Archive for the ‘Saints of 200-299’ Category

Feast of Sts. Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius of Laodicea, and Anatolius of Laodicea (July 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Ancient Alexandria

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (CIRCA 190-265)

Patriarch of Alexandria, and Church Father

Also known as Saint Dionysius the Great

His feast transferred from April 8 and November 17

mentor of

SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA (DIED CIRCA 268)

Bishop of Laodicea 

Also known as Saint Eusebius of Alexandria

His feast days = July 3 and October 4

predecessor of

SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (DIED 283)

Bishop of Laodicea

Also known as Saint Anatolius of Laodicea

His feast = July 3

St. Dionysius of Alexandria/the Great mentored St. Eusebius of Laodicea and St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea.

These three saints lived during times of imperial persecution and doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not descend fully-formed from Heaven.  No, people, debated them.  Councils and synods convened and issued statements, thereby defining orthodoxy.

We modern Christians stand on the shoulders of Sts. Dionysius, Eusebius, and Anatolius, who, in turn, stood on the shoulders of others.

St. Dionysius the Great, born in Alexandria, Egypt, circa 190, learned the Christian faith there.  He studied under Origen (185-254) at the catechetical school.  St. Dionysius, a priest, succeeded Origen as the head of that school.  After Origen returned from a visit to Pope St. Zephyrinus (reigned 198/199-217) in Rome, St. Dionysius encouraged Origen to resume teaching at the catachetical school.  St. Dionysius served as the Patriarch of Alexandria, starting in 248.

St. Dionysius maintained orthodoxy while remaining gentle toward penitent heretics.  He argued against baptizing former heretics; laying on hands then welcoming penitent heretics back into the fold sufficed for our saint.  The heresies du jour were Novatianism, Sabellianism, and Adoptionism.

Novatianism led to a schism.  Circa 250, Novatian argued that the church had no power to pardon mortal sins, therefore there was no forgiveness after baptism.  He also held a subordinationist view of the relationships within the Trinity.  The second point was not unique to Novatian; literal readings of certain Pauline passages supported subordinationism.  And some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, orthodox according to the standards of their time, were subordinationists.  The greater issue was the Novatianist schism, which persisted into the 500s.  St. Dionysius wrote to Novatian to encourage him to return to the fold.  Our saint also wrote to Fabian, the Bishop of Antioch, to discourage him from supporting the Novatianist schism.  St. Dionysius’s efforts partially healed the schism.

Sabellianism was a variety of Modalistic Monarchianism, another Trinity-related heresy.  Circa 215, Sabellius defined the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as temporal projections, or “dilations” in an attempt to maintain strict monotheism.  St. Dionysius wrote against this heresy, too.

St. Dionysius, as the Patriarch of Alexandria, endured imperial persecutions.  Decius (reigned 249-251) persecuted the church.  Our saint, incarcerated in 250, went on to live as a fugitive in the desert until 251.  A few years later, Gallienus (reigned 253-268) launched another persecution.  St. Dionysius spent 257-260 in exile in the Mareotis desert.

St. Dionysius left a written legacy.  Repentance was a favorite theme in many letters.  He also composed a commentary on Revelation.

St. Dionysius died of natural causes in Alexandria in 265.

St. Eusebius of Alexandria/Laodicea had been a deacon under St. Dionysius.  Circa 255, during the Valerian persecution, the imperium sentenced St. Eusebius to Kefro, Libya.  He avoided his sentence by going on the lam.  Years later, in 260, our saint risked his life as he ministered to the sick of Alexandria during a plague.

St. Dionysius was till ill to travel to the Second Council of Antioch (264), so he sent St. Eusebius in his stead.  The purpose of the council was to condemn Adoptionism, a heresy from the previous century.  As Paul of Samosota wrote in 260,

Mary did not bear the Word, for Mary did not exist before the ages.  Mary is not older than the Word; what she bore was a man equal to us, but superior in all things as a result of the Holy Spirit.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought (1995), 76

In other words, according to Adoptionists and Paul of Samosota in particular, Mary was not the Theotokos, the Bearer and Mother of God, for Jesus became the Son of God when God adopted him.  Adoptionists disagreed about when God adopted Jesus.

Sts. Dionysius and Eusebius disagreed with the Adoptionists.

St. Eusebius did not return to Alexandria.  Shortly after the Second Council of Antioch (264), he became the Bishop of Laodicea (now Latakia, Syria), near Antioch.  He died in Laodicea in Syria circa 268.

