Archive for the ‘Arianism’ Tag

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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Feast of St. Victorian of Hadrumetum (March 23)   Leave a comment

img-saint-victorian-of-hadrumetum

Above:  St. Victorian of Hadrumetum

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM (DIED IN 484)

Martyr at Carthage, 484

The Western Roman Empire crumbled during the 400s.  Among the German tribes eating away at it were the Vandals, who crossed into Gaul in 406, ravaged that region, entered the Iberian peninsula, and eventually crossed into northern Africa, where they established a kingdom in 429.  Genseric, the first monarch of that realm, reigned until his death in 477.  From 477 to 484 Hunseric was the Vandal king.  The Vandals, who were Arians, persecuted orthodox Christians.  The kingdom survived until 534, when General Belisarius, in the service of the (Eastern) Roman Emperor Justinian I “the Great,” conquered it.

In 484 St. Victorian of Hadrumetum was the wealthiest subject in the Vandal kingdom.  He was also the proconsul of Carthage and an orthodox (i.e., not Arian) Christian.  Hunseric, who had appointed him, demanded that St. Victorian support Arianism, the heresy that the Second Person of the Trinity, incarnate as Jesus, was a created being.  The monarch even offered the proconsul more power and wealth in exchange for doing so.  St. Victorian refused to accept the carrot.  He replied,

Tell the king that I trust in Christ.  His Majesty may condemn me to any torments, but I shall never consent to renounce the Catholic Church, in which I have been baptized.  Even if there were no life after this, I would never be ungrateful and perfidious to God, who has granted me the happiness of knowing Him, and bestowed on me, His most precious graces.

Hunseric ordered St. Victorian’s arrest, torture, and execution.  St. Victorian died without having dishonored God and his conscience.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GASPAR DEL BUFALO, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA

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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 Saint Victorian of Hadrumetum,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage

to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

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

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

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

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Posted January 21, 2017 by neatnik2009 in March, Saints of the 400s

Tagged with ,

Feast of St. Macrina the Elder, Her Family, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (January 14)   1 comment

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

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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Feast of Sts. Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours (January 13)   Leave a comment

roman-gaul

Above:  Map of Roman Gaul

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS (CIRCA 315-CIRCA 367)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Poitiers, “Athanasius of the West,” and Hymn Writer

mentor of

SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS (CIRCA 330-NOVEMBER 11, 397)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Tours

His feast transferred from November 11

Alternative feast day = July 4

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One theme in this post is influence, whether direct or indirect.  We, as Christians, have a mandate to be positive influences in the world.  We will, if we pay attention, detect the influences of Sts. Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours in the Church today.

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Sts. Hilary and Martin were converts to Christianity.  St. Hilary came from a wealthy and cultivated family in Roman Gaul.  Hilarius Pictaviensis, born circa 315, eventually became a Christian.  He also married and had a daughter.  In 350, when he was 35 years old and still married, he became the Bishop of Poitiers, his hometown and place of birth.

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St. Martin was the son of a Roman soldier.  The saint, born in Sabaria, Pannonia (now Hungary), grew up in Pavia, Italy.  The military was not his vocation.  He attempted unsuccessfully to evade the draft when he was 15 years old; authorities inducted him in chains.  Years later, when he was serving at Amiens and was a catechumen, St. Martin, according to a legend, encountered a nearly naked beggar.  The saint used his sword to cut his military cloak in half and gave half a cloak to the man.  That night, in a dream, Jesus, wearing half a cloak, appeared to St. Martin.  Saints and angels surrounded Christ, who told them,

Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with this garment.

The saint completed his catechesis and became a baptized Christian.  Circa 339 he requested a military discharge, saying,

I am Christ’s soldier; I am not allowed to fight.

He received that discharge, along with an accusation of cowardice.  The former soldier dwelt in Italy and Dalmatia before becoming a hermit on an island off the coast of Luguria.

Between 350 and 353 St. Hilary ordained St. Martin to the priesthood; this set the stage for St. Martin’s great influence in the Church.  St. Martin founded the monastery at Liguge; this was the first monastery in Gaul.  His influence had just begun.

