May 2 – Athanasius

Illumination - Athanasius

Athanasius of Alexandria
Theologian + Doctor+ Bishop
2 May 373

click here for books on Athanasius


 

Other Quotes:

Jesus that I know as my Redeemer cannot be less than God.

He became what we are that we might become what he is.

The Word knew that death was the only way that humanity could be saved from corruption, and yet it was impossible for the Word to suffer death, being immortal and Son of the Father. Therefore, he took on a body capable of death, so that this body, being joined to the Word who is above all, might be worthy to die in the place of all, and might, being inhabited by that Word, remain incorruptible, stopping our own corruptibility from then on by the grace of the resurrection. By offering up this body to death, as a pure sacrifice, he instantly took death away from all his fellow people…

What then was God to do? What else but to renew his image in humanity, so that by that image humans might once more be able to know him? But how could this happen, but by the coming of the very Image of God, our Lord Jesus Christ? By human means it was impossible, since they are only copies of that image; neither could angels achieve it, for they are not God’s images. Therefore the Word of God came in person, so that, being the image of the Father, he would be able to recreate humanity afresh in that image.

A Prayer:

Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servant Athanasius, to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition, trusting solely in the grace of your eternal Word, who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


 

From the Satucket Lectionary

Outside the pages of the New Testament itself, Athanasius is probably the man to whom we chiefly owe the preservation of the Christian faith. He was born around AD 298, and lived in Alexandria, Egypt, the chief center of learning of the Roman Empire.

St. AthanasiusIn 313 the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which changed Christianity from a persecuted to an officially favored religion. About six years later, a presbyter (elder, priest) Arius of Alexandria began to teach concerning the Word of God (John 1:1) that “God begat him, and before he was begotten, he did not exist.” Athanasius was at that time a newly ordained deacon, secretary to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, and a member of his household. His reply to Arius was that the begetting, or uttering, of the Word by the Father is an eternal relation between Them, and not a temporal event. Arius was condemned by the bishops of Egypt (with the exceptions of Secundus of Ptolemais and Theonas of Marmorica), and went to Nicomedia, from which he wrote letters to bishops throughout the world, stating his position.

The Emperor Constantine undertook to resolve the dispute by calling a council of bishops from all over the Christian world. This council met in Nicea, just across the straits from what is now Istanbul, in the year 325, and consisted of 317 bishops. Athanasius accompanied his bishop to the council, and became recognized as a chief spokesman for the view that the Son was fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

The party of Athanasius was overwhelmingly in the majority. (The western, or Latin, half of the Empire was very sparsely represented, but it was solidly Athanasian, so that if its bishops had attended in force, the vote would have been still more lopsided.) It remained to formulate a creedal statement to express the consensus. The initial effort was to find a formula from Holy Scripture that would express the full deity of the Son, equally with the Father. However, the Arians cheerfully agreed to all such formulations, having interpreted them already to fit their own views. (Those of you who have conversed with members of the Watchtower Society, who consider themselves the spiritual heirs of Arius, will know how this works.) Finally, the Greek word “homo-ousios” (meaning “of the same substance, or nature, or essence”) was introduced, chiefly because it was one word that could not be understood to mean what the Arians meant. Some of the bishops present, although in complete disagreement with Arius, were reluctant to use a term not found in the Scriptures, but eventually saw that the alternative was a creed that both sides would sign, each understanding it in its own way, and that the Church could not afford to leave the question of whether the Son is truly God (the Arians said “a god”) undecided. So the result was that the Council adopted a creed which is a shorter version of what we now call the Nicene Creed, declaring the Son to be “of one substance with the Father.” At the end, there were only two holdouts, the aforesaid Secundus and Theonas.

(For a dramatic but historically accurate account of the Council of Nicea, see the play, The Emperor Constantine, by Dorothy L Sayers, available in book form.)

No sooner was the council over than its consensus began to fall apart. Constantine had expected that the result would be unity, but found that the Arians would not accept the decision, and that many of the orthodox bishops were prepared to look for a wording a little softer than that of Nicea, something that sounded orthodox, but that the Arians would accept. All sorts of compromise formulas were worked out, with all shades of variation from the formula of Nicea.

