Archive for the ‘Saints of the 290s’ Category

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. James of Nisibis and Ephrem of Edessa (June 10)   1 comment

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. Alexander and Athanasius of Alexandria (May 2)   5 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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Feast of Sts. Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great (March 23)   1 comment

Armenian Apostolic Church Logo

Above:  Flag of the Armenian Apostolic Church

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR (CIRCA 257-CIRCA 332)

His feast day (The Episcopal Church) = March 23

His other feast day = September 30

and his descendant

SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT (CIRCA 345-SEPTEMBER 439)

Also known as Saint Sahak the Great

His feast transferred from February 10 and September 9

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Patriarchs of Armenia

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Although St. Bartholomew (a.k.a. St. Nathanael) introduced Christianity to Armenia, sources list both St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Isaac the Great as founders of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Traditional accounts of the life of St. Gregory the Illuminator blend the objective reality of his life with legends.  We can, however, be reasonably sure of certain details.  He, a native of Armenia, grew up and studied in Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, in the Eastern Roman Empire.  There he converted to Christianity.  Eventually St. Gregory returned to Armenia.  He became the “Apostle of Armenia,” converting even King Tiridates III “the Great” (reigned 287-330), once a persecutor of Christianity, circa 301.  The following year the monarch, who made Christianity the official religion of the realm, appointed St. Gregory the Patriarch of Armenia and Catholicos of the See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians.  St. Gregory retired to a monastery in 325.  There he died seven years later.   His successor as Patriarch and Catholicos was a son, St. Aristakes I (in office 325-333), who attended the Council of Nicaea (325).

Many of the earliest Patriarchs of Armenia and Catholicoses of the See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians belonged to a hereditary lineage, that of the Arsacid Dynasty.  After St. Aristakes I came St. Vrtanes I (in office 333-314), succeeded by his son, St. Husik I (in office 341-347).  His grandson was St. Nerses I “the Great” (in office 353-373).  St. Nerses I was a martyr, for a monarch he had rebuked poisoned him.  St. Nerses I’s son and eventual successor was St. Isaac (a.k.a. Sahak) the Great.

Armenia was in a geopolitically difficult position, for it bordered the Eastern Roman Empire on the west and the Sassanian (Persian) Empire on the east.  In terms of religion the Eastern Roman Empire had been influential in the kingdom for most of the period following the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  In 387 the Eastern Roman and Sassanian Empires partitioned Armenia.  The Eastern Romans gained Western Armenia.  Eastern Armenia became a Sassanian vassal state, which it remained until 428, when it became a province.

St. Isaac, of royal origin and born in 354, wed, but entered a monastery after his wife died.  He became the Patriarch of Armenia in 390.  As the Patriarch, St. Isaac established the independence of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  Also, he stopped the practice of married bishops, enforced Byzantine canon law, resisted Persian religious influences, built churches and schools, and encouraged monasticism.  Furthermore, Patriarch St. Isaac the Great supported the creation of an Armenian alphabet and translated part of the Bible into Armenian in cooperation with St. Mesrop (died 441).  St. Isaac also initiated the development of an Armenian liturgy.  Sassanian Persians forced St. Isaac to retire as Patriarch in 428, after 38 years in office.  Yet he returned to his post two years later, holding it for the last decade of his life.

Sts. Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great did much to glorify God in their times and left enduring legacies for the Armenian people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

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

Saint Gregory the Illuminator and Saint Isaac the Great,

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

and we pray that, following their examples and the teaching 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), page 718

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Feast of St. Antony of Egypt (January 17)   2 comments

stanthony

Above:  Icon of St. Antony

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT (251-356)

Roman Catholic Abbot and Father of Western Monasticism

Also known as St. Anthony of Egypt, St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Anthony the Great, et cetera

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Let us not look back upon the world and fancy we have given up great things.  For the whole earth is a very little thing compared with the whole of heaven.

–St. Antony, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 34

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Asceticism is a vocation from God.  It, like other divine vocations, is not universal.  Asceticism has helped many people deal effectively with their idolatry related to physical and psychological attachments and appetites.  For others, however, it has not proven proper or useful.  So be it.

