1 July.  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Writer and Prophetic Witness, (1811-1896).  From an early age, Harriet Beecher Stowe was influenced by the humanitarian efforts of her famous parents.  Her father, Lyman Beecher, was known for his zealous preaching and involvement with the temperance movement, while her mother, Roxana Foote Beecher, ran a school for girls and publicly advocated for the intellectual development of women.  Her sister Catharine led the women’s opposition against the Jackson administration’s Indian Removal Bill.  Harriet Beecher Stowe was an outspoken critic of slavery, an institution that she believed to be fundamentally incompatible with the theology of her Calvinist upbringing.  An author of many works, she is justly famous for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), a sermon-like work that chronicled the life of a slave family in the south.  In particular, it recounted the tragic consequences of slavery on families, consequences that were for Stowe to be counted as one of the worst evils of slavery.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the bestselling book of the nineteenth century, and was influential in both America and Britain.  Stowe’s book inspired anti-slavery movements in the North and provoked widespread anger in the South.  Her work intensified the sectional conflicts that would eventually lead to the Civil War.  Abraham Lincoln, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, was alleged to have said, “So this is the little lady who started this great war!”  Stowe’s book, together with her public anti-slavery work, was largely responsible for bringing the evils of slavery to light not only in America, but in Britain, Europe, even Russia.  Tolstoy greatly esteemed her work and her moral courage, heaping lavish praise on her.  She was renowned then, as now, for her boldness and willingness to expose the harsh realities of slavery to the public eye.

 

Excerpt from Uncle Tom’s Cabin:  “It was the first time that ever George had sat down on equal terms at any white man’s table; and he sat down, at first, with some constraint, and awkwardness; but they all exhaled and went off like fog, in the genial morning rays of this simple overflowing kindness.  This indeed, was a home, – home, -a word that George had never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God, and trust in His providence, began to encircle his heart, as, with a golden cloud of protection and confidence, dark, misanthropic, pining, atheistic doubts, and fierce despair, melted away before the light of a living Gospel, breathed in living faces, preached by a thousand unconscious acts of love and good-will, which, like the cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, shall never lose their reward.”

 

Collect:  Gracious God, we thank you for the witness of Harriett Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved peoples, and who enriched her writings with the cadences of The Book of Common Prayer.  Help us, like her, to strive for your justice, that our eyes may see the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with you and the Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now and always.  Amen.

 

2 July.  Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), Washington Gladden (1836-1918), and Jacob Riis (1849-1914), Prophetic Witnesses.  Born the son of a German preacher in upstate New York, Walter Rauschenbusch’s childhood was steeped in traditional Protestant doctrine and biblical literalism.  While attending Rochester Theological Seminary, he came to believe that Jesus died “to substitute love for selfishness as the basis of human society.”  For Rauschenbusch, the Kingdom of God was “not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming life on earth into the harmony of heaven.”  In works such as Theology for the Social Gospel (1917), Rauschenbusch enumerated the “social sins” which Jesus bore on the cross, including the combination of greed and political power, militarism, and class contempt.  In 1892, he and some friends formed the Brotherhood of the Kingdom, a group whose mission was to open the eyes of the church to the reality of the Kingdom of God on earth.

 

Like Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden’s ministry was dedicated to the realization of the Kingdom of God in this world.  Gladden was the acting religious editor of the New York Independent, in which he exposed corruption in the New York political system.  Gladden was the first American clergyman to approve of and support labor unions.  In his capacity as Vice President of the American Missionary Association, he traveled to Atlanta where he met W.E.B. Dubois and he became an early opponent of segregation.

 

Though not a pastor like Rauschenbusch and Gladden, Jacob Riis’s “muckraker” journalism did much to awaken the nation to the plight of the urban poor.  Born in Denmark, Riis arrived in New York City in 1870 as multitudes of immigrants flooded the city seeking work following the devastation of the Civil War.  Riis found a job as a police reporter for the New York Tribune, and his work took him to the poorest, most crime-ridden parts of the city.  Teaching himself photography, he combined word and image to display the devastating effects of poverty and crime on so many in New York.  His work led future President Theodore Roosevelt, then City Police Commissioner, to close down the police-run poor houses in which Riis had struggled during his first months in New York.