Above:  The Tetraporticus (Erected in 183), Latakia, Syria

Photographer = Allamlatakia

St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea was a polymath.  He was a famous writer, mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and teacher.  Our saint, an erstwhile public servant in Alexandria, was also the founder and head of the Aristotelean school in that great city.  During a Roman military siege of Alexandria in 263, Sts. Eusebius and Anatolius successfully negotiated with the army for the release of innocents.  In so doing, St. Anatolius became persona non grata in Alexandria.

St. Anatolius found greener political pastures in Caesarea, Palestine.  There he was the assistant to the bishop.  In that capacity, our saint was passing through Laodicea in Syria, en route to the Third Council of Antioch, in 268.  St. Eusebius had died recently.  St. Anatolius, much to his surprise, became the next Bishop of Laodicea.  He remained in that office for the rest of his life, until 283.

Emphasizing relationships and influences is one goal of mine here at the Ecumenical Calendar.  A particular chain of influences germane to this post follows:  St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) to St. Alexander of Jerusalem (died 251) and Origen (185-254) to St. Dionysius the Great/of Alexandria (circa 190-265) to St. Eusebius of Alexandria/Laodicea (died circa 268) and St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea (died 283).  It is a chain of influences worth celebrating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENNARO MARIA SARNELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE VULNERABLE AND EXPLOITED PEOPLE OF NAPLES

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PAUL HANLY FURFEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SOCIOLOGIST, AND SOCIAL RADICAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP POWEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1646

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God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ, who is our peace:

Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity.

Give us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided,

that, forgiven and forgiving, we may ever be one in Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.

Genesis 8:12-17, 20-22

Psalm 51:1-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Luke 23:32-43

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 737

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Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra (December 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Nicholas of Myra

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA (MARCH 15, 270-DECEMBER 6, 343)

Bishop of Myra

We know little about St. Nicholas of Myra.  Legends abound, but confirmed information is scarce.  We know the following, though:

  1. St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, on the coast of what is now Turkey.
  2. He suffered incarceration and torture after Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) launched an empire-wide persecution of Christianity in 303.

St. Nicholas may have attended the First Council of Nicaea (325), from which the first draft of the Nicene Creed emerged.  According to one story, he slapped Arius, founder of the Arian heresy.  (I do not know if the story is true, but I suppose that it is plausible.)

St. Nicholas apparently earned his reputation as a generous person, hence many stories of financial assistance to those in need.  His generosity to impoverished children eventually contributed to stories of Santa Claus.

The Roman Emperor Justinian I “the Great” (reigned 527-565) revered the late Bishop of Myra as a saint.  The Church has followed that practice, wisely.

May kindness and love define our characters, communities, social institutions, societies, and governments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea:

Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children,

the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt and grief;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 19:17, 20-23

Psalm 145:8-13

1 John 4:7-14

Mark 10:13-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 105

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Feast of Sts. Marcellus the Centurion and Cassian of Tangiers (October 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  Part of the Roman Province of Africa

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT MARCELLUS THE CENTURION

Also known as Saint Marcellus of Tangiers

His feast = October 30

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SAINT CASSIAN OF TANGIERS

His feast transferred from December 3

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MARTYRS AT TANGIERS, 298

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The Roman Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) established the Tetrarchy in 293.  The Tetrarchy was his temporary solution to the persistent solution to the problem of Roman imperial succession, frequently accomplished via military coups d’état.  Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into two parts–east and west.  He established himself as the Augustus of the East and appointed Maximian as the Augustus of the West.  Diocletian was the senior Augustus; Maximian answered to him.  Each of the Augustii had a Caesar, or vice emperor, with the right of succession to the post of Augustus.  The Tetrarchy eventually devolved into civil wars, resolved when Constantine I “the Great” became the sole emperor in 325.

In 298, on the occasion of the birthday of one of the emperors (probably Diocletian), St. Marcellus, a centurion, refused to participate in a pagan offering at Tangiers (now in Morocco).  He made a profession of Christian faith instead.  At the end of the ensuing trial, he received the sentence of death.  The stenographer at the trial was St. Cassian, who made his public profession of faith then went to his martyrdom, also.

St. Marcellus is the patron of conscientious objectors.

St. Cassian is the patron saint of stenographers.

Stories of such martyrs have strengthened the faith of Christians for thousands of years.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

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

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Jesus our Redeemer, you gave your life to ransom us;

you have also called us to drink your cup and undergo your baptism.

