Archive for the ‘St. Cyprian of Carthage’ Tag

Feast of Sts. Cyprian of Carthage, Cornelius of Rome, Lucius I of Rome, and Stephen I of Rome (September 16)   5 comments

Above:  Carthage and Rome

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (190/210-SEPTEMBER 14, 258)

Bishop of Carthage, and Martyr

Born Thascius Caecillianus Cyprianus

His feast day = September 16

Alternative feast days = August 31, September 15, September  26, and October 2

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SAINT CORNELIUS OF ROME (DIED IN JUNE 253)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = September 16

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SAINT LUCIUS I OF ROME (DIED MARCH 5, 254)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from March 4

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SAINT STEPHEN I OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 2, 257)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 2

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Whoso stands aloof from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic sect] is cut off from the promises given to the Church; and he that leaves the Church of Christ attains not to Christ’s rewards.  He is an alien, an outcast, an enemy.  He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother.

–St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church; quoted in Henry Bettenson and Chris Mander, eds., Documents of the Christian Church, 3d. ed. (1998), 80

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September 15 is the Feast of St. Cyprian of Carthage in The Episcopal Church.  The saint has more than one feast day, not one of them September 14, the anniversary of his death.  September 14 is, after all, the Feast of the Holy Cross.  Of all the feast days of St. Cyprian September 16 makes the most sense for my purposes as I continue to renovate my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days because (1) September 16 is the Feast of St. Cornelius of Rome, and (2) one cannot explain the lives of either St. Cyprian or St. Cornelius properly in isolation from each other.

Most persecution of Christianity in the Roman Empire was local and sporadic.  Sometimes, however, an emperor launched an empire-wide persecution.  Roman pagan orthodoxy, such as it was, mixed politics, religion, and civic duty.  The reasoning was that the empire would prosper as long as the gods allowed.  A civic duty, therefore, was to sacrifice to the gods on behalf of the empire.  Jews were exempt from this obligation, but had to pay a tax instead.  Gentiles who refused to make such a sacrifice were not fulfilling their civic duty, as the government defined it.  As Christianity grew, more and more Gentiles refused.  Was Christianity a threat to the future of the empire?  Were Christians threats to imperial security?

Above:  St. Cyprian of Carthage

Image in the Public Domain

St. Cyprian, born in Carthage between 190 and 210, was a pagan rhetorician until he converted to Christianity circa 246.  Within two years he had progressed from convert to deacon to priest then, in 248, to Bishop of Carthage, a post he held for the rest of his life, that is, until 258.  St. Cyprian was one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 250s.

The Emperor Decius (reigned 249-251), unlike his tolerant predecessor, Philip I (reigned 244-249), considered Christianity to be a threat to the future of the Roman Empire.  Decius forced St. Cyprian to flee Carthage; the bishop governed his diocese remotely.  St. Fabian, Bishop of Rome from 236 to 250, became a martyr.  A committee of clergymen, with Novatian (circa 200-258) as the spokesman, governed the Church for fourteen months.  In March 251, toward the end of the reign of Decius, a papal election was finally safe.  Novatian expected to win, but St. Cornelius did instead.

Above:  St. Cornelius of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

In 251, when St. Cyprian returned to Carthage, he had to contend with the question of how to deal with people who had committed apostasy by renouncing their Christian faith during the Decian persecution.  Some confessors were overly eager to readmit the lapsed on the grounds of the merits of the martyrs.  This displeased St. Cyprian, who insisted that apostates must perform penance in order for reconciliation to occur.  This penance, the Bishop of Carthage said, must be suitably long.  St. Cornelius agreed.  The policy would become the policy church-wide, the Bishop of Rome decreed.

Novatian disagreed.  In March 251, via a schismatic papal election, he established himself as a rival Bishop of Rome.  St. Cornelius excommunicated Novatian and his followers.  The Novatianist sect was ridiculously morally rigorous, teaching that there was no forgiveness for serious sins one committed after one’s baptism.  The schism persisted in Armenia and Mesopotamia until the 400s, and later elsewhere.

Sts. Cyprian and Cornelius did not always have friendly relations.  The Bishop of Carthage had initially been dubious about the election of St. Cornelius, but had quickly accepted it.  St. Cyprian even helped St. Cornelius to win the support of many Roman clergymen who might otherwise have supported Novatian.  In the summer of 252, however, St. Cornelius received envoys of Fortunatus, a bishop rival to St. Cyprian.  The Bishop of Rome did not side with Fortunatus, but St. Cyprian complained in writing about the meeting.