 

Excerpt from Walter Rauschenbusch’s A Theology for the Social Gospel:  The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but enlarged and intensified.  The individualistic gospel has taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart and has inspired us with faith in the willingness and power of God to save every soul that comes to him.  But it has not given us an adequate understanding of the sinfulness of the social order and its share in the sins of all individuals within it.  It has not evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression and extortion.  Both our sense of sin and our faith in salvation have fallen short of the realities under its teaching.  The social gospel seeks to bring men under repentance for their collective sins and to create a more sensitive and more modern conscience.  It calls on us for the faith of the old prophets who believed in the salvation of nations.”

 

Collect:  Loving God, you call us to do justice and love kindness:  we thank you for the witness of Walter Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden and Jacob Riis, reformers of society; and we pray that, following their examples of faithfulness to the Gospel, we may be ever mindful of the suffering of those who are poor and may work diligently for the reform of our communities; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

4 July.  Independence Day.  Proper Psalms, Lessons, and Prayers were first appointed for this national observance in the Proposed Prayer Book of 1786.  They were deleted, however, by the General Convention of 1789, primarily as a result of the intervention of Bishop William White.  Though himself a supporter of the American Revolution, he felt that the required observance was inappropriate, since the majority of the Church’s clergy had, in fact, been loyal to the British crown.  Writing about the Convention which had called for the observance of the day throughout “this Church, on the fourth of July, for ever,” White said, “The members of the convention seem to have thought themselves so established in their station of ecclesiastical legislators, that they might expect of the many clergy who had been averse to the American revolution the adoption of this service; although, by the use of it, they must make an implied acknowledgment of their error, in an address to Almighty God … The greater stress is laid on this matter because of the notorious fact, that the majority of the clergy could not have used the service, without subjecting themselves to ridicule and censure.  For the author’s part, having no hindrance of this sort, he contented himself with having opposed the measure, and kept the day from respect to the requisition of the convention; but could never hear of its being kept, in above two or three places beside Philadelphia.”  It was not until the revision of 1928 that provision was again made for the liturgical observance of the day.

 

Collect:  Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:  Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

6 July.  John Hus, Prophetic Witness and Martyr, (1372-1415).  John Hus was a Czech priest who became leader of the Czech reform movement, which called for a return to scripture and living out of the word of God in one’s life.  As preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, he talked to the people in their native language.  Hundreds gathered every day to hear his call for personal and institutional reform.  Clerics he had offended had him exiled from Prague, but he continued his ministry through the written word.  Hus took the radical step of appealing directly to Christ rather than to the hierarchy for the justification of his stance.  When the Council of Constance opened in 1414, Hus traveled there hoping to clear his name of charges of heresy.  Hus had been given a pledge of safe conduct from the emperor, but his enemies persuaded council officials to imprison him on the grounds that “promises made to heretics need not be kept.”  Although several leaders of the Council of Constance were in favor of moderate church reform, the council’s prime objective was the resolution of the Great Western Schism, which had produced three rival popes at the same time.  The council therefore tried to secure a speedy recantation and submission from Hus.  He maintained that the charges against him were false or twisted versions of his teachings, and he could not recant opinions he had never held.  Faced with an ultimatum to recant or die, Hus chose the latter.  As he approached the stake on July 6, 1415, he refused a last attempt to get him to recant and said: “The principal intention of my preaching and of all my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin.  And in that truth of the Gospel that I wrote, taught, and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willing gladly to die today.  His death did not end the movement, and the Czech reformation continued.  Hus’ rousing assertion “Truth will conquer!” is the motto of the Czech Republic today.

 

Excerpt from On the Church:  “Therefore, blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has hidden the way of truth from the wise and prudent and revealed it unto simple laymen and little priests who choose rather to obey God than men, who in acts generically good and acts neutral have the life of Christ before their eyes and obey prelates so far as these acts, modified by circumstances, can be reasonably put into practice for edification through the imitation of Christ.”

 

Collect:  Faithful God, you gave John Hus the courage to confess your truth and recall your Church to the image of Christ:  Enable us, inspired by his example, to bear witness against corruption and never cease to pray for our enemies, that we may prove faithful followers of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

