bishop. He founded the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, near Mount Ararat in 303. This remains the seat of the supreme patriarch (catholicos) of the Armenian Church. Gregory went on to evangelize several other Caucasian nations and baptized the kings of Iberia (Georgia), Lazes, and Albania.

Sometime before his death he retired to a solitary life in the wilderness. He is remembered in both the Eastern and Western Church.

As an aside, legend claims for this relatively small nation the graves of four apostles: Bartholomew, Matthias, and Simon and Jude.

Lection

Psalm 119:153-160
Job 42:10-12
Acts 17:22-31
Matthew 5:11-16

Collect

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in Your saints, You raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia. Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also may show forth Your praise, who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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19 March 2017
  + Saint Joseph, Guardian of Our Lord +
19 March, New Testament

The Angel and St. Joseph All that we know of Saint Joseph we learn from the first two chapters of Matthew and of Luke. Otherwise he is mentioned only in passing (see Luke 3:23; John 1:45; John 6:42) as the supposed father of Jesus of Nazareth.

Matthew shows Joseph's compassion for his betrothed wife: When the Virgin Mary revealed her pregnancy to him he sought to avoid a public rebuke, which may have resulted in her being stoned. Then after the Lord sent His angel and revealed Himself as the cause of this extraordinary circumstance, Joseph submitted to God's will, just as had his wife.

The Heavenly Father thus graciously allowed this unassuming man to bear the responsibility of protecting and providing for the Incarnate Word and the Theotokos. How could Joseph possibly have imagined the extraordinary events that awaited them, including the visits of shepherds and wise men, as well as Herod's wrath and their subsequent flight to Egypt?

St. Joseph and Jesus Joseph was a pious Jew, a descendant of David, and — as normally translated — a carpenter by trade. Actually, the the Greek word τέκτων (tekton) that is used in the Gospels can mean "builder" or "architect." Scholars suggest that Joseph may have been a repairman, a general craftsman, or a building contractor. And while other words are used in classical Greek, it's possible that tekton had a broader meaning in the Greek of the Scriptures and that Joseph may have been a metalworker, a stoneworker, or a mason.

Because of the silence of the Gospels — and because Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of John — it is generally believed that Joseph died a natural death after the visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:41-51) but likely before His baptism in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17), probably around His thirtieth year.

We can only wonder what influence Jesus' earthly father had on Him during His early years on earth.

Lection

Psalm 127
2 Samuel 7:4-16
Romans 4:13-18
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Collect

Almighty God, from the house of Your servant David You raised up Joseph to be the guardian of Your incarnate Son and the husband of His mother, Mary. Grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Your counsel and obeying Your commands; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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17 March 2017
  + Pádraig of Ireland, Bishop and Missionary +
17 March AD 466

St. Patrick Pádraig (Patrick, Padraic), one of the best-known missionary saints, was born to a Christian family in southwest Britain around the year 389. While he was a teenager, raiders captured and took him to Ireland. There, he was forced to serve as a herdsman.

After six years he escaped and found his way, home, and then traveled to a monastery community in France. Imagine the surprise of those who knew him — even by his own reckoning, he left Britain as one who cared little for God.

With his new trust in the Lord, Patrick threw himself wholeheartedly into monastic life. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities.

He staunchly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity during a time when it was not popular to do so. His writings include his spiritual autobiography, the Confessio, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today.

St. Patrick's Cross Pádraig died around the year 466. Many people attribute the Lorica (see below) to him. One of the symbols used for Patrick in ecclesiastical art is a red Cross Saltire on a white background. This was added to the overlaid crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew to form the current Union Jack of the United Kingdom.

The legendary account of Patrick driving snakes off of the Emerald Isle is just that — a legend. There's no evidence that snakes ever slithered across Irish soil. Much more likely is the story that he used the shamrock or some other type of clover to roughly illustrate the Holy Trinity to the unconverted folk of Ireland.

If he were to return to earth in present day, one can only imagine the disdain with which this hero of the faith would view the drunken celebrations in many places which are held to "honor" his memory.

Lection

Psalm 97:1-2,7-12 or 96:1-7
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Matthew 28:16-20

Collect

Almighty God, in Your providence You chose your servant Pádraig to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who wandered in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of You; grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever.

