Archive for the ‘Justinian I’ Tag

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra (December 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Nicholas of Myra

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA (MARCH 15, 270-DECEMBER 6, 343)

Bishop of Myra

We know little about St. Nicholas of Myra.  Legends abound, but confirmed information is scarce.  We know the following, though:

  1. St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, on the coast of what is now Turkey.
  2. He suffered incarceration and torture after Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) launched an empire-wide persecution of Christianity in 303.

St. Nicholas may have attended the First Council of Nicaea (325), from which the first draft of the Nicene Creed emerged.  According to one story, he slapped Arius, founder of the Arian heresy.  (I do not know if the story is true, but I suppose that it is plausible.)

St. Nicholas apparently earned his reputation as a generous person, hence many stories of financial assistance to those in need.  His generosity to impoverished children eventually contributed to stories of Santa Claus.

The Roman Emperor Justinian I “the Great” (reigned 527-565) revered the late Bishop of Myra as a saint.  The Church has followed that practice, wisely.

May kindness and love define our characters, communities, social institutions, societies, and governments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea:

Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children,

the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt and grief;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 19:17, 20-23

Psalm 145:8-13

1 John 4:7-14

Mark 10:13-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 105

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Feast of Sts. Hormisdas and Silverius (December 2)   8 comments

Above:  The Roman Empire in 565

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT HORMISDAS (DIED AUGUST 6, 523)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 6

father of

SAINT SILVERIUS (DIED DECEMBER 2, 537)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr, 537

Alternative feast day = June 20

Sts. Hormisdas and Silverius, father and son, had to contend with imperial and international politics.  The Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, wanted to retake Italy.  The Ostrogothic kings of Italy disagreed.

St. Hormisdas was a reconciler.  He, a married layman prior to ordination, worked closely with Pope St. Symmachus (in office 498-514).  St. Symmachus had a rival, the antipope Lawrence (498-499, 501-506; died 507 or 508).  The schism led to years of violence in the streets of Rome.  St. Symmachus had permitted Lawrence to retire.  St. Hormisdas, elected to succeed St. Symmachus on July 20, 514, completed the healing by welcoming the remaining, hardcore supporters of Lawrence back into the fold.

St. Hormisdas also ended the Acacian Schism (484-519).  In 584, Acacius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, had compromised regarding Chalcedonian Christology.  He had omitted the doctrine that Jesus had two natures–human and divine.  This was a way of assuaging Monophysites, who thought that Jesus had only a divine nature.  Pope St. Felix III (II) (in office 483-492) had excommunicated Acacius.  For decades the church was split, East and West.  The accession of Emperor Justin I (reigned 518-527), a Chalcedonian Christian, created the opportunity for reunion.  That reunion also had a political purpose; Justin I and his nephew, Justinian I “the Great” (reigned 527-565), wanted Italy back.  Ecclesiastical reunification helped imperial reconquest.

St. Hormisdas, who commissioned St. Dionysius Exiguus (circa 500-circa 550) to translate the canons of the Greek Church into Latin, died on August 6, 523.

The next Bishops of Rome were:

  1. St. John I (August 13, 523-May 10, 526),
  2. St. Felix IV (III) (July 12, 526-September 22, 530),
  3. Boniface II (September 22, 530-October 17, 532),
  4. John II (January 2, 533-May 8, 535), and
  5. St. Agapitus I (May 13, 535-April 22, 536).

There was also an antipope, Dioscorus, briefly (September 22-October 14, 530).

St. Agapitus I died in Constantinople on April 22, 536.  He had displeased Empress Theodora, a Monophysite, by deposing Anthimus, the (Monophysite) Patriarch of Constantinople.  Theodora wanted Antimus restored to his office.  She offered a quid pro quo to the nuncio, deacon Vigilius; she would make him the Pope if he, as the Bishop of Rome, would restore Anthimus to office.  Vigilius agreed then returned to Rome.

Vigilius arrived too late.  Theodahad (reigned 534-536), the last Ostrogothic king of Italy, had already forced the election of subdeacon St. Silverius, son of St. Hormisdas, on June 8, 536.  The new Pope never had a chance, for he was a pawn of one leader and the target of another.

Imperial forces occupied Rome on December 10, 536.  St. Silverius and the Roman Senate, seeking to prevent bloodshed, urged the citizens to surrender to the Roman Army.  Meanwhile, the Ostrogothic Army beseiged the city.  St. Silverius, framed via forged documents, was, according to Imperial authorities, cooperating with the Ostrogoths.  Theodora orchestrated the removal of St. Silverius from office on March 11, 537.  Vigilius became the next Pope on March 29.