The next emperor was Gallus (reigned 251-253), initially tolerant of Christianity.  The reign of Gallus was one disaster after another.  A plague swept through the empire.  In Carthage Christians became scapegoats for the plague.  There were also barbarian invasions as well as military defeats on the Persian frontier.  Gallus distracted much criticism of him by resuming the persecution of Christianity in June 252.  That month the imperial government forced St. Cornelius into exile at Centumcellae (now Civitavecchia, the port of Rome).  The Bishop of Rome died in June 253.  The empire seemed to be coming apart; a civil war seemed unavoidable.  Gallus had two rivals (both generals) for the imperial throne.  In July 253 he died at the hands of his soldiers, who preferred assassinating their emperor to fighting a losing battle in which they would die in vain.  Aemilian, the next emperor, reigned for a few months until dying the same way.

The next emperor was Valerian (reigned 253-260), initially tolerant of Christianity.

Above:  St. Lucius I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Lucius I, elected Bishop of Rome on June 23, 253, had been in exile during the persecution under Gallus.  St. Cyprian wrote to St. Lucius I, who maintained the policy of St. Cornelius vis-á-vis repentant apostates.  The Bishop of Carthage congratulated the new Bishop of Rome for faithful suffering, and welcomed him back to Rome.  St. Lucius I died of natural causes on March 5, 254.

Above:  St. Stephen I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Stephen I, elected Bishop of Rome on May 12, 254, had conflicts with St. Cyprian.

St. Stephen I readmitted two lapsed Spanish bishops to the Church.  St. Cyprian did not agree that the Spanish bishops had repented of their apostasy.  He convened a synod of north African bishops.  The synod decreed that the Spanish bishops were still apostates, and that they had deceived the Bishop of Rome.

Marcian, Bishop of Arles, was, like Novatian, a moral rigorist who refused forgiveness and reconciliation, to repentant apostates–even on deathbeds.  Some local bishops petitioned St. Stephen I to depose Marcian.  St. Cyprian urged the Bishop of Rome to excommunicate and depose Marcian.  St. Stephen I refused on all counts.

Sts. Stephen I and Cyprian disagreed about the rebaptism of people baptized by heretics, i.e., Novatianists.  The Bishop of Carthage argued that such baptisms were almost always invalid.  He contended that the sacrament was valid only within the Church, so rebaptism was necessary in most of these cases.  The Bishop of Rome, however, regarded baptisms by heretics as generally valid.  Therefore, according to St. Stephen I, absolution via the laying on of hands was the only requirement for reconciliation of heretics.  He refused to permit the churches in Asia Minor to hold valid Eucharists due to their practice of rebaptizing heretics.  However, St. Cyprian convened two synods (in 255 and 256) that reaffirmed his position.  Ironically, Novatian and St. Cyprian had something in common, for Novatian refused to accept orthodox Catholic baptisms, just as St. Cyprian refused to accept Novatianist baptisms.

St. Stephen I was doing something new; he became the first Bishop of Rome to claim the primacy of his office based on succession from St. Simon Peter.  What the Bishop of Rome said, went.  St. Cyprian was having none of it, despite his acknowledgment of St. Simon Peter as the rock upon which Jesus founded the Church.

One may wonder what the long-term consequences of the dispute between Sts. Stephen I and Cyprian would have been.  One must, however, consign those thoughts to the realm of the counterfactual.  One should also consider St. Cyprian’s condemnation of schism as sinful.

Circumstances ended the dispute.  St. Stephen I died of natural causes on August 2, 257.  The next Bishop of Rome was St. Sixtus II.  In August 257 Valerian, seeking to distract attention from ample imperial woes, resumed the empire-wide persecution of Christianity.  St. Cyprian, forced into exile again, eventually returned to Carthage, where he became a martyr on September 14, 258.

Novatian also died in 258, perhaps as a martyr during the persecution under Valerian.

Valerian’s persecution did much to damage the Church, which survived, of course.  St. Sixtus II and many clergy died.  The empire also confiscated Church property.  Nevertheless, St. Dionysius, the Bishop of Rome from 260 to 268, rebuilt the Church.  He also had to contend with the issue of rebaptism.  Valerian failed.

The position of the Roman Catholic Church on baptism is that all Christian baptisms are valid.  Defects in the intentions of those who administer baptism render a baptism invalid, hence the Church’s refusal to accept Mormon baptisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servants

Saint Cyprian of Carthage,

Saint Cornelius of Rome,

Saint Lucius I of Rome, and

Saint Stephen I of Rome,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following their examples and teachings of their holy lives,

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), 718

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Feast of St. Fabian (January 20)   2 comments

st-fabian

Above:  St. Fabian

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT FABIAN (DIED JANUARY 20, 250)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr

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The glory of his death befitted the purity and holiness of his life.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, writing to Pope St. Cornelius, quoted in A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Pope St. Anterus (reigned November 21, 235-January 3, 236) had died suddenly.  A week later, a crowd gathered in Rome as the election of the next Pope took place.  A dove alighted upon the head of St. Fabian, a member of that crowd.  He was a layman and a farmer from elsewhere in Italy.  The dominant interpretation of the dove’s action was that the Holy Spirit had chosen St. Fabian.  He was a good choice.