In 328, Alexander died, and Athanasius succeeded him as bishop of Alexandria. He refused to participate in these negotiations, suspecting (correctly as it turned out) that once the orthodox party showed a willingness to make reaching an agreement their highest priority, they would end up giving away the store. He defended the full deity of Christ against emperors, magistrates, bishops, and theologians. For this, he was regarded as a trouble-maker by Constantine and his successors, and was banished from Alexandria a total of five times by various emperors. (Hence the expression “Athanasius contra mundum,” or, “Athanasius against the world.”) Eventually, Christians who believed in the Deity of Christ came to see that once they were prepared to abandon the Nicene formulation, they were on a slippery slope that led to regarding the Logos as simply a high-ranking angel. The more they experimented with other formulations, the clearer it became that only the Nicene formulation would preserve the Christian faith in any meaningful sense, and so they re-affirmed the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople in 381, a final triumph that Athanasius did not live to see.

It was a final triumph as far as councils of bishops were concerned, but the situation was complicated by the fact that after Constantine there were several Arian emperors (not counting the Emperor Julian, who was a pagan, but correctly saw that the most effective way to fight Christianity was to throw all his weight on the side of the Arians). Under one of them Arian missionaries were sent to convert the Goths, who became the backbone of the Roman Army (then composed chiefly of foreign mercenaries) with the result that for many years Arianism was considered the mark of a good Army man. The conversion of Clovis, King of the Franks, in 496, to orthodox Christianity either gave the Athanasian party the military power to crush Arianism or denied the Arian Goths the military supremacy that would have enabled them to crush Athanasian Christianity, depending on your point of view.

Since Alexandria had the best astronomers, it was the duty of the Bishop of Alexandria to write to the other bishops every year and tell them the correct date for Easter. Naturally, his annual letter on this topic contained other material as well. One Easter Letter (or Paschal Letter) of Athanasius is well known for giving a list of the books that ought to be considered part of the canonical Scriptures, with a supplementary list of books suitable for devotional reading.
For the New Testament, he lists the 27 books that are recognized today. (If you will look at your list of New Testament books, you may note that Matthew through 2 Thessalonians were never in dispute, that the next four were subject to relatively little dispute, and that the remaining books had more trouble being accepted. There were also a few books that looked as if they might make the list, but eventually did not, the most conspicuous being the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas.)
For the Old Testament, his list is like that used by most Protestants, except that he omits Esther, and includes Baruch, with the letter of Jeremiah. His supplementary list is Wisdom, Sirach, Tobias, Judith, and Esther. He does not mention Maccabees.

Two quotations from the writings of Athanasius follow:

    We were made “in the likeness of God.” But in course of time that image has become obscured, like a face on a very old portrait, dimmed with dust and dirt.

When a portrait is spoiled, the only way to renew it is for the subject to come back to the studio and sit for the artist all over again. That is why Christ came–to make it possible for the divine image in man to be recreated. We were made in God’s likeness; we are remade in the likeness of his Son.

To bring about this re-creation, Christ still comes to men and lives among them. In a special way he comes to his Church, his “body”, to show us what the “image of God” is really like.

What a responsibility the Church has, to be Christ’s “body,” showing him to those who are unwilling or unable to see him in providence, or in creation! Through the Word of God lived out in the Body of Christ they can come to the Father, and themselves be made again “in the likeness of God.”


 If… it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power. Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.

When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Savior’s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples. How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life?

If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realize that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength. These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to end.

 by James Kiefer

Note: Clicking on the link above will take you to Amazon.com, where you may buy the book if you wish. It appears to be out of print, but should be available used. Further information on Athanasius may also be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

 

May 1 – St. Philip + St. James

Illumination - St. Philip & St. James

Saint Philip and Saint James
Apostles
1 May NT

click here for books on Saint Philip and Saint James


From the Satucket Lectionary

Today we commemorate two of the Twelve Apostles.


The New Testament mentions at least two persons named James, probably at least three, and perhaps as many as eight. This is as good a place as any to sort them out.