St. Silverius, a prisoner, became a monk and an exile at Patara, Lycia, Anatolia.  The local bishop interceded on his behalf with Justinian I, who ordered a fair trial and the return of St. Silverius to Rome.  The result of an acquittal would be restoration to the See of Rome; the result of a conviction would be reassignment to a different see.  None of that came to pass, however.  Vigilius sent agents to St. Silverius; they forced his abdication on November 11, 537.  Our saint, having never returned to Rome, died of starvation and other hardships on December 2, 537.

Vigilius engaged in political conflicts with Justinian I and Theodora during his tenure, which ended with death by natural causes (gall stones) on June 7, 555.  He had been unpopular in life.  He remained so in death.

Sts. Hormisdas and Silverius manifested reconciling spirits and concern for people.  St. Silverius did his best, but others had plans for him.  He was faithful to the end, starving in exile.

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God of shalom, we thank you for the reconciling spirit of St. Hormisdas

and the commitment unto death of St. Silverius, Bishops of Rome.

May we also lead conciliatory lives and be willing, if necessary,

to remain faithful unto persecution, ill treatment, and martyrdom,.

May the light of your love shine through us no matter what,

so that we may live and die as agents of divine grace.

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

Tobit 3:1-6

Psalm 2

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Feast of St. John I (May 18)   1 comment

Above:  St. John I

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN I (DIED MAY 18, 526)

Bishop of Rome

St. John I had a difficult pontificate.  Our saint had been a deacon and a supporter of Antipope Lawrence (in opposition 498-499 and 501-506), but had transferred his loyalty to Pope St. Symmachus (in office 498-506) in 506.  St. John I was a senior, elderly, and infirm deacon on August 13, 523, when he became the placeholder pontiff.  The native of Populonia, Tuscany, had to contend with international politics and the Arian heresy during his brief pontificate.

In one corner, so to speak, was the Roman Emperor Justin I (reigned 518-527), based in Constantinople.  He, an opponent of Arianism, the heresy that the Second Person of the Trinity is a created being, was forcing Arians to recant.  Justin I had also seized Arian churches and excluded Arians from public offices.  The Roman Emperor also wanted to retake Italy, lost to the Roman Empire the previous century.

Above:  The Kingdom of the Ostrogoths and the Roman Empire in 526 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

In the other corner was Theodoric the Great (reigned 475-526), the King of the Ostrogoths, and therefore of Italy.  Theodoric, an Arian, forced St. John I to lead a delegation consisting of bishops and senators to Constantinople, to demand that Justin I reverse his anti-Arian policies.  The Pope did refuse, however, to request that the Emperor permit Arians required to convert to Chalcedonian Christianity to revert.  St. John I led the delegation out of fear of what Theodoric would do if he refused to go.  The Supreme Pontiff had good reasons to be afraid, for he recalled the fate of his friend Boethius (St. Severinus Boethius, lived circa 480-524; feast day – October 23), statesman and philosopher.  Theodoric had ordered the execution of Boethius for allegedly treasonous correspondence with Justin I.  The Papal delegation arrived at Constantinople with great fanfare on April 19, 526, shortly before Easter.  Justin agreed to Theodoric’s demands except the right of former Arians to revert.

Theodoric was a violent and suspicious man who thought that the Pope and the Roman Emperor had conspired against him.  St. John I, back at Ravenna, Italy, Theodoric’s capital city, learned firsthand of the monarch’s wrath.  The Ostrogothic king imprisoned the Pope, who died of thirst and starvation on May 18, 526.

The Pontiff’s burial at Rome occurred nine days later.

Above:  Lombard Italy and the Roman Empire, 600 C.E.

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

The Roman Emperor, under Justinian I “the Great” (reigned 527-565), conquered Italy in 535-554.  Taking proved easier than keeping, however.  Within a few decades the Lombard invasion took its toll.  The empire controlled portions of Italy until 1071.

The Arian heresy has continued, unfortunately.