The Lorica or Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Shamrock Trinity I bind unto myself today
     the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
     the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
     by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
     his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
     his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
     I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
     of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgement hour;
     the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
     the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
     and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
     the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
     the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
     the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
     around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
     the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
     his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
     his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
     his heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
     the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
     the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
     in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
     I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
     against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
     against the heart's idolatry,
against the wizard's evil craft,
     against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
     protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
     Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
     Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
     Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
     Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
     the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
     the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
     eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
     salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Translation by Cecil Francis Alexander

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11 March 2017
  + Matthias Flacius Illyricus +
11 March AD 1575

Matija Vlačić Ilirik Croatian reformer Matthias Flacius Illyricus (Matija Vlačić Ilirik) was born on 3 March 1520 in Labin (Albona in Latin). At that time, the region was under control of the Venetian Republic. He left home at age 16 to study in Venice. Baldo Lupetina a relative and Franciscan superior on the nearby island of Cres (who was later executed as a heretic) encouraged Matthias to continue studying in Germany.

Flacius traveled to Augsburg, arriving in 1539. He stayed only a short time before moving to Basel, where he enrolled at the university and studied Hebrew and Greek. There he also acquainted himself with many of the day's noted Protestant intellectuals. He moved on to Tübingen to continue his studies.

Traveling on, Flacius headed for the birth place of the Lutheran Reformation. He received his Master's degree from the University of Wittenberg at the age of 24 and lived for most of the 1540s in that town. His degree led to an immediate promotion to professor of theology.

Following Wittenberg, Matthias moved to Magdeburg. Between 1549 and 1557 and under his leadership, this city became a center of opposition to first the Augsburg and then the Leipzig Interims. These were forced truces between the Catholics and the Lutherans and certain other Protestants. During this period, Flacius began openly opposing Philipp Melanchthon and the theological and political compromises he was making with Rome and certain non-Lutheran reformers. Flacius believed that he was a faithful follower of Martin Luther and his theology and saw Melanchthon as one who would destroy much of what Luther had struggled so mightily to obtain.

Matthias Flacius Illyricus His time in Magdeburg was productive otherwise, as well. While there, he commenced work on on the 13-volume Ecclesiastica Historia (poplularly known as the Magdeburg Centuries) with Johannes Wigand and other scholars. He also wrote numerous tracts and pamphlets on various theological topics.

In 1557, Flacius was invited to head the newly founded theological faculty at the University of Jena. He served in this capacity until the end of 1561, when he was released due to his position in a controversy over original sin. He then moved to Regensburg, living there from 1562-1566. He was unable to achieve two great desires. First, he wanted to open a school for Southern Slavs and also hoped to relocate the Protestant printing press from Urach. Neither happened because Regensburg cancelled his asylum on the orders of Emperor Maximilian II.

At the invitation of the City Senate of Antwerp, Flacius moved there for a brief time, staying long enough to write a confession of faith for the Lutherans of the Low Countries. He was then in Strasbourg from 1567 to 1573. There he completed his final large work, the Glossa compendiaria, a commentary on the New Testament. He died at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1575.

Many would call Matthias Flacius' hermeneutical works his most important achievements and he certainly was a pioneer in the field. His Clavis Scripturae Sacrae (Key to Sacred Scripture) established that any passage of the Bible should be interpreted considering the purpose and the structure of the whole chapter or a given book. It also declared the rule that the literal sense of the text should have a priority over allegories and metaphors. He also contributed much to Church history and dogmatics. As overall proof of his learning and scholarship, we note that Flacius likely owned the single largest private collection of books during the 16th Century.

Matija Vlačić Ilirik Silesian and Swabian pastors asked Matthias to refute Caspar Schwenckfeld, who taught that "the inner word of the spirit must be differentiated from the external word spoken by the preacher; that the living Word of God is not the Scriptures but Christ, and that the Scriptures must be interpreted spiritually." This appeal to a subjective understanding and acceptance of an inner word hidden in the hearts of believers rather than the divinely inspired and clearly stated external Word went against all he'd learned from the reformers on the literal sense of the text. Of Schwenckfeld's spiritualizing of the Bible, Flacius said, "Spiritual exegesis [explanation] fits Scripture like a fist fits into an eye."

In all of his theology, Flacius tried to stay loyal to Luther, particularly the Reformer's emphasis on the bondage of the will. Unfortunately, his often abrasive style and his extreme position on original sin alienated many other staunch Lutherans. Because of this, his name fell into neglect and an undeserved degree of disrepute among many confessional Lutherans, even to the present day.

Additionally, he was a Croatian with Italian manners and mannerisms whose German was never good enough for those among whom he worked. In other words, Matthias Flacius Illyricus failed to fit in among his contemporaries in almost every way imaginable. However, we cannot underestimate his influence in preserving, promoting, and expounding the theology of the Lutheran Reformation.