Asceticism was among the vocations of St. Antony of Egypt.  He came from a wealthy Christian family at Heracleas, near Memphis, Egypt, in 251.  St. Antony’s parents died when he was 18 or 20 years old, leaving him as the heir to a fortune and as his sister’s guardian.  Eventually, in church, he heard the gospel story in which Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Go sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”  Our saint took this message to heart and acted on it, leaving just enough to meet his needs and those of his sister.  Years later he felt guilty for doing that much, given the biblical injunction not to be anxious about tomorrow.  At the age of 35 years St. Antony sold the rest of his possessions and gave himself to God.  His sister entered a convent (and eventually became an abbess) and he went off to live in the desert–to be precise, in a series of caves, huts, and cemeteries.  Our saint, a hermit for 20 years, survived the risks of wildlife and rejected temptations, such as wine, women, food, and indolence.  He remained healthy, living to the ripe old age of 105 years.

St. Antony ceased to be a hermit and became an abbot.  Not only did monks gather around him, but pilgrims came to him for spiritual guidance.  At Mount Kolzim, near the northwestern corner of the Red Sea, our saint was a magnet for those seeking to be near a holy man.  St. Antony, who encouraged Christians suffering under the persecution of Maximinus II Daia (reigned 305-313), was so removed from the priorities of the world that, when he received a letter from Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337), he was not impressed.  In his final years St. Antony condemned the Arian heresy.

He died at Mount Kolzim in 356.  Our saint’s biography has come to us courtesy of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373), author of the Life of Antony.

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

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O God, by your Holy Spirit you enabled your servant Antony

to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil:

Give us grace, with pure hearts and minds, to follow you, the only God;

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

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

Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 139:1-9 or 139:1-17

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Feast of St. Macrina the Elder, Her Family, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (January 14)   2 comments

holy-family

Above:  A Family Tree

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER (CIRCA 270-CIRCA 340)

Bridge of Faith

Her feast = January 14

mother of

SAINT BASIL THE ELDER (300S)

Attorney and Teacher of Rhetoric

His feast transferred from May 30

husband of

SAINT EMILIA OF CAESAREA (DIED MAY 30, 375)

Abbess

Also known as Saint Emmelia of Caesarea and Saint Emily of Caesara

Her feast transferred from January 11, May 8, and May 30

mother of

SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER (CIRCA 327-379)

Abbess and Theologian

Her feast transferred from July 19

sister of

SAINT NAUCRATIUS (300S)

Hermit

brother of

SAINT PETER OF SEBASTE (CIRCA 340-391)

Bishop of Sebaste and Theologian 

His feast transferred from January 9

brother of 

SAINT GREGORY OF NYSSA (CIRCA 335-CIRCA 395)

Bishop of Nyssa and Theologian

His feast transferred from March 9

brother of 

SAINT BASIL THE GREAT (CIRCA 330-JANUARY 1, 379)

Bishop of Caesarea and Theologian

Father of Eastern Communal Monasticism

His feast transferred from January 2 and June 14

friend of

SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER (CIRCA 329-389)

Archbishop of Constantinople and Theologian

His feast transferred from January 25

Alternative feast date on this calendar = February 25

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A HISTORY OF FAITH, FAMILY, AND FRIENDSHIP

In this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I transfer feast days frequently.  The most common reason for doing so is to facilitate the telling of narratives of holy men and women who have influenced each other and worked together.  Retaining ecclesiastically approved feast days obstructs that purpose sometimes.  With this post I move some feast days write about nine saints, with an emphasis on intergenerational influences.

For the purposes of this post I choose to begin with St. Macrina the Elder, although I could easily back up a few generations before her.  That, however, would create a post quite difficult to follow.  Focusing on three generations of one family and adding one friend, who came from a holy family also suffices.

I have covered St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger in the context of his family is a separate post.

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Our story begins in Neocaesarea, Cappadocia, in modern-day Turkey.

For nearly 30 years the bishop there was St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (circa 213-268), whose relics St. Macrina the Elder (circa 270-circa 340) kept.  She and her husband had converted from paganism to Christianity in that city, where the late bishop had kept the flame of Christian faith alive in his small flock during times of pestilence and persecution.  St. Macrina the Elder and her husband, whose name has not survived the ravages of the passage of time, endured many hardships for their faith.  Galerius, Caesar of the East (293-305) and Maximinus II Daia, Caesar of the East (305-310) and Augustus of the East (310-313), persecuted Christianity severely.  During this time St. Macrina the Elder and her husband had to live in the woods and forage for seven years.  The couple returned to Neocaesarea after the death of Maximinus II Daia, but the local authorities seized their property and forced them to beg on the streets of the city.  Eventually circumstances improved for the couple, who had a son, St. Basil the Elder.  His father died when he was young, so St. Macrina the Elder, a widow and a single mother, had to raise him.

