Archive for the ‘Gallienus’ Tag

Feast of Sts. Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius of Laodicea, and Anatolius of Laodicea (July 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Ancient Alexandria

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (CIRCA 190-265)

Patriarch of Alexandria, and Church Father

Also known as Saint Dionysius the Great

His feast transferred from April 8 and November 17

mentor of

SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA (DIED CIRCA 268)

Bishop of Laodicea 

Also known as Saint Eusebius of Alexandria

His feast days = July 3 and October 4

predecessor of

SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (DIED 283)

Bishop of Laodicea

Also known as Saint Anatolius of Laodicea

His feast = July 3

St. Dionysius of Alexandria/the Great mentored St. Eusebius of Laodicea and St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea.

These three saints lived during times of imperial persecution and doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not descend fully-formed from Heaven.  No, people, debated them.  Councils and synods convened and issued statements, thereby defining orthodoxy.

We modern Christians stand on the shoulders of Sts. Dionysius, Eusebius, and Anatolius, who, in turn, stood on the shoulders of others.

St. Dionysius the Great, born in Alexandria, Egypt, circa 190, learned the Christian faith there.  He studied under Origen (185-254) at the catechetical school.  St. Dionysius, a priest, succeeded Origen as the head of that school.  After Origen returned from a visit to Pope St. Zephyrinus (reigned 198/199-217) in Rome, St. Dionysius encouraged Origen to resume teaching at the catachetical school.  St. Dionysius served as the Patriarch of Alexandria, starting in 248.

St. Dionysius maintained orthodoxy while remaining gentle toward penitent heretics.  He argued against baptizing former heretics; laying on hands then welcoming penitent heretics back into the fold sufficed for our saint.  The heresies du jour were Novatianism, Sabellianism, and Adoptionism.

Novatianism led to a schism.  Circa 250, Novatian argued that the church had no power to pardon mortal sins, therefore there was no forgiveness after baptism.  He also held a subordinationist view of the relationships within the Trinity.  The second point was not unique to Novatian; literal readings of certain Pauline passages supported subordinationism.  And some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, orthodox according to the standards of their time, were subordinationists.  The greater issue was the Novatianist schism, which persisted into the 500s.  St. Dionysius wrote to Novatian to encourage him to return to the fold.  Our saint also wrote to Fabian, the Bishop of Antioch, to discourage him from supporting the Novatianist schism.  St. Dionysius’s efforts partially healed the schism.

Sabellianism was a variety of Modalistic Monarchianism, another Trinity-related heresy.  Circa 215, Sabellius defined the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as temporal projections, or “dilations” in an attempt to maintain strict monotheism.  St. Dionysius wrote against this heresy, too.

St. Dionysius, as the Patriarch of Alexandria, endured imperial persecutions.  Decius (reigned 249-251) persecuted the church.  Our saint, incarcerated in 250, went on to live as a fugitive in the desert until 251.  A few years later, Gallienus (reigned 253-268) launched another persecution.  St. Dionysius spent 257-260 in exile in the Mareotis desert.

St. Dionysius left a written legacy.  Repentance was a favorite theme in many letters.  He also composed a commentary on Revelation.

St. Dionysius died of natural causes in Alexandria in 265.

St. Eusebius of Alexandria/Laodicea had been a deacon under St. Dionysius.  Circa 255, during the Valerian persecution, the imperium sentenced St. Eusebius to Kefro, Libya.  He avoided his sentence by going on the lam.  Years later, in 260, our saint risked his life as he ministered to the sick of Alexandria during a plague.

St. Dionysius was till ill to travel to the Second Council of Antioch (264), so he sent St. Eusebius in his stead.  The purpose of the council was to condemn Adoptionism, a heresy from the previous century.  As Paul of Samosota wrote in 260,

Mary did not bear the Word, for Mary did not exist before the ages.  Mary is not older than the Word; what she bore was a man equal to us, but superior in all things as a result of the Holy Spirit.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought (1995), 76

In other words, according to Adoptionists and Paul of Samosota in particular, Mary was not the Theotokos, the Bearer and Mother of God, for Jesus became the Son of God when God adopted him.  Adoptionists disagreed about when God adopted Jesus.

Sts. Dionysius and Eusebius disagreed with the Adoptionists.

St. Eusebius did not return to Alexandria.  Shortly after the Second Council of Antioch (264), he became the Bishop of Laodicea (now Latakia, Syria), near Antioch.  He died in Laodicea in Syria circa 268.

Above:  The Tetraporticus (Erected in 183), Latakia, Syria

Photographer = Allamlatakia

St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea was a polymath.  He was a famous writer, mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and teacher.  Our saint, an erstwhile public servant in Alexandria, was also the founder and head of the Aristotelean school in that great city.  During a Roman military siege of Alexandria in 263, Sts. Eusebius and Anatolius successfully negotiated with the army for the release of innocents.  In so doing, St. Anatolius became persona non grata in Alexandria.

St. Anatolius found greener political pastures in Caesarea, Palestine.  There he was the assistant to the bishop.  In that capacity, our saint was passing through Laodicea in Syria, en route to the Third Council of Antioch, in 268.  St. Eusebius had died recently.  St. Anatolius, much to his surprise, became the next Bishop of Laodicea.  He remained in that office for the rest of his life, until 283.

Emphasizing relationships and influences is one goal of mine here at the Ecumenical Calendar.  A particular chain of influences germane to this post follows:  St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) to St. Alexander of Jerusalem (died 251) and Origen (185-254) to St. Dionysius the Great/of Alexandria (circa 190-265) to St. Eusebius of Alexandria/Laodicea (died circa 268) and St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea (died 283).  It is a chain of influences worth celebrating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENNARO MARIA SARNELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE VULNERABLE AND EXPLOITED PEOPLE OF NAPLES

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PAUL HANLY FURFEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SOCIOLOGIST, AND SOCIAL RADICAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP POWEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1646

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God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ, who is our peace:

Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity.

