Archive for the ‘Saints of the 340s’ Category

Feast of St. Zoticus of Constantinople (December 31)   1 comment

Above:  Roman Imperial Constantinople

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE (DIED CIRCA 350)

Priest and Martyr, Circa 350

St. Zoticus of Constantinople comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in America.

St. Zoticus cared for the poor and the sick, and became a martyr.  He was a wealthy man in the service of Emperor Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337).  In 330, when Constantine I moved the imperial capital to Constantinople (the former Byzantium), St. Zoticus also moved to Constantinople.  He became a priest and began to take care of poor people and orphans in his home.  Thus began a homeless shelter, built and maintained at least partially with imperial funds.  St. Zoticus objected to the customary practice by which the military drowned lepers.  He rescued the lepers and cared for them at the shelter.

Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361), an Arian, crossed theological paths with the orthodox St. Zoticus.  The immediate cause of the martyrdom of St. Zoticus, however, was much like that of the martyrdom of St. Laurence of Rome about a century earlier.  When Constantius II, assuming that St. Zoticus had used imperial funds to purchase luxury items, tried to claw back the funds.  St. Zoticus presented sick and homeless people.  Constantius II ordered the execution of our saint, dragged over stones, behind wild mules.

St. Zoticus agreed with St. Laurence, who asserted that the poor are the treasures of the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE AND JAN HUS, REFORMERS OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR.; AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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

Above:  St. Nicholas of Myra

Image in the Public Domain

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

Bishop of Myra

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 19:17, 20-23

Psalm 145:8-13

1 John 4:7-14

Mark 10:13-16

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

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Feast of St. Pambo of Nitria, His Proteges and Their Associates, St. Melania the Elder, and Her Family (November 8)   2 comments

Above:  The Eastern Roman Empire

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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SAINT PAMBO OF NITRIA (DIED CIRCA 375)

Desert Father

Also known as Saint Pambo of the Nitrian Desert

His feast transferred from July 18

mentor of

SAINT AMMONIUS OF SKETE (DIED CIRCA 403)

Desert Father

His feast = November 8

teacher of

EVAGRIUS OF PONTUS (345-399)

Monk, Theologian, and Deacon

Also known as Evagrius Ponticus and Evagrius the Solitary

teacher of

PALLADIUS OF GALATIA (363/364-420/430)

Monk, and Bishop of Helenopolis

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SAINT DIDYMUS THE BLIND (CIRCA 313-398)

Biblical Scholar

His feast transferred from October 18

teacher of 

SAINT RUFINUS OF AQUILEIA (344/345-411)

Monk and Priest

His feast transferred from October 1

ordained by

SAINT JOHN II (CIRCA 356-JANUARY 10, 417)

Bishop of Jerusalem

His feast transferred from January 10

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SAINT MACARIUS OF EGYPT (CIRCA 300-391)

Desert Father

Also known as Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Macarius the Elder

His feast transferred from January 15, January 19, and April 4

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SAINT MACARIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (CIRCA 300-395)

Desert Father

Also known as Saint Macarius the Younger

His feast transferred from January 19 and May 1

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SAINT PISHOY (320-JULY 15, 417)

Desert Father

Also known as Saint Bishoy

His feast transferred from June 19

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SAINT MELANIA THE ELDER (325-410/417)

Desert Mother

Her feast transferred from June 8

grandmother of

SAINT MELANIA THE YOUNGER (CIRCA 383-DECEMBER 31, 439)

Desert Mother

Her feast transferred from December 31

wife of

SAINT PINIAN (DIED IN 420)

Monk

His feast transferred from December 31

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The genesis of this post was the listing of St. Ammonius (of Skete) [feast day = November 8] in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.  One connection led to another until I had thirteen saints, not including some I had added to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days already.

