Archive for the ‘March 29’ Category

Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany (March 8-April 11)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Raising of Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain


A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is one of my hobbies, not a calendar of observances with any force or a popular following.  It does, however, constitute a forum to which to propose proper additions to church calendars.

Much of the Western Church observes January 18 as the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, the rock upon which Christ built the Church.  (Just think, O reader; I used to be a Protestant boy!  My Catholic tendencies must be inherent.)  The celebration of that feast is appropriate.  The Church does not neglect St. Martha of Bethany, either.  In The Episcopal Church, for example, she shares a feast with her sister (St. Mary) and her brother (St. Lazarus) on July 29.

There is no Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany, corresponding to the Petrine feast, however.  That constitutes an omission.  I correct that omission somewhat here at my Ecumenical Calendar as of today.  I hereby define the Sunday immediately prior to Palm/Passion Sunday as the Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany.  The reason for the temporal definition is the chronology inside the Gospel of John.

This post rests primarily on John 11:20-27, St. Martha’s confession of faith in her friend, Jesus, as

the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.

The combination of grief, confidence, and faith is striking.  It is one with which many people identify.  It is one that has become increasingly relevant in my life during the last few months, as I have dealt with two deaths.

Faith frequently shines brightly in the spiritual darkness and exists alongside grief.  Faith enables people to cope with their grief and helps them to see the path through the darkness.  We need to grieve, but we also need to move forward.  We will not move forward alone, for God is with us.  If we are fortunate, so are other people, as well as at least one pet.


Loving God, who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth

and enjoyed the friendship of Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany:

We thank you for the faith of St. Martha, who understood that

you were the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was coming into the world.

May we confess with our lips and our lives our faith in you,

the Incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Son of God, and draw others to you;

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Jeremiah 8:18-23

Psalm 142

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

John 11:1-44





Feast of John Keble (March 29)   2 comments

Donkin (Miss); John Keble (1792-1866); Oriel College, University of Oxford;

Above:  John Keble

Image in the Public Domain


JOHN KEBLE (APRIL 23, 1792-MARCH 29, 1866)

Anglican Priest and Poet

Episcopal Church feast day = March 29

Church of England feast day = July 14

John Keble was an influential priest and hymn writer.  Our saint was a son of an Anglican priest, also named John Keble.  (Aside:  Would it have been difficult to add suffixes, such as Jr. and III?)  The younger Keble’s life was one of devotion to his father and to the Church.  Our saint, a great intellectual, thrived at Oxford University, where he was present for many years.  He graduated from Corpus Christi College in 1897, received double first class honors from Oriel College in 1810, and became a fellow at Oriel College in 1811.  He, ordained to the diaconate in 1815 and to the priesthood the following year, left Oxford in 1823 to assist his father in parish ministry.  Four years later our saint published The Christian Year, a collection of poems for Sundays and feast days.  The volume helped to spread High Church ideals widely.  In 1831 Keble returned to Oxford as Professor of Poetry.

Perhaps Keble’s greatest legacy was the Oxford Movement, which he launched on July 14, 1833 (hence his feast day in The Church of England), with a sermon, “National Apostasy.”  In the sermon our saint condemned the government’s suppression of Irish bishoprics.  Thus not only was Keble a leading Tractarian, but the original one.  During the ensuing years he published translations of theological works, from the Church Fathers to Richard Hooker.

Keble finished his life as a married man and a rural vicar.  He married in 1835, after the death of his father.  The following year he became the Vicar of Hursley (near Wincester).  He died at Bournemouth, Hampshire, on March 29, 1866, aged 73 years.








Father of the eternal Word, in whose encompassing love all things in peace and order move:

grant that, as your servant John Keble adored you in all creation,

so we may have a humble heart of love for the mysteries of your Church

and know your love to be new every morning, in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), page 482


Grant, O God, that in all time of our time of testing we may know your presence and obey your will;

that, following the example of your servant John Keble,

we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do,

and endure what you give us to bear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Psalm 26:1-8

Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 5:1-12

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 295


Feast of Dora Greenwell (March 29)   Leave a comment

I Both Hold and am Held

Above:  I Both Hold And Am Held

Image in the Public Domain



Poet and Devotional Writer

These days, in most of the Western World, women have professional opportunities due to the successes of feminism.  But Dora Greenwell did not live during a time in which she could enjoy these advantages.  Her legacy, however, was–and is–quite impressive.