11 July.  Benedict of NursiaAbbot of Monte Cassino, (480540) Benedict is generally considered the father of western monasticism.  He was born at Nursia in central Italy, and was educated at Rome.  The style of life he found there disgusted him.  Rome at this time was overrun by various barbarian tribes; the period was one of considerable political instability, a breakdown of western society, and the beginnings of barbarian kingdoms.  Benedict’s disapproval of the manners and morals of Rome led him to a vocation of monastic seclusion.  He withdrew to a hillside cave above Lake Subiaco, about forty miles west of Rome, where there was already at least one other monk.  Gradually, a community grew up around Benedict.  Sometime between 525 and 530, he moved south with some of his disciples to Monte Cassino, midway between Rome and Naples, where he established another community, and, about 540, composed his monastic Rule.  He does not appear to have been ordained or to have contemplated the founding of an “order.”  He died sometime between 540 and 550 and was buried in the same grave as his sister, Scholastica.  No personality or text in the history of monasticism, it has been said, has occasioned more studies than Benedict and his rule.  This firm but reasonable rule has been the basic source document from which most later monastic rules were derived.  Its average day provides for a little over four hours to be spent in liturgical prayer, a little over five hours in spiritual reading, about six hours of work, one hour for eating, and about eight hours of sleep.  The entire Psalter is to be recited in the Divine Office once every week.  At profession, the new monk takes vows of “stability, amendment of life, and obedience.”  Stability is the condition for obedience, and it is obedience that the Rule caused to be recognized as the great means of detachment.  Here is found the very principle of the school of the kingdom which the monastery is to be, and the stability of the abbot as of the monk, is its safeguard.  Only obedience will form the monk to the basic virtue, which now appears as humility.  This primordial importance given to humility is a legacy from Cassian.  Benedict’s whole description of spiritual progress consists in his teaching on the degrees of humility.  Humility, which is openness to grace, perfect disposability to the divine will, manifested in all things, becomes the mother of perfection itself, that is, of the flowering of true charity.  Stability, obedience, humility are at the service of an ideal which goes back to the very first beginnings of the monastic life, an ideal which is purely biblical:  that of a life in which faith, faith in Christ and his rule, subjects all of life to itself.  This application, and above all the concrete pursuit of this ideal in the context of the Benedictine common life, is itself a product of experience, very personally thought out.  This development, however considerable, is certainly connected, without any break or artificial suture, with the very earliest tradition.  Pope Gregory the Great wrote Benedict’s “Life” in the second book of his Dialogues.  He adopted Benedict’s monasticism as an instrument of evangelization when in 596 he sent Augustine and his companions to convert the Anglo-Saxon people.  In the Anglican Communion today, the rules of many religious orders are influenced by Benedict’s rule.

 

An excerpt from the conclusion to the Rule (chapter 83):  “We have set out this Rule so that, carrying it out in monasteries, we may see that there is among us some rightness of manners and some beginning of observance.  But if anyone tends to the perfect life, he has the teachings of the saints, the practice of which leads man to the summit of perfection.  For is there any page of Holy Scripture, whether of the Old or of the New Testament, which is not a very right and perfect rule for the conduct of life?  And is there any page of the holy Catholic Fathers that does not teach us the means of attaining speedily by a straight path to our creator?  And still more, the Conferences of the Fathers, their Institutions, and their Lives, and also the Rule of our Father St. Basil — what are they but examples of monks of good life and exact in obedience, and excellent instructions in practicing the virtues?  And this should be a subject of shame and confusion to us who live in so much laxity, disorder, and negligence.  Whoever you are, then, you who desire to advance towards the heavenly homeland, strive, with the help of Jesus Christ, to keep this little rule in which we have set out the beginning of the religious life and, having done this, you will then go on with the help of God to study the sublime instructions and to practice the eminent virtues that we have just mentioned.”

 

Collect:  Almighty and everlasting God, your precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father:  Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let your ears be open to our prayers; and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

12 July.  Nathan SöderblomArchbishop of Uppsala and Ecumenist, (1866-1931).  Born in Sweden, Söderblom attended the University of Uppsala and was ordained a priest in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden in 1893.  From 1894-1901, he served as Pastor of the Swedish Lutheran community in Paris, during which time he took his doctorate in theology at the Sorbonne.  He returned to Uppsala in 1902 to teach and lead the School of Theology at the university.  He was a highly respected scholar and teacher, a prolific writer, and an early proponent of the study of comparative religions.  To the surprise and dismay of many, he was appointed Archbishop of Uppsala in 1914.  It had been centuries since the senior bishops of the Swedish Church had been passed over for the appointment, and particularly notable since Söderblom was not a bishop.  He served as Archbishop of Uppsala until his death in 1931.  Söderblom took a great interest in the early liturgical renewal movement among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans.  This coincided with his deep commitment to the unity of the churches of Christ and his passion for ecumenical advancement.  In 1925 he invited to Stockholm Episcopalian, Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, and Orthodox leaders and together they formed the Universal Christian Council on Life and Work.  Because of his effort and his tireless advocacy of Christian unity, Söderblom is numbered among the ecumenists whose efforts led eventually to the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948.  He was a close friend and ecumenical ally of Bishop George Bell (October 3).  It was Söderblom’s advocacy for church unity as a means toward world peace that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.  Archbishop Söderblom saw a profound connection between liturgical worship, personal prayer, and social justice.  A rich cohesion of these elements was, in his mind, the foundation of a Christian commitment well lived.