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St. Hilary was the leading opponent of the Arian heresy in the West.  He was, in fact, “the Athanasius of the West.”  He was so vigorous in his denunciation of the idea that Christ is a created being that Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361), who interjected himself into theological disputes, exiled St. Hilary to Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey) in 356.  The exiled bishop continued his campaign against Arianism.  He wrote On the Trinity and made himself sufficiently inconvenient to Arians in the East that some of them returned him to Gaul in 360.

The restored bishop tended to the needs of his diocese while engaging in theological debates.  He was, by all accounts, a compassionate and friendly man, as well as a vigorous controversialist and able debater.  Aside from treatises he composed biblical commentaries (on the Book of Psalms and the Gospel According to Matthew) and catechetical hymns.  (Certain modern hymnals, the editors and committees of which had good taste, include translations of some of these hymns.)

St. Hilary died at Poitiers circa 367.  He was orthodox by the standards of his time.  Nevertheless, he was, by the standards of subsequent developments in Christology, as ecumenical councils defined them, heterodox.  (Ex post facto heresy happened to more than one of the Church Fathers of the first five centuries of Christianity.)  In 1851 Pope Pius IX declared St. Hilary a Doctor of the Church.

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In 372, against his will, St. Martin became the Bishop of Tours.  He accepted the post on the condition that he continue to live ascetically.  As bishop the saint founded monasteries in Gaul.  Among these was the great abbey at Marmoutier; that monastery influenced Celtic monasticism in Britain.  The vigorous missionary preached orthodoxy while opposing the violent suppression (including the execution of people accused of practicing magic) of heresy.  He was not averse to destroying pagan shrines, however.  His asceticism and opposition to the harsh treatment of heretics made him unpopular with some of the other bishops.  St. Martin also defended the interests of the poor and the hopeless.

St. Martin died at Candes, near Tours in 397.  He was among the earliest non-martyrs venerated as a saint.

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Each of these saints has his separate feast day (or days, in the case of St. Martin) on official ecclesiastical calendars.  Nevertheless, I have decided that the better way to tell their stories here at the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to cover them in one post and to emphasize what they had in common.  We Christians are supposed to encourage each other in our vocations from God and influence one another for the better, to the glory of God.  We can look to Sts. Hilary and Martin as role models in that regard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER; THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND JOHN FREDERICK “J. FRED” WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND CHOIR DIRECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN

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O God our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servants

Sts. Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours

to be bishops and pastors in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister

in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719

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Feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Monica of Hippo, and St. Augustine of Hippo (August 28)   3 comments

Basilica of St. Ambrose, Milan

Above:  Basilica of St. Ambrose, Milan, Italy, Between 1860 and 1890

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN (337-APRIL 4, 397)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Milan

His feast transferred from December 7

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SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO (331-387)

Mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Her feast transferred from May 4 and August 27

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SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (NOVEMBER 13, 354-AUGUST 28, 430)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Hippo Regius

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The Donatists in North Africa upheld the ancient image of the church as a gathered elite, a foreign body in the midst of a secular society and an apostate church.  Defenders of the orthodoxy agreed at the Council of Nicaea (325) sometimes denounced emperors such as Constantius II as heretics, and repudiated the authority of secular rulers over the church.  Others, like Ambrose, bishop of the imperial city of Milan (d. 397), were determined to subject the exercise of imperial power to the spiritual authority of bishops.  But until Augustine’s City of God (413-427) most Christians unquestioningly accepted the Roman political and social order as the earthly form of the Christian society.

–Robert A. Markus in The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity (1990), edited by John McManners, page 71

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INTRODUCTION

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The three saints on which I focus in this post have separate commemorations on ecclesiastical calendars.  Nevertheless, I have chosen to combine those commemorations here at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Their three stories flow into one easily, after all.  Furthermore, recounting their lives this way functions to argue a point, which is that rugged individualism plays no part in a healthy Christian spiritual journey.  Each of us needs, at different times, encouragement or prodding on the part of others to pursue the proper path and to remain on it.

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SAINTS MONICA AND AUGUSTINE

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Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

Above:  Saints Augustine and Monica, by Ary Scheffer

Image in the Public Domain

In the beginning of this composite story there were Patricius and Monica (sometimes called Monnica), of Tagaste, Numidia, Roman Empire.  (Tagaste has become Souk Ahras, Algeria.)  Patricius was a pagan and a municipal official.  His wife, St. Monica, was a Christian.  The couple had three children.  Navigius and his sister Perpetua grew up as Christians and entered the religious life.  St. Augustine, however, had a winding road of a spiritual pilgrimage.