Dora Greenwell was a sister of two priests of The Church of England.  William, eventually Dean of Durham Cathedral, and Alan, Rector of Golborne then Clifton.  From 1848 to 1854 Dora lived with one brother then the other, helping in the work of each sibling’s parish.  Then, in 1854-1872, she lived with her widowed mother at Durham.  From 1872 to 1881 Dora resided at Tarquay then Clifton the  London, advocating for proper mental health care.  In 1881 an accident led to her death, which occurred at Alan’s home at Clifton, near Bristol.

Dora published volumes of poetry:

  • Carmina Crucis (1869);
  • Songs of Salvation (1873);
  • The Soul’s Legend (1873); and
  • Camera Obsucra (1876).

She also published volumes of devotional prose:

  • A Present Heaven;
  • The Covenant of Life and Peace;
  • Two Friends;
  • Essays;
  • Liber Humanitatis;
  • The Life of John Woolman;
  • The Life of Lacordaire;
  • Colloquia Crucis; and
  • The Patience of Hope, which John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) classed with devotional classics.

She wrote extensively on the Atonement.  Dora’s chosen symbol was Luther’s heart set against a black cross amid white roses–thereby signifying the joy, peace, and consolation found in Christ’s cross.  The poet, referring to her position relative to the cross, said,

I both hold and am held.

One of the texts in Songs of Salvation (1873) was “I Am Not Skilled to Understand,” the text of which follows:

I am not skilled to understand

What God hath willed, what God hath planned;

I only know at His right hand

Stands One who is my Saviour.


I take God at His word and deed:

“Christ died to save me”–this I read;

And in my heart I find a need

Of Him to be my Saviour.


And was there no other way

For God to take?–I cannot say;

I only  bless Him, day by day,

Who saved me through my Saviour.


That He should leave His place on high

And come for sinful man to die,

You count it strange?–so do not I,

Since I have known my Saviour.


And O that He fulfilled may see

The travail of His soul in me,

And with His work contented be,

As I with my dear Saviour!


Yea, living, dying, let me bring,

My strength, my solace, from this spring,

That He who lives to be my King

Once died to be my Saviour.







Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Dora Greenwell.

Teach us to drive from this world all chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation

in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61


Revised on December 24, 2016


Feast of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (March 29)   1 comment

Trinity College, Cambridge

Above:  Trinity College, Cambridge

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-08091



Composer, Organist, and Conductor

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, knighted in 1901, was a musical prodigy.  In fact, at the tender age of ten years, he heard a prestigious ensemble perform one of his compositions.  Stanford graduated with honors from Queen’s and Trinity Colleges, Cambridge, then commenced a brilliant musical career as an adult.  He, among the most distinguished musical figures of his time, conducted orchestras in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and in various U.S. cities.  he also played the organ at Trinity College, conducted the London Bach Society (1885) and the Royal College of Music (1887), and taught music at Cambridge and the Royal College of Music.  (That was a partial list.)  Stanford was a brilliant composer.  He set Irish airs, helping to revive Irish folk music.  And he wrote symphonies, operas, motets, cantatas, Irish Rhapsodies, and other works, including Songs of the Sea, Songs of the Fleet, a Stabat Mater, a Magnificat, and various hymn tunes.

One of his greatest works was the tune “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” the tune for “I Bind Unto Myself Today.”

Stanford’s legacy has enriched my life.  It might have improved yours, O reader, also.








Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

Teach us to drive from this world all chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation

in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61


Revised on December 24, 2016


Saints’ Days and Holy Days for March   Leave a comment


Image Source = Bertil Videt

1 (Anna of Oxenhall and Her Faithful Descendants, Wenna the Queen, Non, Samson of Dol, Cybi, and David of Wales)

  • Edwin Hodder, English Biographer, Devotional Writer, and Hymn Writer
  • George Wishart, Scottish Calvinist Reformer and Martyr, 1546; and Walter Milne, Scottish Protestant Martyr, 1558
  • Roger Lefort, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bourges

2 (Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World)

