Archive for the ‘Saints of the 300s’ Category

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. Eusebius of Cremona (March 5)   Leave a comment

northern-italy

Above:  Northern Italy, 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

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SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CREMONA (DIED CIRCA 423)

Roman Catholic Abbot and Humanitarian

St. Eusebius, a native of Cremona, Italy, was an associate of St. Jerome (347-419).  St. Eusebius heard St. Jerome speak in Rome.  Then he joined the great translator of scripture on his journey to Bethlehem after the death of Pope St. Damasus I in 384.  St. Eusebius eventually became an abbot at that town.  He returned to Cremona in 400.  There St. Eusebius operated a hostel for impoverished pilgrims.  He raised funds for it, going so far as to sell his own property and to donate the proceeds to that cause.  He died at Cremona circa 423.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one

with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported

by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their

witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom

all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726

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Feast of Sts. John Cassian and John Climacus (February 29)   Leave a comment

Vatican Flag

Above:  The Vatican Flag

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN CASSIAN (360-435)

Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, and Spiritual Writer

His feast = February 29

influenced

SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS (CIRCA 570 OR 579-MARCH 649)

Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Saint John of the Ladder, Saint John Scholasticus, and Saint John the Sinaita

His feast transferred from March 30

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st-john-cassian

Above:  St. John Cassian

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Cassian was an influential figure in both Eastern and Western Christianity.  He, from what is now Romania, entered the world in 360.  Our saint came from a wealthy family and received an excellent education.  For about three years he and Germanus, a friend, were monks at Bethlehem.  Next the duo pursued monastic life in Egypt.  Circa 399 they and about 300 other monks left for Constantinople after St. Theophilus, the Pope of Alexandria (reigned 384-412) and successor of St. Mark the Apostle, wrote a letter opposing Origen‘s noncorporeal understanding of God.  The monks sought the protection of the Alexandrian Pope’s rival, St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople.  At the imperial capital St. John Cassian became a deacon.  In 404, following the deposition of St. John Chrysostom, St. John Cassian traveled to Rome to defend the patriarch to the Bishop of Rome.

St. John Cassian spent the rest of his life in the West.  He, ordained to the priesthood, settled at Marseilles, Gaul.  Circa 415 our saint founded a monastery and a convent at that city.  He also wrote about monasticism in the Institutes and the Conferences.  St. Benedict of Nursia (circa 480-circa 550) was so impressed with the Conferences that he listed it as one of the books for reading aloud after supper.

the-ladder-of-divine-ascent

Above:  Icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Cassian, who died at Marseilles in 435, influenced St. John Climacus, born in Syria circa 579.  He became a monk at Mt. Sinai at the age of 16 years.  Eventually our saint became an anchorite then an abbot there.  Finally, shortly before his death, St. John Climacus resigned his abbotcy to become a hermit again.  His second name, “Climacus,” came from his influential book, translated into English as The Ladder to Paradise and as The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  He wrote of the 30 steps to moral perfection, with each step corresponding to a year of Christ’s life from birth to baptism.  The steps were:

  1. On the renunciation of the world;
  2. On detachment;
  3. On exile or pilgrimage;
  4. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience;
  5. On painstaking and true repentance which constitute the life of holy convicts; and about the prison;
  6. On remembrance of death;
  7. On mourning which causes joy;
  8. On freedom from anger and on meekness;
  9. On remembrance of wrongs;
  10. On slander or calumny;
  11. On talkativeness and silence;
  12. On lying;
  13. On despondency;
  14. On the clamorous, yet wicked monster–the stomach;
  15. On incorruptible purity and chastity to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat;
  16. On the love of money or avarice;
  17. On poverty (that hastens heavenward);
  18. On insensibility, that is, deadening the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body;
  19. On sleep, prayer, and psalm-singing in the chapel;
  20. On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil and how to practice it;
  21. On unmanly and puerile cowardice;
  22. On the many forms of vainglory;
  23. On mad pride, and, in the same Step, on unclean blasphemous thoughts;
  24. On meekness, simplicity, guilelessness which come not from nature but from habit, and about malice;
  25. On the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual feeling;
  26. On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues;
  27. On holy solitude of body and soul;
  28. On holy and blessed prayer, mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer;
  29. Concerning heaven on earth, or godlike dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection; and
  30. Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues.

