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+ John the Steadfast, Elector of Saxony +
30 June AD 1468; transferred from 16 August*
The first Protestants weren't Martin Luther
and his fellow theologians. Instead, the word was originally applied to the German rulers who opposed the imperial laws adopted at the Second Diet of Speyer
in 1529. Chief among these protesters was John, Elector of Saxony, who thereby gained a reputation as the first and foremost Protestant.
Although John is not well-known outside of Lutheran circles, he should be. He earned the title John the Steadfast (Johann der Beständige
) for his steadfast confession and defense of the Evangelical (Lutheran) doctrine and its pastors and theologians. Without his unshaken conviction that Luther's teaching was true and his steadfast actions in defense of the Reformation probably there would be no Lutheran nor Protestant churches today. Without John's protection, Luther likely would have experienced the same fate as Jan Hus
, who was burned at the stake at the Council of Constance. Without John's wisdom in political affairs, the Lutherans in Germany might have been murdered like the 70,000 French Calvinists
on Saint Bartholomew's Day
German Lutherans maintain special remembrance of the role that John the Steadfast played in defending their religion. The Wittenberg Castle Church has two prominent tombs today. These are not the graves of Luther and Philipp Melanchthon
, who are buried in front of the pulpit, but the tombs of John and his elder brother, Elector Frederick III
. The electors are buried in front of the altar under huge bronze memorial slabs. They are flanked by alabaster statues, depicting them kneeling in prayer, and by magnificent bronze sculptures of the two electors in ceremonial garb and sword.
John the Steadfast was born on 30 June 1468 at Meissen, a city now known for its famous porcelain. He received a scholarly education, was trained in the arts of the knight, and gained prestige in battles against the Ottoman Turks.
John became an enthusiastic reader of Martin Luther's writings. When the papal bull was published against Luther in 1520, John was responsible for making sure it was not enacted in Electoral Saxony. At the Diet of Worms, his correspondence helped to convince and encourage his brother Frederick the Wise to be more bold in his defense of Luther, resulting in Luther's protection at the Wartburg.
In October 1522, John heard Luther preach sermons at the court of Weimar on the powers and limits of secular authority (German: Von weltlicher Obrigkeit
). These sermons became John's personal political philosophy.
Upon the death of Frederick in May 1525, John became the Elector of Saxony. In those days, the Saxon Elector was second only to the emperor in power and influence in the Holy Roman Empire. Upon his accession, John announced to the clergy of Saxony that, in the future, the pure Word of God should be preached without human addition and that all useless ceremonies were to be abolished. In February 1526, John ratified a treaty with the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, which was soon joined by other Lutheran states. This was the beginning of political organization in defense of the Lutheran church.
John the Steadfast also defended the Lutheran church from economic disaster. The Saxon aristocracy had been appropriating church lands, which had previously been used as capital assets to pay the salaries of clergy, teachers, janitors, maintenance, and capital improvements. John put a stop to this capital drain, ensuring that the church was properly endowed for the present and future. John also assisted Luther and Melanchthon in the reform of the University of Wittenberg, setting a pattern for Lutheran universities until the present day.
The imperial laws adopted at the Second Diet of Speyer in 1529, if enacted, would have resulted in the eradication of the Lutheran religion in the Holy Roman Empire. Along with his allies, John the Steadfast protested these laws. Emperor Charles the Fifth
then challenged the Protestants to defend their new religion and its practices, which they did at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. Their defense is known as the Augsburg Confession
, with its first signature being that of Elector John the Steadfast.
From this history, we learn that the first defenders and confessors of the Lutheran church were laymen. Their spiritual heirs should remember that the Lutheran church cannot survive without laymen who continue to confess and defend this faith.
John the Steadfast met his Savior on 16 August 1532* and was succeeded by sons John Frederick I
and John Ernest (Johann Friedrich
and Johann Ernst
). John Frederick became sole elector of Ernestine Saxony in 1542.
Thanks to Martin Noland for permission to use his article on Elector John posted at Brothers of John the Steadfast
*Transferred to his birthday because the LCMS Calendar of Commemorations remembers the patriarch Isaac on 16 August.