St. Monica sought to bring her husband and her errant son to Christ.  She succeeded, but only after much prayer and effort.  Patricius converted shortly before he died in 370.  St. Augustine underwent baptism 17 years later.  The fact that he made the transition from apostate to Christian had much to do with his faithful and persistent mother, who had taught him religion and theology when he was a child.  St. Augustine, born at Tagaste on November 13, 354, began his studies in other topics in that city.  The schoolmaster beat him severely, though, and the young saint, having learned to dislike Greek, never mastered it.

St. Augustine became an apostate.  At age 11 or 12 (365 or 366) St. Augustine went to study at Madauros, about 25 kilometers from Tagaste.  Madauros was a center or pagan thought.  There he soaked up the pagan milieu and learned Latin literature.  In 370 St. Augustine moved to Carthage.  There he took a mistress, whose name he did not reveal in his writings.  They had a son, Adeodatus (372-388).  At Carthage St. Augustine also converted to Manicheism, a dualistic religion.  He taught grammar at Tagaste starting in 373.  Then, for seven years, he taught rhetoric at Carthage, where he lost his Manichean faith and became an agnostic.  In 383, over St. Monica’s strong objections, he moved to Rome.  Then, in the following year, St. Augustine accepted a position teaching rhetoric at Milan.  Along the way he regained his Manichean faith.

St. Monica had followed her errant son around for years, so she could influence him positively and locally.  She had managed to find a young woman who would, in time be of age to marry St. Augustine and be a suitable wife.  He dismissed his longtime mistress, who returned to northern Africa and joined a religious community.   As St. Augustine struggled with his sexuality he famously prayed,

Give me chastity, but not yet!

Then he took a second mistress.  At Milan St. Monica found the right man to help end her son’s time of spiritual rebellion.  She persuaded St. Augustine to listen to and meet St. Ambrose, the bishop there.

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SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN (I)

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St. Ambrose

Above:  St. Ambrosius, by Francisco de Zurbaran

Image in the Public Domain

St. Ambrose of Milan (born in 337) traveled an interesting spiritual path to his destiny.  The native of Treves (now Trier, Germany) was a son of a Roman prefect and a pious and educated mother.  He grew up a Christian.  His widowed mother raised him in Rome, where he received a liberal arts education.  St. Ambrose became a lawyer.  In 371, at age 34, he received an appointment as governor of the province of Liguria and Aemilia, a job he performed well.  In 374 the governor presided over the election of the next Bishop of Milan.  He became not only a candidate but the favored one, much to his shock and displeasure.  St. Ambrose, who was neither baptized nor trained in theology, did not think himself qualified for the post.  Nevertheless, even going into hiding did not change destiny.  In one week in December 374 St. Ambrose became a baptized Christian, a priest, and the Bishop of Milan within a week, his consecration taking place on December 7.

St. Ambrose took his responsibilities seriously.  He donated his lands to the Church, gave his possessions to the poor, fasted daily, took communion daily, and spent much time studying, writing, and meditating.  Among his theological influences was Origen (185-254), who favored the allegorical reading of Scripture.  St. Ambrose also argued forcefully against the Arian heresy, which stated that God the Son was a created being.

[Aside:  Unfortunately, Arianism continues to thrive, especially among the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.]

The Arian-Orthodox Christian controversy divided the Church and became a factor in imperial politics.  Some emperors were Orthodox.  Members of the faction out of imperial favor frequently suffered, for the concept of the separation of church and state was centuries of away from becoming commonplace and widely accepted.  The Emperor Gratian (reigned 375-383) was Orthodox.  Magnus Maximus (reigned 383-388), the usurper who murdered him, was an Arian.  While Magnus Maximusreigned in the western portion of the Roman Empire, Valentinian II, Gratian’s half-brother, theoretically ruled in the East.  Actually, however, Valentinian II’s mother, Justina, served as his regent from 383 to 388.  She and her son were Arians.  In 383 Justina asked St. Ambrose to intercede with Magnus Maximus.  The bishop traveled to Treves, where he remained to meet with the murderous usurper and with local priests responsible for the execution of Priscillian heretics, but he did succeed in distracting the usurper, to the benefit of forces of Valentinian II, who seized the alpine pass.  The grateful emperor honored St. Ambrose’s request that he not restore the pagan altar of Victory in the Senate.  Justina, also grateful, promised not to use her position to advance the cause of Arianism.