In 1878, biographer Johann Wilhelm Preger eulogized Flacius: "A man of resolute courage, insuperable strength, possessing a wide-ranging knowledge one rarely encounters, with a broad vision and an industrious spirit."

Notes: See the Matthias Flacius Illyricus Memorial Collection on the Internet Archive for an extensive resource of things Flacius. Magdeburg Press sells How to Understand the Sacred Scriptures, a translated portion of the Clavis Scripturae Sacrae. Illyricus comes from the name of the former Roman province of Illyricum, which included his homeland. I also recommend Oliver K. Olson's book Mattias Flacius and the Survival of Luther's Reform. Flacius is not on the LCMS calendar of commemorations but is part of my ongoing addition of noted Lutherans and other Christians to a list of those I consider worthy of the Church's remembrance.

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07 March 2017
  + Perpetua and Felicitas and Their Companions +
7 March AD 203

The Arena At the dawn of the Third Century, Roman emperor Septimus Severus banned conversions to Christianity. Among those disobeying that edict were Vibia Perpetua, a young noblewoman, and her maidservant Felicitas. Both were jailed at Carthage in North Africa along with three fellow Christians, Saturus and his pupils Revocatus and Saturninus.

Perpetua and at least some of the others had not completed catechesis and weren't yet baptized when arrested. Evidently, they received Holy Baptism before being taken to prison. She was also a new mother and a fairly recent widow. Felicitas (or Felicity) was near the end of her own pregnancy when arrested.

During their imprisonment, Perpetua and Felicitas witnessed to their faith with such conviction that the officer in charge became a follower of Jesus. For some time, doubts remained about their fates, but Perpetua had a vision of a golden ladder guarded by a fierce dragon. She climbed it, stepping on the dragon's head to do so. At the top, she found a green meadow with many white-robed figures. In their midst stood a Shepherd, who welcomed her and gave her cheese from the sheep's milk. She awoke understanding that martyrdom was assured but that she would triumph.

Kiss of Peace Perpetua's father came to plead that she recant her confession of faith and renounce Jesus Christ. This she steadfastly refused.

Roman law forbade the execution of pregnant women and Felicitas feared that Perpetua and the men being held at the same time would face martyrdom but leave her behind. However, she gave birth two days before the scheduled execution and was allowed to join her companions in the arena on 7 March.

The women first made arrangements for the well-being of their children. This was possible because the imperial decree only concerned recent converts to Christianity (or Judaism). Since those entrusted with their children's care were believers of long standing, they were safe from persecution, at least for the time being.

The accounts say that the five were first scourged at the crowd's urging. Then the men faced a boar, a bear, and a leopard while a wild cow was set against the women. After they were all injured, Perpetua and Felicity exchanged the kiss of peace before the Romans put them to the sword. One tradition holds that Perpetua showed mercy to her captors by guiding the sword of a trembling young gladiator to her own heart because he could not bear to put her to death.

The martyrs were interred in Carthage in North Africa and the story spread throughout Christendom. Later, a basilica was erected over their tomb. The story of the martyrdom of Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and their faithful companions has served for centuries as encouragement to persecuted Christians.

Lection

Psalm 34:1-8 or 124
Hebrews 10:32-39
Matthew 24:9-14

Collect

O God the true Emperor of Your saints, who strengthened Your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial, grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

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03 March 2017
  + John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony +
3 March AD 1554

Johann Friedrich I John Frederick (Johann Friedrich), eldest son of John the Steadfast and nephew of Frederick the Wise of Saxony, was born in Torgau on 30 June 1503. He earned the appellation "John the Magnanimous" (der Grossmütige) because of his generous spirit and gracious bearing during trials.

John Frederick studied under George Spalatin and through him became an early supporter of Martin Luther. In 1530, he traveled to the Diet of Augsburg and joined his father in signing the Augsburg Confession. In 1532, he and his half-brother John Ernest (Johann Ernst) succeeded John the Steadfast He became sole Elector of Ernestine Saxony 1542, ruling until 1547.

Impulsive by nature, he lacked the foresight and forbearance of many politicians and he often ignored the wise counsel of Chancellor Brück, who had also worked under his father. Because of his staunch Lutheranism, he couldn't abide Philip of Hesse's desire to extend the Schmalkaldic League to include Swiss and Strasburg reformers. His personal piety also recoiled at Philip's bigamy and he insisted that the League retain a strict Evangelical (Lutheran) theology.