  • Aidan of Lindisfarne, Celtic Missionary Bishop; Caelin, Celtic Priest; Cedd of Lastingham, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Bishop of Essex, and Abbot of Lastingham; Cynibil of Lastingham, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest and Monk; Chad of Mercia, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of York/the Northumbrians and of Lichfield/the Mercians and the Lindsey People; Vitalian, Bishop of Rome; Adrian of Canterbury, Roman Catholic Abbot of Saints Peter and Paul, Canterbury; Theodore of Tarsus, Roman Catholic Monk and Archbishop of Canterbury; and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Celtic and Roman Catholic Monk, Hermit, Priest, and Bishop of Lindisfarne
  • Daniel March, Sr., U.S. Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister, Poet, Hymn Writer, and Liturgist
  • John Stuart Blackie, Scottish Presbyterian Scholar, Linguist, Poet, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Ludmilla of Bohemia, Duchess of Bohemia, and Martyr, 921; her grandson, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, and Martyr, 929; Agnes of Prague, Bohemian Princess and Nun; her pen pal, Clare of Assisi, Founder of the Poor Clares; her sister, Agnes of Assisi, Abbess at Monticelli; and her mother, Hortulana of Assisi, Poor Clare Nun

3 (Katharine Drexel, Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)

  • Antonio Francesco Marzorati, Johannes Laurentius Weiss, and Michele Pro Fasoli, Franscican Missionary Priests and Martyrs in Ethiopia, 1716
  • Gervinus, Roman Catholic Abbot and Scholar
  • Henry Elias Fries, U.S. Moravian Industrialist; and his wife, Rosa Elvira Fries, U.S. Moravian Musician
  • Teresa Eustochio Verzeri, Founder of the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

4 (Charles Simeon, Anglican Priest and Promoter of Missions; Henry Martyn, Anglican Priest, Linguist, Translator, and Missionary; and Abdul Masih, Indian Convert and Missionary)

  • Henry Suso, German Roman Catholic Mystic, Preacher, and Spiritual Writer
  • John Edgar Park, U.S. Presbyterian then Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Thomas Hornblower Gill, English Unitarian then Anglican Hymn Writer

5 (Karl Rahner, Jesuit Priest and Theologian)

  • Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, English Roman Catholic Convert, Spiritual Writer, and Translator of Spiritual Writings; Founder of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey
  • Christopher Macassoli of Vigevano, Franciscan Priest
  • Eusebius of Cremona, Roman Catholic Abbot and Humanitarian
  • Ion Costist, Franciscan Lay Brother
  • John S. Stamm, Bishop of The Evangelical Church then the Evangelical United Brethren Church

6 (Martin Niemoller, German Lutheran Minister and Peace Activist)

  • Chrodegang of Metz, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Fred B. Craddock, U.S. Disciples of Christ Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Renowned Preacher
  • Jean-Pierre de Caussade, French Roman Catholic Priest and Spiritual Director
  • Jordan of Pisa, Dominican Evangelist
  • William Bright, Anglican Canon, Scholar, and Hymn Writer

7 (James Hewitt McGown, U.S. Presbyterian Humanitarian)

  • Drausinus and Ansericus, Roman Catholic Bishops of Soissons; Vindician, Roman Catholic Bishop of Cambrai; and Leodegarius, Roman Catholic Bishop of Autun
  • Edward Osler, English Doctor, Editor, and Poet
  • Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, Founder of the Daughters of the Divine Savior
  • Paul Cuffee, U.S. Presbyterian Missionary to the Shinnecock Nation
  • Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 203

8 (Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln)

  • Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • John Hampden Gurney, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • John of God, Founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God

9 (Harriet Tubman, U.S. Abolitionist)

  • Emanuel Cronenwett, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator
  • Frances of Rome, Founder of the Collatines
  • Johann Pachelbel, German Lutheran Organist and Composer
  • Sophronius of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Patriarch

10 (Marie-Joseph Lagrange, Roman Catholic Priest and Biblical Scholar)

  • Agripinnus of Autun, Roman Catholic Bishop; Germanus of Paris, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Droctoveus of Autun, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • Alexander Clark, U.S. Methodist Protestant Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymnal Editor
  • Folliot Sandford Pierpoint, Anglican Educator, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • John Oglivie, Scottish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1615
  • Macarius of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Bishop

11 (John Swertner, Dutch-German Moravian Minister, Hymn Writer, Hymn Translator, and Hymnal Editor; and his collaborator, John Mueller, German-English Moravian Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymnal Editor)