St. Basil the Elder became an attorney and a respected teacher of rhetoric, a prominent position in that culture.  He, educated at Caesarea and Athens, settled down at Caesarea and declined an opportunity to teach in his hometown.  He married St. Emilia (a.k.a. Emmelia or Emily) of Caesarea (died in 375), who came from a wealthy family.  Her father was also a martyr.  St. Basil the Elder and Emilia had ten children, nine of whom lived to adulthood and five of whom became canonized saints.  The sainted children were:

  1. St. Macrina the Younger (circa 327-379),
  2. St. Basil the Great (circa 330-January 1, 379),
  3. St. Gregory of Nyssa (circa 335-circa 395),
  4. St. Peter of Sebaste (circa 340-391), and
  5. St. Naucratius.

Sts. Basil the Elder and Emilia raised their family in luxury.  Some of their children developed an unhealthy relationship with wealth, but the eldest child, St. Macrina the Younger, seemed not to have done so.  While St. Basil the Elder instructed his sons in rhetoric St. Emilia made sure that her eldest child received a fine education.  For St. Macrina the Younger, with her cultivated mind made possible by money, wealth was a tool, not an idol; she was willing use that tool for the glory of God while she lived ascetically.  She paid close attention to the education of her brothers, whom she encouraged to pursue religious vocations, urged to live ascetically, and influenced theologically.  St. Macrina the Younger also encouraged her widowed mother to help her found to abbeys–a convent and a monastery–on the family estate.  St. Emilia served as the first abbess of the convent.  St. Macrina the Younger succeeded her in 375.

Of the canonized children the least famous was St. Naucratius.  At the age of 21 years he turned his back on his legal career to become a hermit living near his family.  He cared actively for the poor and helped to take care of his mother, who had to bury him after he died suddenly at the age of 27 years.

St. Macrina the Younger professed monastic life and preceded her brothers in it.  When she was 12 years old St. Basil the Elder had arranged a marriage for her, but the intended groom died before the wedding date.  St. Macrina the Younger decided to renounce marriage, remain by her mother’s side, live simply, and help the poor.  She followed that path faithfully.  In 379, the same year her brother St. Basil the Great died, she also died.  Another brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, rushed to her bedside, her bed being two boards.  He wrote:

She was uplifted as she discoursed to us on the nature of the soul and explained the reason of life in the flesh, and why man was made, and how he was mortal, and the origin of death and nature of the journey from death to life again….All of this seemed to me more than human.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 308

The Cappadocian Fathers were Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger.  Two of the three were brothers.  St. Basil the Great (circa 330-January 1, 379) became the Father of Eastern Communal Monasticism, for he wrote the Rule of St. Basil (358-364).  First, however, he studied at Caesarea, Constantinople, and Athens.  At Athens, he met and befriended St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (circa 329-389), who also came from a holy family.  These two saints became theological colleagues.

St. Basil the Great became a Doctor of the Church.  He, influenced by the example of his mother and sister, visited the chief monasteries in the East circa 357.  Then, in 358, he became a monk at the monastery on his family’s estate.  There he remained for five years.  St. Basil, ordained a priest in 364, was largely responsible for the administration of the Diocese of Caesarea from 365 to 370.  Then, in 370, he became the Bishop of Caesarea.  St. Basil resisted the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens (reigned 364-378), an Arian who persecuted orthodox Christianity.  The saint, holding his own as he confronted an astonished prefect fearlessly, said,

Perhaps you have never before had to deal with a proper bishop.

Valens, who feared St. Basil the Great, divided the Diocese of Caesarea in an effort to reduce the proper bishop’s influence.  So, circa 371, St. Basil ordained St. Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, as the Bishop of Nyssa.  St. Gregory did not want the job, for which he knew he was not suited.  The incident created a rift between the brothers.  In time, however, St. Gregory grew into the position.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (329-389), son of St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder, Bishop of Nazianzus, also became a bishop against his will.  The Younger met St. Basil the Great Athens, where they were classmates.  He and St. Basil the Great collaborated on a major work, a selection of writings by Origen (185-254).  The Younger’s true calling was to be a monk spending his life in contemplation, but people kept placing him in leadership roles.  In 362 his father ordained him to the priesthood.  Ten years later St. Basil the Great, in a move related to the politics of Valens and the consecration of St. Gregory of Nyssa, forced the Younger to become the Bishop of Sasima.  This created tension in the relationship between the two friends.  The Younger even refused to serve as the Bishop of Sasima, for, he considered Sasima to be

a detestable little place without water or grass or any mark of civilization.

The incident caused the Younger to feel like

a bone flung to the dogs.