St. Pambo of Nitria

Above:  St. Pambo of Nitria

Image in the Public Domain

St. Pambo of Nitria (died circa 375) was an influential spiritual figure.  He, a disciple of St. Antony of Egypt (d. 356), founded a monastery in the Nitrian Desert of Egypt.  St. Pambo advised, among others, St. Rufinus of Aquileia, St. Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 295-373), St. Melania the Elder, St. Pishoy, St. John the Dwarf (c. 339-c. 405), and St. Ammonius of Skete and his brothers.  St. Pambo died in the company of St. Melania the Elder.

St. Ammonius of Skete (died circa 403), one of a host of saints named “Ammonius,” was one of four brothers who became hermits under St. Pambo in the Nitrian Desert.  Prior to becoming a hermit, St. Ammonius had memorized much of the Old and New Testaments and mastered much of the work of early Christian theologians.  Our saint, a popular spiritual director, taught Evagrius of Pontus, befriended St. John Chrysostom, and knew St. Melania the Elder.  Two of the brothers of St. Ammonius became priests.  A third brother, Dioscorus, became the Bishop of Hermopolis.  St. Ammonius, nearly drafted into the episcopate, protested so vehemently that he remained a monk.  He died circa 403, while visiting Chrysostom.

Evagrius of Pontus, born in Ibora, Asia Minor, in 345, struggled with vanity and lust.  He grew up in a Christian family and studied in Neocaesarea.  His teachers over time included Origen, St. Macarius of Alexandria, St. Macarius of Egypt, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger, St. Melania the Elder, and St. Ammonius of Skete.  St. Basil the Great ordained Evagrius a lector.  In Constantinople, in 380, St. Gregory of Nazainzus the Younger ordained our saint to the diaconate.  The following year, Evagrious participated in the First Council of Constantinople, which revised the Nicene Creed.  Evagrius, struggling with vanity and lust, visited St. Rufinus of Aquileia and St. Melania the Elder in Jerusalem; she advised him to become a monk.  He did, in Jerusalem in 383.  Two years later, Evagrius moved to the Nitrian Desert. Eventually he relocated to Kellia.  Our saint, who taught St. John Cassian and Palladius of Galatia, created a list of eight evils–the antecedent of the Seven Deadly Sins.  He died in Kellia, Egypt, in 399.

Palladius of Galatia (363/364-420/430) wrote of the Desert Fathers.  His Lausaic History (419-420), the archive of the Desert Fathers, has preserved their wisdom for posterity.  Palladius, a disciple of St. John Chrysostom, sided with his teacher in imperial disputes.  Our saint, a monk from 386, was a monk with Evagrius of Pontus and St. Macarius of Alexandria for nine years.  Later, for health-related reasons, Palladius moved to Palestine.  In 400 he became the Bishop of Helenopolis.  Political exile filled 406-412, but our saint returned to his see in 412/413.

St. Didymus the Blind (circa 313-398) was of the school of Origen in Alexandria, Egypt.  St. Didymus, orthodox (at least according tot he standards of his time; human theological orthodoxy shifts sometimes) wrote commentaries on the Bible and on the theology of his teacher, Origen.  The blind ascetic taught St. Rufinus of Aquileia and St. Jerome, who later had harsh words for Origen and Origenists.  St. Didymus also developed a system to help blind people read.

St. Rufinus of Aquileia, born near Aquileia in 344/345, became a monk.  He, raised in Christian family, was a monk in Aquileia in 370, wheen he met St. Jerome.  St. Rufinus studied under St. Didymus the Blind in Alexandria from 373 to 380.  St. Rufinus followed St. Melania the Elder to Jerusalem in 380.  She financed the founding of his new monastery, located on the Mount of Olives.  St. Rufinus studied Greek theology in that monastery.  He resumed his friendship with St. Jerome in 386.  Four years later, St. John II (circa 356-January 10, 417), the Bishop of Jerusalem, ordained St. Rufinus to the priesthood.

The renewed friendship with St. Jerome ended due to the Origenist dispute.  Origen was orthodox, according to the theological standards of his time, but theologians subsequently redefined orthodoxy.  This process made him a heretic ex post factoSt. Jerome, an argumentative individual, lambasted Origen, Origenists, and Origenism.  Two of his targets were St. Rufinus of Alexandria and St. John II of Jerusalem, starting in 394.