(1) JAMES THE GREATER: James the son of Zebedee, called James the Greater or James Major or James the Elder, was one of the Twelve Apostles, and also, along with his brother John and with Peter, belonged to what seems to have been an inner circle of Three. He was killed by order of King Herod, as reported in Acts 12:2. (See M 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; P 1:19,29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2; 10:35,41; 13:3; 14:33; L 5:10; 6:14; 8:51; 9:28,54; A 11:13; 12:2)

St. James Minor, from a 1708 Book of Common Prayer(2) JAMES THE LESS: James the son of Alphaeus (Alpheus) appears on lists of the Twelve Apostles (usually in the ninth place), but is never mentioned otherwise. He is called James the Less, or James Minor, or James the Younger. (See M 10:3; P 3:18; L 6:15; A 1:13)

(3) JAMES THE JUST: James called “the brother of the Lord” appears in Acts 12:17 and thereafter (A 15:13; 21:18; 1C 15:17; Ga 1:19; 2:9,12) as the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. He is counted by later Church historians as the first bishop of Jerusalem, with Simeon (described as also a kinsman, something like a great-nephew of Joseph) as the second. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James was put to death by order of the high priest during an interval between Roman governors, over the protests of the Pharisees, who thought him an upright man. He is known as James the Just or James of Jerusalem or James Protepiscopus (first bishop).

(4) JAMES THE WRITER: One of the New Testament Epistles is written by a James. (See Jas 1:1)

(5) JAMES THE SON OF CLEOPAS:
John (19:25) lists the women standing by the cross of Jesus as “his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If this list mentions only three women, then Mary the wife of Clopas is presumably a sister-in-law to the Virgin Mary.
The Synoptists give lists of women apparently at a distance.
Matthew (27:55f) lists as “looking on from afar” some Galilean women “among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
Mark (15:40f) lists “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses, and Salome… and also many other women.”
Luke (24:10) lists “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them.”
By “mother of James…” do the Synoptists denote the mother of Jesus? It seems odd that they would omit to mention her if she were there, but odder yet that they would identify her as the mother of James and Joseph (Joses), but not as the mother of Jesus. Besides, we note that Matthew and Mark are speaking of women who stood at a distance, while the Virgin was close enough to hear her Son speak. I therefore assume that Mary the mother of James etc is not the same as the Virgin Mary, and is either not mentioned by John at all or is identical with his “Mary the wife of Clopas,” who is probably the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary. Conclusion: James the son of Clopas was perhaps the nephew of either Mary or Joseph, and so would have been known as the first cousin of Jesus.

(6) JAMES THE NAZARENE: The residents of Nazareth speak of brothers of Jesus, including one named James (M 4:55 = P 6:3).

(7) JAMES THE KINSMAN OF JUDE THE APOSTLE: When Luke lists the Apostles (L 6:16; A 1:13), he has, in places 9 thru 11, “James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas of James.” [This is not Judas Iscariot.] Now, “Judas of James” would ordinarily mean “Judas son of James,” and so the RSV translates it. However, the KJV renders is as “Judas the brother of James,” and some suppose him to be the brother of James the son of Alphaeus, so that we have no fewer than three pairs of brothers among the disciples: Peter and Andrew, sons of Jonas; James and John, sons of Zebedee; James and Jude, sons of Alphaeus. This seems unlikely, since (a) if Luke had intended us to understand that the two were brothers, he would have written them together instead of separating them by Simon the Zealot (but note P 3:16-18); and (b) if he had meant us to understand “brother of” rather than the more usual “son of”, he would have said “brother.”

(8) JAMES THE BROTHER OF JUDE THE WRITER: The author of the Epistle of Jude calls himself the brother of James. Presumably this James would be someone well-known to his readers, otherwise why bother to mention him?

Is any of these the same person as one or more of the others?

It is natural to suppose that James the Just (3) and James the Nazarene (6), being both called brothers of Jesus, must be the same person. However, the Hebrew word for “brother” is used more elastically than its English equivalent, often referring (for example) to cousins or even more distant relatives (see Leviticus 10:1-4, where Moses speaks to Mishael and Elphazan about their brothers, meaning the sons of their cousin). If early Christians for whom Aramaic was the primary language, and Greek secondary, retained this usage when they spoke Greek, then there is room for doubt on the point. Perhaps one of them was a cousin of Jesus rather than a brother. Perhaps both were cousins, in which case they could be the same person but need not have been.

The sons of Cleopas would have been nephews of either Joseph or Mary, and therefore may have been the “brothers” mentioned elsewhere. Thus James the son of Cleopas (5) may be identical with James the Just (3) or James the Nazarene (6) or both.