Climacus, who died in March 649, became an influential figure in both Eastern and Western monasticism via his book.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF BLESSED KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servants Sts. John Cassian and John Climacus,

and we pray that by their teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth we have seen

in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

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

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Feast of St. Alexander Akimetes (February 23)   Leave a comment

eastern-roman-empire

Above:  The Eastern Roman Empire

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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SAINT ALEXANDER AKIMETES (300S-403 OR 430)

Roman Catholic Abbot

Information regarding the dates of the birth and death of St. Alexander Akimetes is inconsistent.  According to some sources the date of the birth was circa 350, but others are less precise, offering the vague “300s.”  Furthermore, the reported year of his death is either circa 403 or 430.  Someone seems to have switched the places of “3” and “0;” others seem to have followed his lead.

St. Alexander Akimetes, who converted to Christianity as an adult, made his mark upon the Church.  The native of one of the Aegean Islands came from Roman nobility and studied in Constantinople.  Our saint also served in the army for four years.  After becoming a Christian St. Alexander took the advice of Jesus to the rich young ruler literally and acted upon it; he sold all his goods.  Then our saint became a hermit in Syria.  About seven years later our saint went to prison for burning down a pagan temple.  He converted his jailers and even baptized the governor and his family.  St. Alexander, released, returned to life as a hermit.  A few years later our saint ceased to be a hermit and became a missionary instead.  He was, unfortunately, an unsuccessful missionary.  St. Alexander did succeed, however, in founding several monasteries and serving as an abbot.  One of these abbeys began with a band of robbers our saint converted to Christianity; he appointed one of the former criminals the first abbot then moved on.  St. Alexander’s monks, unlike those who followed the subsequent Rule of St. Benedict (540), performed no manual labor.  They did, however, perform missionary work.  The monks also took turns, in alternating choirs, singing the Divine Office all day long.  For this reason St. Alexander became St. Alexander Akimetes, “Akimetes” meaning “does not rest.”

St. Alexander died at the abbey at Gomon, on the Bosphorus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP AND DANIEL BERRIGAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTER OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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O Almighty God, who wills to be glorified in your saints,

and raised up your servant St. Alexander Akimetes to shine as a light in the world:

Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praises,

who has called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Nehemiah 4:1-6 or Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15

Psalm 113

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Mark 12:41-44 or Matthew 5:13-16

–Adapted from The Church of South India, The Book of Common Worship (1963), page 68

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Feast of St. Barbasymas, St. Sadoth of Seleucia, and Their Companions, Martyrs (February 18)   Leave a comment

shapur-ii-and-iii

Above:  Shapur II and Shapur III

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BARBASYMAS (DIED IN 342)

Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon

His feast transferred from January 14

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SAINT SADOTH OF SELEUCIA (DIED IN 342)

Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon

His feast = February 18

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Shapur II the Great (reigned 309-379) of the Sassanid Empire persecuted Christians.  By 342 his forces captured St. Barbasymas, the Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and 16 priests.  Authorities offered the bishop of a cup filled with gold coins in exchange for committing idolatry; he rejected the offer.  He and his 16 companions died (via beheading) for their faith.  The next Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was St. Sadoth of Seleucia.  He, previously a bishop serving under St. Barbasymas, had attended the Council of Nicaea (325).  The new bishop, his priests, deacons, and nuns went into hiding.  Imperial authorities arrested St. Sadoth and 128 priests, deacons, and nuns then executed most of them immediately.  Those authorities kept St. Sadoth and some of his companions alive, however.  These agents incarcerated and tortured them and offered to spare them in exchange for idolatry.  Nobody accepted the offer.  These Christians became martyrs outside the walls of Seleucia in 342.

The Church in the region survived, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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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 St. Barbasymas, St. Sadoth of Seleucia, and their companions,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lies to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

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

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Feast of Sts. Jerome, Paula of Rome, Eustochium, Blaesilla, Marcella, and Lea of Rome (January 27)   3 comments

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Above:  St. Jerome with Sts. Paula and Eustochium

Artist = Francisco de Zurbaran

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JEROME (347-419)

Translator of the Vulgate

His feast transferred from September 30

friend of

SAINT PAULA OF ROME (MAY 5, 547-404)

Abbess at Bethlehem

Her feast transferred from January 26

mother of 

SAINT EUSTOCHIUM (CIRCA 369-CIRCA 419)

Abbess at Bethlehem

Her feast transferred from September 28

sister of

SAINT BLAESILLA (CIRCA 363-383)

Widow

Her feast transferred from January 22

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SAINT MARCELLA (325-AUGUST 410)

Martyr

Her feast transferred from January 31

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SAINT LEA OF ROME (DIED IN 384)

Widow

Her feast transferred from March 22

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Among my purposes in the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.  Hence I have created this post, in which I tell the stories of six saints with overlapping stories.

