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+ Jerome, Scholar, Translator, Theologian +
30 September AD 420
Saint Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus
), translator of Holy Scripture, was born in a little Dalmatian village on the Adriatic Sea around the year AD 345. Although he came from Christian parents, he wasn't baptized until he went to study in Rome in about AD 360.
After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. However, the time spent there convinced him that the life of a hermit monk was not for him and he pursued holy orders and advanced education.
After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople (where he studied under Gregory of Nazianzus
), Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time.
Jerome chose to use "street" or "vulgar" Latin rather than its classical form. Thus, his translation was called the Vulgate
(from its vulgar Latin) and was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church for over 1,000 years.
A man of considerable brilliance, Jerome could also be argumentative, arrogant, dogmatic in trivial matters, and easily swayed by people holding superior office. Yet he also was able to break with the influence of Origen under which he was raised and was a champion of understanding the original languages of Scripture and of exegesis over allegory in interpretation.
In Roman Catholic hagiography, Jerome is patron saint of translators and librarians. His symbol in Christianity is often a pen. In religious art, it isn't unusual to see him portrayed with an odd blend of clothing and trappings ranging from ascetic anchorite
to opulently garbed cardinal
. He is often posed with a crucifix
, a skull, and a Bible.
Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, he is listed with Saints Augustine
, and Gregory the Great
as one of the original Four Doctors of the Western Church
. These four, plus four Eastern theologians, compose the eight Great Doctors of the early Church (see this article on Saint Ambrose
for the entire list).
Jerome died on 30 September AD 420. Originally interred at Bethlehem, his remains were eventually taken to Rome.
More information is available from James Kiefer's Hagiographies
Psalm 19:7-11(12-14) or 119:97-104
2 Timothy 3:14-17
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.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, doctors of the church, hagiography, jerome, patristics, theology, translation
Saint Michael and all Angels
On the Feast of St. Michael and all Angels (or Michaelmas) we thank God for the many ways in which He lovingly watches over us, both directly and indirectly. We also remember that the richness and variety of God's creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.
The angels are referred to as "messengers of God," or simply as "messengers." The word for a messenger in Hebrew is malach
, in Greek, angelos
, from which we get our word "angel."
Michael (the name means "Who is like God?") is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. In the Scriptures, Daniel (10:13
) 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.
Many theologians through the centuries have suggested that Michael is actually a theophany
, a divine manifestation of the Son of God. Reading the passages where he is mentioned doesn't convince me entirely one way or another. The name itself is intriguing: If we answer the question, "Who is like God?" we must say, "No one — except God."
Also, while Christian literature, liturgics, and hymnody is filled with references to archangels, Michael is the only being in Scripture called an archangel. All other "archangel" names come from the Apocrypha or even more spurious writings. The prefix normally means ruling, chief, or principal and can also carry the meaning of a prototype or an earlier model.
We know that Jesus testifies of His Father: He was and remains the principal (arch-) messenger of God's grace. He also preceded the existence of the angels, being alive from all eternity. In fact, He not only is the great messenger of God's Word, He is
God's Word. Thus, understanding the Son as the
archangel, the primary and ruling messenger of the Father is totally congruent with Scripture's revelation.
I say this not to attempt to persuade the reader to accept the idea that Michael is
the Son of God but to open the mind to the possibility that they could be one and the same.
As for the angels, there are numerous times and places where they are mentioned. Yet all the spirit beings who serve God are not called angels by Scripture. While we often in our thinking lump them together, a number of distinct created beings exist.
When reading the Pauline epistles, many early theologians took as titles some of the descriptive language he used in writing of the spiritual realm. They came up with nine "choirs" or ranks of angels, normally grouped in three triads. Their order varied among the different commentators. For example, Pseudo-Dionysias
ranked them (in ascending order) as seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.
Cherubim, seraphim, angels and at least one archangel we know of definitely from the Bible. Whether or not "thrones, dominions, virtues," and the like are also specific creatures or whether they're rather general characteristics of the spirit beings, these lists appear to have identified the "four living creatures
" mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation as cherubim.
