Archive for December 2011

Feast of St. Nicholas Owen, St. Thomas Garnet, Blessed Mark Barkworth, Blessed Edward Oldcorne, and Blessed Ralph Ashley (March 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  English Flag

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT NICHOLAS OWEN (DIED 1606)

Roman Catholic Martyr

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BLESSED EDWARD OLDCORNE (DIED 1606)

Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

His feast transferred from April 7

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BLESSED RALPH ASHLEY (DIED 1606)

Roman Catholic Martyr

His feast transferred from April 7

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT THOMAS GARNET (DIED 1608)

Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

His feast transferred from June 23

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BLESSED MARK BARKWORTH (1572-1601)

Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

Being a Roman Catholic in England used to be quite risky, especially if one were a priest.  This danger increased greatly after the foiled Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which a few Roman Catholics conspired to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  They failed, of course, but their plans convinced many Englishmen to think of all Roman Catholics as at least potential traitors and terrorists.  Most of the saints of this post died in that context.

St. Nicholas Owen (died 1606) became a Jesuit lay brother in 1580.  The Oxford-born carpenter used his skills to build hiding places for Jesuit priests in England.  Authorities arrested the saint in 1594 with Father John Gerard.  Owen refused to name any colleagues despite torture.  Freed because a wealthy Roman Catholic ransomed him, Owen helped Father Gerard escape from the Tower of London in 1597.  Gerard escaped to Europe.  Authorities rearrested Owen in 1606 with two Jesuit priests, Father Henry Garnet and Blessed Edward Oldcorne, and a Jesuit lay brother, Blessed Ralph Ashley.  Owen died of torture on March 2, 1606.

St. Thomas Garnet (died 1608), born at Southwark, England, studied at St. Omer’s in France and at the English Jesuit college at Valladolid, Spain.  He arrived in Spain in 1596 and became a priest there.  In 1599 his uncle, Father Henry Garnet, English Superior for the Jesuits, admitted Thomas to the Society of Jesus.  That same year, Thomas began his English mission with Blessed Mark Barkworth.

Blessed Mark Barkworth (1572-1601), born in Lincolnshire, England, attended and graduated from Oxford University.  He converted to Roman Catholicism at Douai, France, and studied for the priesthood at Valladolid, Spain, where he became a priest in 1599.  English authorities arrested him in 1601 after some former students betrayed him.  He died on February 27, 1601, with St. Anne Line and St. Roger Filcock.  The Roman Catholic Church beatified him in 1929.

St. Thomas Garnet worked in Warwick, England, for seven years, until his arrest in 1606.  That same year, authorities arrested Uncle Henry, who knew some of the people involved in the Gunpowder Plot yet was not part of the conspiracy.  The senior Garnet met his cruel fate (hanging, drawing, and quartering) on May 3, 1606.  The junior Garnet suffered imprisonment and torture then deportation to Flanders.  He returned to England in 1607, late in the year.  Six weeks after his arrival, authorities arrested him and charged him with treason.  He died by the usual gruesome method on June 23, 1608.  The Roman Catholic Church canonized him in 1970.

Blessed Edward Oldcorne (died 1606), born at York, England, studied at Rheims and Rome.  Ordained at Rome in 1587, he became a Jesuit that year.  Two years later Oldcorne began his English mission, which lasted for seventeen years, during which he helped many people convert or revert.  One Humphrey Littleton, who was involved in the Gunpowder Plot, allegedly falsely that Oldcorne and Blessed Ralph Ashley (died 1606) were also involved.  The court convicted Oldcorne and Ashley.  Littleton then admitted that he had lied, but the execution of Oldcorne and Ashley occurred on schedule, with Littleton dying with them.  The Roman Catholic Church beatified Oldcorne and Ashley in 1929.