Thank you for the witness of Saints Marcellus the Centurion and Cassian of Tangiers;

may we have faith and resolution too.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-21

Psalm 3 or 116

Hebrews 11:32-40

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), 680-681

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Feast of Sts. Cyprian of Carthage, Cornelius of Rome, Lucius I of Rome, and Stephen I of Rome (September 16)   5 comments

Above:  Carthage and Rome

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (190/210-SEPTEMBER 14, 258)

Bishop of Carthage, and Martyr

Born Thascius Caecillianus Cyprianus

His feast day = September 16

Alternative feast days = August 31, September 15, September  26, and October 2

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SAINT CORNELIUS OF ROME (DIED IN JUNE 253)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = September 16

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SAINT LUCIUS I OF ROME (DIED MARCH 5, 254)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from March 4

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SAINT STEPHEN I OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 2, 257)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 2

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Whoso stands aloof from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic sect] is cut off from the promises given to the Church; and he that leaves the Church of Christ attains not to Christ’s rewards.  He is an alien, an outcast, an enemy.  He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother.

–St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church; quoted in Henry Bettenson and Chris Mander, eds., Documents of the Christian Church, 3d. ed. (1998), 80

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September 15 is the Feast of St. Cyprian of Carthage in The Episcopal Church.  The saint has more than one feast day, not one of them September 14, the anniversary of his death.  September 14 is, after all, the Feast of the Holy Cross.  Of all the feast days of St. Cyprian September 16 makes the most sense for my purposes as I continue to renovate my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days because (1) September 16 is the Feast of St. Cornelius of Rome, and (2) one cannot explain the lives of either St. Cyprian or St. Cornelius properly in isolation from each other.

Most persecution of Christianity in the Roman Empire was local and sporadic.  Sometimes, however, an emperor launched an empire-wide persecution.  Roman pagan orthodoxy, such as it was, mixed politics, religion, and civic duty.  The reasoning was that the empire would prosper as long as the gods allowed.  A civic duty, therefore, was to sacrifice to the gods on behalf of the empire.  Jews were exempt from this obligation, but had to pay a tax instead.  Gentiles who refused to make such a sacrifice were not fulfilling their civic duty, as the government defined it.  As Christianity grew, more and more Gentiles refused.  Was Christianity a threat to the future of the empire?  Were Christians threats to imperial security?

Above:  St. Cyprian of Carthage

Image in the Public Domain

St. Cyprian, born in Carthage between 190 and 210, was a pagan rhetorician until he converted to Christianity circa 246.  Within two years he had progressed from convert to deacon to priest then, in 248, to Bishop of Carthage, a post he held for the rest of his life, that is, until 258.  St. Cyprian was one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 250s.

The Emperor Decius (reigned 249-251), unlike his tolerant predecessor, Philip I (reigned 244-249), considered Christianity to be a threat to the future of the Roman Empire.  Decius forced St. Cyprian to flee Carthage; the bishop governed his diocese remotely.  St. Fabian, Bishop of Rome from 236 to 250, became a martyr.  A committee of clergymen, with Novatian (circa 200-258) as the spokesman, governed the Church for fourteen months.  In March 251, toward the end of the reign of Decius, a papal election was finally safe.  Novatian expected to win, but St. Cornelius did instead.

Above:  St. Cornelius of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

In 251, when St. Cyprian returned to Carthage, he had to contend with the question of how to deal with people who had committed apostasy by renouncing their Christian faith during the Decian persecution.  Some confessors were overly eager to readmit the lapsed on the grounds of the merits of the martyrs.  This displeased St. Cyprian, who insisted that apostates must perform penance in order for reconciliation to occur.  This penance, the Bishop of Carthage said, must be suitably long.  St. Cornelius agreed.  The policy would become the policy church-wide, the Bishop of Rome decreed.

Novatian disagreed.  In March 251, via a schismatic papal election, he established himself as a rival Bishop of Rome.  St. Cornelius excommunicated Novatian and his followers.  The Novatianist sect was ridiculously morally rigorous, teaching that there was no forgiveness for serious sins one committed after one’s baptism.  The schism persisted in Armenia and Mesopotamia until the 400s, and later elsewhere.

Sts. Cyprian and Cornelius did not always have friendly relations.  The Bishop of Carthage had initially been dubious about the election of St. Cornelius, but had quickly accepted it.  St. Cyprian even helped St. Cornelius to win the support of many Roman clergymen who might otherwise have supported Novatian.  In the summer of 252, however, St. Cornelius received envoys of Fortunatus, a bishop rival to St. Cyprian.  The Bishop of Rome did not side with Fortunatus, but St. Cyprian complained in writing about the meeting.