These lists have made it into our liturgy, where the Communion Preface speaks of "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven." They've also been incorporated into our hymnody, most notably "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
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
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Matthew 18:1-11 or Luke 10:17-20
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.
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,
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,
Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song,
O friend, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Labels: angel, apocrypha, archangel, cherubum, christianity, christology, feasts, festivals, four living creatures, liturgics, michael, new testament, old testament, seraphim, theology
+ 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 Christ and the Church.
His grandfather, Bořivoj I, Kníže of the Czechs and his grandmother Ludmila
(Ludmilla) were converted by the Lord working through Saints Cyril and Methodius
, the noted missionaries to the Slavic people. After his father Wratislaus (Wratislaw, Vratislav) I died in battle against the Magyars, Wenceslaus was in line for succession. His grandmother's teaching slowly led him into following the teaching of the Christian Church rather than that of his mother Drahomíra the Arrogant, who was a token Christian while her husband lived but then reverted to the old religion upon his death. Wenceslaus's (twin?) brother Boleslaus I
(the Cruel) apparently followed his mother's pagan ways. Their sister Střezislava received the appellation "the Pretty."
After Wratislaus died, Wenceslaus was raised by Ludmila, who reared him in the Faith. Wenceslaus was a minor, so Ludmila governed as regent. A dispute between the fervently Christian regent and Drahomíra drove Ludmila to seek sanctuary near Beroun. Evidently, Wenceslaus's conversion had enraged his mother, who was also trying to gain support among the pagan nobility. Drahomíra purportedly gained revenge by having Ludmila killed by two nobles at Tetin on 15 September 921.
The regency passed to Drahomíra, who evidently gave good account of herself in that area. She strengthened Czech borders against foreign incursions and suppressed the rival Slavnik clan. However, she still worked to reconvert her son to paganism, but Wenceslaus continued practicing Christianity in secret.
Upon attaining his majority, Wenceslaus assumed the rule and exiled Drahomíra. He aided Christianity's spread throughout Bohemia by building churches and cathedrals and also by accepting the influence of the Holy Roman Empire. To the nobles, such behavior threatened both their pagan traditions and Czech sovereignty. He became a vassal of Henry I (the Fowler) of Saxony
in 929. This submission, whether by choice or by force, further increased the hostility of his non-Christian lieges.
Boleslaus gathered some of these disaffected nobles around himself for several overlapping purposes. First of all, Wenceslaus was a threat to their paganism (unlike Wenceslaus, Boleslaus completely agreed with his mother's beliefs). Secondly, they considered Wenceslaus a "sell-out" if not an outright traitor to Czech heritage and governance. Finally, Boleslaus was next in line for the throne — something he strongly coveted.
These factors led the younger brother to invite the elder to a celebration of the Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian
. On the way there, Boleslaus or his henchmen murdered Wenceslaus — the most commonly purported venue being at the very doors of the church toward which they traveled. Bolesaus claimed the title "Prince" — "Duke" being considered recognition of vassalage to the Holy Roman Empire.
Upon the death of Boleslaus I, his son Boleslaus II became Duke of Bohemia. Contrary to the father's nickname "the Cruel," the son embraced Christianity and became known as Boleslav the Pious
. Included among his accomplishments was the establishment of the Bishopric of Prague
Meanwhile, the legend of Wenceslaus continued to grow in the telling. His piety and refusal to abandon Christianity remain part of the story of the Faith. The Church considered him a martyr and purported miracles followed his invocation. Thus, he was canonized as Saint Wenceslaus and remains primary patron of the Czech people and the Czech Republic.
The carol Good King Wenceslas
connects him with the biblical 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.
Labels: biography, bohemia, christianity, church history, commemoration, european history, hagiography, martyrdom, wenceslas, wenceslaus
+ Lancelot Andrewes +
26 September AD 1626
Lancelot Andrewes was born in London in 1555. Possessed of a keen intellect, he studied at Cambridge
, 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.