Give us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided,

that, forgiven and forgiving, we may ever be one in Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.

Genesis 8:12-17, 20-22

Psalm 51:1-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Luke 23:32-43

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 737

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Feast of Sts. Cyriaca, Sixtus II and His Companions, and Laurence of Rome (August 10)   9 comments

Above:  Martyrdom of Sixtus II

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYRIACA (DIED 249)

Roman Widow and Martyr

Her feast transferred from August 21

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SAINT SIXTUS II (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr

His feast transferred from August 7

His former feast day = August 6

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SAINTS JANUARIUS, VINCENTIUS, MAGNUS, STEPHANUS, FELICISSIMUS, AND AGAPITIUS (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Deacons at Rome, and Martyrs

Their feast transferred from August 7

Their former feast day = August 6

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SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 10, 258)

Archdeacon of Rome, and Martyr

Also known as Saint Lawrence of Rome

His feast = August 10

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Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was off-and-on, usually local, and occasionally empire-wide.  Being a Christian could be risky.  And, to jump the chronology, after Emperor Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) made Christianity legal (alongside the other legal religions), being a type of Christian other than the type the Emperor was could be perilous.  But for now, back to the time prior to Constantine the Great…..

St. Cyriaca (d. 249) was a wealthy widow.  She gave shelter to persecuted Christians.  St. Laurence, Archdeacon of Rome, responsible for dispensing alms, distributed from her home until she became a martyr (via scourging).  St. Laurence was quite aware of the perils of being a Christian.

Emperor Valerian (reigned 253-260) presided over a troubled empire.  Plagues afflicted various provinces, civil strive existed, the Persian army invaded the empire on one part of the frontier, and Germanic tribes were invading elsewhere along the long border.  In 258-260 Valerian did what many potentates have done when woes have piled high; he distracted people.  He invited people to look over there, not over here.  Valerian persecuted Christians.  He seized church property (including cemeteries), forbade Christians to gather in cemeteries, and required Christians to participate in state pagan rituals.  One rationale for requiring people to participate in such rites was patriotic.  The idea was that the empire would thrive as long as the gods blessed it.  Therefore, the reasoning went, if more and more people ceased to bless the gods, the empire was doomed.  Thus Christians were allegedly threats to imperial security.  (How many violations of human rights have governments ordered in the name of national security since the beginning of the keeping of historical records?)

If such violations of human rights are indeed necessary for a state or empire to continue to exist, that state or empire should fall, for the good of the people.  The existence of such states and empires is morally repugnant.  States and/or empires that respect human rights should replace them.

The Bishop of Rome for slightly less than a year (August 30, 257-August 6, 258) was St. Sixtus II, properly Xystus.  He spent part of his pontificate dealing with the thorny issue of how to relate to holier-than-thou northern African Christians who were rebaptizing those originally baptized by heretics.  This matter predated his pontificate and continued afterward.  St. Sixtus II upheld the Roman Catholic orthodoxy that the validity of a baptism depended on the intentions of the baptized, not of the baptizer, so no rebaptism was necessary.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism, with the emphasis on “one.”

The hammer fell on August 6, 258.  (August 6 was not the Feast of the Transfiguration until 1457, by the way.)  St. Sixtus II, the seven deacons in Rome, and a congregation had gathered illegally in the cemetery of Praetextatus.  Imperial forces beheaded the Pope and four deacons.  By the end of the day two more deacons had become martyrs.  St. Laurence escaped–for a few days.

St. Laurence spent his final days giving all the Church’s money to poor people in Rome.  When he stood before a prefect on August 10, the prefect demanded that St. Laurence hand over the treasures of the Church.  According to St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), St. Laurence presented the poor people to whom he had given money.  He said,

These are the treasures of the Church.

The prefect disapproved of that reply.  St. Laurence cooked to death on a gridiron.

Valerian’s persecution disrupted the Church for a few years.  However, his son, Gallienus (reigned 253-268), ceased the persecution of Christians and returned seized property.  The next Pope was St. Dionysius (in office July 22, 260-December 26, 268; feast day = December 26), who had to rebuild the Church and to contend with rebaptizers.

With this post I merge three feasts into one.  This makes sense, for each feast relates to the other in a narrative sense.  One of my goals in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, after all, is to emphasize relationships and influences.

I have written enough hagiographies to recognize religious persecution when I see it.  Sometimes it comes from within a tradition; one branch targets another.  On other occasions such persecution comes from adherents of another tradition.  Another option is atheists persecuting the devout.  Persecution takes various forms, including incarcerations and martyrdoms.  I think of the Gestapo hunting down Roman Catholic priests in Poland during World War II, for example.  Priests dying in German concentration camps was another example of persecution.  I am aware of examples of religious persecution in the United States, for I recall, for example, reading about the incarceration of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War I.  “Persecution” is a strong word, which one should use cautiously.  I am not aware of any government-sponsored religious persecution in the United States in 2018, yet I hear of persecution fantasies among certain members of the so-called Religious Right in the U.S.A.  Nobody is forcing me to participate in pagan ceremonies.  No government agents are arresting priests for simply being priests.  Governments are not seizing control of churches.  None of this is happening in the U.S.A. in 2018.  I thank God for my religious freedom, which I use.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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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

Saints Cyriaca, Sixtus II, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, Agapitus, and Laurence of Rome,

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), 59

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