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

30 September 2007
  + Jerome, Scholar, Translator, Theologian +
30 September AD 420

Saint Jerome by DurerSaint 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.

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, he is patron saint of translators and librarians. His symbol in Christian symbolism 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 and to 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). He 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 2007
  Saint Michael and all Angels
29 September

Saint MichaelOn 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 MichaelMichael (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 MichaelMany 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 MichaelWe 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 possiblity that they could be one and the same.

Saint MichaelAs 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 MichaelCherubim, 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 omitted one class of being in Scripture, the "four living creatures" mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation.

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."

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 2007
  + 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, Kníze (Duke) 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 LudmillaAfter 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' DeathBoleslaus 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 WenceslausMeanwhile, 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 2007
  + 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 AndrewesActive 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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25 September 2007
  + Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity +
25 September AD 1392

Young VarfolomeiTo Russians, Sergius is both a national hero and an example of Russian spiritual life at its best. His posterity reminds us of Joan of Arc with the French or Martin Luther for Germans. He was born in Rostov (Rostoff) around 1314 to boyars Cyril and Maria and baptized Varfolomei (Bartholomew). The family moved closer to Moscow, settling in the village of Radonezh. Varfolomei became Sergius upon taking his monastic vows.

When he was twenty — and after the deaths of his parents — Sergius left his inheritance to younger brother Peter. He joined his elder brother Stephan and began living as a hermit. When Stephan left to head the Pokrovsky monastery at Khotkovo, Sergius soon followed him. Others joined them in what became the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, a center for the renewal of Russian Christianity. Pilgrims came from all Russia to worship and to receive spiritual instruction, advice, and encouragement. At the time, Russians were largely controlled by the neighboring (non-Christian) Tatar (or Tartar) people, a group descended from the Mongol hordes. Sergius rallied the people behind Dmitri Ivanovich, who began an extended process of moving the Russians out from under Tatar rule.

The Blessing of DmitriWhen Mongols under Mamai moved on Moscow, a Muscowian army, led by Dmitri, repulsed the invasion. Mamai escaped, established pacts with the Lithuanians and with Oleg, Kniaz of Rjazan, and led a larger force upon Moscow in 1380. Sergius blessed Prince Dmitri with the words, "Go fearless prince and believe in God's help." Dmitri led the Russians to victory at the Battle of Kulikovo, thus hastening the establishment of an independent Russia.

Despite his exhortations to battle and blessings upon prince and soldiers, Sergius possessed a winsome personality and was a gentle man. Accounts bear strong resemblance to those told of Francis of Assisi, including a special affinity which he and animals held for each other. He had the ability to inspire in men an intense awareness of the love of God, and a readiness to respond in love and obedience. Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow loved Sergius as a friend, entrusting him with such important tasks as peacemaking between rancorous princes. Despite rubbing shoulders with the wealthy and powerful, he remained close to his peasant roots. One contemporary said of him, "He has about him the smell of fir forests." To this day, his effect on Russian devotion remains considerable.

Holy Trinity MonasteryThe life and work of Venerable Sergius have a special place in the history of Russian monasticism. His cloister served as an example of secluded ascetic life for later monasteries. Starting from scratch, the monastery first needed almost everything: Chasubles were hand painted, chalices were made of wood, they burned splinters instead of candles for light in church. Still, devotees were zealous and Sergius was a model of asceticism, deep humility, and staunch faith in God's help. He was a true leader in work and services and the monks followed his example.

The blessing of Dmitri and the prince's subsequent success encouraged Russian nobles to contribute to the support of Holy Trinity Monastery. In the following years, peasants started settling nearby. Because of its location near a main road to Moscow and points north, it gained even greater financial support. Increased income to these ascetics meant increased giving, leading the monks of Holy Trinity to follow the example of the Kiev-Pechora monastery in generous almsgiving and the provision of shelter and support for sick and traveling people.

Saint SergiusSergius's renown spread as far abroad as Constantinople, from whence Patriarch Philotheus sent him his blessing. The patriarch also produced a written endorsement decreeing that monasteries under Sergius would henceforth use the new rules of community cloister life established by the founder of Holy Trinity.

Two major convents on the outskirts of Moscow preserve the recollection of the freedom for which he urged Dimitri to fight. One is the fortress of the Donskoi Monastery, under the Sparrow Hills. The other is the Simonov Monastery on the banks of the Mosqua — a place of beauty chosen by the saint himself and established in 1370 by monk Feodor, a nephew and disciple of St. Sergius.

When eighty-four year old Metropolitan Alexis knew his life was ending, he desired to give Sergius his blessing while also appointing him as successor. But the humble monk, in great alarm, declared that he could not accept the honor. Saint Sergius died at an extremely advanced age in 1392, to the almost universal sorrow of the Russian people.