  • Aengus the Culdee, Hermit and Monk; and Maelruan, Abbot
  • Eulogius of Spain, Roman Catholic Bishop of Toledo, Cordoba; and Leocrita; Roman Catholic Martyrs, 859
  • Francis Wayland, U.S. Baptist Minister, Educator, and Social Reformer
  • Mary Ann Thomson, Episcopal Hymn Writer
  • Pal Prennushi, Albanian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1948

12 (Trasilla and Emiliana; their sister-in-law, Sylvia of Rome; and her son, Gregory I “the Great,” Bishop of Rome)

  • Henry Walford Davies, Anglican Organist and Composer
  • John H. Caldwell, U.S. Methodist Minister and Social Reformer
  • Maximillian of Treveste, Roman Conscientious Objector and Martyr, 295
  • Rutilio Grande, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1977
  • Theophanes the Chroncler, Defender of Icons

13 (Yves Congar, Roman Catholic Priest and Theologian)

  • Heldrad, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • James Theodore Holly, Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, and the Dominican Republic; First African-American Bishop in The Episcopal Church
  • Plato of Symboleon and Theodore Studites, Eastern Orthodox Abbots; and Nicephorus of Constantinople, Patriarch
  • Roderic of Cabra and Solomon of Cordoba, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 857

14 (Fannie Lou Hamer, Prophet of Freedom)

  • Albert Lister Peace, Organist in England and Scotland
  • Harriet King Osgood Munger, U.S. Congregationalist Hymn Writer
  • Nehemiah Goreh, Indian Anglican Priest and Theologian
  • Vincenzina Cusmano, Superior of the Sisters Servants of the Poor; and her brother, Giacomo Cusmano, Founder of the Sisters Servants of the Poor and the Missionary Servants of the Poor
  • William Leddra, British Quaker Martyr in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1661

15 (Zachary of Rome, Bishop of Rome)

  • Jan Adalbert Balicki and Ladislaus Findysz, Roman Catholic Priests in Poland
  • Ozora Stearns Davis, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Vethappan Solomon, Apostle to the Nicobar Islands

16 (Adalbald of Ostevant, Rictrudis of Marchiennes, and Their Relations)

  • Abraham Kidunaia, Roman Catholic Hermit; and Mary of Edessa, Roman Catholic Anchoress
  • John Cacciafronte, Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, Bishop, and Martyr, 1183
  • Megingaud of Wurzburg, Roman Catholic Monk and Bishop
  • Thomas Wyatt Turner, U.S. Roman Catholic Scientist, Educator, and Civil Rights Activist; Founder of Federated Colored Catholics

17 (Patrick, Apostle of Ireland)

  • Ebenezer Elliott, “The Corn Law Rhymer”
  • Henry Scott Holland, Anglican Hymn Writer and Priest
  • Jan Sarkander, Silesian Roman Catholic Priest and “Martyr of the Confessional,” 1620
  • Maria Barbara Maix, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

18 (Leonides of Alexandria, Roman Catholic Martyr, 202; Origen, Roman Catholic Theologian; Demetrius of Alexandria, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Alexander of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Bishop)

  • Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Theologian, and Liturgist
  • Eliza Sibbald Alderson, Poet and Hymn Writer; and John Bacchus Dykes, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • Paul of Cyprus, Eastern Orthodox Martyr, 760
  • Robert Walmsley, English Congregationalist Hymn Writer


20 (Sebastian Castellio, Prophet of Religious Liberty)

  • Christopher Wordsworth, Hymn Writer and Anglican Bishop of Lincoln
  • Ellen Gates Starr, U.S. Episcopalian then Roman Catholic Social Activist and Reformer
  • Maria Josefa Sancho de Guerra, Founder of the Congregation of the Servants of Jesus
  • Samuel Rodigast, German Lutheran Academic and Hymn Writer

21 (Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach, Composers)

  • Nicholas of Flüe and his grandson, Conrad Scheuber, Swiss Hermits
  • Serapion of Thmuis, Roman Catholic Bishop

22 (Deogratias, Roman Catholic Bishop of Carthage)

  • Emmanuel Mournier, French Personalist Philosopher
  • James De Koven, Episcopal Priest
  • Thomas Hughes, British Social Reformer and Member of Parliament
  • William Edward Hickson, English Music Educator and Social Reformer