 

Excerpt from the Nobel Prize Address, “The Role of the Church in Promoting Peace”:  “When our Christian creed speaks of a universal holy church, it reminds us of the deep inner unity which all Christians possess in Christ and in the work of His spirit, irrespective of national and scriptural differences.  We can say without ingratitude or unfaithfulness to the special gifts in Christian experience and thinking which each church has received from God throughout history, that this unity, found at its strongest at the Cross of Christ, can and must be improved in our way of life and in preaching.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, we bless your Name for the life and work of Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala, who helped to inspire the modern liturgical revival and worked tirelessly for cooperation among Christians.  Inspire us by his example, that we may ever strive for the renewal of your Church in life and worship, for the glory of your Name; who with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

13 July.  Conrad Weiser, Witness to Peace and Reconciliation, (1696-1760).  Conrad Weiser was an eighteenth century American diplomat who worked for peace and reconciliation between the European settlers and the native peoples of Pennsylvania.  Of Lutheran descent, he was the father-in-law of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (October 7).  Born in Germany, he immigrated to the United States as a child.  At 17, Weiser went to live among the Mohawks in New York, in order to learn their language and culture.  He later made his way to southeastern Pennsylvania where he learned customs and language of the Iroquois.  Weiser eventually settled in the area that is now Reading, Pennsylvania.  He designed the layout of the city of Reading, is numbered among the founders of Berks County, and served a long tenure as the local judge.  Like many people of his time, he had to work at a variety of occupations in order to care for his family:  farmer, tanner, merchant, and real-estate speculator.  For a time, Weiser was enamored with the Seventh Day Baptist movement and took up residence at Ephrata Cloister.  His knowledge of the Iroquois language and his natural diplomatic gifts made him invaluable during the years of the settlement.  He negotiated land deeds and other treaties not only between Native Americans and European settlers, he also did diplomatic work between the various tribes of Native Americans and was often, but not always, successful in keeping the peace among them.  He advised William Penn and Benjamin Franklin on matters related to Native Americans and played an important role in keeping the Iroquois sympathetic to the British cause during the French and Indian Wars.  At the time of Weiser’s death, an Iroquois leader was heard to remark, “We are at a great loss and sit in darkness … as since his death we cannot so well understand one another.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, of your grace you gave Conrad Weiser the gift of diplomacy, the insight to understand two different cultures and interpret each to the other with clarity and honesty.  As we strive to be faithful to our vocation to commend your kingdom, help us to proclaim the Gospel to the many cultures around us, that by your Holy Spirit we may be effective ambassadors for our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the same Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

14 July.  Samson OccumWitness to the Faith in New England, (1723-1792).  Samson Occum, the first ordained Native American minister, was born a member of the Mohegan nation near New London, Connecticut.  By the age of sixteen, Occum has been exposed to the evangelical preaching of the Great Awakening.  In 1743 he began studying theology at the school of congregational minister Eleazar Wheelock, later founder of Dartmouth College.  Occum did mission work among the Native Americans in New England and Montauk, Long Island.  In 1759, he was ordained a Presbyterian minister.  In 1766, at the behest of Eleazar Wheelock, Occum went to England, where he was to raise money for Wheelock’s Indian charity school.  He preached extensively for over a year, traveling across England, and raising over eleven thousand pounds from wealthy patrons including King George III.  When he returned from England, however, his family, supposedly under the care of Wheelock, was found destitute, and the school for which he had labored moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, where it became Dartmouth College.  The funds he had raised had been put toward the education of Englishmen rather than of Native Americans.  Following a disagreement with the colonial government of Connecticut over a lack of compensation for lands they had sold, Occum and many other Mohegans moved to Oneida territory in upstate New York.  There, he and his companions founded the Brothertown Community.  In his day, Occum was renowned for his eloquence and spiritual wisdom, and for his work among the Mohegans of Connecticut, many of whom became Christians under this guidance, which helped them to avoid later relocation.