The next emperor was Gallus (reigned 251-253), initially tolerant of Christianity.  The reign of Gallus was one disaster after another.  A plague swept through the empire.  In Carthage Christians became scapegoats for the plague.  There were also barbarian invasions as well as military defeats on the Persian frontier.  Gallus distracted much criticism of him by resuming the persecution of Christianity in June 252.  That month the imperial government forced St. Cornelius into exile at Centumcellae (now Civitavecchia, the port of Rome).  The Bishop of Rome died in June 253.  The empire seemed to be coming apart; a civil war seemed unavoidable.  Gallus had two rivals (both generals) for the imperial throne.  In July 253 he died at the hands of his soldiers, who preferred assassinating their emperor to fighting a losing battle in which they would die in vain.  Aemilian, the next emperor, reigned for a few months until dying the same way.

The next emperor was Valerian (reigned 253-260), initially tolerant of Christianity.

Above:  St. Lucius I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Lucius I, elected Bishop of Rome on June 23, 253, had been in exile during the persecution under Gallus.  St. Cyprian wrote to St. Lucius I, who maintained the policy of St. Cornelius vis-á-vis repentant apostates.  The Bishop of Carthage congratulated the new Bishop of Rome for faithful suffering, and welcomed him back to Rome.  St. Lucius I died of natural causes on March 5, 254.

Above:  St. Stephen I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Stephen I, elected Bishop of Rome on May 12, 254, had conflicts with St. Cyprian.

St. Stephen I readmitted two lapsed Spanish bishops to the Church.  St. Cyprian did not agree that the Spanish bishops had repented of their apostasy.  He convened a synod of north African bishops.  The synod decreed that the Spanish bishops were still apostates, and that they had deceived the Bishop of Rome.

Marcian, Bishop of Arles, was, like Novatian, a moral rigorist who refused forgiveness and reconciliation, to repentant apostates–even on deathbeds.  Some local bishops petitioned St. Stephen I to depose Marcian.  St. Cyprian urged the Bishop of Rome to excommunicate and depose Marcian.  St. Stephen I refused on all counts.

Sts. Stephen I and Cyprian disagreed about the rebaptism of people baptized by heretics, i.e., Novatianists.  The Bishop of Carthage argued that such baptisms were almost always invalid.  He contended that the sacrament was valid only within the Church, so rebaptism was necessary in most of these cases.  The Bishop of Rome, however, regarded baptisms by heretics as generally valid.  Therefore, according to St. Stephen I, absolution via the laying on of hands was the only requirement for reconciliation of heretics.  He refused to permit the churches in Asia Minor to hold valid Eucharists due to their practice of rebaptizing heretics.  However, St. Cyprian convened two synods (in 255 and 256) that reaffirmed his position.  Ironically, Novatian and St. Cyprian had something in common, for Novatian refused to accept orthodox Catholic baptisms, just as St. Cyprian refused to accept Novatianist baptisms.

St. Stephen I was doing something new; he became the first Bishop of Rome to claim the primacy of his office based on succession from St. Simon Peter.  What the Bishop of Rome said, went.  St. Cyprian was having none of it, despite his acknowledgment of St. Simon Peter as the rock upon which Jesus founded the Church.

One may wonder what the long-term consequences of the dispute between Sts. Stephen I and Cyprian would have been.  One must, however, consign those thoughts to the realm of the counterfactual.  One should also consider St. Cyprian’s condemnation of schism as sinful.

Circumstances ended the dispute.  St. Stephen I died of natural causes on August 2, 257.  The next Bishop of Rome was St. Sixtus II.  In August 257 Valerian, seeking to distract attention from ample imperial woes, resumed the empire-wide persecution of Christianity.  St. Cyprian, forced into exile again, eventually returned to Carthage, where he became a martyr on September 14, 258.

Novatian also died in 258, perhaps as a martyr during the persecution under Valerian.

Valerian’s persecution did much to damage the Church, which survived, of course.  St. Sixtus II and many clergy died.  The empire also confiscated Church property.  Nevertheless, St. Dionysius, the Bishop of Rome from 260 to 268, rebuilt the Church.  He also had to contend with the issue of rebaptism.  Valerian failed.