Active in church and secular politics, especially in their overlap, Andrewes advised James I of England
and was on the committee of scholars responsible of the Authorized Version of the Bible
. Indeed, his name is first on the list of translators, since he both provided translations of early parts of the Old Testament and served as an editor general of the entire work.
Versed in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and eighteen other languages, Andrewes enjoyed popularity during his life for writings. With Bishop Ussher
, these two may have been the most learned and intellectually brilliant churchmen of the day. His apologetic writings included two essays against Robert Bellarmine
. Large collections of his sermons remain and may still be read profitably both by lovers of Christ and by lovers of the English language.
Perhaps one of his finest works was the Preces Privatae
(Private Prayers). The collection was, however, unavailable to contemporaries but were published after his death. Some sections are complete prayers and collects, other appear to be guides to devout meditation. A biography by James Kiefer
includes quotes from the Preces
. These selections from the Thursday prayers emphasize three important happenings on that day — the creation of birds and fish on the Fifth Day of Creation, the institution of the Lord's Supper, the Ascension of our Lord on Easter's 40th day.
Andrewes' impact on English arts and letters extended well beyond his life. T. S. Eliot
considered him a major influence and wrote an essay
in his honor.
Labels: andrewes, bible, biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, english history, hagiography, king james i, kjv, theology, translation
+ Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity +
25 September AD 1392
To 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.
When 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.
The 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.
Sergius'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.
or 33:1-5, 20-21
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.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, european history, hagiography, russia, sergius
+ The Holy Prophet Jonah +
22 September, Old Testament
A 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
). The important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. God spared sinful Nineveh — 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
Labels: biography, christology, commemoration, fish, hagiography, jonah, ninevah, old testament, prophet, resurrection
+ 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
Tax 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
. 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.
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.
Labels: apostle, christianity, christology, evangelist, feasts, festivals, gospels, hagiography, jesus, levi, matthew, new testament
+ Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop and Martyr +
14 September AD 258; Transferred to 16 September
Cyprian (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.
1 Peter 5:1-4, 10-11
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.
Labels: biography, carthage, christianity, church history, commemoration, cyprian, hagiography, martyrdom, patristics
Holy Cross Day
14 September AD 335
During the reign of Constantine the Great
, the first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena
went to Israel, hoping to find the places especially significant to Christians. Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that many modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
, which was dedicated on 13 September 335.
On the next day, the purported section of the cross was brought outside the church for others to view. Thus began a day for recognizing the cross of Christ in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday. It stands as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ's victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32
The day is known by different names in various parts of Christendom. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches know it as "Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross" while the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church calls it the "Triumph of the Cross." Most other liturgical churches simply call it "Holy Cross Day."
The 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
; and 14:1
, where the mark on the forehead again protects the faithful few in the day of wrath. There, it is said to be the name of the Lamb and of His Father.
What is the significance of the sign of the cross? In the first place, we often place our initials or other personal mark on something to show that it belongs to us. The cross is the personal mark of Our Lord Jesus Christ, often traced upon our foreheads and hearts at our baptisms. We mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to Him, just as in the book of Revelation, as noted above, the servants of God are sealed or marked on their foreheads as a sign that they are His.
One pastor noted that, if you were telling someone how to make a cross, you might say, "Draw an 'I' and then cross it out." As we make the sign, we first draw a vertical stroke, as if to say to God, "Lord, here am I." Then we cancel it with a horizontal stroke, as if to say, "Help me, Lord, to abandon my self-centeredness and self-will; make Yourself the center of my life instead. Fix all my attention and all my desire on You, Lord, that I may forget my self, cancel my self, abandon myself completely to Your love and service."
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
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.
Labels: christianity, church history, constantine, crucifixion, feasts, festivals, helena, holy cross
+ Zechariah and Elizabeth +
5 September, New Testament
Zechariah (or Zachariah) and Elizabeth were "righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. (Luke 1:6
)" The angel Gabriel greeted Zechariah, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, announcing that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially he didn't believe Gabriel because of their old age. For this, Zechariah became unable to speak.
