Archive for the ‘Council of Nicaea (325)’ Tag

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. Paphnutius the Great (September 11)   Leave a comment

Above:  A Trinitarian Symbol

SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT (DIED CIRCA 350)

Also known as Saint Paphnutius the Confessor and Saint Paphnutius of Thebes

Roman Catholic Bishop of Upper Thebaid

Diocletian‘s Tetrarchy was still in effect in 306, when Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) became Augustus of the West.  From 310 to 313 his eastern counterpart was Mamiminus II Daia.  Reports of Constantine’s Christianity were greatly exaggerated, but Maximinus Daia was an unapologetic pagan and a severe persecutor of Christianity.  He, for example, required everyone in the eastern part of the Roman Empire to attend public sacrifices and to eat flesh of the sacrificial beasts.  And if one refused….Eusebius, in his great Ecclesiastical History, wrote of some of the faithful who became martyrs.  And others did not die yet suffered severely.  St. Paphnutius, for example was an Egyptian monk (under St. Anthony/Antony) who had become Bishop of Upper Thebaid.  His sentence was blinding in the right eye followed by hard labor in a mine.

In 313 Constantine I, as senior Augustus, pulled rank and ordered Maximinus II Daia to cease the persecution of Christians.  The junior Augustus obeyed reluctantly.  He knew what Constantine I did:  the future lay with the Church.  And although Constantine I was an opportunist who hitched the wagon of the Roman Empire to that star, Maximinus II Daia tried to resist the future.  That same year the junior Augustus died.  And his successor, Licinius, granted religious freedom to Christians in the East.

St. Paphnutius, released from the mine, became an ardent opponent of Arianism.  He also attended the Council of Nicaea (325), persuading the majority of his fellow bishops to permit married men to receive Holy Orders as priests and bishops although he opposed any post-ordination weddings.

Aside:  Follow this link to read my thoughts on sexual continence among the clergy.

I read accounts of saints such as St. Paphnutius and wonder how much I would be willing to suffer for Christ.  I am not nearly as courageous, I suspect.  Yet I have been fortunate, for nobody has put me to the test.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGIUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, AMELIA BLOOMER, SOJOURNER TRUTH, AND HARRIET ROSS TUBMAN, WITNESSES TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WOMEN

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Saint Paphnutius the Great,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60