23 (Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great, Patriarchs of Armenia)

  • Meister Eckhart, Roman Catholic Theologian and Mystic
  • Metodej Dominik Trčka, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1959
  • Umphrey Lee, U.S. Methodist Minister and President of Southern Methodist University
  • Victorian of Hadrumetum, Martyr at Carthage, 484
  • Walter of Pontoise, French Roman Catholic Abbot and Ecclesiastical Reformer

24 (Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador; and the Martyrs of El Salvador, 1980-1992)

  • Didacus Joseph of Cadiz, Capuchin Friar
  • George Rundle Prynne, Anglican Priest, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • Paul Couturier, Apostle of Christian Unity
  • Thomas Attwood, “Father of Modern Church Music”


  • Dismas, Penitent Bandit

26 (Margaret Clitherow, English Roman Catholic Martyr, 1586)

  • Flannery O’Connor, U.S. Roman Catholic Writer
  • James Rendel Harris, Anglo-American Congregationalist then Quaker Biblical Scholar and Orientalist; Robert Lubbock Bensly, English Biblical Translator and Orientalist; Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Smith Gibson, English Biblical Scholars and Linguists; Samuel Savage Lewis, Anglican Priest and Librarian of Corpus Christi College; and James Young Gibson, Scottish United Presbyterian Minister and Literary Translator
  • Ludger, Roman Catholic Bishop of Munster

27 (Charles Henry Brent, Episcopal Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, Bishop of Western New York, and Ecumenist)

  • Nicholas Owen, Thomas Garnet, Mark Barkworth, Edward Oldcorne, and Ralph Ashley, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 1601-1608
  • Robert Hall Baynes, Anglican Bishop of Madagascar
  • Rupert of Salzburg, Apostle of Bavaria and Austria
  • Stanley Rother, U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Missionary, and Martyr in Guatemala, 1981

28 (James Solomon Russell, Episcopal Priest, Educator, and Advocate for Racial Equality)

  • Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Anglican Writer, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer
  • Guntram of Burgundy, King
  • Katharine Lee Bates, U.S. Educator, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • Richard Chevenix Trench, Anglican Archbishop of Dublin
  • Tutilo, Roman Catholic Monk and Composer

29 (Charles Villiers Stanford, Composer, Organist, and Conductor)

  • Dora Greenwell, Poet and Devotional Writer
  • John Keble, Anglican Priest and Poet
  • Jonas and Barachisius, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 327

30 (Innocent of Alaska, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of North America)

  • Cordelia Cox, U.S. Lutheran Social Worker, Educator, and Resettler of Refugees
  • John Wright Buckham, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Julio Alvarez Mendoza, Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1927

31 (Maria Skobtsova, Russian Orthodox Martyr, 1945)

  • Ernest Trice Thompson, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Renewer of the Church
  • Franz Joseph Haydn and his brother, Michael Haydn, Composers
  • Joan of Toulouse, Carmelite Nun; and Simon Stock, Carmelite Friar
  • John Donne, Anglican Priest and Poet
  • John Marriott, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer



  • The Confession of Saint Martha of Bethany (the Sunday immediately prior to Palm Sunday; March 8-April 11)


Lowercase boldface on a date with two or more commemorations indicates a primary feast.

Feast of Sts. Jonas and Barachisius (March 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  King Shapur II of Persia (Reigned 309-379)

Image Source = British Museum



Roman Catholic Martyrs

King Shapur II of Persia was a great empire builder and a cruel man.  He persecuted Christians within his realm, forced one King of Armenia to commit suicide, and killed most of the inhabitants of the city of Susa.  And that is a partial list of his offenses.

In 327, King Shapur II was busy persecuting Christians and ordering the destruction of monasteries and church buildings.  Jonas and Barachisius, two Christian brothers from the city of Beth-Asa, traveled to the city of Hubaham to encourage the Christians there, who were under a death sentence.  The brothers encouraged their fellow Christians to remain true to the faith, even to martyrdom.  Jonas and Barachisius met the same cruel fate in ways I choose not to describe.  There is little to no point in vivid descriptions of tortures.

Church history is replete with accounts of potentates attempting to crush Christianity with violence.  They kill people.  Sometimes they drive the church underground for a long time.  But they cannot succeed in their ultimate goal.  Love, you see, is more powerful than any weapon or campaign of persecution.  And the ultimate victory belongs to God alone.