Labels: biography, christianity, church history, commemoration, elector john, hagiography, john the steadfast, lutheranism, martin luther, reformation
+ Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles +
29 June, New Testament
The Confession of Saint Peter
("You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God") is commemorated on 18 January, and the Conversion of Saint Paul
on his approach to Damascus a week later, on 25 January. On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles. The date is the anniversary of a day around AD 258, under the Valerian
persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.
The Scriptures do not record the deaths of Peter or Paul, or indeed any of the Apostles' deaths
except for James the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2
), but they are clearly anticipated (see the readings below), and from an early date it has been said that they were martyred at Rome at the command of the Emperor Nero
, and buried there. As a Roman citizen, St. Paul would probably have been beheaded with a sword. An early tradition claims that St. Peter was crucified head downward.
The present Church of St. Peter in Rome replaces earlier churches built on the same site going back to the time of the Emperor Constantine
, in whose reign a church was built on what was believed to be the burial site of Peter. Excavations under the church suggest that the belief that this is the true home of his burial predates Constantine.
Acts 15:1-12 (13-21)
Merciful and eternal God, from whom the holy apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son, grant that, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we may with like constancy confess Your truth and be at all times ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us; even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, commemorations, feasts, festivals, hagiography, martyrdom, nero, saint paul, saint peter
+ Irenaeus of Lyons, Pastor and Confessor +
28 June AD 200
Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus' return, he became Bishop of Lyons.
His most famous writing is Adversus Haereses
(Against Heresies). This work condemned several errors but focused especially on Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church.
Despite a few stray texts, very little suggests that he did not die a natural death. He was buried in Saint John's Church, Lyon — a congregation later renamed in his honor. Huegenot Calvinists
destroyed his tomb and his remains during in 1522, during a period of iconoclasm
Almighty God, You upheld your servant Irenaeus, giving him strength to confess the truth against every false doctrine; keep us, we pray, steadfast in Your Word and grant us the practice of true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way of eternal life; 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, french history, hagiography, irenaeus, lutheranism, lyons, patristics
+ Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Confessor +
27 June AD 444
Saint Cyril (ca. AD 376-444) became Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt in 412. Throughout his career he defended a number of orthodox doctrines, among them the teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is "rightly called and truly is the Mother of God
" — Theotokos
, "the God-Bearer" (Formula of Concord, Epitome, VIII:12
). In 431 the Council of Ephesus
affirmed this teaching that the Son of Mary is also true God.
The Council was responding to the Nestorian heresy
, which distinguished so completely between the divine and human natures of Christ that claims were made that the divine Christ did some things while the human Jesus did others.
Some of the differences are quite subtle; perhaps even Nestorius himself could not have foreseen the full ramifications of his position, including a "resurrection" of only the divine nature. Ephesus condemned the title of "Christ-Bearer" (Christotokos
) for the Virgin, since the Nestorians would only claim that Mary bore the Christ, but not God Himself.
Cyril receives almost as many brickbats as he does bouquets, even from orthodox Christians, because he's also known for being what one person calls "an ill-tempered, quarrelsome, hasty, and violent man
." This seems especially so during his early years as Bishop of Alexandria.
A particularly acute example of his extreme rigidity comes from his closing of Novatianist
churches, although the Novationists weren't particularly unorthodox. Their "fault" was as much one of pride as of theology — they descended from those who'd stood firm in the persecutions of earlier years and refused to associate or worship with the heirs of those who recanted the Faith under persecution. Their main theological aberration were insisting upon rebaptism of converts from "lapsed" Christianity and an attitude that was, perhaps, less than Christ-like in dealing with erring brothers.
Cyril also ran the Jews out of town. The reason given was that they were seditious and violent, although we're left with little evidence. This action likely contributed to an ongoing feud with Orestes, the imperial prefect. These disagreements seemingly spilled over into a quarrel with the prefect's friend, the neo-platonist scholar Hypatia
, who was later murdered by a mob.