It is tempting to identify James the son of Alphaeus (2) with James the son of Cleopas (5) by supposing that “Cleopas” and “Alphaeus” are two different attempts to reproduce the same Semitic name (probably beginning with an Ayin) in Greek, but linguists mostly think this very doubtful. James son of Cleopas is called James the Less (Minor, Younger) in Mark 15:40, and James Son of Alphaeus is also called James the Less in popular usage, partly because the two are assumed to be the same, and partly because of the need to distinguish the two Apostles both named James.

The Epistle of James is addressed to Jewish readers, and James the Just (3) seems to have been particularly concerned with the Jewish Christian community. It is accordingly plausible, and customary, to identify James the Just (3) with James the Writer (4).

Many writers identify James the Less (2) with James the Just (3). A difficulty with that identification is that we are told that the brothers of Jesus did not believe in him (J 7:5), which would mean that they could not have been numbered among the Twelve. (It is commonly supposed that James (3) came to believe only after the Resurrection (1C 15:7).) On the other hand, John does not name the unbelieving brothers, and they may not have included James.

It is tempting to suppose that a pair of brothers named James and Jude are the same as another pair of brothers named James and Jude, if there is no obvious objection to identifying them. (This is not necessarily a valid inference, since the selection of names can be influenced by fashion. I have no difficulty, for example, in thinking of six families I know with brothers named David and Michael.) Accordingly, it has been customary to identify the two Apostles “James the son of Alphaeus” and “Judas (the brother) of James” with the two brothers mentioned in the Nazareth account, and also with the Jude who wrote the Epistle and his brother James, taken to be the same James who wrote the Epistle of James. On our list, this identifies James the Less (2), James the Nazarene (6), James the Kinsman of Jude the Apostle (7), and James the Brother of Jude the Writer (8), and probably James the Son of Cleopas (5). However, it should be noted that the most natural understanding of “Judas of James” is “Judas son of James,” and that there is therefore no reason to suppose that James the son of Alphaeus has a brother named Jude.

Currently, most Western Christians commemorate:
(1) James the Greater on 25 July,
(2) James the Less on 1 May, and
(3) James the Just on 25 October.

They identify the others with (3) or ignore them. It will be generally conceded concerning (5), (6), (7), and (8) that if they are not the same as one of the others then there is no reason to remember them, so that the most one could reasonably do is add a fourth date for James the Writer. However, it is standard (and, I think, reasonable) to identify (4) with (3), and that leaves three commemorations, which is the current standard in the West, and also (I think) in the East. (Formerly the West identified (2) and (3).)

Thus, of James the Less, the son of Alphaeus (2), whom we commemorate today, we know very little from the New Testament, except that his name appears on lists of the Twelve.

Why is the name “James” so popular among Jews in New Testament times? Because it is the name of the ancestor of the people of Israel. The English name “James” is a variant of the name “Jacob.” We tend to think of them as two separate, unrelated names. But the distinction between them is post-Biblical and not found in Hebrew or Greek. In Hebrew, the name is Ya’akov. In Greek, it is Iakwbos (W=Omega), with accent on the second syllable from the end. In Latin, it developed two forms, Jacobus and Jacomus, both accented on the first syllable. From the former, we have the English Jacob and the Spanish Diego and Iago. From the latter, we have the English James, the Scottish Hamish, the Spanish Jaime, and so on. But in many languages, there is only one name, given to the Old Testament Jacob and the New Testament James alike. Even in English, our present distinction has not always been observed. In Shakespeare’s play MEASURE FOR MEASURE (III,ii,204), a child’s age is given as “a year and a quarter old, come Philip and Jacob,” meaning, “a year and a quarter old on the first of next May, the feast of Philip and James.”


St. Philip, from a 1708 Book of Common PrayerPhilip the Apostle is frequently confused with Philip the Deacon, whom we read of in the Book of Acts (A 6:7; 8:5-40; 21:8f), and who is commemorated on 6 June. For arguments that they are in fact the same, see that BIO.

Philip the Apostle appears in the Synoptic Gospels and in Acts only as a name on the list of the Twelve, but he appears in several incidents in the Gospel according to John. He was called early in the ministry of Our Lord (J 1:44), and promptly brought his friend Nathanael to Jesus as well. When some Greeks (or Greek-speaking Jews) wished to speak with Jesus, they began by approaching Philip (J 12:20ff).
At the Last Supper (J 14:8f), he said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” To this Jesus answered, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
Before feeding the Five Thousand (J 6:5), Jesus turned to Philip and asked him, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” Philip answered, “It would take more than a year’s wages to buy each of them a mouthful.”