She either lied or changed her mind.  In 385 Justina demanded that St. Ambrose hand over a church building in Milan for use by Arians.  He refused.  She sent troops to enforce her demand, but had to back down after a crowd (including St. Monica) filled the cathedral, with the soldiers surrounded.  The following year the imperial government issued a decree favoring Arian worship and condemning to death those who objected.  St. Ambrose refused to keep silent, of course.  Justina sent soldiers again, but had to back down again.

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SAINTS AMBROSE, MONICA, AND AUGUSTINE

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St. Ambrose, who encouraged women to become nuns (rather than to marry), also advocated for missionary work, wrote hymns (such as Veni Redemptor Gentium, or “Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth“), and confronted imperial authorities, found time to mentor St. Augustine.  From St. Ambrose St. Augustine learned, among other things, aspects of Neo-Platonism, as well as Origen’s allegorical exegesis of Scripture, both of which aided him in his spiritual journey.  Next St. Augustine read the Pauline Epistles and studied the Desert Fathers.  He resigned as teacher of rhetoric and focused on preparation for baptism.  On Holy Saturday 387, at the Easter Vigil, St. Augustine and his son accepted baptism and joined the Roman Catholic Church.  St. Monica was present.

Later that year St. Monica died at the port of Ostia, Italy.  She and her family were planning to return to northern Africa.  She was about 56 years old when she died.

St. Monica is the patron saint of Christian wives and mothers and of victims of abuse.  She has two feast days, May 4 being the traditional date and August 27 being the date on the revised Roman Catholic calendar.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Anglican Church in Canada (in The Book of Common Prayer of 1962), and The Episcopal Church, among others, celebrate her life on May 4.  The Anglican Church in Canada (in the Book of Alternative Services of 1985); The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; The Church of England; and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, among others, do so on August 27.

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SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN (II)

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The traditions of the Scriptures are his [Christ’s] body; the Church is his body.

–St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose, who defended claims that St. Mary of Nazareth is the Mother of God, continued to defy imperial authority, even to assert his power over it.  Emperor Theodosius I “the Great” (reigned 379-395), the sole emperor from 392 to 395, made Christianity (already legal) the official religion.  He also suppressed Arianism and paganism.  In 388 St. Ambrose confronted Theodosius I over an order to spend state funds to build a structure for non-Christian worship, forcing the Emperor to back down.  Two years later, in Thessalonica, a popular charioteer attempted to rape a male servant of Butheric, the Roman master of soldiers in the region.  Butheric ordered the charioteer arrested, an action to which a mob objected.  Butheric and some other officers died during ensuing riots.  The angry Theodosius I ordered soldiers to surround the amphitheater in Thessalonica and to slaughter the spectators at a chariot race.  Whether any person killed was innocent was not an issue for the Emperor.  He reversed the order, but not before about 7000 people died.  St. Ambrose excommunicated Theodosius I, lifting the discipline after the Emperor had done several months of penance and issued a proclamation stating that no execution would occur less than 30 days after the issuing of the death sentence.

St. Ambrose died at Milan on April 4, 397.  He was about 60 years old.

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SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

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Perhaps St. Augustine of Hippo was the greatest legacy of St. Ambrose of Milan.  Certainly aspects of the teacher’s philosophy echoed in that of the attentive pupil.

St. Augustine eventually made his way back to Tagaste, where he remained for a few years.  After spending a year in Rome he arrived in his hometown.  There he sold his inheritance, gave the money to the poor, and retained a house, which he converted into a monastery in 388.  St. Augustine might have spent the rest of his life thusly, but, in 391, St. Valerius, the Bishop of Hippo Regius, ordained him to the priesthood at Hippo Regius.  Four years later our saint became the bishop coadjutor, with the right of succession.  In 396 he succeeded as the Bishop of Hippo Regius, a minor port in northern Africa.