The position of the Roman Catholic Church on baptism is that all Christian baptisms are valid.  Defects in the intentions of those who administer baptism render a baptism invalid, hence the Church’s refusal to accept Mormon baptisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servants

Saint Cyprian of Carthage,

Saint Cornelius of Rome,

Saint Lucius I of Rome, and

Saint Stephen I of Rome,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following their examples and teachings of their holy lives,

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718

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Feast of Sts. Cyriaca, Sixtus II and His Companions, and Laurence of Rome (August 10)   9 comments

Above:  Martyrdom of Sixtus II

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYRIACA (DIED 249)

Roman Widow and Martyr

Her feast transferred from August 21

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SAINT SIXTUS II (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr

His feast transferred from August 7

His former feast day = August 6

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SAINTS JANUARIUS, VINCENTIUS, MAGNUS, STEPHANUS, FELICISSIMUS, AND AGAPITIUS (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Deacons at Rome, and Martyrs

Their feast transferred from August 7

Their former feast day = August 6

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SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 10, 258)

Archdeacon of Rome, and Martyr

Also known as Saint Lawrence of Rome

His feast = August 10

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Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was off-and-on, usually local, and occasionally empire-wide.  Being a Christian could be risky.  And, to jump the chronology, after Emperor Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) made Christianity legal (alongside the other legal religions), being a type of Christian other than the type the Emperor was could be perilous.  But for now, back to the time prior to Constantine the Great…..

St. Cyriaca (d. 249) was a wealthy widow.  She gave shelter to persecuted Christians.  St. Laurence, Archdeacon of Rome, responsible for dispensing alms, distributed from her home until she became a martyr (via scourging).  St. Laurence was quite aware of the perils of being a Christian.

Emperor Valerian (reigned 253-260) presided over a troubled empire.  Plagues afflicted various provinces, civil strive existed, the Persian army invaded the empire on one part of the frontier, and Germanic tribes were invading elsewhere along the long border.  In 258-260 Valerian did what many potentates have done when woes have piled high; he distracted people.  He invited people to look over there, not over here.  Valerian persecuted Christians.  He seized church property (including cemeteries), forbade Christians to gather in cemeteries, and required Christians to participate in state pagan rituals.  One rationale for requiring people to participate in such rites was patriotic.  The idea was that the empire would thrive as long as the gods blessed it.  Therefore, the reasoning went, if more and more people ceased to bless the gods, the empire was doomed.  Thus Christians were allegedly threats to imperial security.  (How many violations of human rights have governments ordered in the name of national security since the beginning of the keeping of historical records?)

If such violations of human rights are indeed necessary for a state or empire to continue to exist, that state or empire should fall, for the good of the people.  The existence of such states and empires is morally repugnant.  States and/or empires that respect human rights should replace them.

The Bishop of Rome for slightly less than a year (August 30, 257-August 6, 258) was St. Sixtus II, properly Xystus.  He spent part of his pontificate dealing with the thorny issue of how to relate to holier-than-thou northern African Christians who were rebaptizing those originally baptized by heretics.  This matter predated his pontificate and continued afterward.  St. Sixtus II upheld the Roman Catholic orthodoxy that the validity of a baptism depended on the intentions of the baptized, not of the baptizer, so no rebaptism was necessary.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism, with the emphasis on “one.”

The hammer fell on August 6, 258.  (August 6 was not the Feast of the Transfiguration until 1457, by the way.)  St. Sixtus II, the seven deacons in Rome, and a congregation had gathered illegally in the cemetery of Praetextatus.  Imperial forces beheaded the Pope and four deacons.  By the end of the day two more deacons had become martyrs.  St. Laurence escaped–for a few days.

St. Laurence spent his final days giving all the Church’s money to poor people in Rome.  When he stood before a prefect on August 10, the prefect demanded that St. Laurence hand over the treasures of the Church.  According to St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), St. Laurence presented the poor people to whom he had given money.  He said,

These are the treasures of the Church.

The prefect disapproved of that reply.  St. Laurence cooked to death on a gridiron.

Valerian’s persecution disrupted the Church for a few years.  However, his son, Gallienus (reigned 253-268), ceased the persecution of Christians and returned seized property.  The next Pope was St. Dionysius (in office July 22, 260-December 26, 268; feast day = December 26), who had to rebuild the Church and to contend with rebaptizers.

With this post I merge three feasts into one.  This makes sense, for each feast relates to the other in a narrative sense.  One of my goals in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, after all, is to emphasize relationships and influences.