Some scholars have thought it significant that Jesus asked Philip rather than one of the others. Luke (9:10) tells us that the Feeding of the Five Thousand took place near Bethsaida, and John (1:44) tells us that Philip is from Bethsaida. If they were in Philip’s home neighborhood, he would be a natural one to ask for directions. (Peter and Andrew were also from Bethsaida, but seem to have moved to Capernaum.) It seems that John named Philip here for one of three reasons:
(1) He was making up the details, and he said to himself: “I will name Philip here, and hope that my readers have read Luke and will remember that this is all happening near Bethsaida, and I will point out at the beginning of my work that Philip is from Bethsaida, and I will hope that the readers are clever enough to put this together and see that Philip is a logical person to ask. But I won’t mention Bethsaida in this episode, since that would make it too obvious what I am doing.”
(2) He chose one of the disciples at random, and by good luck made an appropriate choice.
(3) He was an eyewitness, or for some other reason well informed, and mentioned Philip by name because that was whom Jesus asked.

This is one reason (not the only one) for regarding the Gospel of John as the testimony of an eyewitness. For an elaboration, . . . look for essays with those names on this Web Page,

But I digress. That is the limit of what we hear of Philip and James in the New Testament, nor do other sources help much. One story says that Philip preached in Phrygia and died in Hierapolis, and that his remains were brought to Rome and buried in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles (an ancient inscription shows that this church was formerly dedicated to Philip and James).

by James Kiefer

 

Apr 29 – Catherine of Sienna

Catherine of Sienna

Catherine of Sienna
Mystic + Reformer + Spiritual Teacher
29 April 1380

click here for books on Catherine of Sienna


A Prayer

Everlasting God, who so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of His Glory, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


From the Satucket Lectionary

Catherine of SienaCatherine Benincasa, born in 1347, was the youngest (one of my sources says the 23rd) of twenty-five children of a wealthy dyer of Sienna (or Siena). At the age of six, she had a vision of Christ in glory, surrounded by His saints. From that time on, she spent most of her time in prayer and meditation, over the opposition of her parents, who wanted her to be more like the average girl of her social class. Eventually they gave in, and at the age of sixteen she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic (First Order = friars, Second Order = nuns, Third Order = laypersons), where she became a nurse, caring for patients with leprosy and advanced cancer whom other nurses disliked to treat.

She began to acquire a reputation as a person of insight and sound judgement, and many persons from all walks of life sought her spiritual advice, both in person and by letter. (We have a book containing about four hundred letters from her to bishops, kings, scholars, merchants, and obscure peasants.) She persuaded many priests who were living in luxury to give away their goods and to live simply.

In her day, the popes, officially Bishops of Rome, had been living for about seventy years, not at Rome but at Avignon in France, where they were under the political control of the King of France (the Avignon Papacy, sometimes called the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy, began when Philip the Fair, King of France, captured Rome and the Pope in 1303). Catherine visited Avignon in 1376 and told Pope Gregory XI that he had no business to live away from Rome. He heeded her advice, and moved to Rome. She then acted as his ambassador to Florence, and was able to reconcile a quarrel between the Pope and the leaders of that city. She then retired to Sienna, where she wrote a book called the Dialog, an account of her visions and other spiritual experiences, with advice on cultivating a life of prayer.

After Gregory’s death in 1378, the Cardinals, mostly French, elected an Italian Pope, Urban VI, who on attaining office turned out to be arrogant and abrasive and tyrannical, and perhaps to have other faults as well. The Cardinals met again elsewhere, declared that the first election had been under duress from the Roman mob and therefore invalid, and elected a new Pope, Clement VII, who established his residence at Avignon. Catherine worked tirelessly, both to persuade Urban to mend his ways (her letters to him are respectful but severe and uncompromising — as one historian has said, she perfected the art of kissing the Pope’s feet while simultaneously twisting his arm), and to persuade others that the peace and unity of the Church required the recognition of Urban as lawful Pope. Despite her efforts, the Papal Schism continued until 1417. It greatly weakened the prestige of the Bishops of Rome, and thus helped to pave the way for the Protestant Reformation a century later.