He went to Nazianzus and assisted his father instead.  After a few years the Younger became a monk in Seleucia.  By the time St. Basil the Great died the Younger had made peace with his old friend, at whose funeral he presided in 379.  Later that year he relocated to Constantinople, where he preached against Arianism.  Then, in 381, the Younger served as Archbishop of Constantinople for a few weeks before returning to his family estate.  There he spent the rest of his life in contemplation.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger, a Doctor of the Church, helped the Church to formulate its rebuttal of Arianism, the proposition that the Second Person of the Trinity is a created being.  His partners in this work included the other two Cappadocian Fathers, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa.  The Younger also argued against the Apollinarian heresy, the idea that Jesus was fully divine and partially human.

St. Basil the Great and his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, knew who they were, for good and for ill.  Both of them were sometimes tactless men who created and contributed to their problems.  As St. Basil wrote confessionally,

For my sins, I seem to fail in everything.

Sometimes this tendency to make enemies needlessly frustrated attempts to argue against heresies, as when St. Basil antagonized Pope St. Damasus I (reigned 366-384), his fellow opponent of Arianism.

Nevertheless, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, some of whose writings survive, cared deeply about the poor and acted to help them.  St. Basil condemned the wealthy who did not do all they could to help the less fortunate:

You refuse to give on the pretext that you haven’t enough for your own needs.  But while your tongue makes excuses, your hand convicts you–that ring shining on your finger silently declares you to be a liar.  How many debtors could be released from prison with one of those rings?

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), page 260

St. Basil acted on his convictions.  On the outskirts of Caesarea he organized a new community and social services complex.  There the poor found health care and travelers and the poor found lodging.  They also had a church building in which to worship.  He lived in the community, for which he provided in his will.

St. Basil, a Doctor of the Church, fought the good fight.  He opposed simony, contributed to or wrote the influential Liturgy of St. Basil, and shaped the course of Christian theology.  He was also an outlier regarding classical pagan literature; he advised his nephews to use it as a tool for deepening their Christian faith.  This opinion put him in line with St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215).

St. Basil died on January 1, 379.  As he lay dying a crown waited outside.  When they heard that he had died, they proclaimed him a saint immediately.

St. Gregory of Nyssa followed in his father’s footsteps at first; he married and taught rhetoric.  (His wife was Theosebeia.)  Then he pursued a religious vocation.  As I have written in this post, St. Basil the Great ordained the Bishop of Nyssa circa 371.  St. Gregory did not seek this office.  In fact, he knew himself to be unsuited for it; he had difficulties being tactful and did not know the value of money.  False accusations of embezzlement provided a cover story for Arians to depose St. Gregory in 376.  He returned two years later, after the death of Valens.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, a mystic and an ascetic, came into his own and grew into his office after the death of St. Basil the Great in 379.  St. Gregory became a leading opponent of Arianism and, according to the First Council of Constantinople (381), a “pillar of orthodoxy.”  He died in 395.

St. Peter of Sebaste (circa 340-391) also defended Nicene doctrine.  He, like St. Gregory of Nyssa, had been an academic, but St. Macrina the Younger convinced him to pursue a religious vocation.  The youngest child of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emilia of Caesarea became a solitary ascetic.  Then, in 370, St. Basil the Great ordained him to the priesthood.  Ten years later St. Peter became the Bishop of Sebaste, in Armenia.  Although he did not write theological treatises, he did encourage St. Gregory of Nyssa to do so.

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I realize that you, O reader, have had to follow the proverbial bouncing ball.  I have led you on a journey through three generations that included two Macrinas, two Basils, and three Gregories.  Yet, given the frequent overlapping of the saints’ lives, I have decided that combining their stories into one post was the preferable method of writing about them.

This post is the successor to five posts, which I deleted shortly prior to taking notes for what you have read.  All of this has been part of an effort to renovate the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, starting with posts for January 1 and working all the way through to posts for December 31.  My progress so far has been encouraging, but, as you, O reader, can tell, January 14 is closer to January 1 than to December 31.  The possibilities of what await me have caused me to anticipate the intellectual and spiritual journey that will take me to the end of the renovation project.

I hope that you, O reader, will find reading about saints–in this case, the nine for this post–at least as edifying as the process of creating this post has been for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church.

Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace.

Where it is corrupt, purify it;

where it is in error, direct it;

where in anything it is amiss, reform it.

Where it is right, strengthen it;

where it is in want, provide for it;

where it is divided, reunite it;

for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:1-6, 20-22

Psalm 12:1-7

Acts 22:30-23:10

Matthew 21:12-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 735

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