 

Excerpt from A Short Narrative of My Life:  “Now you See what difference they made between me and other missionaries; they gave me 180 Pounds for 12 years’ Service, which they gave for one year’s Services in another Mission, — In my Service (I speak like a fool, but I am Constrained) I was my own Interpreter.  I both a School master and Minister to the Indians, yea I was their Ear, Eye & Hand, as Well as Mouth.  I leave it with the World, as wicked as it is, to Judge whether I ought not to have had half as much, they gave a young man Just mentioned which would have been but £50 a year; and if they ought to have given me that, I am not under obligations to them, I owe them nothing at all; what can be the Reason that they used me after this manner?  I can’t think of any thing, but this as a Poor Indian Boy Said, Who was Bound out to an English Family, and he used to Drive Plow for a young man, and he whipt and Beat him almost every Day, and the young man found fault with him, and Complained of him to his master and the poor Boy was Called to answer for himself before his master, and he was asked, what it was he did, that he was So Complained of and beat almost every Day. He Said, he did not know, but he Supposed it was because he could not drive any better; but says he, I Drive as well as I know how; and at other Times he Beats me, because he is of a mind to beat me; but says he believes he Beats me for the most of the Time ‘because I am an Indian.’  So I am ready to Say, they have used me thus, because I Can’t Influence the Indians so well as other missionaries; but I can assure them I have endeavored to teach them as well as I know how; — but I must Say, I believe it is because I am a poor Indian.  I Can’t help that God has made me So; I did not make my self so.”

 

Collect:  God, Great Spirit, whose breath gives life to the world and whose voice thunders in the wind:  We thank you for your servant Samson Occum, strong preacher and teacher among the Mohegan people; and we pray that we, cherishing his example, may love learning and by love build up the communities into which you send us, and on all our paths walk in beauty with Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit, is alive and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

16 July.  “The Righteous Gentiles”.  During the Second World War, thousands of Christians and persons of faith made valiant sacrifices, often at the risk of their own lives, to save Jews from the Holocaust.  These “righteous gentiles” are honored for courageous action in the face of Hitler’s reign of terror.  Raoul Wallenberg (Lutheran) was a Swedish humanitarian and diplomat whose great resourcefulness saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Nazi occupation.  He issued them Swedish passports so that they could escape and housed many in Swedish government property in Budapest, thereby protecting them on the basis of diplomatic immunity.  Hiram Bingham IV (Episcopalian) was an American diplomat in France during the early years of the Nazi occupation.  He violated State Department protocol by arranging escape routes for persecuted Jews and often provided the most wanted with safe haven in his own home.  When transferred to Argentina, he devoted considerable effort to tracking the movements of Nazi war criminals.  Carl Lutz (Evangelical) was a Swiss diplomat in Budapest who also worked to save the lives of many Hungarian Jews.  Although deeply involved in this endeavor at every level, he is most remembered for negotiating with the Nazis for safe passage from Hungary to Palestine for more than 10,000 Jews.  Chiune Sugihara (Orthodox), while serving as Japanese Consul in Lithuania, rescued thousands of Jews by providing them with travel credentials so they could escape.  In doing so, he violated official diplomatic policy and was removed from his country’s foreign service.  He lived the rest of his life in disgrace.  André Trocmé (Reformed) and his wife, Magda, were French Christians who saved the lives of several thousand Jews in France during the Nazi occupation.  He was the pastor in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and, together with people in neighboring communities, he created a safe haven for many refugees from the Nazi terror.  These faithful servants, together with more than 23,000 others verified to date, are honored at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial overlooking Jerusalem, and celebrated  there as “the righteous among the nations.”

 

Collect:  God of the Covenant and Lord of the Exodus, by the hand of Moses you delivered your chosen people from cruel enslavement:  We give you thanks for Raoul Wallenberg and all those Righteous Gentiles who with compassion, courage, and resourcefulness rescued thousands of your children from certain death.  Grant that, in the power of your Spirit, we may protect the innocent of every race and creed in the Name of Jesus Christ, strong Deliverer of us all; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