Few have directly condemned Cyril for her death but the leaders of the mob certainly claimed the bishop as their leader. In modern times, Carl Sagan, in his book Cosmos
, blamed Hypatia's death (and the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria) on dogmatic Christianity's desire to root out rational paganism. However, other scholars see the whole feud as an internal Church struggle and no one has yet established a definitive cause (or date) for the final destruction of Alexandria's library
At any rate, and despite the considerable rancor that accompanied his early years as bishop, the mature Cyril worked diligently to reconcile the Nestorian and Orthodox parties. His efforts led many of the less virulent Nestorians back to full communion.
The writings of Cyril on the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ reveal him to be one of the most able theologians of his time. Cyril's Christology influenced subsequent church councils and was a primary source for Lutheran confessional writings. He still speaks clearly to our age, especially as the old Christological heresies are trotted out under new guises.
Heavenly Father, You used Your servant Cyril to confess the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of Your Son being one person with fully divine and human natures. Grant that we, also, might be constant in Your Word, bold in Your confession, and steadfast in Your worship, to the glory of Your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: alexandria, biography, christianity, church history, commemorations, cyril, hagiography, lutheranism, nestorianism, patristics, theotokos
+ The Holy Prophet Jeremiah +
26 June, Old Testament
The holy prophet Jeremiah is counted as one of the four "major prophets" of the Old Testament, along with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. His name means "Established (or Raised up) by Yahweh (the Lord
He was active as God's prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah
ca. 627 to 582 B.C. As he fulfilled his calling, he predicted, witnessed, and lived through the Babylonian siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.
In his preaching he often used symbols such as an almond rod (Jeremiah 1:11-14
), wine jars (13:12-14
), or a potter at work (18:1-17
). His entire prophetic ministry was a sermon, communicating through word and deed God's anger toward his rebellious people. He suffered repeated rejection and persecution by his countrymen. As far as can be known, he died in Egypt, having been taken there forcibly. He is remembered and honored for fearlessly calling God's people to repentance.
Jeremiah also is credited by many as the author of the book of Lamentations
. The book consists of five separate poems, of which the first four are acrostics
consisting of verses whose first words begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In English translations, of course, this style completely disappears.
is an especially well-developed acrostic. There are twenty-two letters in Hebrew and the other chapters have 22 verses. However, this chapter has sixty-six, grouping sets of three verses under each letter of the alphabet. Thus, verses one through three begin with א (aleph
), verses four through six with ב (beth
), seven through nine with ג (gimel
), and so-on down the line. Chapter Five, while not an acrostic, still has 22 verses.
The themes of Lamentations unfold as follows: Chapter 1
treats the fallen and desolate city of Jerusalem as a widow weeping over her loss. Chapter 2
connects her misery with the sins of the nation and her people which brought God's judgment. Chapter 3
expresses hope that the Lord's punishment will result in blessing for His people and affirms His goodness: "The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord
is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.' (vv. 22-24
)" Chapter 4
is a lament on the destruction of city and temple but lays the blame upon the people's sins. The final chapter
outlines the city's continuing troubles and prays that the Lord
will finally restore Zion and not abandon His chosen people, although their sins are great and they certainly deserve it.
The book of Jeremiah similarly proclaims harsh judgment upon persistent sin while also reminding the Lord
's people of His faithfulness. It looks to a time when the need for the Law's commands and punishments will cease and all will be made right. The clearest expression of this thought is in 31:31-34
, where a "New Covenant" of grace is promised, a covenant established by the blood of the coming Messiah: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord
, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord
: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord
,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord
. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Scripture says nothing of how prophet's life ended. Chapter 43
reveals that Johanan took Jeremiah, the prophet's faithful scribe Baruch ben Neriah
, and a remnant of Judean people, to live in Egypt. This directly contradicted the Word of the Lord
Jeremiah had just spoken in Chapter 42
, forbidding such a move and warning of dire consequences. Since Jeremiah 52:31
mentions the reign of Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, many think that he may have been at least 90 years old when he died. Some ancient traditions claim that he was stoned to death in Babylon. Others say that he finally went to Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar's army.
for a hymn stanza written for the Commemoration of Jeremiah
Labels: biography, christianity, christology, commemorations, hagiography, jeremiah, lutheranism, old testament, prophet
The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
25 June AD 1530
Note: Please see Ask the Pastor for more on the history and theology of the Augsburg Confession and its presentation.