St. Fabian was a capable leader.  He sent St. Denis and his companions to Gaul.  St. Fabian also restructured the Church; he organized the local clergy into seven districts, each with a deacon and seven subdeacons.  This gave the Church a structure suitable for its growing numbers.  St. Fabian also opposed the heresy of Bishop Privatus of Lambesa.  (I have attempted in vain to locate a summary of that heresy, but I have learned that a church council condemned it.)  Furthermore, the Pope repatriated the bodies of Pope St. Callixtus I and Antipope St. Hippolytus, both martyrs who died in the salt mines of Sardinia.

St. Fabian became one of the first victims of the Decian persecution.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29:  THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, you called Fabian to be a faithful pastor and servant of your people,

and to lay down his life in witness to your Son:

Grant that we, strengthened by his example and aided by his prayers,

may in times of trial and persecution remain steadfast in faith and endurance,

for the sake of him who laid down his life for us all, Jesus Christ our Savior;

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

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126

1 Corinthians 15:31-36, 44b-49

Luke 21:20-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 179

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Feast of Edward White Benson (October 10)   6 comments

Edward White Benson

Above:  Edward White Benson

Image in the Public Domain

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EDWARD WHITE BENSON, JR. (JULY 14, 1829-OCTOBER 11, 1896)

Archbishop of Canterbury

Edward White Benson was a leading figure in The Church of England in the late 1800s.

Benson was a native of Birmingham, England, where he entered the world on July 14, 1829.  His mother was Harriet Baker Benson (1805-1850).  Our saint’s father, Edward White Benson, Sr. (1802-1843), was a manufacturing chemist.  His death impoverished the family.  Benson studied at King Edward’s School, Birmingham.  James Prince Lee (1804-1869), the headmaster, influenced the young saint greatly.  Benson revered Lee, who went on to become the Bishop of Manchester in 1847  Our saint even preached at Lee’s funeral.  At King Edward’s School Benson forged lifelong friendships with other future leading lights of The Church of England and continued to be their classmate at Trinity College, Cambridge.  These friends were:

  1. Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), later the Bishop of Durham (1879-1889);
  2. Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901), who succeeded Lightfoot immediately as the Bishop of Durham; and
  3. Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), who, like Lightfoot and Westcott, was a Biblical scholar and translator.

Benson, who graduated from Trinity College in 1852, won the Chancellor’s medal there that year and became a fellow of that institution in 1853.

Benson became a priest and an educator.  From 1852 to 1858 he served as the Assistant Headmaster of Rugby School, succeeding George Edward Lynch Cotton (1813-1866), later the Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India.  Frederick Temple (1821-1902) became the Headmaster of Rugby School in 1858.  On June 23, 1859 he conducted the marriage ceremony of our saint and Mary Sidgwick (1841-1918).  Also in 1859 Benson, on the recommendation of Temple, became the first headmaster of Wellington College, an institution for the orphans of army officers.

The Bensons had six children:

  1. Martin White Benson (1860-1878), who died of tubercular meningitis at the age of 17 years;
  2. Arthur Christopher Benson (1862-1925), who became a school master, a prolific writer, the biographer of his brother Robert Hugh Benson as well as his father, and who wrote the lyrics of “Land of Hope and Glory;”
  3. Mary Eleanor Benson (1863-1890), who became an activist for poor people and died of diphtheria, contracted while engaging in that work;
  4. Margaret Benson (1865-1916), an Egyptologist and author;
  5. Edward Frederic Benson (1867-1940), a prolific novelist; and
  6. Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914), an Anglican priest (1895-1903), convert to Roman Catholicism (1903), Roman Catholic priest (1904-1914), and papal chamberlain (1911f).

None of the Bensons’ children married and all seem to have suffered from congenital mental illness.   Our saint was subject to fits of depression, and not just because he buried two of his children.  (Aside:  One might wonder how much better their lives would have been if certain medications would have been available to them.)

Benson built up Wellington College.  It began as a poorly endowed institution, but he transformed it into a great school by the time he left for Lincoln.  Our saint, while leader of Wellington College, began his study of the life of St. Cyprian of Carthage (died in 258).  Benson’s interest in patristics and ecclesiastical symbolism was obvious in the architecture, mosaics, carvings, and windows of the college chapel, the construction of which he oversaw.