St. Jerome, born Eusebius Hieronymus Sophrinus, at Strido, Dalmatia, in 347, came from a wealthy pagan family.  He studied in Rome and became an attorney.  The saint, baptized in 385, had an actual conversion experience during his subsequent study of theology.  St. Jerome became a monk and lived as a hermit in the Syrian desert.  Eventually he became a priest.  Then he studied under St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (330-390).  Starting in 382, St. Jerome served as the secretary of Pope St. Damasus I (reigned 366-384), who commissioned him to translate the Bible into Latin.

In Rome St. Jerome formed some consequential friendships.  Among his friends was St. Paula of Rome (May 5, 347-404), of Roman noble origin.  She was the widow (from 379, at the age of 32 years) of Senator Toxotius.  She was also the mother of five children, including St. Eustochium (circa 369-circa 419) and Blaesilla (circa 363-383).  St. Paula devoted her fortune and the rest of her life to helping the poor spiritually and physically.  St. Blaesilla, married for a mere seven months before becoming a widow, consecrated the rest of her brief life to God.  She studied the Hebrew language and died of a fever at the age of 20 years in 383.  St. Eustochium became a student of St. Jerome in 382.  She took a vow of perpetual virginity.  She also spoke Greek and Latin and read Hebrew.

In Rome St. Jerome also befriended St. Marcella (325-August 410), of Roman noble origin.  She, married for only seven months before becoming a widow, chose to remain single for the rest of her life.  (In her society a single woman had more freedom than a married widow; Elaine Pagels taught me that in Adam, Eve, and the Serpent.)  St. Marcella organized a group of Christian women at her mansion on the Aventine Hill; they served the poor.  Among the members of this group was St. Lea of Rome (died in 384), a widow from a noble Roman family.  She lived as an ascetic, a choice of which St. Jerome approved.   He wrote favorably of her, in fact.  St. Jerome was the spiritual director of the group.  St. Marcella disagreed with St. Jerome from time to time and held her own ground.  He was a frequently irascible man prone to speaking and writing invectives.  As the biography of him in A Great Cloud of Witnesses:   A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) concludes,

A militant champion of orthodoxy, an indefatigable worker, and a stylist of rare gifts, Jerome was seldom pleasant, but at least he was never dull.

He also retained close friendships, held high ideals, and condemned Arianism, Origenism, and Pelagianism.

St. Jerome’s friendships with Sts. Paula and Eustochium prompted much malicious gossip.  After the death of Pope St. Damasus I he relocated to Bethlehem.  There St. Jerome spent his final 34 years, completing the translation of the Vulgate, translating other works (including those of Origen), and composing original works.  He also taught Greek and Latin to children.  St. Paula, author of his biography, arrived in  396.  She encouraged St. Jerome and build churches, a hospice, a monastery, and a convent.  She also served as the first abbess of that convent.  Her daughter, St. Eustochium, helped St. Jerome translate the Vulgate, worked as his housekeeper, and read and wrote for him when his eyesight began to fail.  St. Paula died in 404.  St. Eustochium succeeded her as abbess.  She died circa 419, the same year St. Jerome died.

St. Marcella, who spent much time reading, praying, and visiting the shrines of martyrs, became a martyr herself.  In 410, when the Visigoths, led by Alaric, attacked Rome, they captured and tortured her.  They sought to force her to surrender her treasures, but were angered and disappointed to learn that she had given all her treasures to the poor. She died of the injuries the Visigoths had inflicted upon her.

The combination of these saints’ stories into a unified whole makes at least one point, which is that all kinds of people can be saints and glorify God with their lives.  An irascible man can give the world an influential translation of the Bible.  A widow can dedicate herself to the service of God in the poor and encourage others in their sacred vocations.  A woman who has chosen never to marry can help translate the Bible.

Lesbia Scott (1898-1986) wrote “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” in 1929.  The unaltered final stanza read:

They lived not only in ages past,

There are hundreds of thousands still,

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

In a church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,

For the saints of God are just folk like me,

And I mean to be one too.

The saints of God glorify and enjoy God as they struggle with their sinful nature.  They persevere; that is what separates them from others.  I intend to be a saint too.  What about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COOKE AND BENJAMIN WEBB, ANGLICAN PRIESTS AND TRANSLATORS OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW DUNG-LAC AND PETER THI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN VIETNAM

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726

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Feast of St. Antony of Egypt (January 17)   Leave a comment

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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