There St. Augustine remained.  More than 400 sermons and 200 letters, have survived.  By 427, according to his count, he had written 237 books and 93 other literary works, not counting sermons and letters.  Many of these volumes of St. Augustine’s oeuvre have survived, fortunately.

Theological controversies defined St. Augustine’s output.  He lived, thought, argued, and wrote during a time of theological formation.  He helped to define the tradition upon which we Christians of 2016 stand and became one of the greatest and most influential theologians of Western Christianity.  Nevertheless, even the Roman Catholic Church, which has no difficulty recognizing him as a saint, has not accepted all of his theology as worthy of inclusion in the catechism.  St. Augustine came from a particular time and a certain place, the circumstances of which defined his context.  In that context, in the judgment of Holy Mother Church, he went too far on occasion.  That did not detract from his influence, however.

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Against Heresies

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Manicheism

Opposing Manicheism, Donatism, and Pelagianism occupied much of St. Augustine’s time.  He had, of course, been a Manichean, leaving that religion twice.  The founder of the religion was Mani (215/216-276/277), of Babylonian origin.  He taught dualism.  Manicheism meshed easily with Gnosticism, with which many early Christian leaders had to content.  Manicheism spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire from 280 to 330, attracting adherents from gnostic sects and people of haute culture and the intelligentsia.  The religion, with its dualistic and gnostic elements, rejected the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  It also made a strong case for human free will, offered an optimistic ethos of human freedom and agency.

Donatism

Donatism (300s-700s) defined the Church as the assembled spiritual elite–the self-identified pure of heart and orthopraxy who separated themselves from the cosmos and the corrupt, old ecclesiastical structure.  (The spirit of Donatism has never ceased to exist, unfortunately.)  During the Diocletian persecution (303-305) many Christians in northern Africa had committed apostasy.  Afterward many of them expressed remorse and requested readmission to the Church.  The Roman Catholic Church, being willing to forgive, agreed, so long as the remorse was genuine.  The election of the successor of Mensurius, the Bishop of Carthage, who died in 311, functioned as the flash point of the Donatist schism.  Mensurius had been conciliatory toward remorseful apostates.  Two men contended to succeed him.  Caecilian was conciliatory; Majorinus, who died in 315, was a Donatist.  Donatus Magnus, from whose name the word “Donatist” came, succeeded as Bishop of Carthage in 315.

Donatism divided the Church in northern Africa for centuries.  Donatism defined the Church as the society of holy people and stated the holiness of the Church depended upon the exclusion of those who had committed mortal sin.  In contrast Roman Catholicism argued that the holiness of the Church depended upon the Holy Spirit and the communication of divine grace via priests.

St. Augustine was a staunch Roman Catholic.  The four marks of the Church, he wrote, were oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, there is and can be only one Church.  St. Augustine, echoing St. Paul the Apostle and St. Ambrose of Milan, defined the Church as the Body of Christ.  The Church, the Bishop of Hippo Regius wrote, is the unity of faith and love, and schism and heresy are antithetical to unity, the principle of which is the Holy Spirit.  Our saint argued that the Church will contain impure elements until the end times, when God will remove them.  Meanwhile, the members of the Church were spiritual pilgrims in constant need of reform.

Furthermore, St. Augustine wrote, Christ exists in three modes–the eternal Word, the God-man, and the Church.  The emphasis on organic unity mattered to the bishop, who supported Papal primacy.  Donatists and other schismatics hampered the goal of unity.

Pelagianism

St. Augustine also objected to Pelagianism, named after Pelagius (c. 360-c. 420), a Roman British theologian.  Pelagianism, which the Roman Catholic Church declared heretical quickly, argued for the inherent moral neutrality of people at birth, thereby repudiating the doctrine of original sin.  Pelagianism therefore contended for the complete freedom of human will to choose good or evil–to save or to condemn oneself.  This heresy eliminated grace from salvation.  St. Augustine refuted Pelagianism without teaching salvation by faith alone.

Augustine’s doctrine of grace led to deep issues that are still a matter of dispute in Western Christian tradition.  He insisted with Paul that we are justified by faith, but does not each the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.  For Augustine, our journey to God, our salvation really is like a journey along a road.  When we’ve converted to the faith, that’s like getting on the right road.  What moves us along the road is love for God.  But Christian faith is just the beginning of the journey, and is not sufficient to bring us home.