John Frederick set aside the 1541 election of Julius von Pflug to the see of Naumburg-Zeitz, promoting avowed Lutheran Nicholas von Amsdorf in his stead. In 1542, he unilaterally attempted to introduce the Reformation to the city of Wurzen, a city under the joint protection of Electoral and Ducal Saxony. This antagonized Maurice, Duke of Saxony. Only the efforts of Luther and Philip of Hesse were able to avert war between the two Saxonies.

His suspicious nature led him to doubt the efficacy of councils and colloquies and he neglected to attend diets and other meetings where he might have gained support and built alliances.

As Charles V prepared his attack on the Schmalkaldic League, John Frederick was misled and reacted slowly to the Emperor's threat. When the Schmalkaldic War broke out in July 1546, he took his army from Saxony to engage the imperial forces but returned when Maurice, who had joined with Charles V, invaded Electoral Saxony. He was able to repel Maurice and retake most of his lost lands but then suffered defeat at the hands of imperial forces at Mühlberg on 24 April 1547.

Charles V initially condemned him to death for his part in the rebellion against the Holy Roman Empire. However, the sentence was commuted to life in prison when Wittenberg surrendered. Maurice released him in 1552 after he defeated and drove off Charles V. However, his title remained in Maurice's hands.

To the end, John Frederick refused under any circumstances to renounce or compromise his Evangelical understanding of Scripture and his complete adherence to Lutheran doctrine.

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01 March 2017
  + Saint Dewi of Mynyw +
1 March AD 601

Saint David of Wales Dewi Sant (also Degui or David), Bishop and Confessor and patron of Wales, is usually represented standing on a little hill, with a dove on his shoulder. From ancient times, the Welsh have worn a leek on St. David's Day in memory of a battle against the Saxons. There, it is said they wore leeks in their hats at St. David's advice, to distinguish them from their enemies. The Welsh honor him not only as their patron saint but as special evangelist of their land, just as Pádraig holds that honor for Ireland.

The earliest mention of St. David is found in a tenth-century manuscript, the Annales Cambriae, which assigns his death to AD 601. Many other writers, from Geoffrey of Monmouth down to Father Richard Stanton, hold that he died about 544; their opinion is based solely on data given in various late "lives" of St. David, and there seems no good reason for setting aside the definite statement of the Annales Cambriae, which is now generally accepted.

Speculation that he was born at Henvynyw (Vetus-Menevia) in Cardiganshire is not improbable. He was prominent at the Synod of Brevi (Llandewi Brefi in Cardiganshire). Dewi was active in refuting heresy in Wales and in promoting Nicene Christology and the orthodox Christian faith.

Flag of Saint DavidAccording to tradition, Saints Dubricius and Deiniol sought him out, calling him to the Synod of Brevi "against the Pelagians."* Only with great difficulty was Dewi persuaded to accompany them, since he preferred the quiet monastic life. However, once he arrived at the Synod, he preached so loudly and so eloquently that all the heretics were confounded. Shortly afterwards, in 569, he presided over another synod held at a place called Lucus Victoriae.

David is the only one of the four patron saints of the British Isles not to be represented on the British Union Jack flag. The Alley's biography for Saint Andrew touches upon each of these and their respective emblems.

*For more information on Pelagianism, please see Pelagius, Part 1 and Pelagius, Part 2 by Pastor Alex Klages.

Lection

Psalm 16:5-11 or 96:1-7
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Mark 4:26-29

Collect

Almighty God, who called your servant Dewi to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales, mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ, we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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  Ash Wednesday
The Lenten Season Begins

The entire Christian life celebrates Christ's victorious Resurrection on Easter morning. However, from Christianity's earliest days, the actual Paschal season has received special emphasis. The Church has traditionally prepared for this, the greatest Feast of our Lord, through the season of Lent.

From ancient times, Ash Wednesday has marked the first day of Lent. There are forty days from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Sundays are not counted because the Sundays in Lent are not fast days; rather, each is a celebration of the Resurrection. The forty days of Lent are reminiscent of the forty days in which rain fell during the Flood, our Lord's forty days and Israel's forty years in the wilderness, Christ's forty hours in the tomb, and related periods of judgment, testing, and completion of divine activities. The Gospel readings of Lent focus on the temptation and trials that Christ underwent on his way to His suffering and crucifixion.

Many people observe Lent by fasting. This can take place in many ways: Physically, we may deny ourselves various foods and pleasures; liturgically, we may omit parts of the Divine Liturgy, such as Alleluias and songs of praise. The Fast increases in depth and seriousness as we move from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week. During the Sundays following Ash Wednesday, we follow our Savior as he puts himself "in harm's way" and prepares for his passion and death. As we continue through the Church Calendar, it is then during Holy Week that we fully focus on his suffering and death.