I have written enough hagiographies to recognize religious persecution when I see it.  Sometimes it comes from within a tradition; one branch targets another.  On other occasions such persecution comes from adherents of another tradition.  Another option is atheists persecuting the devout.  Persecution takes various forms, including incarcerations and martyrdoms.  I think of the Gestapo hunting down Roman Catholic priests in Poland during World War II, for example.  Priests dying in German concentration camps was another example of persecution.  I am aware of examples of religious persecution in the United States, for I recall, for example, reading about the incarceration of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War I.  “Persecution” is a strong word, which one should use cautiously.  I am not aware of any government-sponsored religious persecution in the United States in 2018, yet I hear of persecution fantasies among certain members of the so-called Religious Right in the U.S.A.  Nobody is forcing me to participate in pagan ceremonies.  No government agents are arresting priests for simply being priests.  Governments are not seizing control of churches.  None of this is happening in the U.S.A. in 2018.  I thank God for my religious freedom, which I use.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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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 Cyriaca, Sixtus II, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, Agapitus, and Laurence of Rome,

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), 59

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Feast of St. Alban (June 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Alban

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALBAN (DIED CIRCA 209 OR 305)

First British Martyr

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The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ.  This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of baptism without being a sacrament.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), paragraph 1258

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Albanum egregium fecundia Britannia profert.

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In fertile Britain’s land

was noble Alban born.

–St. Venantius Honorius Clementius Fortunatus (circa 530-circa 610)

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The traditional year of the martyrdom of St. Alban was circa 305.  More recent scholarship has preferred 209 or so, however.

St. Alban was a convert to Christianity and the first British martyr.  He, born and raised a pagan at Verulamium (now St. Albans, England), sheltered a fugitive priest for a few days.  During that time the priest converted our saint to Christianity.  When the Roman soldiers seeking the priest searched St. Alban’s home, they found our saint, wearing the priest’s cloak.  The priest was elsewhere.  The soldiers arrested St. Alban.  At his trial he admitted to sheltering the priest and to being a Christian.  The judge sentenced St. Alban to death.  During the process of becoming a martyr our saint, by his conduct, converted two of his would-be executioners, Aaron and Julius, who also became martyrs shortly thereafter.  According to tradition, soldiers caught up with the priest, whom they stoned to death at Redbourn a few days after the capture of St. Alban.

Were the sacrifices of Sts. Alban, Aaron, and Julius worthwhile?  Yes, they were.  These men demonstrated great courage as well as fidelity to God during their brief periods of being Christians.  They were more committed Christians for the few days of their Christian lives than many longterm Christians have been.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Alban

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Psalm 31:1-5

1 John 3:13-16

Matthew 10:34-42

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 435

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Feast of Sts. James of Nisibis and Ephrem of Edessa (June 10)   3 comments

Above:  Edessa and Nisibis, Fourth and Fifth Centuries C.E.

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  The Publishers Agency, Inc., 1957), H-7

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SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS (DIED CIRCA 338)

Bishop of Nisibis and “Moses of Mesopotamia”

Also known as Saint Jacob of Nisibis

His feast transferred from July 15

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SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA (306/307-373)

Deacon, Hymn Writer, Exegete, and “Harp of the Holy Spirit”

Also known as St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. Ephraem Syrus

Episcopal feast day = June 10

Roman Catholic and Church of England feast day = June 9

Scottish Episcopal feast day = June 8

Maronite feast day = June 18

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No one has seen or shall see the things which you have seen.  The Lord himself has become the altar, priest, and brad, and the chalice of salvation.  He alone suffices for all, yet none suffices for him.  He is Altar and Lamb, victim and sacrifice, priest as well as food.

–St. Ephrem of Edessa, on the Passion of Jesus

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Much of the available information about these two saints is of uncertain veracity.  Some of it is even mutually exclusive.  With that caveat I proceed with due caution, aware of the limitations of my sources.

St. James (Jacob) of Nisibis (now Nusaybin, Turkey), was the first Bishop of Nisibis, from 309 until his death, circa 338.  He, renowned for his sanctity, learning, and ability, defended orthodoxy against the Arian heresy.  St. James/Jacob also participated in the First Council of Nicaea (325), to which he might have taken St. Ephrem of Edessa, whom he might have baptized but certainly ordained to the diaconate.

Ephrem of Edessa

Above:  St. Ephrem of Edessa

Image in the Public Domain

St. Ephrem of Edessa was a native of Nisibis.  Traditionally accounts of his life have indicated that his family was pagan and that St. James/Jacob baptized him at the age of 18 years.  More recent scholarship has suggested, however, that St. Ephrem’s family was Christian, however.  Certainly St. James/Jacob, the bishop, was a mentor.  Furthermore, the bishop ordained St. Ephrem a deacon.

In 363 Nisibis came under Persian jurisdiction; persecution of Christians and an exodus of Christians ensued.  St. Ephrem settled at Edessa.  There he founded a theological school, wrote prolifically, and lived in a cave above the city, ate simple foods, and drank only water.  St. Ephrem, who frequently preached in Edessa, composed hymns, 72 of which have survived.  Our saint, who had a devotion to Mary and wrote solely in Syriac, wrote hymns for feasts of the Church, against heresies, and about the Last Judgment, among other topics.  St. Ephrem was an influential figure in the development of Syriac and Greek hymnography and a pioneer in the use of hymns in public worship.  Furthermore, our saint wrote sermons and Biblical commentaries, some of which have survived.