National security, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gracious God,

in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of

Saint Nicholas Owen,

Blessed Edward Oldcorne,

Blessed Ralph Ashley,

Saint Thomas Garnet,

and Blessed Mark Barkworth,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives

to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised on December 24, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Feast of St. Paul of Cyprus (March 18)   Leave a comment

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Crucifix

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS (DIED CIRCA 760)

Eastern Orthodox Martyr

The Byzantine Empire was an officially Christian state; there was no separation of church and state.  With Muslim forces at the gates and imperial borders shrunken to mainly Asia Minor and the Balkans, the empire’s leaders pursued a distraction:  the destruction of icons.  Many faithful people refused to support Iconoclasm, however.  I have written of some of them in other posts; now I add another to that distinguished roster.

During the reign of Emperor Constantine V (741-775), imperial officials hauled one St. Paul into court and arraigned him.  He had not committed a violent crime or a theft.  No, he had opposed Iconoclasm.  He had disagreed with the Emperor on a matter of theology.  The court offered the saint a choice:  desecrate a crucifix or die.  He died.  Consider the irony, O reader; agents of an officially Christian government burned a man alive because he refused to desecrate a crucifix.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gracious God,

in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of Saint Paul of the Cross,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives

to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised on December 24, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Saints of the 700s

Tagged with ,

Feast of St. Leonides of Alexandria, Origen, St. Demetrius of Alexandria, and St. Alexander of Jerusalem (March 18)   23 comments

Above:  Origen

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA (DIED 202)

Roman Catholic Martyr

His feast transferred from April 22

Father of 

ORIGENES ADAMANTIUS (185-254)

Roman Catholic Theologian

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (126-231)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Alexandria

His feast transferred from October 9

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM (DIED 251)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

St. Leonides of Alexandria (died 202) was a scholar whom Roman imperial authorities beheaded for being a Christian.  He was also the father of Origen Adamantius (185-254), Origen for short, and his son’s first teacher in Christian theology.  Origen also studied under Ammonius Saccas (circa 175-250), an Alexandrian philosopher who influenced Plotinus (204-270), founder of Neoplatonism.  Another teacher was Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215), the Father of Christian Scholarship, who proved so controversial that the Roman Catholic Church decanonized him in 1584.  Origen supported his mother and sister after his father’s martyrdom and became director of the Catechetical School at Alexandria in 203, when he was eighteen years old.  And he was a much sought-after catechist, teaching large groups of eager learners.

This was the Catechetical School which St. Demetrius of Alexandria (126-231), Bishop of Alexandria from 188 to 231, built up.  St. Demetrius mentored Origen, making him school director in 203 and defending him from criticisms for years before becoming a critic.  Origen taught in Alexandria for years yet had to flee to Palestine in 215.  There bishops permitted him, a layman, to preach.  This disturbed St. Demetrius, who condemned him for preaching without being ordained.  Origen returned to Alexandria in time.

St. Alexander of Jerusalem (died 251), as a young man, had been a classmate with Origen at the Catechetical School at Alexandria.  And he had gone to prison during the same persecution during which Origen’s father died.  St. Alexander became a bishop in his native Cappadocia, in modern-day Turkey, before undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 212.  There he became Bishop Coadjutor of Jerusalem.  This was the first instance of a Bishop Coadjutor in church history.  So it happened that St. Alexander, as Bishop of Jerusalem, was in a position to grant his old friend sanctuary during exile in 215 and permission to preach.  The Bishop of Jerusalem also ordained Origen to the priesthood in 227.  St. Demetrius objected to this, refused to recognized Origen as a priest, prohibited him from teaching in Alexandria, banished him, and excommunicated him.  The Pope and many other bishops confirmed this excommunication.  Yet Origen found refuge in Greece and Asia, where many bishops supported him.

This seems like a good time to reflect on what made Origen so controversial.  He was an influential theologian and Biblical scholar.  His concepts regarding the Trinity (a century prior to the First Council of Nicaea, 325) anticipated the decrees of that Council in some ways and differed from them in others.  Origen also ran afoul of those who favored a clear distinction between the laity and the clergy.  More importantly, though, he, more than others who preceded him, blended Christianity with Greek philosophy, namely Platonism.  This attracted much criticism during and after this life.