Along with fasting, two other traditional activities of the early Church remain part of many people's Lenten observance. These are increased prayer and almsgiving. All three of these are mentioned together in the Sermon on the Mount. A portion of this discourse in Matthew is the appointed Gospel in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday receives its name from the ancient custom of rubbing oneself in ashes during a fast or period of penance as a sign of humility and sorrow. In Scripture, we observe this happening among people as varied as Job, the king of Ninevah and the rest of the city, Daniel, and Mordecai.

These days, most believers don't cover themselves in burlap and ashes. Instead, in congregations that follow the old custom, ashes are placed on the believers' foreheads as their pastors say, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." The ashes remind us that we still daily sin and that all our grand and glorious deeds are nothing in God's sight. This is especially illustrated when they are taken from the burning of the previous year's branches used on Palm Sunday. The praises of the people, their "Hosanna to the Son of David" and "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord," have fallen silent and are consigned to the burn pile of good intentions not followed through.

There are others who argue well that ashes are not only unnecessary but counter to the Gospel. It isn't that they deem repentance unnecessary but rather that receiving the ashes often leads people to think that they have done something extra to merit God's favor. Today's Gospel lends credence to this argument, since Jesus tells His hearers, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.... And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.... But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others.... (Matthew 6:1, 16a, 17-18a)"

However we observe Lent, we must take care to not assume a false piety by focusing on self. The believer keeps Lent extra nos (outside of self), following the lead of Hebrews 12:2 and "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Yes, Lent is a time of reflection and repentance. However, it's not intended to keep us looking within. Instead, upon viewing our sins, we then focus on the One who takes them away.

Along with readings and collect, I also include the Litany, a responsive prayer appropriate to days and seasons of penitence.

Lection

Psalm 51:1-13 (14-19)
Joel 2:12-19
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Litany

God the Father, in heaven,
      have mercy.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
      have mercy.
God the Holy Spirit,
      have mercy.
Be gracious to us.
      Spare us, good Lord.
Be gracious to us.
      Help us, good Lord.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation;
   by Your holy Nativity;
   by Your Baptism, fasting, and temptation;
   by Your agony and bloody sweat;
   by Your Cross and Passion;
   by Your precious Death and Burial;
   by Your glorious Resurrection and Ascension;
   and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:

      Help us, good Lord.
In all our time of tribulation;
   in all our time of prosperity;
   in the hour of death; and in the day of judgment:

      Help us, good Lord.
We poor sinners implore You
      to hear us, O Lord.
To prosper the preaching of Your Word;
   to bless our prayer and meditation;
   to strengthen and preserve us in the true faith;
   to give heart to our sorrow and strength to our repentance:

      We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
To draw us to Yourself;
   to bless those who are instructed in the faith;
   to watch over and console the poor, the sick, the distressed,
   the lonely, the forsaken, the abandoned,
   and all who stand in need of our prayers;
to give abundant blessing to all our works of mercy;
   and to have mercy on us all:

      We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
To turn our hearts to You;
   to turn the hearts of our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers;
   and graciously to hear our prayers:

      We implore You to hear us, good Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
      we implore you to hear us.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
      have mercy.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
      have mercy.
Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
      grant us Your peace.
O Christ,
      hear us.
O Lord,
      have mercy.
O Christ,
      have mercy.
O Lord, have mercy.
      Amen.

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26 February 2017
  + David Chytraeus +
Born 26 February AD 1530; transferred from 25 June

David Chytraeus David Chytraeus (Chyträus) was born in Ingelfingen, Württemberg on 26 February 1531 to Matthew and Barbara Kochhafe. Kochhafe (German) and χυτρα (Greek) both mean "cook pot" and Chytraeus is a Latinized form of the Greek. It was common at that time for men to take Greek names after becoming noted scholars and young David achieved that status rather quickly.

Around the age of eight or nine, he began to study law, philology, philosophy, and theology at the University of Tübingen. By fourteen, he already held his master's degree and decided to move to Wittenberg in order to study under Philipp Melanchthon and Martin Luther. He became a favorite student of Melanchthon and boarded with him for much of his time there. He also gave great credit for his theological formation to Luther's lectures on Genesis and his sermons.

In 1551, Duke Heinrich V and Duke Johann Albrecht I of Mecklenburg offered him a teaching position at the University of Rostock. The university became his home and he spurned nine subsequent invitations to academic positions elsewhere. His earliest lectures were on classical Greek literature, concerning the works of the historians Herodotus and Thucydides. He began lectures on both the Old and the New Testament in 1553 although he didn't earn his Doctor of Theology until 29 April 1561.