St. Ephrem died of exhaustion in 373, after helping the poor and ill of Edessa during a famine (372-373).  He organized an ambulance service and distributed money and food to the poor, to his detriment.

The Roman Catholic Church declared St. Ephrem a Doctor of the Church in 1920.  It was a wise decision.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT ST. GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Pour out on us, O Lord, that same Spirit by which your bishop James proclaimed your divinity

and your deacon Ephrem rejoiced to proclaim in sacred song the mysteries of faith;

and so gladden our hearts that we, like them, may be devoted to you alone;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 98:5-10

Ephesians 3:8-12

John 16:12-15

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 419

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Feast of St. Dorotheus of Tyre (June 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Dorotheus of Tyre

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE (CIRCA 255-CIRCA 362)

Bishop of Tyre, and Martyr

We know little about the life of St. Dorotheus of Tyre, but we know enough.

St. Dorotheus was a learned priest, bishop, scholar, and author.  In the late 200s he became the Bishop of Tyre.  During the Diocletian Persecution, which started in 303, our saint went into exile at Odyssopolis, Thrace (now Varna, Bulgaria), on the coast of the Black Sea.  After a few years St. Dorotheus returned to Tyre.  In 325 he participated in the pivotal First Council of Nicaea.  During the reign (361-363) of Emperor Julian the Apostate the elderly bishop went into his second exile at Odyssopolis.  There, after he refused to offer a sacrifice to the gods, imperial agents incarcerated, beat, and martyred him.  He was about 107 years old.

Often, when one consults a list of ancient Roman Catholic saints, one reads something like the following:

He was a martyr at a certain place circa a particular year.  No other information has survived to the present day.

Fortunately, information about St. Dorotheus of Tyre has come down to us, so that we may thank God for his intellect, piety, leadership, and dedication.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant

Saint Dorotheus of Tyre, who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 718

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Feast of Sts. Maura and Timothy of Antinoe (May 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Sts. Maura and Timothy of Antinoe

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE

Martyrs, 286

Alternative feast day = September 25

Sts. Maura and Timothy of Antinoe, Egypt, were Christians, newlyweds, and martyrs.  During the reign (284-305) of the Emperor Diocletian Roman authorities arrested or saints, married for 20 days.  The initial strategy was to convince St. Timothy, enduring torture, to talk by threatening to torture St. Maura, in prison, also.  St. Maura, who confessed her faith, had to endure unspeakable torture and mutilation anyway.  St. Timothy refused to satisfy his torturers.  The couple died via crucifixion, facing, each other, for ten days.

The blood of the martyrs waters the church.

That is an old and accurate saying.  One might wonder how much time must pass and how many people must die before tyrants realize that, although they have the power to kill people, they lack the capacity to kill ideas, even in the name of national security.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN STAINER AND WALTER GALPIN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs Saints Maura and Timothy of Antinoe

triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with them the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 714

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Feast of Sts. Alexander and Athanasius of Alexandria (May 2)   7 comments

Above:  The Council of Nicaea (325)

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALEXANDER I OF ALEXANDRIA (CIRCA 250-328)

Patriarch of Alexandria

His feast transferred from February 26

mentor of

SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF ALEXANDRIA (295/298-MAY 2, 373)

Patriarch of Alexandria and “Father of Orthodoxy”

Also known as Saint Athanasius the Great

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We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a bend of creative and created being.  It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved.  Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things.  God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

–Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, First Letter to Serapion; quoted in Christian Prayer:  The Liturgy of the Hours (New York, NY:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1976), page 2011

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We believe in one God,

the Father Almighty,

maker of all things, visible and invisible,

and in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten of the Father,

that is, of the substance of the Father,

God from God,

light from light,

true God from true God,

begotten not made,

of one substance with the Father,

through whom all things were made,

those things that are on earth,

who for us men and for our salvation,

came down and was made man,

suffered,

rose again on the third day,

ascended into the heavens

and will come

to judge the living and the dead.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit.

–Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, 381; quoted in Karen Armstrong, A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York, NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page 111

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One of my goals during the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize influences and relationships.  This post replaces two former posts, thereby telling the stories of Sts. Alexander and Athanasius better.