The Collect and Assigned Readings for Martyrs from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), hymnal and service book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada:

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 Saints Jonas and Barachisius, 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


Revised on December 24, 2016


Posted January 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in March 29, Saints of 300-349

Tagged with

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A   Leave a comment

Above: The Raising of Lazarus, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

These Bones Can Live Again Or, Some Good Deeds Do Not Go Unpunished

MARCH 29, 2020


Ezekiel 37:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me,

Mortal, can these bones live?

I answered,

O Lord GOD, you know.

Then he said to me,

Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me,

Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me,

Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,

says the Lord.

Psalm 130 (New Revised Standard Version):

Out of the depths I cry to you , O LORD.

Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!

For with the LORD there is steadfast love,

and with him is great power to redeem.

It is he who will redeem Israel

from all its iniquities.

Romans 8:6-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

John 11:1-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,

Lord, he whom you love is ill.

But when Jesus heard it, he said,

This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples,

Let us go to Judea again.

The disciples said to him,

Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?

Jesus answered,

Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.

After saying this, he told them,

Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.

The disciples said to him,

Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.

Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly,

Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples,

Let us also go, that we may die with him.

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus,

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.

Jesus said to her,

Your brother will rise again.

Martha said to him,

I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.

Jesus said to her,

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

She said to him,

Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately,

The Teacher is here and is calling for you.

And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said,

Where have you laid him?

They said to him,

Lord, come and see.

Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said,

See how he loved him!

But some of them said,

Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said,

Take away the stone.

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him,

Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.

Jesus said to her,

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said,

Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice,

Lazarus, come out!

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them,

Unbind him, and let him go.

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


My soundtrack for the writing of this post is part of Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony #2, the “Resurrection” Symphony.  The work is not Christian, and Mahler was at best a nominal Roman Catholic who converted from the Judaism he did not practice, either, to get a job.  But the man wrote wonderful music.  The portion of the “Resurrection” Symphony which attracts me now is the Urlicht movement, a soul-melting contralto solo, the lyrics of which (in English translation) follow:

O red rose!

Man lies in direst need!

Man lies in deepest pain!

I would rather be in heaven!

I came upon a broad path:

an angel came to me and sought to turn me back.

Ah no!  I would not be sent away!

I am from God and to God I will return!

Dear God will give me a light,

will light me to eternal, blessed life!

Then the final movement begins.  When the soloists and choir members sing the words (again in English translation) include:

Rise again, yea, thou shalt rise again,

my dust, after brief rest!

Mahler’s symphony concerns a dead hero who awakens in Heaven, so the context is somewhat outside the reading from the Johannine Gospel, but some of it works well, anyhow.

The author of the Fourth Gospel wrote of Jesus raising his good friend, Lazarus, from the dead.  The long portion of John 11 in the Revised Common Lectionary has a happy ending.  But read the rest of the chapter.  Some of Jesus’ religious enemies conspire to have him killed because of fear that spreading faith in Jesus will bring down the wrath of the Roman Empire on Judea, and it was allegedly better for one man, not a nation, to die.

The placement of this Gospel reading at this point in the lectionary is appropriate, for the next Sunday will be Palm (Passion) Sunday, the opening of Holy Week.  At this point in the church year the short countdown to the crucifixion of Jesus has begun.  The foreshadowing, present in some of the canonical Gospels since the birth narratives, will yield to unfolding drama and a climax.  The author of the Markan Gospel, the first of the canonical Gospels written, believed that the role of the Messiah was to suffer and die, not to be the conquering hero to expel the Roman occupiers and restore Israel to its Davidic glory.  New Testament scholars call this Markan view the Messsianic Secret, for, according “Mark,” whoever he was, the death of the Messiah revealed the identity and true function of the Messiah to all who paid attention.  Think of it this way:  Messiah 101 is that he must die.  But he has to die before this becomes readily apparent.  Writing of this nearly 2000 years later it seems obvious, but this was not the case at the time.

O, just one more thing.

There is a Medieval Roman Catholic tradition which states that Lazarus and his sisters became evangelists in Provence, France.  I do not know if the reality behind the tradition is fact or fiction, but I am certain of one proposition:  I would tell people that Jesus had raised me (or my brother, if one assumes the point of view of Mary or Martha) from the dead.