Augustine insists on the necessity of grace if we are to do any good work, but does not teach the Protestant doctrine that we are saved by grace alone, because when our wills co-operate with grace our works of love have merit.  By grace we come to love God, though we never do so perfectly in this life.  Because believers pray for grace and forgiveness, their sins are not imputed to them.  Gifts of grace, called “co-operative grace,” work together with our good will to produce meritorious works of love.  Although all our good works are outgrowths of grace, our salvation requires merit as well as grace.  This is possible because the initial gift of grace, called “operative grace,” works a change in our hearts, turning our wills toward the end.

Augustine taught that grace and free will were compatible, but not everyone agrees that his doctrine of grace really is compatible with an adequate concept of free will.  He insists that this is not coercion, for it does not mean overcoming the unwilling but inwardly causing the unwilling to become willing.  Hence on Augustine’s view, God can cause us to will freely in a different way than we had before.  This view of free will is deemed inadequate in its own control.

–Phillip Cary, The History of Christian Theology Course Guidebook (Chantilly, VA:  The Great Courses, 2008), pages 40-41

For St. Augustine grace was essential and original sin was real.  He linked original sin with sexuality, agreeing with St. Paul the Apostle (in 1 Corinthians 7) that virginity is superior to marriage and that being married is better than committing sin.  St. Augustine agreed that sexual desire resulted from the fall of the human race at Eden and that the act of procreation was therefore impure.  Thus infants entered into the world already tainted by original sin and therefore deserving of damnation, hence infant baptism for the baptism of sins.  Not surprisingly, St. Augustine favored the mandatory celibacy of the clergy.

St. Augustine, in refuting Pelagianism, argued for Double Predestination, the idea that God predestines everyone–some to Heaven and others to Hell.  The official position of the Roman Catholic Church since the Council of Orange (529), guided by St. Caesarius of Arles (468/470-543), has been Semi-Pelagianism.

Simply put, this is the semi-Pelagian position:  We are all unworthy, undeserving sinners.  We not only leave undone many things we ought to have done; even the good we do is corrupted by sinful motives, desires, and goals.  We are totally dependent on the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ for our salvation.  But although it is true that we are not free and able to save ourselves by our good works, we are free and able to do one thing.  We can acknowledge our need for God’s grace and turn to God to ask for the deep, abiding faith, hope, and love we cannot achieve for ourselves.  We can confess Christ as Lord and Savior and show our willingness to receive the salvation made available to us in him.  We can allow the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit to come into our hearts.  We can go to church in order to express our desire for the help and salvation we know comes only from God.  We cannot save ourselves, but we can do that much if we really want to.  And if we choose God and turn to God in this way, God will choose us, love, help, and save us.  If some do not receive this saving grace, it is not because God has rejected them; it is because they have rejected God.  Salvation is by God’s grace alone, available to all who sincerely ask for it and want it.

–Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr., Christian Doctrine, Revised Edition (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), pages 127-128

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Other Matters Theological

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St. Augustine became an influential theologian.  God occupied the center of Augustinian thought.  The saint argued that one can discern the existence of God, the preferred name for whom is Truth, via reason.  He also wrote that the image of God is evident in the soul, which is immortal and imperishable, not an aspect of the body.  Furthermore, St. Augustine contended, the human powers of memory, understanding, and will reflect the Holy Trinity.  He also affirmed transubstantiation while making a distinction between the sign or sacrament and the thing of which the sacrament was a sign, or between what one sees and what one understands, or what between the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ.  He argued that the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ are identical after the prayer of consecration, for they become substantially the same.

St. Augustine argued that, although not all wars are just, some of them are.  He established four standards for a just war:

  • lawful authority,
  • a just cause,
  • a right intention, and
  • war as the last resort.

With regard to sin and evil, St. Augustine understood evil to be not only the result of free will but the lack of good and sin to be disordered love, the turning away from things eternal.