After their son
was born, Elizabeth named the boy John, which means "Yahweh (the Lord
) is gracious." As friends and relatives sought to change her mind, thinking that he should be named for someone in their family, they asked Zechariah to write down what the boy's name should be. Suddenly, his voice returned and he confirmed his wife's choice.
In response to receiving his son and the return of his voice, Zechariah sang the Benedictus
. This canticle beautifully summarizes God's Old Testament promises and predicts John's work as forerunner to the Messiah, who would be born in three more months (Luke 1:68-79
We remember the faithful and pious examples of Zechariah and Elizabeth and honor them for raising the last great prophet of the coming Christ, Saint John the Baptist
Those familiar with older English language Bibles might remember them slightly differently. That's because the Authorized Version (King James) and some other translations use the Greek form of their names, calling them Zacharias and Elisabeth.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Labels: benedictus, biography, commemoration, elizabeth, gabriel, gospels, hagiography, jesus, john the baptist, new testament, zechariah
+ Moses, Prophet and Deliverer +
4 September, Old Testament
Today we commemorate Moses, who was born in Egypt several generations after Joseph brought his father Jacob and his brothers there to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. Although Joseph certainly delivered Egypt from the effects of the famine, at some later time, a change in regimes brought a change in Egyptian attitude toward the Hebrews in their midst. As this happened, the sons of Israel began to know affliction.
By the time Jacob's descendants had lived in Egypt for 400 years, they were in slavery. Because they were worried about a rapidly expanding population of Hebrews, the Egyptians ordered the Israelites to kill their male children. When Moses was born, his mother had his elder sister put him in a basket and set it afloat among the reeds in the Nile River. Pharaoh's daughter found him and raised by her as her own son (Exodus 2:1-10
). At age forty Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled to Midian, where he worked as a shepherd for most of his exile. There he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian (2:11-22
After another 40 years had passed, the Lord called him through the burning bush to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release Israel from its bondage (Exodus 3
). The Lord appointed his brother Aaron to assist him before Moses came to Pharaoh and told him that the Lord said, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness. (5:1
)" After a series of plagues, the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, the Lord struck down the first-born males throughout Egypt, Pharaoh capitulated, and Moses led them out. Often, Moses and Aaron were aided by their sister Miriam.
At the Red Sea the Egyptian army was destroyed and the Israelites passed to safety on dry land (Exodus 12-15
). At Mount Sinai they were given the Law and then erected the Tabernacle (19ff.
). Because of disobedience, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his own sin of failing to uphold the Lord "as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel" (see Numbers 20:10-13
), although God allowed him to view it (Deuteronomy 34
Before Moses' death, the Lord appointed his faithful assistant Joshua
to assume the mantle of leadership for Israel. It was he who led Israel into Canaan and directed the conquest of many of the hostile peoples who occupied Palestine.
In the New Testament Moses is referred to as lawgiver and prophet. Before his death, Moses promised Israel that the Lord would "raise up for you a prophet like me from among you. (Deuteronomy 18:15
)" This prophecy found fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the Pentateuch
, are attributed to Mosaic authorship.
Q: Who is the world record-holding chiropractor?
A: Moses. He dealt with a million stiff-necked people.
Labels: biography, commemoration, exodus, hagiography, israel, joshua, moses, old testament, ten commandments
+ Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church +
Consecrated Bishop of Rome on 3 September AD 590
Living at a time when political and religious leadership in Europe often depended upon force of arms or strength of will more than the rule of law, Gregory became one of the continent's greatest leaders in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. Born around AD 540, he became Prefect of Rome. In this capacity, he restored economic vitality to his native city following years of political upheaval and invasions by various Germanic tribes.
He later sold all his properties, donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church as a monk. Although he seemed content with the monastic life, his intellectual abilities and theological acumen led him on to ordination, which finally climaxed with his election on 3 September 590 as Bishop of Rome.
In this office, he oversaw growth in church music and liturgical development; the style of liturgical music known as Gregorian Chant
is still used in much of Western Christendom. He also established a church-year calendar still used by many churches in the western World today. His concern for the poor continued and he oversaw the construction of a hospital that served dinner to the underprivileged next to his home.