St. John I was a pious man who did the best he could in the interests of the common good, at great risk to himself.  He was, for all intents and purposes, a martyr.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Saint John I

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our

witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 714

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Feast of Sts. Sylvia of Rome, Emiliana of Rome, Trasilla, and Gregory the Great (March 12)   4 comments

st-gregory-the-great

Above:  St. Gregory the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME (CIRCA 515-CIRCA 592)

Ascetic

Also known as Saint Silvia of Rome

Her feast transferred from November 3

mother of

SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT” (CIRCA 540-MARCH 12, 604)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = March 12

Alternative feast day = September 3

nephew of

SAINT EMILIANA OF ROME

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from September 3

sister of

SAINT TRASILLA 

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from December 24

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Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” was a pious man and a major saint whose vocation overlapped with difficult times in Italy.  His piety, which served him and many others well, grew out of his family.

His great-grandfather (through his father’s side of the family tree) was Pope St. Felix II (sometimes listed as St. Felix III), who reigned from 483 to 492.  St. Felix had to contend with the monophysite heresy (that Jesus had only a divine nature), intertwined with the politics of the (Eastern) Roman Empire shortly after the gradual demise of the Western Roman Empire, complete in 476.  According to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), St. Felix was intransient, harsh, and authoritarian (page 47).

565

Above:  The Roman (Byzantine) Empire in 565

Image Source = Florida Center for Educational Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida

Image used in accordance with licensing rules at the website of FCIT, which requests that I include this link

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St. Gregory I’s father was Gordianus, a Roman senator.  (Emperor Justinian I “the Great” had presided over the temporary reconquest of portions of the former Western Roman Empire.)  St. Gregory I’s mother was St. Sylvia of Rome (circa 515-circa 592).  The family resided in a mansion in Rome.  Then household included the future Pope’s aunts–sisters of Gordianus–St. Trasilla, and St. Emiliana of Rome at least.  According to some sources, there was a third sister, Gordiana.  The holy sisters/aunts had devoted their lives to God and chosen to live as ascetics in their brother’s household.  St. Gregory I also had a brother, whose name has not survived.  St. Sylvia, as a widow, joined her sisters-in-law in the ascetic life at the estate.

St. Gregory I, who served as the Prefect of Rome in 573 and 574, sold his property, donated the proceeds to the poor, lived ascetically, and became a monk at the estate in 574.  He also founded seven monasteries.  Pope Pelagius II removed St. Gregory I from the monastery in 578 and ordained him to the diaconate.  The following year the Supreme Pontiff dispatched him to Constantinople, the imperial capital, to request military aid in defending against incursions of the Lombards, who were building a kingdom in Italy.  Emperor Tiberius II (reigned 574-582) offered little help in defending his own territory in Italy, for he had other borders to defend too.  He recommended that the Italians seek help from the Franks and bribe the Lombards.  Our saint knew that he could not expect much help from Constantinople in the present time and in the future.  He returned to Rome and his monastery/estate in 585.  There he served as abbot while functioning as an advisor to Pope Pelagius II.

Pope Pelagius II died on February 7, 590.  Much to his chagrin St. Gregory I won election–unanimously, too–to the papal office.  The deacon would have preferred to continue as an abbot.  Despite all his attempts to evade the papacy, St. Gregory I became the Bishop of Rome on September 3, 590.  The 50-year-old saint, who was not in the best of health for much of the ensuing nearly 14 years, tended to his duties.  He, for example, enforced the celibacy of priests, established new rules for electing bishops, upheld papal supremacy, encouraged the veneration of authentic relics, established a school for singers, resisted Donatism in northern Africa, and wrote sermons and biblical commentaries.  Also, in 596, he sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his retinue to England.  St. Gregory also found himself forced to perform civil functions, due to the breakdown of government and the negligence of imperial officials.  He, for example, negotiated treaties, appointed generals, paid soldiers, and coordinated the feeding of starving masses in war zones.  He was the de facto ruler of much of Italy.  St. Gregory I, unable to walk at the end of his life, died on March 12, 604, during a siege of Rome.  His canonization was immediate and a matter of public acclamation.

What might St. Gregory I have been without the influence of his family?  And, had he not accepted his responsibilities, how might the lives of many others been worse?  Perhaps another person would have stepped forward and acted at least as capably.  Perhaps not.