Suggested Collect

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through His poverty might be rich, deliver us, we pray, from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of Your servants such as Sergius of Moscow, may serve you with singleness of heart, attaining to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Suggested Lection

Psalm 34:1-8 or 33:1-5, 20-21
Ecclesiasticus 39:1-9
Matthew 13:47-52

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23 September 2007
  Archbishop Burke, Abortion, and "Communion Cops"

Archbishop BurkeAccording to a Religion News Service article at the Pew Forum, Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke of Saint Louis has strengthened a call he made in 2004, while still Archbishop of La Crosse, to deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians. Already in 2004, he said that it is gravely sinful for Catholic politicians to support abortion rights and euthanasia. He was the one who spearheaded a group saying that if John Kerry presented himself at the Mass, he would deny the pro-choice Democrat the Sacrament.

In 2007, with another presidential election looming, he's upped the ante. Instead of speaking of people "gravely sinning," Burke introduced mortal sin in the discussion. And while he's concerned with the sins of those voting to keep or expand abortion rights, his emphasis has shifted to warn those who allow these politicians to commune at Catholic altars.

For Burke, it's a given that the politicians are already in a state of mortal sin. Since this is so, his impeccable logic and years of experience in canon law have led him to say that those distributing the Eucharist "are held, under pain of mortal sin, to deny the sacraments to the unworthy," since "church discipline places an obligation on the minister of Holy Communion to refuse Holy Communion to persons known, by the public, to be in mortal sin." Noting this, it's easy to understand why so many recent news and blog headlines are mentioning "Communion cops."

Already Burke holds the enthusiastic support of the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus. According to RNS, the editor of First Things calls Burke's article "a scholarly tour de force." We'll see how this all plays out through the coming months. For one thing, the Roman church's episcopal government frowns on lower ranking clerics going against their superiors — so what will happen when a parish priest goes against his bishop or a lay assistant defies his priest and refuses to commune a known abortion supporter? Rome doesn't like anarchy. Of course, Rome also doesn't like killing the unborn, the weak, and the helpless. Hmm.

Perhaps Burke will be able skirt such problems by rallying more archbishops and bishops to his cause this time around. And if the Vatican strongly backs him and the pope issues a pastoral letter along similar lines, dissent largely would be checked.

We see fairly strong institutionalized opposition to the pro-death people in Catholicism and Lutheranism and in varying degrees in some other Christian bodies. Would that more of Christendom would so plainly understand both sin and admission to the Lord's altar — and once having a good understanding, do something about it!

HT: Originally spotted by Mrs. Vark in the Faith section of the Kansas City Star.

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22 September 2007
  + The Holy Prophet Jonah +
22 September, Old Testament

JonahA singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour's walk from Nazareth. His prophetic ministry involved a call to preach at Nineveh, capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:1-2). His reluctance to respond and God's insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah's name.

Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, the book address it in only three verses (Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 10). The important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. God spared sinful Ninevah — for a time. Eventually, their evil returned and brought about their eventual destruction.

The Lord also dealt mercifully with sinful Jonah who resisted God's call and fled toward Tarshish to escape it, who resented the Lord graciously saving the savage Assyrians, and who sat and sulked about their deliverance, saying, "I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. (Jonah 4:2)"

Jonah's three day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41).

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21 September 2007
  Last Call for BBOV Updates

Over the next few days, I hope to catch up on applicants, sycophants, and others whose blogs have either been recommended or which I've found whilst on my way to something else. So if you or someone you know might belong on the Big Blogroll O' Vark®™©, please let me know posthaste, por favor. How? Just reply to this post by Sunday evening, Middle of America Time.

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  + Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist +
21 September, New Testament

One day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, "Follow Me." Matthew stood up and followed Him, becoming one of His twelve apostles (see Matthew 9:9-13; parallels Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-32).

Saint MatthewTax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people). Nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government and doubly hated them if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, betraying their own people for money.

Throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus. They — as well as social outcasts and sinners in general — were shown that the love of God through His Son extended even to them.

The word Gospel comes from the Old English god-spell, or good tidings. The New Testament's Greek speaks of the euangelion (ευαγγελιον), a "good message." In English, this "Evangel" gives us words like evangelism and evangelist. From it we also received "Evangelical," which means "of or pertaining to the Gospel," via Germany. There, it was first applied to Martin Luther and his compatriots and later co-opted by the Calvinists and others.

Certainly Matthew and his companions freed of sin and guilt by Jesus experienced this Good News — as do all others who trust in the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. The word angel is related, for an angelos (αγγελος) is a messenger.