17 July.  William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania, (1747-1836).  William White was born in Philadelphia and was educated at the college of that city, graduating in 1765.  In 1770 he went to England, was ordained deacon on December 23, and priest on April 25, 1772.  On his return home, he became assistant minister of Christ and St. Peter’s, 1772–1779, and rector from that year until his death, July 17, 1836.  He also served as chaplain of the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1789, and then of the United States Senate until 1800.  Chosen unanimously as first Bishop of Pennsylvania, September 14, 1786, he went to England again, with Samuel Provost, Bishop-elect of New York; and the two men were consecrated in Lambeth Chapel on Septuagesima Sunday, February 4, 1787, by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Bath and Wells and of Peterborough.  Bishop White was the chief architect of the Constitution of the American Episcopal Church and the wise overseer of its life during the first generation of its history.  He was the Presiding Bishop at its organizing General Convention in 1789 and again from 1795 until his death.  He was a theologian of no mean ability, and among his protégés, in whose formation he had a large hand, were such leaders of a new generation as John Henry Hobart, Jackson Kemper, and William Augustus Muhlenberg.  White’s gifts of statesmanship and reconciling moderation steered the American Church through the first decades of its independent life.  His influence in his native city made him its “first citizen.”  To few men has the epithet “venerable” been more aptly applied.

 

Collect:  O Lord, in a time of turmoil and confusion you raised up your servant William White, and endowed him with wisdom, patience, and a reconciling temper, that he might lead your Church into ways of stability and peace:  Hear our prayer, and give us wise and faithful leaders, that through their ministry your people may be blessed and your will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

18 July.  Bartolomé de las Casas, Friar and Missionary to the Indies, (1484-1566).  Las Casas was born in Seville.  He studied both theology and law at the University of Salamanca.  As a reward for his participation in various expeditions, Las Casas left for Hispaniola in 1502.  He was given an encomienda, a royal land grant populated with native peoples of the Indies.  He soon began to evangelize them; he was ordained priest in 1510 at Santo Domingo.  On December of 1511 the Dominican Antonio de Montesinos preached a fiery sermon implicating the colonists in the genocide of the native Indians.  Las Casas gave up his rights to the encomienda and in his own preaching urged other Spanish colonists should do likewise.  Continuing his demand for change, he returned to Spain in 1515 to plead for justice from the Spanish government.  The powerful archbishop of Toledo, who named him “Protector of the Indies,” took up his cause.  His passionate defense of the Indians before the Spanish Parliament persuaded the emperor, Charles V, to accept Las Casas’ project of founding “towns of free Indians”:  communities of both Spaniards and Indians who would jointly create a new civilization in America.  The location selected for the new colony was in the northern part of present-day Venezuela.  Although the initial attempts were a bitter failure, Las Casas’ work seemed to be crowned with success when Charles V signed the so-called New Laws (1542), that required the Spanish colonists to set free the Indians after the span of a single generation.  Las Casas renounced his bishopric of Chiapas, Mexico, returned to Spain in 1547, and became a prolific writer.  His A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552), exposes the oppression inflicted upon the peoples of the Indies.  Las Casas lived his convictions with such zeal that he often seemed intolerant of others, but is remembered as a tireless advocate for justice for those oppressed by colonialism.  Las Casas died in Madrid on July 18, 1566.

 

Excerpt from A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies:  “The Indies were discovered in the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-two.  In the following year a great many Spaniards went there with the intention of settling the land.  Thus, forty-nine years have passed since the first settlers penetrated the land, the first so claimed being the large and most happy isle called Hispaniola, which is six hundred leagues in circumference.  Around it in all directions are many other islands, some very big, others very small, and all of them were, as we saw with our own eyes, densely populated with native peoples called Indians.  This large island was perhaps the most densely populated place in the world.  There must be close to two hundred leagues of land on this island, and the seacoast has been explored for more than ten thousand leagues, and each day more of it is being explored.  And all the land so far discovered is a beehive of people; it is as though God had crowded into these lands the great majority of mankind.

And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve.  They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome.  These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world.  And because they are so weak and complaisant, they are less able to endure heavy labor and soon die of no matter what malady.  The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life’s refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians, even those among them who are of the lowest rank of laborers.  They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods.  For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy.  Their repasts are such that the food of the holy fathers in the desert can scarcely be more parsimonious, scanty, and poor.  As to their dress, they are generally naked, with only their pudenda covered somewhat.  And when they cover their shoulders it is with a square cloth no more than two varas in size.  They have no beds, but sleep on a kind of matting or else in a kind of suspended net called bamacas.  They are very clean in their persons, with alert, intelligent minds, docile and open to doctrine, very apt to receive our holy Catholic faith, to be endowed with virtuous customs, and to behave in a godly fashion. And once they begin to hear the tidings of the Faith, they are so insistent on knowing more and on taking the sacraments of the Church and on observing the divine cult that, truly, the missionaries who are here need to be endowed by God with great patience in order to cope with such eagerness.  Some of the secular Spaniards who have been here for many years say that the goodness of the Indians is undeniable and that if this gifted people could be brought to know the one true God they would be the most fortunate people in the world.

Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days.  And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during the past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.”

 

Collect:  Eternal God, we give you thanks for the witness of Bartolomé de las Casas, whose deep love for your people caused him to refuse absolution to those who would not free their Indian slaves.  Help us, inspired by his example, to work and pray for the freeing of all enslaved people of our world, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

19 July.  Macrina, Monastic and Teacher, (340-379).  Macrina was a monastic, theologian and teacher.  She founded one of the earliest Christian communities in the Cappadocian city of Pontus [in what is now north-central Turkey].  Macrina left no writings; we know of her through the works of her brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa.  In his Life of St. Macrina, Gregory describes her as both beautiful and brilliant, an authoritative spiritual teacher.  Macrina persuaded her mother Emmelia to renounce their wealthy lifestyle and to help her establish a monastery on the family’s estate.  Macrina’s ideal of community emphasized caring for the poor and ministering to the wider community.  She literally picked up young women who lay in the road starving.  Many joined her order.  Gregory credits Macrina as the spiritual and theological intelligence behind her siblings’ notable careers in the Church.  Gregory, and their brothers St. Basil, St. Peter of Sebaste, and Naucratios, went to her often for theological counsel.  Macrina frequently challenged her celebrated brothers.  She told Gregory his fame was not due to his own merit, but to the prayers of his parents.  She took Basil in hand when he returned from Athens “monstrously conceited about his skill in rhetoric.”  Under her influence, Basil and Peter renounced material possessions and turned away from secular academia to become monks and theologians.  Basil and Peter wrote a Rule for community life, ensuring that Macrina’s ideas for Christian community would have lasting authority.  Basil, Gregory and Peter all became bishops, in no small measure because of Macrina’s influence, and became leading defenders of the Nicene faith.  Gregory visited Macrina as she lay dying on two planks on the floor.  He relates Macrina’s last words as a classical Greek farewell oration imbued with Holy Scripture.  In both his Life of St. Macrina and in his later treatise of The Soul and Resurrection, Gregory presents Macrina admiringly as a Christian Socrates, delivering beautiful deathbed prayers and teachings about the resurrection.

 

An excerpt from Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of St. Macrina(984B-986A:  the death of Macrina):  “Most of the day had now passed, and the sun was declining towards the West.  Her eagerness did not diminish, but as she approached her end, as if she discerned the beauty of the Bridegroom more clearly, she hastened towards the Beloved with the greater eagerness.  Such thoughts as these did she utter, no longer to us who were present, but to Him in person on Whom she gazed fixedly.  Her couch had been turned towards the East; and, ceasing to converse with us, she spoke henceforward to God in prayer, making supplication with her hands and whispering with a low voice, so that we could just hear what was said.  Such was the prayer; we need not doubt that it reached God and that she, too, was hearing His voice.  ‘Thou, O Lord, hast freed us from the fear of death.  Thou hast made the end of this life the beginning to us of true life.  Thou for a season restest our bodies in sleep and awakest them again at the last trump.  Thou givest our earth, which Thou hast fashioned with Thy hands, to the earth to keep in safety.  One day Thou wilt take again what Thou hast given, transfiguring with immortality and grace our mortal and unsightly remains.  Thou hast saved us from the curse and from sin, having become both for our sakes.  Thou hast broken the heads of the dragon who had seized us with his jaws, in the yawning gulf of disobedience.  Thou hast shown us the way of resurrection, having broken the gates of .hell, and brought to nought him who had the power of death—-the devil.  Thou hast given a sign to those that fear Thee in the symbol of the Holy Cross, to destroy the adversary and save our life.  O God eternal, to Whom I have been attached from my mother’s womb, Whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to Whom I have dedicated both my flesh and my soul from my youth up until now—-do Thou give me an angel of light to conduct me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of rest, in the bosom of the holy Fathers.  Thou that didst break the flaming sword and didst restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with Thee and implored Thy mercies, remember me, too, in Thy kingdom; because I, too, was crucified with Thee, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of Thee, and of Thy judgments have I been afraid.  Let not the terrible chasm separate me from Thy elect.  Nor let the Slanderer stand against me in the way; nor let my sin be found before Thy eyes, if in anything I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of our nature.  O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul.  But may my soul be received into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee.’  As she said these words she sealed her eyes and mouth and heart with the cross.  And gradually her tongue dried up with the fever, she could articulate her words no longer, and her voice died away, and only by the trembling of her lips and the motion of her hands did we recognize that she was praying.  Meanwhile evening had come and a lamp was brought in.  All at once she opened the orb of her eyes and looked towards the light, clearly wanting to repeat the thanksgiving sung at the Lighting of the Lamps.  But her voice failed and she fulfilled her intention in the heart and by moving her hands, while her lips stirred in sympathy with her inward desire.  But when she had finished the thanksgiving, and her hand brought to her face to make the Sign had signified the end of the prayer, she drew a great deep breath and closed her life and her prayer together.”

