Archive for the ‘Saints of the 250s’ Category

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

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

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

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

SAINT CORNELIUS OF ROME (DIED IN JUNE 253)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = September 16

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

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

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from March 4

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

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

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

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

SAINT CYRIACA (DIED 249)

Roman Widow and Martyr

Her feast transferred from August 21

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

SAINT SIXTUS II (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr

His feast transferred from August 7

His former feast day = August 6

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

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

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

SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 10, 258)

Archdeacon of Rome, and Martyr

Also known as Saint Lawrence of Rome

His feast = August 10

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

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

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

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

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

Feast of St. Fabian (January 20)   2 comments

st-fabian

Above:  St. Fabian

Image in the Public Domain

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

SAINT FABIAN (DIED JANUARY 20, 250)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr

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

The glory of his death befitted the purity and holiness of his life.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, writing to Pope St. Cornelius, quoted in A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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

Pope St. Anterus (reigned November 21, 235-January 3, 236) had died suddenly.  A week later, a crowd gathered in Rome as the election of the next Pope took place.  A dove alighted upon the head of St. Fabian, a member of that crowd.  He was a layman and a farmer from elsewhere in Italy.  The dominant interpretation of the dove’s action was that the Holy Spirit had chosen St. Fabian.  He was a good choice.

St. Fabian was a capable leader.  He sent St. Denis and his companions to Gaul.  St. Fabian also restructured the Church; he organized the local clergy into seven districts, each with a deacon and seven subdeacons.  This gave the Church a structure suitable for its growing numbers.  St. Fabian also opposed the heresy of Bishop Privatus of Lambesa.  (I have attempted in vain to locate a summary of that heresy, but I have learned that a church council condemned it.)  Furthermore, the Pope repatriated the bodies of Pope St. Callixtus I and Antipope St. Hippolytus, both martyrs who died in the salt mines of Sardinia.

St. Fabian became one of the first victims of the Decian persecution.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29:  THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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

Almighty God, you called Fabian to be a faithful pastor and servant of your people,

and to lay down his life in witness to your Son:

Grant that we, strengthened by his example and aided by his prayers,

may in times of trial and persecution remain steadfast in faith and endurance,

for the sake of him who laid down his life for us all, Jesus Christ our Savior;

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

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126

1 Corinthians 15:31-36, 44b-49

Luke 21:20-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 179

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

Feast of St. Nemesian of Sigum and His Companions (September 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map of Numidia in 200 Common Era

SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM (DIED 257)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Numidia

and His Companions:

Saint Davitus of Sigum

Saint Felix of Sigum (I)

Saint Felix of Sigum (II)

Saint Jader of Sigum

Saint Litteus of Sigum

Saint Lucius of Sigum

Saint Polyanus of Sigum

Saint Victor of Sigum

A crime is whatever a power defines it as being.  So it happened that these saints–bishops–were criminals because they were Christians.  Their sentence was hard labor at the marble quarry at Sigum, in northern Africa.  They died there.  Some died of mistreatment of various sorts while authorities executed others.  All were martyrs.

The Church survives yet the Roman Empire does not.  Need I say more?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGIUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, AMELIA BLOOMER, SOJOURNER TRUTH, AND HARRIET ROSS TUBMAN, WITNESSES TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WOMEN

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

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs

Saint Nemesian of Sigum,

Saint Davitus of Sigum

Saint Felix of Sigum (I),

Saint Felix of Sigum (II),

Saint Jader of Sigum,

Saint Litteus of Sigum,

Saint Lucius of Sigum,

Saint Polyanus of Sigum, and

Saint Victor of Sigum

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

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

Feast of Sts. Gregory Thaumaturgus and Alexander of Comana “the Charcoal Burner” (August 11)   2 comments

Above:  Pontus and Syria in the Roman Empire, 150 Common Era

SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS (CIRCA 213-268)

Also known as Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea and Saint Gregory the Wonder-Worker

Roman Catholic Bishop of Neocaesarea

His feast transferred from November 17

ordained

SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER” (DIED CIRCA 251)

Roman Catholic Martyr and Bishop of Comana, Pontus

His feast = August 11

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (circa 213-268) was born at Neocaesarea, Pontus, Asia Minor, where he studied law.  About 233 the saint, his brother, his sister, and her husband were en route to Beirut when they stopped at Caesarea, Syria.  There they met Origen, who converted them to Christianity.  They remained there for years instead of going on to Beirut.  And they became disciples of Origen.