The Augsburg Confession
, the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther
and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Philipp Melanchthon
. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone.
Signed by leaders of several German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
at Augsburg, Germany, on 25 June 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession
(1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession
was included in the Book of Concord
An historical sidelight: Because of imperial protocol, Melanchthon wasn't allowed to make — or even attend — the presentation. Instead, two of the Saxon chancellors gave the oral reading and handed the written Latin and German copies to Charles V.
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.
Almighty God, we praise You for those You have sent to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life, including your servant Philipp Melanchthon. Raise up in our own day pastors, teachers, and theologians inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
God's Word Is Our Great Heritage
God's Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way,
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations.
Notes on the Propers:
The suggested readings come from the LCMS
hymnal Lutheran Worship
, as does the first collect. These propers may also used for the Commemoration of the Doctors of the Church, including Luther and C. F. W. Walther
. The second collect is modified from James Kiefer's Hagiographies
Labels: augsburg confession, book of concord, church history, commemoration, german history, lutheran confessions, lutheranism, martin luther, philipp melanchthon
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
24 June, New Testament
This day celebrates the birth of a son to the elderly and previously childless couple Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest. On the eighth day, his parents had him circumcised according the the Law and named him John ("Yahweh is gracious").
John would grow up to be the last prophet of the Old Testament and the Forerunner of the coming Messiah, his younger cousin Jesus. Notice that today's date is six months before Christmas — the Nativity of Our Lord — since the Annunciation
to Saint Mary
came "in the sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy.
The Christian Church remembers Saint John the Baptizer's prophetic ministry and commemorates his martyrdom
on 29 August.
Psalm 85:(1-6) 7-13
Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation; now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Past Elder's post on The Nativity of St. John
has some background material and some interesting notes about the Christian Calendar, the dating of Biblical events, and the kalends
Labels: christology, elizabeth, feasts, festivals, forerunner, gospels, hagiography, jesus, john the baptist, luke, new testament, zechariah
+ The Holy Prophet Elisha +
14 June, Old Testament
After the prophet Elijah
defeated the priests of Baal and then fled Jezebel's wrath, The Lord came to him on Mount Horeb. He told him to anoint new kings of Syria and Israel. He also commanded Elijah to anoint "Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, (1 Kings 19:16
)" a member of the tribe of Issachar, to replace Elijah as the prophet of God to the northern kingdom of Israel ca. 849-786 B.C.
During Elijah's final days on earth, Elisha refused to leave his mentor's side. Elisha asked Elijah to grant him a final blessing, saying, "Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me. (2 Kings 2:9
)" Once he saw the elder prophet taken up into heaven, Elisha took up Elijah's mantle and assumed the prophetic office (2 Kings 2:1-14
Like Elijah, Elisha played an active role in political affairs. He also performed many miracles, foreshadowing the miracles of God's own son. Among these, he cured the Syrian army commander Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-27
), fed a multitude of hungry men (2 Kings 4:42-44
), and restored life to the son of a Shunammite woman (4:8-37
A vocal opponent of Baal worship, Elisha lived up to his name, which means "my God is salvation."
Labels: biography, christianity, commemorations, elijah, elisha, hagiography, lutheranism, old testament, prophet
The Council of Nicaea
Summer AD 325, Observed 12 June
The Christian Church's First Ecumenical Council was convened in Nicaea (modern Isnuk, Turkey) in the early summer of AD 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine
. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The major intended topic was the ongoing Arian controversy.