Such was blending was not without precedent.  There was the immediate example of his teacher, Clement of Alexandria.  Earlier than that, however, was the Letter to the Hebrews.  Read Chapter 9, for example.  There, O reader, you will find a blending of Christianity and Aristotelian thought.  A thousand years after Clement and Origen, St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274) whose works defined Roman Catholic theology for centuries, reconciled Aristotelian thought with Christianity.  So the blending of philosophy and Christian theology is not a sin in Roman Catholicism.  (I wonder how Clement and Origen would have fared had they been Aristotelians instead of Platonists.)  Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas stood on Origen’s shoulders.  Origen, denied sainthood in Roman Catholicism, established the respected status of philosophy in Christian theology.

Origen survived the persecution under Emperor Maximinus I (reigned 235-238) unscathed.  Afterward Origen refuted one Bishop Beryllus in Arabia.  The bishop claimed that Christ’s divine nature had not existed prior to his human nature.  Origen convinced Beryllus that this was a heresy.

Emperor Decius (reigned 249-251) launched another persecution of Christians.  At this time St. Alexander died in prison in Caesarea.  He had done more than aid Origen and irritate St Demetrius; he had also built a respected library and a school at Jerusalem.  Origen also went to prison during the Decian persecution.  He died at Tyre in 254, never having recovered from the sufferings of his incarceration.

Origen lived in a time when certain Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, were developing.  Theological development of Christianity with regard to core doctrines took a few centuries.  He strove to remain faithful to the Apostolic traditions, yet subsequent theological developments defined him as too heterodox for sainthood.  For example, Origen thought that the coeternal Son was subordinate to the Father and affirmed the pre-existence of souls.  To be fair, even St. Paul the Apostle (died 64) was fuzzy in aspects of his Trinitarian theology.  In Romans 8:9-11, for example, he is unclear regarding the distinction between the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But this has not prevented him from being St. Paul.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven fully formed; theologians debated and developed them, based on interpretations of Biblical texts.  And, for that matter, there remain major theological differences between Eastern and Western Christianity.  Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son?  Is that an important point?  I think not.

Regarding Origen, the best succinct analysis comes from Ross Mackenzie, in Volume 3 of The University of the South’s Education for Ministry study materials:

Origen (who stood up when courage was needed) never achieved that recognition [canonization].  But his wide influence on later Christian thought and spirituality is his best memorial.–page 177

The Church might deny Origen a feast day (He is not even on The Episcopal Church’s calendar, but his teacher, Clement, is.),  but I honor him with one–March 18.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God,

you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the example of your servants

Saint Leonides of Alexandria,

Origen,

Saint Demetrius of Alexandria,

and Saint Alexander of Jerusalem,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and,

at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 9:1-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Luke 6:20-23

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised on December 24, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Sts. Abraham Kidunaia and Mary of Edessa (March 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Syria in 150 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA (CIRCA 296-CIRCA 366)

Roman Catholic Hermit

Uncle of 

SAINT MARY OF EDESA (DIED CIRCA 371)

Roman Catholic Anchoress

Her feast transferred from October 29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The married life was not for St. Abraham Kidunaia.  He fled the festivities his wealthy Syrian family held on the occasion of his (cancelled) arranged marriage.  He did persuade them to let him live as a hermit in a simple cell.  Ten years later, the Bishop of Edessa ordained St. Abraham to the priesthood and assigned him to a stubbornly pagan village, Beth-Kiduna.  The saint succeeded in his mission; it was difficult and dangerous work, for some inhabitants were violent.  But he succeeded, returning eagerly to his cell after a replacement priest arrived.  St Abraham emerged from his cell one more time before he died.  His niece, St. Mary of Edessa, had been an anchoress, a woman who devoted her life to penance and prayer.  Yet she had succumbed to lust with a rogue monk and had begun a life of promiscuity and prostitution.  Uncle St. Abraham left his cell to convince her to return to the holy life of an anchoress.  She did, and the rest of her days were holy ones.