About 238 St. Gregory returned to Neocaesarea, where he intended to practice law.  But all seventeen Christians there named him their bishop instead.  He tended to the flock for three decades, helping his parishioners survive a plague, a siege, and the Decian persecution.  And, when the saint died, he still had only seventeen members in his flock.

St. Gregory earned his great reputation.  He was allegedly a wonder-worker, hence his surname.  But he did argue against two heresies.  The first was Tritheism, which was, as the term indicates, three deities instead of one one in the Trinity.  The other heresy was Sabellianism, which argued that God the Father projected Himself as God the Spirit on some occasions and as God the Son on others.  This understanding of the Holy Trinity contradicted the unchanging, stable divine transcendence upon which Origen insisted.  (Origen favored the Son and the Spirit as being generated eternally from the Father.)  Speaking of Origen, St. Gregory defended his controversial teacher against strong criticisms.

St. Gregory needed to appoint a Bishop of Comana, Pontus (not to be confused with Comana, Cappadocia), some time prior to 251.  He interviewed various candidates and found none of them acceptable.  Then someone suggested sarcastically that the Bishop of Neocaesarea speak to St. Alexander the Charcoal Burner.  St. Gregory did and behold, he found that St. Alexander was a wise and holy man suited to serve as bishop.  St. Alexander died for his faith circa 251, during the Decian persecution.

Sometimes we labor hard for God and do not see spectacular results.  How often might St. Gregory have become discouraged because of the lack of church growth, other than to replace people who died, moved away, or fell way?  But, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  Today churches around the world bear the name “St. Gregory the Wonder-Worker.”  Perhaps keeping the faith was his greatest wonder.  Certainly his legacy has endured.

And, as for St. Alexander, I propose him as the patron of all with unexpected vocations, of everyone whom others underestimate and scorn unjustly.  Each of us has a variety of spiritual gifts and vocations, some of them not obvious even to us.  The man who suggested sarcastically that St. Gregory interview that charcoal burner had no idea what he setting in motion.

Wherever we are, whomever we are, regardless of the challenges we face, may we find our vocations in God.  The may we live into them, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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

Heavenly Father, shepherd of our people,

we thank you for your holy servants

Saints Gregory Thaumaturgus and Saint Alexander of Comana “the Charcoal Burner,”

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

We pray that, following their example and the teaching of their holy lives,

may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same 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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

Feast of St. Leonides of Alexandria, Origen, St. Demetrius of Alexandria, and St. Alexander of Jerusalem (March 18)   27 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. Chaeremon and Ischyrion (December 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Roman Egypt in 400 C.E.  

(Nilopolis is near Memphis.)

SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION (DIED CIRCA 250)

Roman Catholic Martyrs

Those of us fortunate to live in a nation with a history of religious freedom might not read the notices of impending persecution and martyrdom in the New Testament the same way many of our fellow Christians living under difficult circumstances do.  But we can, through a study of history, understand somewhat what our forebears in faith have endured.  And that is sufficient reason to consider the lives and deaths of Sts. Chaeremon and Ischyrion.

Decius reigned as Roman Emperor from 249 to 251.  He ordered the persecution of Christians who refused to make even one pagan sacrifice per year.  Such sacrifices were, in the mind of the emperor and many other Romans, basic civic responsibilities; by honoring the gods, the reasoning went, citizens might convince the gods to continue to bless the empire.  And the empire was experiencing much difficulty between the 230s and the 280s.  Yet even one pagan sacrifice was one too many for a conscientious Christian, so many died.  Among them were Chaeremon (an elderly man), Bishop of Nilopolis, and Ischyrion, a city official.  Historical sources differ on the city of which he was an employee, but they agree that he also refused to make the pagan sacrifice.

In other words, Chaeremon, Ischyrion, and the many other Christians who died for their faith under Decius were scapegoats for imperial problems, which continued.  May we of today refrain from scapegoating others for our national problems.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE LAST DAY OF ORDINARY TIME 2011

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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

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 Chaeremon and Ischyrion,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

Posted November 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in December 22, Saints of the 250s

Tagged with ,