Chytraeus married Margaretha Smedes in 1553. Of their seven children, only two daughters reached adulthood. Margaretha died in 1571 and he married Margaretha Pegel the following year. She bore him two sons, Ulrich and David. Chytraeus was known as a faithful husband and loving father. Doubtless this attitude and behavior was tested by the trials of losing wife and children and his own illnesses but the Lord certainly preserved and strengthened him through the Gospel and taught him a depth of understanding for the Theology of the Cross.

David Chytraeus Most of Chytraeus's adult life corresponded with the flux in Evangelical (Lutheran) theology following the Reformer's death in 1546. Like Martin Chemnitz and other centrists, he appreciated the unswerving confession of the Gnesio-Lutherans on the right but also embraced a more irenic attitude, resembling that of Melanchthon. However, we find no evidence that he ever was tempted à la Melanchthon to surrender key doctrinal points in order to achieve a surface agreement among church factions.

Because of his intellect and his positions in time, geography, and theology, Chytraeus became actively involved in events leading to the development and adoption of the Formula of Concord. In 1574, he completely rewrote the articles on Free will and the Lord's Supper from the Swabian Concord. This work was integrated with the Maulbronn Formula and led to the 1576 Torgau Book. While he completely approved of this confession, he saw it transformed over the next year into the Bergic Book, our present-day Formula of Concord. While he was uncomfortable with the vehemence of some of this book's statements, he still considered it a true and orthodox exposition of Scripture and Luther's teachings and signed it as one of the six theologian co-authors.

While Chytraeus wrote many books, only few have been translated. Two are available through Repristination Press, A Summary of the Christian Faith (translated by Richard Dinda) and On Sacrifice (translated by John Warwick Montgomery).

Generally heralded as "The last of the fathers of the Lutheran Church," David Chytraeus entered eternal rest on 25 June 1600, the 70th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. Because of this date conflict and since the following several days are occupied on the LCMS sanctorial calendar, I've chosen to commemorate him on his birthday.

Jack Kilcrease posted a brief apologetic, David Chytraeus' Proof of Christian Teaching at Theologia Crucis. Biographical references: Nathaniel Biebert at Studium Excitare, the Christian Cyclopedia, and Wikipedia.

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24 February 2017
  + Matthias, Apostle +
24 February, New Testament

St. Matthias After the Ascension of Our Lord, Jesus' followers at Jerusalem chose Matthias to replace Judas: "And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)" Apart from the information given in the first chapter of Acts (vv. 12-26), we know nothing about him.

One extra-biblical account says that Saint Matthias was slain by cannibals in Ethiopia; another traditions claims that he was stoned and then beheaded by Jews in Jerusalem. This account lends itself to his customary representation in religious art: Sometimes the blade from his beheading is superimposed over a book or scroll representing Holy Scripture; at others, he is depicted holding ax or sword himself.

Lection

Psalm 134
Isaiah 66:1-2
Acts 1:15-26
Matthew 11:25-30

Collect

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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23 February 2017
  + Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr +
23 February AD 156

Saint Polycarp Born around AD 69, Saint Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. Said to be disciple of the holy evangelist and apostle Saint John, he provides a link between the first generation of believers and later Christians, including Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who later wrote of him. Saint Ignatius of Antioch also knew and wrote to him. His home town of Smryna (modern Izmir, Turkey) was one of the seven churches addressed in Revelation (see 2:8-11 for the details).

After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was caught up in a local persecution of Christians. While willing to be martyred, others encouraged him to flee. However, he was later arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on 23 February c. AD 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution.

Polycarp of Smyrna According to the ancient records, he was tried solely on the charge of being a Christian. When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: "Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" According the the customary reckoning of his birth and death, this means that he must have been baptized as an infant, raised as a Christian, and lived his entire life as in the Faith. His fidelity follows the encouragement given by the Lord to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (ESV)"

The following prayer is recorded as his immediately prior to the fire being kindled for his martyrdom:

Lord God Almighty, Father of Your blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of You, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in Your presence: I bless You that You have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before You today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as You, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through whom be glory to You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.

Collect

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; 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 February 2017
  + Rasmus Jensen, Chaplain and Explorer +
20 February AD 1620

Danish Coat of Arms In 1619, King Christian IV of Norway and Denmark sent the ships Enhiørningen and Lamprenen in search of the Northwest Passage to India. The crew of sixty-four Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, and Germans was led by Captain Jens Munk, an experienced naval officer. The ship's chaplain was Danish Pastor Rasmus Jensen, who became the first Lutheran minister in the New World.