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The End of Saint Augustine and the Western Roman Empire

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St. Augustine spent his final years mourning the crumbling of the Western Roman Empire.  (The Eastern Roman Empire survived until 1453.)  Among the traditional justifications for persecuting Christians had been the idea that Gentiles needed to honor pagan deities as a patriotic duty.  If too many Gentiles neglected this duty, the reasoning went, the gods would abandon the Roman Empire.  In 410, at the end of the reign (395-423) of the Emperor Honorius, Rome fell to the Visigoth chief Alaric (c. 370-410).  The Western Roman Empire limped along (at least de jure, until September 476, when Flavius Odoacer (Odovacer), an army officer of German origin, deposed Romulus Augustus, the last emperor in the west.  Actually, though, that event was a formality.  The Western Roman Empire did not fall; it faded away.  St. Augustine wrote The City of God to, among other things, argue against the blaming of Christians for the sorry state of the Western Roman Empire.  He died at Hippo Regius on August 28, 430, during the siege of that city by the Vandals.  Our saint was 75 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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One need not agree completely with someone entirely to acknowledge his or her sanctity and greatness.  Indeed, collegiality is a virtue in relation to both the living and the dead.  If I were to make total agreement with someone a requirement for inclusion on the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, the Ecumenical Calendar would not exist.

These saints were spiritual giants upon whose figurative shoulders my fellow Christians and I stand.  Their biographies remind us that we have an obligation to influence one another positively, for the glory of God and the benefit of each other.  The issues with which we must contend might differ from theirs, but the call of Christ to follow him remains constant.  Fidelity to Christ will look different from one person to another, depending on who, where, and when one is.  May we who follow Christ honor that diversity of discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Loving God, we praise you and give thanks to you for the examples of your servants

St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Monica of Hippo, and St. Augustine of Hippo,

who, in the late Western Roman period, contended for the faith courageously.

May we who follow you support each other in our spiritual pilgrimages,

be one with you and each other, and leave a legacy that honors you and

brings glory to you; in the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

–Kenneth Randolph Taylor, May 10, 2016 Common Era

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11, 16-18

Psalm 87

Galatians 7:11-17

John 16:20-24

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), pages 107, 359, and 545

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Feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (March 18)   Leave a comment

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Above:  St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (CIRCA 315-MARCH 18, 386)

Bishop, Theologian, and Liturgist

St. Cyril of Jerusalem was a foundational figure in Christianity.

Many of the details of St. Cyril’s life are sketchy.  Sources even vary regarding the year and location of his birth.  They agree, however, that his birth occurred somewhere in Palestine–perhaps in Jerusalem–in the temporal vicinity of 313-315.  Sources also agree that our saint became a priest in 345 and the Bishop of Jerusalem in 349 or 350.

St. Cyril, a staunch opponent of Arianism, experienced hardships because of his orthodoxy.  The proposition that Christ was a created being was one he refused to affirm.  Our saint’s orthodoxy brought him into conflict with some of his superiors and with two Eastern Roman emperors, leading to three exiles from his diocese:  in 357, 360, and 367-379.  The last period of exile occurred by the order of Emperor Valens (reigned 364-378), an Arian.  The imperial politics of Christology depended on the whims of emperors.  Constantius II (reigned 337-361) was an Arian.  He removed some prominent critics of Arianism from their episcopal sees and replaced them with Arians.  Constantius II also used two regional councils of bishops in 359 to make a moderate form of Arianism official.  Officially, Christ was “like the Father.”  Valens continued the policy of exiling prominent critics of Arianism and added the execution of some of them to his tactics.  Salminus Hermias Sozomen (circa 400-447/448), a historian and a Christian, regarded the death of Valens in battle against Visigoths in 378 to be divine retribution.  The accession of Theodosius I “the Great” (reigned 379-395) made the return of St. Cyril to his diocese possible.   The Second Council of Constantinople (381), which St. Cyril attended, recognized him as a “Confessor of the Faith” even though he had critics to his right.  Our saint never affirmed every detail of Trinitarian theology which emerged from the Council of Nicaea (325).  Nevertheless, he was sufficiently orthodox.

