Archive for the ‘Before Christ’ Tag

Feast of St. Dionysius Exiguus (September 1)   1 comment

Above:  Roman Imperial Borders in the Balkans, 330 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DIONYSIUS EXIGUUS (CIRCA 470-544/550/560)

Roman Catholic Monk and Reformer of the Calendar

Also known as Saint Dionysius the Small, Little, Short, and Humble

The Romans calculated time according to the founding of the city of Rome–Ab Urbe Condita (A.U.C.), or “Since the Founding of the City” or “In the Year of the City.”  That system persisted in much of Europe into what we now call the late first millennium A.D./C.E.  That system went by the wayside because, in large part, of St. Dionysius Exiguus, born in Scythia Minor (modern-day Romania), in the Roman Empire, circa 1223 A.U.C. (470 A.D./C.E.)  He, a monk and apparently never an abbot, called himself Exiguus, Latin for humble, short, little, and small; it was not a reference to his stature.  Our saint lived in Rome starting circa 1253 A.U.C. (500 A.D./C.E.).

St. Dionysius Exiguus was a talented and respected man who took assignments from popes.  He was a mathematician, an astronomer, and a theologian.  He calculated tables for celebrating Easter, based on the lunar calendar.  He collection of 401 ecclesiastical canons spanned papal pronouncements and statements from pivotal ecumenical councils.  Our saint was historically important for those matters alone.

The major historical contribution of St. Dionysius Exiguus was changing the labels of years.  He considered the Incarnation to have been the dividing line in history.  (So far, so good.)  However, he miscalculated the date and year of the birth of Jesus as December 25, 753 A.U.C., which he renamed December 25, 1 Before Christ.  Therefore 754 A.U.C. retroactively became Anno Domini (“In the Year of Our Lord”) 1.  (Contrary to chronologies in many sources, there was no year 0, according to St. Dionysius Exiguus.)  This calculation, which he made in 1278 A.U.C./525 C.E., was in error.  Herod the Great, who, according to the Gospel of Matthew, ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, died in 749 A.U.C. (4 B.C./B.C.E)., therefore the birth of Jesus probably occurred in 747 A.U.C. (6 B.C./B.C.E.).

Some people have accused me of the alleged offense of political correctness or of being an atheist or agnostic when they have noticed my use of B.C.E. and C.E.  They have misunderstood me.  Certain ones have also had political and/or theological axes to grind, so to speak.

I am a practicing Christian.  I am also a historian.  I refuse to state that the birth of Jesus occurred “Before Christ”–not by a week (as St. Dionysius Exiguus intended) and certainly not by six years.   This is a matter of avoiding inaccuracy in the timing of a major event.  That is the sole reason I use “Before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) in lieu of “Before Christ” (B.C.) and “Common Era” (C.E.) in lieu of Anno Domini (A.D.).  “Common to what?” is a question one might ask legitimately.  But at least I am not placing the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”

Anyone who criticizes me for this or wishes to do so needs to get a life.

The date of December 25 has much to do with theology.  Historians know about various festivals of sun gods set on and shortly before that day, about the time of the Winter Solstice, in the Roman period.  December 25 is also nine months to the day after March 25, a traditional date of the creation of the world and the Feast of the Annunciation (the conception of Jesus.)  I hold that Jesus would have been the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity regardless of the date and manner of the conception and the length of the pregnancy.  We are in the purview of theology, not history, in this matter.

The new labeling system for years spread slowly throughout Europe.  The Synod of Whitby (664), in England, adopted it.  Some parts of Europe held onto the old system into what we now call the 800s C.E.

We know little about the life of St. Dionysius Exiguus, not even the year he died; sources disagree.  We know enough, however.

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church canonized our saint on July 8, 2008.  It established his feast day as September 1, the first day of the church year in Eastern Orthodoxy.

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I wrote both the text above and the proper below, and selected the passages of scripture.

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Loving God, who stands outside time as we experience it,

we thank you for your servant Saint Dionysius Exiguus,

who grasped the importance of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.

May we likewise revere you and make Christ central to our spiritual lives, to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Isaiah 43:14-21

Psalm 148

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 2:1-18

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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