The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of his righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius
. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Other topics included celebration of the Resurrection and how the date for Easter
would correspond with Passover, the Miletian schism, validity of baptism by heretics, and the restoration lapsed Christians who renounced the Faith under persecution. The Council also established a number of new canons
(Church laws). Enumeration varies, but twenty is the number suggested by the editors of the Early Church Fathers
1. prohibition of self-castration, as done by Origen;
2. establishment of a minimum term for catechumens;
3. prohibition of the presence in the house of a cleric of a younger woman who might bring him under suspicion;
4. ordination of a bishop in the presence of at least three provincial bishops and confirmation by the metropolitan;
5. provision for two provincial synods to be held annually;
6. exceptional authority acknowledged for the bishops of Alexandria and Rome, for their respective regions;
7. recognition of the honorary rights of the see of Jerusalem;
8. provision for agreement with the Novatianists;
9-14. provision for mild procedure against the lapsed during the persecution under Licinius;
15-16. prohibition of the removal of priests;
17. prohibition of usury among the clergy;
18. precedence of bishops and presbyters before deacons in receiving Holy Communion, the Eucharist;
19. declaration of the invalidity of baptism by Paulian heretics;
20. prohibition of kneeling during the liturgy, on Sundays, and in the days of Eastertide.
(Summary from Wikipedia.)
Their version of what we now call the Nicene Creed was almost identical to what is now used in the Church until the third section, where the original ends, "We believe in the Holy Spirit." It fell to the Second Ecumenical Council (First Council of Constantinople)
to add what is now used. Therefore, the confession used in the churches may properly be called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The so-called filioque
(where "and the Son" was inserted after the words about the Spirit proceeding from the Father) was only later added by the Roman Catholic Church and never accepted in the East.
The Council also saw the first major collaboration between Church and state since Christianity began and signaled a rise in imperial influence in affairs of the Church. Constantine called it, presided over the initial session, and, in many respects, set its agenda. While his personal religious beliefs may have been part of his reason, most scholars agree that his main fear was that a divided Christianity would result in a divided Empire. The historical irony is that the Roman Empire fractured before any major schisms in Christendom.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian [catholic] and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life ✠
of the world to come. Amen.
Labels: arius, athanasius, christianity, christology, commemoration, constantine, creed, lutheranism, nicaea, nicene creed
+ Barnabas, Apostle +
11 June, New Testament
"Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:36-37
). Here Scripture makes first mention of Saint Barnabas.
This name given by the Apostles matches what we know of his actions. When Saul of Tarsus (or Paul) came to Jerusalem after his conversion
, most of the congregation wanted nothing to do with him. They knew him only as a persecutor and an enemy of Christ's Church. Barnabas, however, willingly gave him a second chance. He sought him out, spoke with him, and brought him to meet the other Christians, vouching for him.
Later, Paul and Barnabas went on a missionary journey together, taking Barnabas's cousin Mark
along. Part way, Mark turned back and went home. When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out on another such journey, Barnabas proposed to take Mark along, and Paul was against it, saying that Mark had shown himself undependable. Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance, and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another. Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by the "son of encouragement," since we find that Paul later spoke of him as a valuable assistant (2 Timothy 4:11
; see also Colossians 4:10
and Philemon 24
Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
Almighty God, Your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Tags: Saint Barnabas
| St. Barnabas
| Saint Paul
| Saint Mark
| Jesus Christ
| Church Year
| liturgical calendar
| Christian feasts
| historical theology
| Church history
| Bible history
| New Testament
| The Acts of the Apostles
Labels: acts, barnabas, feasts, festivals, missionary, new testament, saint mark, saint paul, saint peter
+ Boniface of Mainz, Bishop, Missionary, and Martyr +
5 June AD 754
The man who later became known as Saint Boniface was born around AD 670-680 at Crediton, Devonshire, England and baptized Winfrid or Wynfrith. Although he was educated, he became a monk — at that time a calling often avoided by people of learning or means. While still in England, he was ordained as a presbyter and was inspired by the example of others to become a missionary.
Upon receiving a papal commission in 719 to work in Germany, Winfrid devoted himself to starting, organizing, and reforming churches and monasteries in Hesse, Thuringia, and Bavaria. After becoming an archbishop, Boniface was assigned to the See of Mainz in 743. Ten years later he resigned his position to engage in mission work in the Netherlands.