A chance encounter led to his championing of missionary outreach to northern Europe: After meeting English prisoners in a Roman slave market, he directed a monk and prior of the Monastery of Saint Andrew named Augustine to begin mission work in the British Isles. This man, later known as Saint Augustine of Canterbury
(not to be confused with the better-known Augustine of Hippo
), did much to spread Christianity throughout Britain.
Gregory was the first pope of the Roman Church to come from a monastic background. His book Liber Regulae Pastoralis
(The Book of the Pastoral Rule
) was a standard text until the 20th Century. Church historians consider Gregory to be the last of the Latin Church Fathers and count him among the Doctors of the Church (see the commemoration of Saint Ambrose
for the list of the eight great doctors). The Eastern Church remembers him as Gregory Dialogus in honor of the Dialogues
Gregory died on 12 March AD 604. Rather than keeping the commemoration on his death date (or "heavenly birthday"), the LCMS moved it to the date of his consecration in order to avoid its observation during the penitential season of Lent
Psalm 57:6-11 or 33:1-5, 20-21
1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8
Almighty and most merciful Lord, who raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the people of God and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people, preserve in Your Church the catholic and apostolic faith he confessed, that Your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, european history, gregory, hagiography, music, papacy, patristics
+ Hannah +
2 September, Old Testament
Hannah was the favored wife of Elkanah the Ephraimite. For many years she remained barren, suffering the insults of Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah — even though he said what he could to try comforting Hannah.
Finally the Lord relieved her of her bitterness (1 Samuel 1:6-8
). After she poured herself out in prayer before the Tabernacle, the priest Eli sent her on the way with the promise that the Lord would hear and answer her prayer.
While Scripture gives no indication that Eli even knew the specifics of her petitions, his promise to the distraught woman came to pass and she bore a son, whom she named Samuel
("Heard by God"), "for she said, 'I have asked for him from the Lord
.' (vv. 9-21
After weaning him, Hannah expressed gratitude by returning Samuel for a life of service in the House of the Lord with Elkanah's consent and blessing (1:24-28
). Her prayer of thanksgiving (2:1-10
) foreshadows the Magnificat, the Song of Mary which would be sung centuries later during the Visitation
to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55
The name Hannah comes from the Hebrew word for "grace" or "favor," the same root as the name John. We remember Hannah for joyfully keeping the vow she made before her son's birth. We also praise our God who lavished His favor upon a childless woman and upon the Children of Israel — both through the gift of Samuel.
Labels: biography, commemoration, eli, hagiography, hannah, judges, magnificat, old testament, prophet, samuel
+ Joshua, Son of Nun +
1 September, Old Testament
Joshua, the son of Nun, was first mentioned in Exodus 17:8-16
. The Lord chose him through Moses
to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. According to Exodus 24
, Joshua became close to Moses and accompanied him when he went up Sinai with "Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. (v. 9
)" We know this since Scripture says that after he sent the others down the mountain, "Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. (v. 13
He was devoted to the Lord's Presence in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:11
) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:8
). He and Caleb were the only two "spies" who provided honest reports which fully trusted in the Lord to deliver the Promised Land to His people (Numbers 14:6-9
God later appointed him to succeed Moses as Israel's leader. First, "Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord
has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.' (Deuteronomy 31:7
)" Shortly thereafter, "The Lord
commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.' (v. 23
Joshua eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, directing the capture of Jericho (Joshua 6
), during which he commanded that the lives of the prostitute Rahab and her family be spared (v. 17
). We also remember him for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (24:1-28
), declaring, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
No Israelite should have been at all surprised with Joshua's successes. That's because Joshua is a shortened form of Jehoshua, which means "Yahweh (the Lord
) saves." Through Joshua, the Lord defeated many armies and enemies, established His people in the promised land, and prepared them for their new life as a nation. This name becomes even dearer to Christians when we realize that the name of Jesus
comes from the Greek transliteration of Joshua, "for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12
Labels: biography, christianity, christology, commemoration, hagiography, israel, jesus, joshua, moses, old testament