Renowned for holiness, St. Abraham, who lived alone, had a large funeral.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God,

whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world,

that we, inspired by the devotion of your servants

Saint Abraham Kidunaia and Saint Mary of Edessa,

may serve you with singleness of heart,

and attain to the riches of the age to come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34 or 34:1-8

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 12:33-37 or Luke 9:57-62

–Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), pages 249 and 927

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised on December 24, 2016

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 16, 2011 by neatnik2009 in March 16, Saints of the 300s

Tagged with ,

Feast of Sts. Adalbald of Ostrevant, Rictrudis of Marchiennes, and Their Relations (March 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Gaul in 628 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT GERTRUDE THE ELDER (DIED CIRCA 652)

Roman Catholic Abbess

Her feast transferred from December 6

Mother or Grandmother of 

SAINT ADALBALD OF OSTREVANT (DIED 651)

Frankish Nobleman

His feast transferred from February 2

Husband of

SAINT RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES (CIRCA 612-688)

Roman Catholic Abbess

Her feast transferred from May 12

Mother of

SAINT EUSEBIA OF HAMAY (DIED 680)

Roman Catholic Abbess

Sister of

SAINT ADALSINDE OF HAMAY (DIED CIRCA 715)

Roman Catholic Nun

Her feast transferred from December 25

Sister of

SAINT CLOTSIND OF MARCHIENNES (CIRCA 635-714)

Roman Catholic Nun

Her feast transferred from June 30

Sister of

SAINT MAURONT OF DOUAI (DIED 701)

Roman Catholic Monk

His feast transferred from May 5

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

HOLINESS RAN IN THIS FAMILY.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Without sounding like a postmodernist, which I am not, I admit that distinguishing between reality and legend can be a great challenge in writing hagiographies of figures from the 700s and previous centuries.  I am, of course, reading, synthesizing, and repeating what others have written.  And they wrote based on the work of others.  Nevertheless, I have attempted to repeat only the best information I have found and to leave legendary material out of this post.  So, for example, I tell you, O reader, that either St. Bertha of Blangy, the alleged aunt of St. Eusebia, was either legendary or her biography was.  This situation calls the stories of her (alleged) daughters, Sts. Deotila and Gertrude of Blangy into serious question.

We can trust reasonably, however, that St. Adalbald of Ostrevant (died 651) was a real historical figure.  A nobleman in the court of Merovingian monarchs Dagobert I (King of Austrasia from 623 to 628 and King of all Franks from 629 to 639) and Clovis II (King of Neustria and Burgundy frm 639 to 657) , he married St. Rictrudis of Machiennes (circa 612-688), daughter of Ernold, a Gascan nobleman.  Sts. Adalbald and Rictrudis, married for sixteen years, spent much of their time helping the ill and the poor and raising their five children, four of whom we know as saints.  St. Adalbald’s death resulted from a political murder; some of his wife’s relatives took out their discontent with Clovis II’s policies on him.

St. Rictrudis remained unmarried as a widow despite Clovis II’s order that she wed again.  Her old friend, St. Amand, interceded with the monarch on her behalf.  The widow became abbess at Marchiennes, Flanders, where she had founded an abbey.  She governed it for over thirty years.  In 652, after St. Adalhard’s murder, St. Rictrudis had sent her young daughter, St. Eusebia of Hamay (died 680) to the convent at Hamay, where St. Eusebia’s grandmother or great-grandmother, St. Gertrude the Elder (died circa 652)  was abbess.  St. Gertrude died, having named the twelve-year-old St. Eusebia as her successor.  Yet St. Rictrudis intervened, merging the Hamay convent with hers for a few years, until St. Eusebia was older.  The daughter spent most of her life as abbess at Hamay and as spiritual mentor to her sister, St. Adalsinde of Hamay (died circa 715), a nun there.