St. Rufinus, marginalized in ecclesiastical circles because of his defense of Origen, resided in Italy from 397 to 408.  He, St. Melania the Younger, and St. Pinian fled to Sicily, due to the invasion of Alaric, as the Western Roman Empire crumbled.  St. Rufinus died in Sicily in 411.

St. Macarius of Egypt

Above:  St. Macarius of Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

The two St. Macariuses were a team.  St. Macarius of Egypt/the Great/the Elder, born in Shabshear, Lower Egypt, circa 300, eventually found his vocation.  The erstwhile saltpeter smuggler had married because his parents wanted him to do so.  The union was brief; his wife died.  Then our saint’s parents  died.  St. Macarius the Elder gave his money to the poor and became a priest.  Later he visited St. Antony the Great in the desert, and became a monk.  At the age of 40 years, St. Macarius became the abbot at Skete.

St. Macarius the Younger/of Alexandria, born in Alexandria, Egypt, circa 300, found his vocation in mid-life.  He, a merchant until he was 40 years old, accepted baptism and became an ascetic in the desert.  He, ordained to the priesthood became the prior of a monastery between Nitria and Skete.  One influence on St. Macarius the Younger was St. Pachomius the Great (292-346/348), the Founder of Christian Communal Monasticism.

In the fourth century C.E., Roman imperial politics was, for a time, inseparable from the conflict between Arians and orthodox Christians.  The Emperor Valens (reigned 364-378), an Arian, exiled the two St. Macariuses to an island in the Nile River.  They evangelized the inhabitants.  Our saints returned to the Nitrian Desert when the political situation changed.  Two of the people who greeted them were St. John the Dwarf and St. Pishoy.

St. Macarius the Elder died in 391.

St. Macarius the Younger in 395.

St. Pishoy, born in Shansa, Egypt, in 320, was another disciple of St. Pambo of Nitria.  St. Pishoy, raised in a Christian home, became a monk under St. Pambo at the age of 20 years.  St. John the Dwarf ordained St. Pishoy, who became a hermit in 375, after St. Pambo died.  St. Pishoy, known for his wisdom, kindness, and orthodoxy, founded a monastery at Skete.  The Berber invasion forced him to move in 408.  St. Pishoy founded a new monastery on the Mountains of Ansena, in Egypt.  He died there on July 15, 417.

St. Melania the Elder

Above:  St. Melania the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

St. Melania the Elder (born in 325), whose life intersected with many other lives, came from an extremely wealthy family.  They owned estates throughout the Roman Empire.  Her father, Marcellinus, married her off when she was 14 years old.  St. Melania the Elder’s husband was Valerius Maximus Basilius (circa 330-after 364), the Proconsul of Achaea (361-363).  He and two of their three children died when St. Melania the Elder was 22 years old.  She and her remaining son, Valerius Publicola, moved to Rome.  St. Melania the Elder converted to Christianity and raised her son as a Christian.

St. Melania the Elder, aged 32 years, left her son in the care of a guardian and took servants with her to Nitria, where she visited for a few months.  She became a traveling student of theology and patron of monasticism.  In 373, for example, St. Melania the Elder provided financial support for the orthodox monks exiled to Diocaesarea.  She and St. Rufinus of Aquileia settled in Jerusalem in 380.  There St. Melania the Elder financed a convent, where she lived, as well as a monastery, for St. Rufinus.

St. Melania the Elder, a cousin of St. Paulinus of Nola, was also an Origenist.  St. Jerome did not spare her from his poison pen.

St. Melania the Younger

Above:  St. Melania the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Valerius Publicus (died in 406) grew up and had a family in Rome.  He married Caeionia Albinus, daughter of a consul.  They had a daughter, St. Melania the Younger, born in 383.  At the age of 14 years she married a cousin, Valerius Pinanus, a.k.a. St. Pinian (died in 420).  They were an extremely wealthy couple.  After their two children died young, Sts. Melania the Younger and Pinian embarked on lives of celibacy.

