Archive for the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Tag

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. 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 St. John the Good (January 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Europe in 526 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN THE GOOD, A.K.A. SAINT JOHN CAMILLUS (DIED 660)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Milan

Now what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he “has faith” if his actions do not correspond with it?  Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul?  If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say, “Good luck to you I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat”, and yet give them nothing meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that?  Yet that is exactly what a bare faith without a corresponding life is like–quite dead….Yes, faith without actions is as dead as a body without a soul.

–James 2:14-17, 26 (J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, 1972)

No bishop had lived in Milan for eighty years.  The Western Roman Empire was no more, and Arian Lombards forced the exile of previous bishops.  But St. John Camillus filled the vacancy.  He argued against the Arian heresy, which teaches that Christ was a created being.  (The Jehovah’s Witnesses have incorporated this heresy into their alleged orthodoxy.)  He also resisted the Monothelistist heresy, which claims that the human and divine wills of Jesus Christ had a common will and activity.  Monothelitism undermines the doctrine that Jesus was fully human.  Having correct Christology is important, but so is living one’s faith, as James reminds us.  St. John Camillus earned his nickname, “the Good,” by his demonstrated holiness, as evident in his many good works in Milan.

St. John the Good died in 660, but, in 2011, people still speak of him as one who had an active faith, complete with good deeds and sound Christology.  If, in fourteen centuries, the human species and memories of us survive, may our successors make the same statements about us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KAMAHAMEHA AND EMMA, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAII

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Almighty God,

you raised up faithful bishops of your church,

including your servant St. John the Good.

May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,

so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,

through 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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Revised on November 14, 2016

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Feast of St. Columban (November 23)   5 comments

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT COLUMBAN, A.K.A. COLUMBANUS (CIRCA 540-615)

Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, and Missionary

St. Columban(us) was one of the great Celtic saints and founders of monasteries.  Born in West Leinster, Ireland, the saint dedicated his life to God over his mother’s objections.  He became a monk before embarking on a missionary journey to Gaul (modern-day France) in 585.  There he founded his first monasteries and spearheaded a movement to found monasteries across Europe.  The saint’s use of Celtic, as opposed to certain Roman practices, such as the calculation for the date of Easter, aroused much opposition among Frankish bishops, whose jurisdiction he interpreted as not including him.

St. Columban(us) made an enemy of King Theodoric II of Burgundy (along the modern French-Italian border), who preferred a concubine to a wife.  The monarch banished all Irish monks from his realm in 610.  The saint, shipwrecked on the way to Ireland, found refuge with King Theodebert II of Neustria (mostly in modern-day northern France) and began to evangelize in the area of Lake Constance (in modern-day Switzerland).  The saint reestablished Christianity in that region.  Among the monks who joined the retinue of  St. Columban(us) founded there was St. Gall, whose name lives on in a place-name and a great abbey.  From that place great works for God took place.   (https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/feast-of-st-tutilo-march-28/ and https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/feast-of-nokter-balbulus-april-5/)

Alas, the saint had to flee to Italy in 612, for Theodoric II of Burgundy conquered Neustria.  So St. Columban(us) found refuge in Milan, where King Agilulf of the Lombards ruled.  The saint founded the great monastery at Bobbio, between Genoa and Milan.  He died at that monastery on November 21 or 23, 615.  (The books of saints and the old encyclopedias I consulted disagreed about the date of his death.)

St. Columban(us) left his Monastic Rule (an especially austere one), poems, and sermons behind.  He also went down in history as a proponent of Catholic orthodoxy with regard to the nature of Jesus; the saint denounced Arianism, a heresy which remains, unfortunately.  (The Jehovah’s Witnesses are Arians.)

St. Columban(us) was a man of great learning, as his writings reveal.  He devoted his intellect and energies to the service of God, and many people became Christians (directly or indirectly) because of him.  From the monasteries the saint founded emerged saints, missionaries, and great scholars who kept the flames of knowledge and Christianity alive during the Middle Ages.  Some of the saints and missionaries founded other monasteries, which continued the good work.  You, O reader, and I have callings distinct from that of St. Columban(us), but we do share with him a basic vocation:  to devote our intellects and energies to the service of God.  Where will your vocation take you, and what will your legacy be?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON AND HIS COMPANIONS, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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The Collect and Readings for a Missionary from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006),  the hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

God of grace and glory,

we praise you for your servant Saint Columban(us),

who made the good news known in France, Switzerland, and Italy.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

Feast of St. Serapion of Thmuis (March 21)   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Mud Brick Structures at Thmuis, Egypt

Image Source = http://www.unreportedheritagenews.com/2010/12/2300-year-old-temple-discovered-at.html

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SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS (DIED CIRCA 360)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Thmuis; Liturgist

Information about many of the early saints is scant.  This is a problem for those who study antiquity, for many, if not most, germane written sources have not survived to the present day.  We do know, however, that St. Serapion was Bishop of Thmuis, a city in Lower Egypt, that is the region close to the Mediterranean Sea.  Today Thmuis is a collection of ruins, but it was an important urban center at the time.  We know also that St. Serapion was a good friend of St. Antony of Egypt and an ally of St. Athanasius of Alexandria in his defense of Christian doctrine against the Arian heresy.

Few of the saint’s many writings have survived the ravages of time, people, and elements.  A partial Sacramentary does exist, however.  This interests me greatly, for liturgical practices have caught my attention for most of my life.  So, as I read the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article about the Sacramentary of St. Serapion, I geeked out.  Then I found his prayer for healing in The Oxford History of Christian Worship.  Really, I follow these details the way some people obsess over baseball statistics.

Above all, let us never underestimate the importance of a holy life–in this case, one devoted to pastoral care, the defense of basic Christology (in this case, the proposition that Christ was not a created being), and the orderly conduct of Christian worship.  Arianism has not gone away, for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, among others, have nurtured it, but it is no less a heresy than it was in the Fourth Century of the Common Era.  And, as an Episcopalian, I affirm the value of a certain level of ritualism; it feeds my soul.

The Book of Sirach, a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus, says in 44:9-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

But of others there is no memory;

they have perished as if they had never existed;

they have become as though they had never been born,

and their children after them.

But these also were godly men,

whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;

their wealth will remain with their descendants,

and their inheritance with their children’s children.

Their descendants stand by the covenants;

their children, also, for their sake.

Their offspring will continue forever,

and their glory will never be blotted out.

Their bodies are buried in peace,

but their name lives on generation after generation.

The assembly declares their wisdom,

and the congregation proclaims their praise.

We modern Christians are the spiritual children of St. Serapion of Thmuis.  May we stand by the covenants, declare his wisdom, and ensure that people remember his name.

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Loving God, to whom no one is anonymous or forgotten, we thank you for the holy life and legacy of St. Serapion of Thmuis.  May love of you and your co-eternal Son, Jesus Christ, reign in our hearts and govern our lives, so that others may look and find Christ in us.  In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:1-15

Psalm 84

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

John 1:1-18

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ST. AGNES, MARTYR

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Revised on December 24, 2016

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