The other two sainted siblings were St. Clotsind (circa 635-714), a nun at Marchiennes under her mother, St. Rictrudis, and St. Mauront of Douai (died 701).  He spent time in the royal court before becoming a monk.  He also founded the monastery at Breuit-sur-Lys, near Douai.

A family, when it is at its best, functions as a nest of faithfulness to God.  We will influence each other, for we are social creatures.  May we influence each other for good, for God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God,

you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the example of your servants

Saint Gertrude the Elder,

Saint Adalbald of Ostrevant,

Saint Rictrudis of Marchiennes,

Saint Eusebia of Hamay,

Saint Adalsinde of Hamay,

Saint Clotsindof Marchennes,

and Saint Mauront of Douai,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and,

at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 9:1-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Luke 6:20-23

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised from December 24, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of St. Zachary of Rome (March 15)   1 comment

Above:  The Vatican Flag

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME (DIED 752)

Bishop of Rome

Of Greek ancestry, St. Zachary was born at Calabria.  He became Bishop of Rome on December 3, 741, and remained in that office until he died on March 15, 752.

Bishops of Rome have often had to deal with political situations and function as diplomats.  St. Zachary was no exception.  The Lombards threatened Rome itself.  The Pope intervened diplomatically several times (in 742, 743, and 749), securing the release of prisoners, the return of confiscated estates and seized lands, and the cessation of hostilities.  He also opposed Byzantine Iconoclasm, dealing diplomatically with the imperial palace while providing shelter for nuns who had to flee Constantinople due to that controversy.  And St. Zachary recognized Pepin III “the Short,” formerly Mayor of the Palace, as the Frankish monarch, displacing the feeble Merovingian Dynasty and its last king, Childeric III (reigned 743-751).

St. Zachary earned a reputation for managing church affairs efficiently, giving aid to the poor, and manifesting scholarship.  He translated the Dialogues of Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” into Greek.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God,

you raised up faithful bishops of your church,

including your servant Saint Zachary of Rome.

May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,

so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised on December 24, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Sts. Plato of Symboleon, Theodore Studites, and Nicephorus of Constantinople (March 13)   1 comment

Above:  Triumph of Orthodoxy Icon

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SAINT PLATO OF SYMBOLEON (CIRCA 734-814)

Eastern Orthodox Abbot

His feast transferred from April 4

Uncle of 

SAINT THEODORE STUDITES (759-826)

Eastern Orthodox Abbot

His feast transferred from November 11

Sometimes Ally of

SAINT NICEPHORUS (A.K.A. SAINT NICEPHORUS PATRIARCHA) OF CONSTANTINOPLE (758-828)

Patriarch of Constantinople

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

DEFENDERS OF ICONS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I continue my exploration of the Communion of Saints, learning much along the way, I find stories of saints whose lives intersected.  As compelling as each life might be individually, he composite account is the one which is most coherent much of the time.  Today I tell the story of three great saints–an uncle, a nephew, both abbots, and a Patriarch. The abbots disagreed much of the time with the Patriarch, but all three loved and served the same Lord and Savior.  And all three suffered for their faith.

We begin with St. Plato of Symboleon (circa 734-814).  Orphaned at age thirteen, his uncle, the Byzantine imperial treasurer, raised him.  St. Plato sold his possessions eleven years later, gave the proceeds to his sisters and the poor, and entered the Symboleon Monastery in Bithynia, in Asia Minor.  He became abbot there in 770 then left to assume the abbotcy at Saccadium Monastery (founded by his sister’s children) twelve years later.  He resigned that post in 794 in favor of St. Theodore Studites, his nephew, and resumed life as a regular monk.