Sometimes one’s duty includes dealing with a bad situation and improving it, without making it good.  That description certainly applies to the circumstances with which St. Gregory I had to contend.  May we, like this great saint, rise to the occasion whenever presents itself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory the Great to be a servant of the servants of God,

and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people:

Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught,

that your people, being fruitful in every good work,

may receive the crown of glory that never fades away;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8

Psalm 57:6-11

Colossians 1:28-2:3

Mark 10:42-45

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 269

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Feast of Alfred the Great (October 26)   Leave a comment

England 878

Above:  Map of England in 878

Image in the Public Domain

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ALFRED THE GREAT (849-OCTOBER 26, 899)

King of the West Saxons

An old saying tells that power wears down those who do not have it.  That is certainly true in the Turkish Republic.  Even before the recent failed coup President (previously Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the judiciary to imprison journalists whose reporting was critical of him.  He thereby proved that he lacked respect for the freedom of the press.  Now, after the coup, he is targeting not only soldiers but journalists, judges, academics, and civil servants en masse.  It is a witch hunt.  The republic is really a dictatorship.  Erdogan’s power wears down those who do not have it.  Patriotism and law and order are the last refuges of a scoundrel, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

Power need not wear down those who lack it, however.  If the right person uses power for proper purposes it builds up the nation–or, in the case, of King Alfred the Great, the only monarch in English history to be “the Great,” the kingdom as a whole.

Alfred the Great was the last King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex) and the first King of the Anglo-Saxons (from 878).  His mother was Osburh/Osburga (died in 854), a noblewoman.  Our saint’s father was King Aethelwulf (reigned 839-858).  Alfred, born in 849, was the youngest of five children who survived to adulthood.  Aethelwulf sent his four-year-old son to visit Rome, where Pope St. Leo IV (reigned April 10, 847-July 17, 855) sponsored the prince at his confirmation.  Two years later Alfred accompanied Aethelwulf on a pilgrimage to Rome.  The prince learned to read English prior to his twelfth birthday.  He did not learn to read Latin until 887, when he had been king for some time.  Aethelwulf’s three elder sons succeeded him, in order, prior to Alfred’s accession:

  1. Aethelbald (reigned 858-860),
  2. Aethelberht (reigned 860-865), and
  3. Aethelred I (reigned 865-871).

Alfred’s public life spanned 866-899.  That public life began with Alfred assisting his elder brother, Aethelred I, resist Danish invaders, a persistent threat for generations.  In 868 the prince married Ealhswith/Ealswitha (died 902), from the Mercian royal family.  Alfred succeeded Aethelred I in 871, becoming the King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex).  The fight against Danish invaders continued throughout his reign.  One phase of that struggle ended in 878, when Alfred took the title “King of the Anglo-Saxons.”  In that year Alfred did not kill Guthrum, the leader of the Danish invaders; no the monarch forced Guthrum to convert to Christianity and stood as his godfather.  Another stage of that struggle ended in 896.  Alfred left behind a military legacy, including a naval fleet and reorganized militias.  He was, in fact, the “Father of the English Navy.”

Alfred did more than maintain the independence of his realm and became one of the greatest early English monarchs.  He also built up his realm and improved the lives of his subjects.  The monarch, for example, issued a law code, joining the ranks of Hammurabi (reigned 1792-1750 B.C.E.) and Justinian I (reigned 527-565 C.E.).  He also encouraged art, architecture, education, and monasticism.  Alfred recruited experts from the continent of Europe to revitalize learning.  He also ordered that children in his court learn both English and Latin.  Furthermore, the king, in 892, began to translate major Latin texts in theology and philosophy.  Other also translated major Latin texts.  Over time confusion regarding which of these Alfred translated has developed.  The monarch also founded a convent and a monastery.  His attempt to revive monasticism failed, however, due to a lack of public interest.  Alfred was ahead of his time in that regard.

Alfred died on October 26, 899.  He was about 50 years old.  His son, Edward the Elder (reigned 899-924), succeeded him.

George P. Knapp, late Professor of English at Columbia University, wrote:

It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not the magnitude of Alfred’s military achievements, nor the extent of the country which he governed, that lift him into the ranks of the world’s great men, but the beauty and moral grandeur of his character.  In him were combined the virtues of the scholar and the patriot, the efficiency of the man of affairs with the wisdom of the philosopher and the piety of the true Christian.  His character, public and private, is without a stain, and his whole life was one of enlightened and magnanimous service to his country.

–Quoted in The Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 1, page 380

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FLORA MACDONALD, CANADIAN STATESWOMAN AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF NANCY BYRD TURNER, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN EDITOR

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

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O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might

establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people:

Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world,

and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom 6:1-3, 9-12, 24-25

Psalm 21

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Luke 6:43-49

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 653

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