Catherine is known (1) as a mystic, a contemplative who devoted herself to prayer, (2) as a humanitarian, a nurse who undertook to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the sick; (3) as an activist, a renewer of Church and society, who took a strong stand on the issues affecting society in her day, and who never hesitated (in the old Quaker phrase) “to speak truth to power”; (4) as an adviser and counselor, with a wide range of interests, who always made time for troubled and uncertain persons who told her their problems — large and trivial, religious and secular.

 by James Kiefer

 

 

 

Apr 29 – Catherine of Siena

Apr 29 - Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena
Mystic + Reformer + Spiritual Teacher
29 April 1380

click here for books on Catherine of Sienna


A Prayer

Everlasting God, who so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of His Glory, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


From the Satucket Lectionary

Catherine of SienaCatherine Benincasa, born in 1347, was the youngest (one of my sources says the 23rd) of twenty-five children of a wealthy dyer of Sienna (or Siena). At the age of six, she had a vision of Christ in glory, surrounded by His saints. From that time on, she spent most of her time in prayer and meditation, over the opposition of her parents, who wanted her to be more like the average girl of her social class. Eventually they gave in, and at the age of sixteen she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic (First Order = friars, Second Order = nuns, Third Order = laypersons), where she became a nurse, caring for patients with leprosy and advanced cancer whom other nurses disliked to treat.

She began to acquire a reputation as a person of insight and sound judgement, and many persons from all walks of life sought her spiritual advice, both in person and by letter. (We have a book containing about four hundred letters from her to bishops, kings, scholars, merchants, and obscure peasants.) She persuaded many priests who were living in luxury to give away their goods and to live simply.

In her day, the popes, officially Bishops of Rome, had been living for about seventy years, not at Rome but at Avignon in France, where they were under the political control of the King of France (the Avignon Papacy, sometimes called the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy, began when Philip the Fair, King of France, captured Rome and the Pope in 1303). Catherine visited Avignon in 1376 and told Pope Gregory XI that he had no business to live away from Rome. He heeded her advice, and moved to Rome. She then acted as his ambassador to Florence, and was able to reconcile a quarrel between the Pope and the leaders of that city. She then retired to Sienna, where she wrote a book called the Dialog, an account of her visions and other spiritual experiences, with advice on cultivating a life of prayer.

After Gregory’s death in 1378, the Cardinals, mostly French, elected an Italian Pope, Urban VI, who on attaining office turned out to be arrogant and abrasive and tyrannical, and perhaps to have other faults as well. The Cardinals met again elsewhere, declared that the first election had been under duress from the Roman mob and therefore invalid, and elected a new Pope, Clement VII, who established his residence at Avignon. Catherine worked tirelessly, both to persuade Urban to mend his ways (her letters to him are respectful but severe and uncompromising — as one historian has said, she perfected the art of kissing the Pope’s feet while simultaneously twisting his arm), and to persuade others that the peace and unity of the Church required the recognition of Urban as lawful Pope. Despite her efforts, the Papal Schism continued until 1417. It greatly weakened the prestige of the Bishops of Rome, and thus helped to pave the way for the Protestant Reformation a century later.

Catherine is known (1) as a mystic, a contemplative who devoted herself to prayer, (2) as a humanitarian, a nurse who undertook to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the sick; (3) as an activist, a renewer of Church and society, who took a strong stand on the issues affecting society in her day, and who never hesitated (in the old Quaker phrase) “to speak truth to power”; (4) as an adviser and counselor, with a wide range of interests, who always made time for troubled and uncertain persons who told her their problems — large and trivial, religious and secular.

 by James Kiefer

 

 

Apr 27 – Christina Rossetti

Apr 27 - Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti
Poet
27 April 1894

click for books on Christina Rossetti


From the Satucket Lectionary

Christina Rossetti, by her brother DanteChristina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. She is best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem “Remember”, and for the words of what became the popular Christmas carolIn the Bleak Midwinter“.

Rossetti was born in London and educated at home by her mother. Her father, Gabriele Rossetti, was an Italian poet and a political asylum seeker from Naples; their mother, Frances Polidori, was the sister of Lord Byron‘s friend and physician, John William Polidori, author of The Vampyre.