St. Theodore Studites (759-826), born at Constantinople, has become a novice at Saccadium Monastery.  Ordained at Constantinople in 787, he returned to Saccadium Monastery, where he became abbot seven years later.  Emperor Constantine VI (reigned 780-797) married for a second time while his first wife was still alive.  A priest named Joseph presided over the wedding.  These actions prompted St. Theodore and St. Plato to to denounce the Emperor, who exiled them and their monks to Thessalonica in 796.  The following year, however, their exile ended after Empress Irene (reigned 797-802) deposed and blinded her son.  The Byzantine Empire, for an officially Christian state, was terribly violent in its actions.

Back in imperial good graces, St. Theodore became abbot at Studion Monastery in Constantinople.  The monastery had fallen on hard times, but the abbot restored it in every way, even increasing the number of monks from about a dozen to nearly one thousand.  And he made Studion Monastery, where St. Plato had become a hermit, the center of Eastern monasticism.  Life was better for our heroes, but the winds of Byzantine imperial politics turned on them again.

St. Nicephorus of Constantinople (758-828) was the son of Theodosius, secretary to Emperor Constantine V (reigned 741-775), an Iconoclast.  The Emperor had Theodosius tortured and exiled for opposing Iconoclasm.  So young St. Nicephorus knew of the fickleness of imperial politics.  Shifting imperial political winds allowed him, all grown up, to have become an imperial commissioner and to found a monastery on the shore of the Black Sea before 806, when he, although a layman, became Patriarch of Constantinople.  St. Theodore Studites opposed this appointment, receiving imprisonment for his opinion.  Emperor Nicephorus I (reigned 802-811) disapproved of such dissent.  Three years later, with the official affirmation of Constantine VI’s second marriage, St. Nicephorus (the Patriarch) forgave Father Joseph for presiding at the wedding ceremony.  Sts. Plato and Theodore Studites, still opposed to that union, had to enter a second exile–this time, to Prince’s Island–in 809, along with St. Theodore’s brother and Archbishop Theodore of Thessalonica.  The Imperium also dispersed the monks of Studion Monastery.  The exile at Prince’s Island ended in 811, with the death of Emperor Nicephorus I.

In the meantime, St. Nicephorus (the Patriarch) had been engaged in doing his job.  He had built up his see and restored monastic discipline.

And what about St. Plato?  His healthy broken, he returned to Constantinople in 811 and died there in 814, bedridden.

Emperor Leo the Armenian (reigned 813-820) united Sts. Nicephorus and Theodore Studites in common cause.  Leo was an Iconoclast; the saints were not.  In 814, with the discovery of private correspondence in which St. Theodore Studites affirmed Papal primacy, the abbot went into a third exile, mixed with imprisonment.  He was in prison for three years then was subject to harsh treatment by an Iconoclastic bishop who wished that authorities would permit him to behead St. Theodore.  And St. Nicephorus, deposed in 815 for opposing the policies of Emperor Leo, survived assassination attempts and spent the rest of his life in exile at the Black Sea monastery he had founded.  He wrote anti-Iconoclastic treaties and two histories, Breviarum and Chronograhia.  He died on June 2, 828.

St. Theodore’s exile ended in 820, shortly after the murder of Emperor Leo the Armenian.  The new boss, Michael II “the Stammerer” (reigned 820-829), also an Iconoclast, refused to restore St. Theodore to any post.  The saint founded a monastery on Akrita for the monks who remained faithful to him.  There he died on November 11, 826.  Most of the hymns he wrote survive to this day.

So ends this tale of orthodoxy, woe, and official violence–all of it in the name of Jesus, who suffered.  May we never cause the suffering of our fellow Christians.  In other words, whom would Jesus persecute?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God,

you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the example of your servants

Saint Plato of Symboleon,

Saint Theodore Studites,

and Saint Nicephorus of Constantinople,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and,

at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revised on December 24, 2016

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++