Archive for the ‘Holy Cross’ Tag

Feast of St. Mary of Egypt (April 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Mary of Egypt, by José de Ribero

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT MARY OF EGYPT (CIRCA 344-CIRCA 421)

Hermit and Penitent

Alternative feast days = January 25, April 1, April 2, April 9, and November 5

St. Mary of Egypt comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, of The Episcopal Church.  She is also a saint in the Roman Catholic Church and in Eastern Orthodox churches.  In Eastern Orthodoxy another day to celebrate the life of St. Mary of Egypt, a paragon of penitence, is the fifth Sunday in Great Lent.

Before I write about the life of St. Mary of Egypt, I choose to address a proverbial elephant in the room:  chronology.  Nearly all accounts (including the one in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018) of her life mention that, in the last two or so years of her life, she knew a priest-monk, St. Zosimus of Palestine, who allegedly buried her and wrote her biography.  However, the frequently listed lifespans for both saints do not support the possibility of this.  If one accepts that St. Mary of Egypt died circa 421, one must reject that she could have known St. Zosimus of Palestine (circa 460-circa 560).  Some sources ignore this chronological conundrum.  Others push St. Mary’s lifetime into the fifth and sixth centuries, the timeframe for St. Zosimus.  Some sources adjust the dates for St. Zosimus down a century, into the timeframe of St. Mary.  I remain suspicious of the two saints having met.

I have years of experience writing hagiographies.  I also know that people knew how to keep track of what year it was in antiquity.  Nevertheless, I recall more than one occasion when I was taking notes about saints who allegedly knew each other and I realized that they could not have known each other because of chronology.  Hagiographers should keep their chronologies in order.

St. Mary of Egypt, born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 344, spent most of her life as a penitent and a hermit.  She left home at age twelve and became a prostitute.  Seventeen years later, she accompanied a group of pilgrims to Jerusalem.  They were going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14).  She was seeking to fulfill her lust and find customers.  The pilgrims entered the church, but an invisible barrier prevented the prostitute from crossing the threshold.  St. Mary of Egypt confessed her sins, repented of them, and called upon the Mother of God.  Our saint, across the threshold, advanced toward the alleged True Cross of Christ.  She dedicated her life to God.  St. Mary spent the next forty-seven or so years as a hermit in the desert beyond the Jordan River.

Many Low Church Protestants, regardless of where they fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum, underestimate the spiritual value of holy hermits.  Holy hermits are useless, many Low Church Protestants claim.  Yet, if one affirms the efficacy of prayer, as I assume most Low Church Protestants do, one should recognize the inestimable value of holy hermits, who spend so much time in prayer.  If one accepts the efficacy of prayer, one should give thanks for holy hermits.  Historical accounts of many Desert Fathers and Mothers also indicate that many people went out to consult them for spiritual counsel.

Whatever St. Mary of Egypt did day in and day out for forty-seven years, it was of great spiritual value.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY MORSE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1645

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT DASWA, SOUTH AFRICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DE PALESTRINA, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGEBERT III, KING OF AUSTRASIA

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Merciful Lord, who raises up sinners by your boundless compassion and mercy:

Cause the desert sun to burn away our coarseness and to melt our hardness of heart,

that, like your servant Mary of Egypt,

we may not depart from this life until we understand

the ways of repentance and the benefits of prayer;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hebrews 11:32-40

Psalm 91:9-16

John 20:11-18

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, 213

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Devotion for the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)   3 comments

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/the-exaltation-of-the-holy-cross-part-i/

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Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jesus at Golgotha

The Cross:  From Emblem of Shame to Symbol of Triumph

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The Assigned Readings for This Feast:

Isaiah 42:21-25

Psalm 98 or Psalm 98:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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This feast commemorates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on September 14, 335 C.E., a date designed to align with the anniversary of the dedication of the first Temple by King Solomon.  That is a summary of the history of the feast.  Now for the interesting part.

A symbol carries only the meaning(s) people assign to it.  Consider the cross.  The ruling classes of the Roman Empire used crucifixion as a means of capital punishment reserved for those considered the worst of the worst.  It was public execution meant to make an example of the victims.  And this constituted annihilation of the crucified.  Under normal circumstances the body remained on the cross while animals and decomposition took their tolls.  The ultimate purpose of crucifixion was terrorize would-be rebels and reinforce the power of the Imperium.

Yet the Resurrection turned the original meaning of the cross on its head.  The cross became a symbol of God’s victory over death, evil, and the designs of the Roman Empire and those who collaborated with it.  The cross, once a symbol of fear and terrorism, became an emblem of love.

That “will preach.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2010

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

Posted June 13, 2010 by neatnik2009 in September 14

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