When she was 14, Rossetti suffered a nervous breakdown, which was followed by bouts of depression and related illness. During this period she, her mother, and her sister became seriously interested in the Anglo-Catholic movement of the Church of England. This religious devotion played a major role in Rossetti’s personal life. She was a volunteer worker from 1859 to 1870 at the St. Mary Magdalene “house of charity” in Highgate, a refuge for former prostitutes.

Rossetti began writing at age 7, but she was 18 when her first published poem appeared in theAthenaeum magazine. However her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. The collection garnered much critical praise and, according to Jan Marsh, “Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s death” (in 1861) “led to Rossetti being hailed as her natural successor as ‘female laureate’.”

Her Christmas poem “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Hymnal 1982 #112) became widely known after her death when set as a Christmas carol first by Gustav Holst, and then by Harold Darke: in this setting it was judged in 1998 the best carol in a poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts. Her poem “Love Came Down at Christmas” (1885; Hymnal 1982 #84) has also been widely arranged as a carol.

Rossetti continued to write and publish for the rest of her life although she focused primarily on devotional writing and children’s poetry. In the later decades of her life, she suffered from Graves Disease. In 1893 she developed cancer, and died the following year 29 December 1894.

— more at Wikipedia

A complete collection of her poetry is available as a Penguin paperback.

 

Apr 26 – Robert Hunt

Apr 26 - Robert Hunt

Robert Hunt
Priest + First Chaplain of Jamestown
26 April 1608

click for books on Robert Hunt


From the Satucket Lectionary

Robert Hunt (c. 1568 – 1608), a vicar in the Church of England, was chaplain of the expedition that founded, in 1607, the first successful English colony in the New World, at Jamestown, Virginia.

He served two parishes in England, leaving each under a cloud, and then was “recruited” by Richard Bancroft (the Archbishop of Canterbury) as chaplain for the newest expedition to the New World by the London Virginia Company.

On April 26, 1607, after an unusually long voyage of 144 days, the 3 ships and 105 men and boys made landfall at the southern edge of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. They named the location Cape Henry, in honour of the young Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of their king. There, Hunt led what was likely the first protestant sermon in America since Sir Francis Drake’s landfall at California in 1579, planting a cross at the site.

Within a few weeks, the settlers chose a permanent inland site for their colony on the James River, naming it Jamestown in honor of King James I. The location was selected as being a strategic defensive position against possible attacks by ships of competing European factions. However,this came at a terrible price, as Jamestown Island combined swampy and mosquito-infested land, offering poor hunting and little room for farming with brackish tidal river water and no fresh water springs. While conflicts with the other Europeans never became a problem, getting along with the Native Americans, and even more importantly, with each other almost immediately became major issues for the ill-prepared colonists. Despite the incredibly onerous circumstances of the Jamestown mission’s beginnings, Rev. Hunt seemed to rise to the occasion, often mediating disputes between the camp’s various factions, smoothing “ruffled feathers” and making peace. He was described by Edward Wingfield (first president of the Jamestown Governing Council) as “a man not in any way to be touched with the rebellious humours of a popish spirit, nor blemished with the least suspicion of a factious schismatic, whereof I had a special care”.

Today, a shrine sits on the site at the National Park Service’s Historic Jamestowne attraction on Jamestown Island. The shrine replicates the outdoor chapel conditions under which he spiritually led the men and boys, most of whom were to die, as did Chaplain Hunt, during the first year.

— more at Wikipedia
see also a short bio from the National Park Service

Robert Hunt Shrine
Robert Hunt Shrine at Jamestown

 

Apr 24 – Genocide Remembrance

Apr 24 - Genocide Remembrance

Genocide Remembrance
Commemorating Genocide in Armenia & Everywhere
24 April 1915

click here for books on Genocide Remembrance


From the Satucket Lectionary

Genocide Remembrance Day is observed by Armenians in dispersed communities around the world on April 24. It is held annually to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide from 1915 to 1923.

The date 24 April commemorates the Armenian notables deported from the Ottoman capital in 1915, of hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, most of whom would be executed, which was a precursor to the ensuing events.

more at Wikipedia

Although this date is specifically a remembrance of the Armenian genocide, it is clear from the collects that it is intended here to cover all genocides: the killing or harming of people simply because of which ethnic, religious, or national group to which they happen to belong.