The explorers journeyed as far as the western shore of Hudson Bay, finally reaching present-day Churchill, Manitoba on 7 September 1620. Winter's cold comes early at that latitude and ice soon trapped them. Scurvy, famine, and brutal cold slowly killed the crew. The captain's journal shows that Jensen delivered a Christmas sermon and celebrated the Lord's Supper.

Not long after, Jensen's health deteriorated. Captain Munk wrote, "On the 23rd of January ... the priest sat up in his berth and gave the people a sermon, which sermon was the last he delivered in this world.... On the 20th of February, in the evening, died the priest, Mr Rasmus Jensen as aforesaid, who had been ill and kept his bed a long time." We know little about Pastor Jensen save for the records of this voyage. No known pictures exist and no records have been found as to his education or prior parish responsibilities.

In July, Captain Munk sailed for home on the Lamprenen with the only two surviving members of his crew. They reached Bergen, Norway on 20 September, seven months to the day after their chaplain's death. Whether or not the harsh winter influenced their decision, Danish Lutherans subsequently concentrated their mission efforts in the much warmer climes of India and the Virgin Islands, particularly Saint Thomas.

Collect

Most gracious God, we thank you for your servant Rasmus Jensen and for all other ministers who accompany Christians traveling to distant, desolate, or perilous places, seeking to minister to those they accompany and to those they meet, sharing their hardships in the name of Him who humbled Himself to share ours, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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18 February 2017
  + Martin Luther, Doctor and Reformer +
18 February AD 1546

Martin Luther Martin Luther, born on 10 November 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512.

As a professor at the newly-established University of Wittenberg, his Scriptural studies led him to question many of the church's teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises.

Of course, Luther didn't work alone. First of all, he knew that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, was principal actor in the Reformation, and said, "While I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends ... the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything." However, his "friends," including Philipp Melanchthon, Nicholas Amsdorf, Johannes Bugenhagen, and others contributed mightily to the cause. Meanwhile, his prince, Frederick III of Saxony, defended him. Finally, he probably received no earthly support greater than that of his beloved wife Katie.

We remember and honor his lifelong emphasis on the Biblical truth that for Christ's sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on 18 February 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.

Please visit Xrysostom for The Life of Martin Luther: A Chronology. A number of recommended books and web sites are included along with this biographical outline.

Lection

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect

O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour our Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; 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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17 February 2017
  + Michael Praetorius +
15 February AD 1621, transferred to 17 February

Michael Praetorius Lutheran musician, composer, and musicologist Michael Praetorius (Prätorius) was born in Kreuzburg, Thuringia to Pastor and Mrs. Michael Schultheis (or Schultze), on 15 February 1571. Praetorius was a Latinization of the family name and Michael later favored the monogram MPC (Michael Praetorius Creutzbergensis). While still a boy, he began studying philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, where his brother Andreas was a professor.

Praetorius became organist at Frankfurt and later held the same post at Lüneburg. In this latter town he began his career as Kapellmeister. While only 18, he began serving Herzog Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel as a minor member of his court. In 1604, Praetorius became the prince's Kapellmeister and organist. He was also appointed honorary prior of the Ringelheim Monastery near Goslar but wasn't required to stay there. He died at Wolfenbüttel on 15 February 1621.

Praetorius was, by all accounts, an accomplished musician and certainly a prolific composer. He also involved himself in the study of musical art and practice. His major work in this field was The Syntagma musicum, "not a piece of music but a scholarly historico-theoretical masterpiece." Of this, he completed three volumes. The second volume of this work is the most elaborate and valuable treatise on instruments and instrumental music from the 16th Century and is considered one of the most remarkable examples of musical scholarship in existence. The planned but uncompleted fourth volume was to have involved counterpoint and we can only wonder how much of the history of that topic we lost with his death at age fifty.

Musarum Sioniarum Among his other titles were Musae Sioniae, a compendium of over 1200 chorale and song arrangements published in nine parts, and Hymnodia Sionae. The 1612 Terpsichore, his sole surviving secular work, is a collection of more than 300 instrumental dances.

His harmonization of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming) remains popular. He also arranged and composed the beautiful Mass for Christmas Morning.

His compositions and arrangements generally show a strong Christian faith filtered through his passionate Lutheran understanding of Scripture, grace, and faith. He helped move music from the late Renaissance into the early Baroque and forms the first half of a pair of Lutheran bookends to that period, the latter being J. S. Bach.