St. Melania the Elder, visiting her family in Rome circa 400, influenced her granddaughter to follow her back to Jerusalem.  Sts. Melania the Younger and Pinian moved, donated generously to the Church and the poor, and eventually became monastics in Messina, Sicily, starting in 408.  As Sts. Melania the Younger, Pinian, and Rufinus of Aquileia had fled Itlay because of the invasion of Alaric, as the Western Roman Empire crumbled.  Sts. Melania the Younger and Pinian were on Sicily until 410.  That year they met and befriended St. Augustine of Hippo, and mutually founded a convent in northern Africa, with St. Melania the Younger serving as the Mother Superior.

After St. Melania the Elder died in 410/417, Sts. Melania the Younger and Pinian relocated to Palestine, where they founded another convent.  St. Pinian died in 420.  Afterward, St. Melania the Younger founded another monastery and church in Jerusalem.

She died in that city on December 31, 439.

Thank you, O reader, for taking his multi-saint journey through holiness with me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

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O God, by whose grace your servants

Saint Pambo of Nitria,

Saint Ammonius of Skete,

Evagrius of Pontus,

Palladius of Galatia,

Saint Didymus the Blind,

Saint Rufinus of Aquileia,

Saint John II of Jerusalem,

Saint Macarius the Elder,

Saint Macarius the Younger,

Saint Pishoy,

Saint Melania the Elder,

Saint Melania the Younger,

and Saint Pinian,

became burning and shining lights in your Church:

Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline,

and walk before you as children of light, through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 2:42-47a

Psalm 133 or 34:1-8 or 119:161-168

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 6:24-33

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 723

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

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

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

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SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS (DIED CIRCA 338)

Bishop of Nisibis and “Moses of Mesopotamia”

Also known as Saint Jacob of Nisibis

His feast transferred from July 15

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SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA (306/307-373)

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

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

Episcopal feast day = June 10

Roman Catholic and Church of England feast day = June 9

Scottish Episcopal feast day = June 8

Maronite feast day = June 18

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

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

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

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

Ephrem of Edessa

Above:  St. Ephrem of Edessa

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 98:5-10

Ephesians 3:8-12

John 16:12-15

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

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

Above:  St. Dorotheus of Tyre

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE (CIRCA 255-CIRCA 362)

Bishop of Tyre, and Martyr

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

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

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Feast of Sts. 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 St. Zeno of Verona (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Northern Italy, 400 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ZENO OF VERONA (CIRCA 300-APRIL 12, 371)

Bishop of Verona

Little information about the life of St. Zeno of Verona has survived.  Our saint, born at Mauretania (near Algiers) circa  300, served as the Bishop of Verona from 362 to 371.  He, a famous preacher, opposed Arianism vigorously.  St. Zeno also aided North African refugees fleeing persecution by Arians.  Our saint might have become a martyr; traditions regarding the manner of his death have long contradicted each other.

Arianism is an ancient Trinitarian heresy, one of a cluster of such errors.  The origin of many heresies is attempting to explain the unexplainable, namely the Trinity.   Arianism, in contradiction of John 1:1, defines the Second Person of the Trinity as a created being.  This heresy is alive and well in 2017, for the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my front door from time to time are Arians.

After Emperor Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) made Christianity legal (along with other religions) Christian theological disputes became matters of imperial politics.  If the Emperor was an Arian, orthodox Christians were likely to have to endure persecution.  If the Emperor was an orthodox Christian, Arians might have to experience persecution.

All of this demonstrates the wisdom of having a secular state.  It also makes reports of religious persecution leading to people fleeing their homes and become refugees plausible.  I do, however, find traditions of St. Zeno’s martyrdom at the hands of the empire improbable, given what the historical record indicates about Emperor Valentinian I (reigned 364-375), a Christian who issued a decree of religious toleration in 371.  This fact does not preclude another party, perhaps an angry pagan (consistent with pagan-Christian violence, ubiquitous at the time), martyring St. Zeno, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER TO THE SLAVS AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant St. Zeno of Verona,

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

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

we 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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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