The name "Matthew" means "gift of the Lord." Mark and Luke, in the story of his calling, name him "Levi." Perhaps this was his original name, and he received a new name from Jesus when he became a disciple. Perhaps he was a member of the tribe of Levi. Of Matthew's life after Pentecost, the Scriptures tell us nothing. Later accounts vary: Some report that he was martyred, others that he died a natural death. The Christian community since early times has commemorated him as a martyr.

Matthew's symbol in religious art is often a winged man, such as shown here. This representation comes from the visions of Ezekiel and John of the four living creatures around the throne of God (see examples in Ezekiel 1:5-14 and Revelation 4:6-11). While there is some variation in Christendom, we most often find the man standing for Matthew since his narrative begins with Jesus' human genealogy of Jesus. Also, Matthew often quotes Christ speaking of Himself as "the Son of Man." The lion represents Saint Mark, whose narrative begins with John the Baptist crying out in the desert, perhaps as a lion roars in the wilderness. The ox, a sacrificial animal, stands for Saint Luke, whose narrative begins in the Temple and is woven throughout with Jesus pointing Himself toward His own sacrificial death. Finally, the eagle often represents Saint John. John begins his narrative in Heaven with the eternal Word of God while also writing the Fourth Gospel in a soaring style.

Lection

Psalm 119:33-40
Ezekiel 2:8-3:11
Ephesians 4:7-16
Matthew 9:9-13

Collect

O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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16 September 2007
  + Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop and Martyr +
14 September AD 258

Cyprian of CarthageCyprian (Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus) was born around AD 200 in the north African city of Carthage to a well-established pagan family. Most scholars believe that he came from either Punic or Berber stock. That he was of the privileged class may be shown, in part, from his place of death: He was martyred in his own villa.

After receiving a quality (albeit pagan) education, Cyprian became a Christian and was baptized sometime between 245 and 248. He passed quickly through the ranks of clergy, being ordained in short order as deacon, then presbyter. Election and consecration as Bishop of Carthage followed in short order, sometime during 248 or 249. This delighted the poor of the community, who'd benefited greatly from Cyprian giving away much of his wealth after his baptism, but a party in the Carthage church opposed him throughout his episcopacy.

During the persecution of Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. During his absence, some accused him of cowardice or lack of faith while others defended him for remaining alive to help govern the church. His own testimony was that he acted as God willed him to do through visions and divine commands. From hiding, he remained a faithful ruler of his flock, acting through a deacon brave enough to carry his words back to Carthage.

Upon his return from exile, Cyprian had to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. He decided that they could be restored, but that restoration would come only after a period of penance demonstrating their faithfulness. During the following years, Cyprian also became part of the debate over the efficacy of baptism administered by heretics. While some said only the form was essential, Cyprian claimed that even if all the words and actions were correct, it was no baptism if administered outside the Church. Therefore, Cyprian directed that any who were baptized in heretical sects would be given Christian baptisms before being joined to the Church. A majority of the North African bishops agreed with him, but this rigorous interpretation of dogma was later moderated by the Church.

His position in the matter of heretic baptisms places him squarely among many North African theologians of the period. He seems to be a way station between the strictness of Tertullian and the even more extreme doctrinal interpretations of the Donatists, who concerned themselves with the efficacy of the Lord's Supper being administered by a priest who lapsed or recanted the faith during times of persecution.

During persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian first went into hiding and later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. According to witnesses, his only words upon hearing the death sentence pronounced were, "Thanks be to God!"

Besides fulfilling his pastoral and episcopal obligations, Saint Cyprian gave himself to theological writing. His most noted work was De unitate ecclesiae, where he professed belief in one episcopate — not that of Rome, but of the Church at large — as the foundation of the Church. In this treatise he wrote, "He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; ... he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ." In the same work, he also said, "Nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church." Unlike some of his contemporaries, especially those who may have acted out of jealousy over his popularity, most modern scholars and average Christians who study him are left with a quite favorable impression of the man.

Note: The liturgical calendar of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod transfers the commemoration of Saint Cyprian to this day since 14 September is Holy Cross Day. This is in line with the practice of much of the Christian Church.

Lection

Psalm 23 or 116:10-17
1 Peter 5:1-4, 10-11
John 10:11-16

Collect

Almighty God, who gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world and courage to die for this faith, grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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14 September 2007
  Holy Cross Day
14 September AD 335

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lection

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

Collect of the Day

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

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10 September 2007
  Lutheran Carnival Sixty-three

The Moose Report hosts Lutheran Carnival LXIII. For some reason, it's been renamed Lutheran Carnival XVIII. Anyhow, there's some good stuff there. Also, check out the new call for hosts at the Mother Ship (available dates begin just in time for someone to grab Dia de los Muertos or, if you wish, All Souls' Day).

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07 September 2007
  The Liberal Backslider



Thanks to Smart Pastor for this YouTube Friday pass-along post.

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