I chose to transfer his commemoration to this date since his birth and death both fell on 15 February, when the LCMS commemorates Philemon and Onesimus. The days adjacent are already reserved for Saint Valentine (the 14th) and Philipp Melanchthon (the 16th).

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16 February 2017
  + Philipp Melanchthon +
16 February AD 1497 – 19 April AD 1560

Philipp Melanchthon Philipp Melanchthon, a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar, was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg in 1518. At Luther's urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies.

In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. Thus, he made the primary verbal and written defenses of the Evangelical (Lutheran) position.

We especially remember and honor him as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on 25 June 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom. Following the Roman Catholic response, Melanchthon wrote the Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession.

Unfortunately, Melanchthon's desires for peace within Christendom led him to later rewrite and weaken some of the Augsburg Confession's language. The resulting Variata were palatable to some who disagreed with certain Lutheran teachings and allowed for false teaching to infiltrate Lutheranism. Ask the Pastor details some of this in a post on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.

Lection

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect

O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour our Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Note: We commemorate Philipp Melanchthon's birth date because his death date often conflicts with Holy Week or Easter observances.

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15 February 2017
  + Philemon and Onesimus +
15 February, New Testament

Onesimus and Paul Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. While the name "Onesimus" means "useful," Onesimus proved himself "useless. (Philemon 11)" He ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (v. 18).

Somehow, Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome). Perhaps he knew that Paul and Philemon had a friendship and went to Paul in order to protect himself from harsh treatment should he be returned home.

In any event, through Paul's proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After Onesemus confessed to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, Paul directed him to return to his master and become "useful" again, as Paul had already determined him to be (v. 11).

In order to help pave the way for Onesimus' peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and to "receive him as you would receive me (v. 17)" Paul encouraged Philemon to think of Onesimus "no longer as a slave ... but as a beloved brother. (v. 16)"

The letter was eventually included by the Church as one of the books of the New Testament.

Those looking to Scripture for a definitive statement on slavery find mixed messages in this brief epistle. While Paul seems to urge Philemon in the direction of treating Onesimus as a freedman, he certainly leaves open the option that Onesimus might be returning to slavery, albeit in a much-improved situation.

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14 February 2017
  + Saint Valentine, Martyr +
14 February A.D. 270(?)

St. Valentine Details of ancient Christianity are sketchy since for much of the Church's early years, it was a crime to be a Christian and records were hidden or kept purposely incomplete to protect believers. Thus, the story of Saint Valentine, as well as those of many others ancient believers, must be pieced together from fragmentary evidence.

Some ancient accounts record a physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius II. This Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. It seems that his main "crime" was joining couples in marriage. Specifically, Valentine married Roman soldiers. Evidently, Claudius thought that single men made better soldiers while Valentine and the Church resisted the immorality of less-permanent relationships.

The commemoration of his death, thought to have occurred during the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early Western Church. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer. The note was written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper which suggested the shape of a heart. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine's Day in many nations.

Lection

Psalm 95:1-7a
Ezekiel 18:1-9
1 Peter 4:12-19
John 2:1-11

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr Valentine, grant to us, Your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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13 February 2017
  + Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos +
13 February, New Testament

Priscilla and Aquila Aquila and his wife Priscilla (Prisca) were Jewish contemporaries of Saint Paul. They traveled widely, perhaps in part for business reasons but later certainly because of unrest and persecution in Rome. They went to Corinth and met the apostle, who joined them for a time in the tent-making trade (Acts 18:1-3).

Priscilla and Aquila, in turn, teamed with Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with him from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18), where the two of them established a home that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity.

Apollos, an eloquent man, was one of their numerous Jewish pupils in the faith: "Being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus. (Acts 18:25)" Apollos later traveled from Corinth to the province of Achaia, where he showed "by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:28)"

We especially remember these three for their great missionary zeal.

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10 February 2017
  + Silas +
10 February, New Testament

Silas and Paul Saint Paul chose Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia (Acts 15:40). Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) and experienced the riots in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) and Berea (Acts 17:10-15).

They were apart for some length of time, after which he rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). Apparently, he remained there for an extended period.

One account stands out for most readers of the New Testament. The time Paul and Silas shared in the Philippian prison gave them a special opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. God freed their bonds during an earthquake but they refused to escape and instead saved their jailer from committing suicide because of his responsibility for them. The Lord used these two and the surrounding events to witness to the jailer about His love and forgiveness through Christ Jesus. Working through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit brought him and his household to faith in Jesus and led them to be baptized.

Aside from these accounts, the Scriptures record little else about Silas and his relationship with Paul.

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