Benson served in other capacities prior to becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury.  As the Chancellor of Lincoln (Cathedral) from 1873 to 1877 he founded a theological college and established night schools and university extension lectures.  As the first Bishop of Truro our saint revitalized Anglicanism in Cornwall, an area in which religious nonconformity was strong  He also founded the cathedral, the construction of which continued after he died.

Archibald Campbell Tait (1811-1882), former Headmaster of Rugby School (1842-1848) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1868-1882), died, creating the vacancy Benson filled in 1883. As the leader of The Church of England our saint opposed attempts to disestablish the Welsh Church, supported high church ritualism at a time when that was controversial, opened talks with the Russian Orthodox Church, and re-established the Anglican bishopric in Jerusalem.  Benson also resolved the schism in the Natal resulting from the heterodoxy of John William Colenso (1814-1883), the deposed and excommunicated Bishop of Natal (1853-1883), who, due to legal maneuverings, retained his title despite his deposition and excommunication.  The official bishop in the area from 1869 to 1892 was William Macrorie (1831-1905), the Bishop of Maritzburg.  Arthur Hamilton Baynes (1854-1942) succeeded Macrorie in 1892 and Colenso the following year, serving until 1901.  (Aside:  “The Church’s One Foundation” contains references to the Colenso Affair.  Consider, O reader, “By schisms rent asunder,/By heresies distressed.”)  Benson was also properly suspicious of the Roman Catholic investigation into the validity of Anglican holy orders relative to Apostolic Succession, for Holy Mother Church ruled Anglican holy orders invalid in 1896.

Benson’s published works included the following:

  1. Work, Friendship, Worship:  Three Sermons Preached Before The University of Cambridge, October, 1871 (1872);
  2. Phoebe the Servant of the Church:  A Sermon, Preached at St. Peter’s Church, South Kensington, on May 11, 1873, in the Aid of the Parochial Mission-Women Fund (1873);
  3. Scholae Cancellarii:  Training of Candidates for Holy Orders at Lincoln:  A Letter to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of the Diocese (1875);
  4. Singleheart (1877);
  5. The Cathedral:  Its Necessary Place in the Life and Work of the Church (1878);
  6. The Voice and Its Homes:  A Sermon Preached in Behalf of the Incorporated Church Building Society, in S. Paul’s Cathedral, London, on May 20, 1881:  Being the First Anniversary of the Foundation of Truro Cathedral (1881);
  7. The Primate and Church Defense (1883);
  8. Boy-Life, Its Trial, Its Strength, Its Fulness:  Sundays in Wellington College, 1859-1873:  Three Books–New Edition (1883);
  9. Report of a Speech Delivered at the 183rd Annual Public Meeting of the Society:  Held in St. James’s Hall, on Tuesday, June 17, 1884 (1884);
  10. The Seven Gifts (1885);
  11. The Liquor Traffic with Native Races:  A Letter from the Archbishops (1887);
  12. An Address Given at Croyden:  At a Meeting of the Canterbury Diocesan Church Reading Society, on Monday, Nov. 28th, 1887 (1887);
  13. Christ and His Times:  Addressed to the Diocese of Canterbury on His Second Visitation (1890);
  14. Technical Education and Its Influence on Society:  An Address (1892);
  15. The Church in Wales:  Shall We Forsake Her?  A Speech by His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury at the Church Congress, Rhyl, on Tuesday, October 6, 1891 (1892);
  16. Fishers of Men:  Addressed to the Diocese of Canterbury in His Third Visitation (1893); and
  17. Living Theology (1893).

Benson died at Hawarden, Wales, on Sunday, October 11, 1896.  He, a house guest of former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) at Hawarden Castle, had returned from an exhausting tour of Ireland.  Our saint suffered a stroke while attending a morning service at the local parish church.  He was 67 years old.  Frederick Temple succeeded him as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Benson left some unpublished writings, which others made available to the public via printing presses.  These works included the following;

  1. Archbishop Benson in Ireland:  A Record of the Irish Sermons and Addresses (1896);
  2. Cyprian:  His Life, His Times, His Work (1897);
  3. The Apocalypse:  An Introductory Study of the Revelation of St. John the Divine, Being a Presentment of the Structure of the Book and of the Fundamental Principles of Its Interpretation (1900); and
  4. On Convocation:  A Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury; and a Speech in the Upper House of the Convocation of the Southern Province (1917).

Arthur Christopher Benson wrote his father’s biography, The Life of Edward White Benson, Sometime Archbishop of Canterbury (1899)–Volumes I and II.

Edward White Benson worked to glorify God and benefit his fellow human beings.  He pursued these goals in particular ways, at a particular era, and in a particular setting.  The details of his spiritual vocation were specific to him.  Nevertheless, the general calling to glorify God and to benefit others remains unbounded by identity, geography, and time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Edward White Benson

to be a faithful bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit,  that they may minister

in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

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

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

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719

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