Surviving works by St. Cyril provide helpful glimpses into the liturgical life of the Church in and around Jerusalem in the fourth century C.E., or, as he knew it, the latter eleventh and early twelfth centuries A.U.C.  (The B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E. dating system did not exist yet.)  These works prove especially useful in understanding Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.  For example, one reads of the washing of the hands of the celebrant, the use of the Lord’s Prayer at the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer, and the receiving of the host in one’s palm, with the left hand supporting the right hand.  Such information fascinates those of us who care deeply about liturgy and the development thereof.  One also learns that St. Cyril defended the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Our saint influenced the development of rites for Palm Sunday and the other days of Holy Week.  He pioneered such rituals at Jerusalem, a center of pilgrimage.  Many pilgrims took those rituals back to their homes.  Thus similar observances took root elsewhere in Christianity.

The Church remains in St. Cyril’s debt.  The Holy Week practices of my denomination, The Episcopal Church, owe much to our saint.  The rituals for Holy Week in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) are closer to the rites of St. Cyril than are those in The Book of Common Prayer (1928).  Once again, as in many other cases, the break with one tradition constitutes a return to an older tradition. And, when I receive the host, I do so with my right hand supporting my left hand and my left palm open.  I know of this consistency with ancient tradition because of St. Cyril.

Unfortunately, Arianism thrives.  It lives, for example, among the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

St. Cyril died in Jerusalem on March 18, 386.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Strengthen, O Lord, the bishops of your Church in their special calling

to be teachers and ministers of the Sacraments, so that they,

like you servant Cyril of Jerusalem, may effectively instruct your people

in Christian faith and practice; and that we, taught by them,

may enter more fully into the celebration of the Paschal mystery;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 47:8-10

Psalm 122

Hebrews 13:14-21

Luke 24:44-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 275

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Feast of Sts. Aedesius and Frumentius (October 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of Ethiopia

SAINT AEDESIUS (A.K.A. SAINT EDESIUS) (LIVED DURING THE 300S

Priest and Missionary

colleague (and possibly brother) of

SAINT FRUMENTIUS (DIED CIRCA 380)

First Bishop of Axum and Abuna of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Disclaimer:  Accounts I have located, consulted, and used to write this post disagree on details.  I have, however, attempted to sort through the discrepancies and to write as accurately as possible.  Sometimes objective reality blends with legend.  Distinguishing between the two categories can prove difficult when examining the stories over 1700 years after the fact.

Sometimes life offers unexpected opportunities.  Who would have expected that two Syrian students of philosophy, en route back home from a journey to India, would have played a vital role in Ethiopian history?

In 340 the two saints from Tyre survived the killing of most of their shipmates when the vessel stopped along the coast of the Kingdom of Aksum, which included parts of present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Yemen.  They joined the court of King Ousanas subsequent to this event; St. Aedesius served as cupbearer and St. Frumentius as secretary.  The saints remained in the royal court after Ousanas died; St. Frumentius functioned as tutor to the young Ezana II.  When Ezana II began to govern in his own right the saints left the kingdom.  St. Aedesius returned to Tyre, where he became a priest.  St. Frumentius traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, where he asked St. Athanasius (https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/feast-of-st-athanasius-of-alexandria-may-2/) to send a missionary.  St. Athanasius sent St. Frumentius.

Christianity had arrived in the Aksumite Kingdom before the two Syrians arrived.  St. Philip the Evangelist (https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-philip-deacon-and-evangelist-october-11-2/) played a vital role in introducing Christianity to the region by witnessing to an Ethiopian eunuch.  Traveling Roman merchants had brought it along with their wares.  But the two saints aided greatly in the faith’s propagation.  St. Frumentius, known to the locals as Abuna Salama, became the first Abuna (“Father” or Patriarch) of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, often called simply the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  His Christological orthodoxy led to the enmity of Roman Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361), an Arian.  And, in the 300s, St. Aedesius, at Tyre, told Rufinus of Aquileia, a church historian, of the legacy of his friend and colleague.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, historically

…the prime source and custodian of the cultural and literary heritage of the nation

The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia, Volume 6 (1982), page 1001,

was subordinate to the Coptic Church until 1959.

A side note:  John J. Delaney, in Dictionary of Saints (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday and Company, 1980), page 239, refers to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as

the dissident Ethiopian Church.

Is it my imagination, or do I detect an attitude?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your servants,

and who raised up your servants

Saint Aedesius and Saint Frumentius

to be the light of the world:

Shine, we pray, in our hearts,

that we also in our generation may show forth your praise,

who called us out of darkness into marvelous light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 28:16-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 717