His time of activity overlapped the period in which Pippin the Younger
reigned and his work of converting the Saxons to Christianity was seen as a boon for expansion of Frankish rule. Yet Boniface never operated as a pawn of the kingdom of the left hand. Instead, he balanced alliances among the Carolingians, Bavarian rulers, and the papacy and often consecrated bishops who were already his followers in order to keep others from meddling in ecclesiastical affairs.
History isn't clear as to exactly when people began calling Winfrid "Boniface," Latin for "good deeds." However, his entire life gives ample testimony to events which would lead to this appellation.
Among his most famous exploits was the felling of Thor's Oak
, an ancient tree believed sacred to the Nordic and Germanic god of thunder. Accounts from the period relate that when Thor (or Donar/Donner) didn't strike him dead with a lightning bolt, the locals agreed that the Christian God was supreme and agreed to be baptized. In a practical yet also symbolic gesture, Boniface used the wood of the fallen tree in the construction of a chapel in Fritzlar.
On June 5, 754, while awaiting a group of converts for confirmation, Boniface and his companions were murdered by a band of pagans in Friesland. The above picture is a commemorative statue in Dokkum
, The Netherlands — a town near where he was martyred. Erected in 2004, it commemorated the 1250th anniversary of his death. Boniface is known as a great missionary and is sometimes called the "Apostle to the Germans." According to historian Christopher Dawson, no other Englishman had any greater influence upon Europe's history.
Almighty God, who called Your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering raised up a people for Your own possession, pour forth Your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy Name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: biography, boniface, charlemagne, commemoration, friesland, german history, hagiography, martyrdom, missionary, saxony, two kingdoms
+ Justin, Martyr +
c. 1 June AD 167
Born in Flavia Neapolis, Palestine around AD 100, near the close of the New Testament period, Justin was the son of pagan Greek parents. He was a philosophy student who studied in Alexandria, moving from Stoicism to Pythagoreanism and then Platonism as he sought to make sense of life. He converted to the Christian faith and became a teacher in Ephesus and Rome. Justin wrote that his conversion came as he observed the steadfast faith of Ephesian martyrs and through an elderly Christian whom he met along the shore of the sea.
Justin probably wrote much more than we have preserved, but three extant works show his intellect, his never completely abandoned Platonic philosophical education, and his inclination toward apologetics — that is, an intellectual defense of the Faith.
In his First Apology
, addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius and his adopted sons, Justin defended Christianity as the only rational creed. He included accounts of contemporary baptismal and communion rites, quite possibly designed to rebut distorted accounts from anti-Christian sources. Some of these anti-Christian writings claimed that Christians were cannibals (probably because of a distorted second hand understanding of the Lord's Supper).
He addressed his Second Apology
to the Roman Senate. It counters spurious charges of immorality and the like that were being made against Christians. He said that only those who misunderstood the Faith would accuse it of undermining Roman society and countered that Christians made good citizens.
with Trypho the Jewish rabbi shows him at his strength. He carefully defended Christian teaching while allowing that the Church would continue to welcome Jews and would let them remain faithful to the laws of the Torah. While he may have edited it to provide himself with a few good lines, the text reads as a faithful exposition of an actual conversation.
Justin was living in Rome when the cynic philosopher Crescens stirred up trouble for the Christians. After refusing to make pagan sacrifices, Justin was arrested, tried and executed, along with six other believers, including Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus. The official Roman court proceedings of his trial before Rusticius, a Roman prelate, document his confession of faith. The account of his martyrdom
became a source of great encouragement to the early Christian community.
Much of what we know of early liturgical practice comes from Justin. For example, in the First Apology
he gave this brief description of Holy Communion: "On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread and a cup of water mixed with wine are brought to the leader and he, taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things. When the leader has finished the prayers and thanksgivings, the whole congregation assents, saying, 'Amen.' ('Amen' is Hebrew for 'So be it.') Then those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the absent."
Psalm 16:5-11 or 116:1-8
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Almighty and everlasting God, who found Your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and revealed to him the sublime wisdom of Your eternal Word, grant that all who seek You, or a deeper knowledge of You, may find and be found by You; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Labels: apologetics, biography, church history, dialogue, hagiography, justin, liturgics, martyr, martyrdom, patristics, trypho