Certain points of Trinitarian theology seem rather abstract.  Although that statement is accurate, abstractions are not necessarily trivial.  Many of them are of the utmost importance, actually.

Arianism is a heresy.  It (very much alive among the Jehovah’s Witnesses) that the Second Person of the Trinity is a created being.  The name of the heresy comes from Arius of Alexandria (died in 336), a priest whom Patriarch St. Alexander (I) of Alexandria (in office from 313 to 328) excommunicated in 321.

Meletius of Lycopolis, bishop of that city in Upper Egypt, became a schismatic leader.  In 306, after the death of Emperor Diocletian, Patriarch St. Peter I of Alexandria (in office 300-311; feast day = November 26) established guidelines for readmitting lapsed church members who had renounced their faith during the Diocletian persecution.  Meletius, objecting strenuously, made so much trouble that St. Peter I excommunicated him.  Renewed persecution led to the martyrdom of the Patriarch in 311 and the sentencing of Meletius to mines.  After Meletius returned to Egypt he founded a rigorous sect in opposition to the allegedly lax ways of St. Alexander (I) of Alexandria.  The Council of Nicaea (325) forbade Meletius to ordain and restricted him to Lycopolis.

St. Alexander (I), mentor to St. Athanasius (I), was an important member in the development of Trinitarian theology.  St. Alexander (I) and his protégé helped to lay the foundations of the Nicene Creed (technically the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed), finalized at the Council of Constantinople (381).

St. Athanasius, born at Alexandria, Egypt, in 295/298, outshone his great mentor.  St. Alexander also opposed the Arian heresy vigorously and contributed to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but St. Athanasius became known as the “Father of Orthodoxy.”  He studied at the catechetical school at Alexandria.  St. Athanasius, a deacon in 318 and a priest the following year, composed theological treatises as early as his twenties.  In the 320s he served as the private secretary to St. Alexander.  In that capacity St. Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea (325) and played a prominent role in making the creed nearly unanimous.  It seemed natural, then, that, upon the death of St. Alexander in 328, St. Athanasius succeeded him while in his early thirties.

Meletius disagreed.  In 328 he became a schismatic leader again.  His movement survived until the 700s.

Arius and some of his followers also disagreed.  Political machinations led to our saint’s first exile, to Treves, in Germany, from 335 to 337, at the end of the reign of Emperor Constantine I (reigned 306-337).  The offense of St. Athanasius, according to the Emperor, had been to disobey imperial orders to reconcile with Arians.  That which was political convenience for Constantine I was an intolerable compromise for St. Athanasius.

Four more exiles ensued.  Our saint was back in Alexandria from 337 to 339.  Then he had to leave again.  St. Athanasius avoided arrest and escaped the city in 339.  While the usurper Gregory of Cappadocia occupied the Patriarch’s position, St. Athanasius fled for Rome, where Pope Julius I supported him.  Our saint returned to Alexandria in 346, after the violent death of Gregory.  St. Athanasius was back on the job of building up his diocese and its dependent dioceses, of encouraging monasticism, and opposing heresies for about a decade before his third exile began.  Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361) arranged for the deposition of our saint, who spent 356-361 away from Alexandria.  After the death of Constantius II the reign of Julian the Apostate began.  Julian allowed orthodox bishops to return from exile.  However, he also presided over another phase of persecution, hence the fourth exile of St. Athanasius in 362-363.  Imperial politics also led to our saint’s fifth exile, from October 365 to February 366.  St. Athanasius lived in Alexandria for the rest of his life, dying on May 2, 373.  His handpicked successor was St. Peter II (in office 373-381; feast day = February 27), who also opposed Arianism vigorously.

St. Athanasius was one of those men who preserved the Christian faith for his and subsequent generations.  He, a Christian Platonist who drew from Johannine and Pauline theology, championed sound Trinitarian theology.  For St. Athanasius this matter was related to the Atonement; the Logos of God could not be a vulnerable creature and created being (as a person was), for human participation in God, via the Logos, was the only way for people to avoid annihilation due to sin, our saint argued.  St. Athanasius affirmed the transformational power of the Incarnation in human lives.

The Son of God became man so that we might become God.

–St. Athanasius

St. Athanasius, being a brilliant theologian, frequently couched his thoughts in terms that prove confusing to twenty-first century laypeople accustomed to sound bites and not trained in Platonism.  His preferred wisdom has proven timeless, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servants Alexander and Athanasius,

to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition,

trusting solely in the grace of your divine 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.  Amen.

Ezekiel 3:1-14a

Psalm 71:1-8

1 John 5:1-5

Matthew 10:22-32

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 357

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