 

Collect:  Merciful God, you called your servant Macrina to reveal in her life and her teaching the riches of your grace and truth:  May we, following her example, seek after your wisdom and live according to her way; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

19 July.  Adelaide Teague Case, Teacher, (1887-1948).  Adelaide Case was born in Missouri, but her family soon moved to New York.  She received her undergraduate education at Bryn Mawr and her graduate degrees from Columbia University.  By the time she completed her doctorate, a position had been created for her on the faculty of the Teachers’ College at Columbia and she quickly rose to the status of full professor and head of the department of religious education.  She is remembered for advocating a child-centered rather than teacher-centered approach to education.  In 1941, while her professional accomplishments were at their height, the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was able to convince her to leave her distinguished and comfortable position at Columbia and join the faculty as Professor of Christian Education.  Although other women had taught occasional courses in the seminaries of the church, Adelaide Case was the first to take her place as a full-time faculty member at the rank of Professor.  Although Case spoke well of her time in Cambridge, her early years there were difficult.  She continued to teach at ETS until her death in 1948.  Students and faculty colleagues remember her contagious faith in Christ, her deep sense of humanity, and her seemingly boundless compassion.  Although she carried herself with style and grace, Case had struggled with health issues her entire life, but those who knew her testify to the fact that in spite of those challenges she was spirited, energetic, and fully devoted to her work.  “She was a true believer in Christ and you saw him living in and through her,” is an oft-repeated accolade.  Case believed that the point of practicing the Christian faith was to make a difference in the world.  As an advocate for peace, she believed that Christianity had a special vocation to call people into transformed, reconciled relationships for the sake of the wholeness of the human family.  She is said to have discovered these things not in theology or educational theory, but in a life of common prayer and faithful eucharistic practice.

 

Excerpt from The Faith and Education:  “We can say with conviction that the Anglican Church in America has done little to put into practice the great educational principals of Catholicism.  A patter of catechism; drill on ritualism; long lectures in biblical history; and in many parishes an elaborate graded system under inefficient teachers using a hodge-podge of material that reflects the well-meaning, spiritual confusion of liberal Protestantism.  This is about what we actually find.  It is almost if not quite as bad as this!  Yet every parish where the sacramental life of the Church is observed and where men and women draw with joy out of the wells of salvation is a potential center for religious education of the finest sort.  In a few closely knit parishes, in Church boarding schools here and there, and in a handful of Church families, children are growing up in glad allegiance to the Catholic Church, finding freedom and expression within it.”

 

Collect:  Everliving God, in whose light we see light:  We thank you for your teacher and peacemaker Adelaide Case, who inspired generations of students with a love of learning that built up the Church and their communities.  Grant that we, following her example, may serve you tirelessly as learners and teachers, laboring for the transformation of the world toward your reign of peace, through the companionship of Jesus your Saving Word; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

20 July.  Women’s Rights:  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902)Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818–1894)Sojourner Truth, “Miriam of the Later Exodus” (1797-1883), and Harriet Ross Tubman, “Moses of her People” (1820–1913), Liberators and Prophets.  Born into an affluent, strict Calvinist family in upstate New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as a young woman, took seriously the Presbyterian doctrines of predestination and human depravity.  She became very depressed, but resolved her mental crises through action.  She dedicated her life to righting the wrongs perpetrated upon women by the Church and society.  She and four other women organized the first Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, July 19–20, 1848.  The event set her political and religious agenda for the next 50 years.  She held the Church accountable for oppressing women by using Scripture to enforce subordination of women in marriage and to prohibit them from ordained ministry.  She held society accountable for denying women equal access to professional jobs, property ownership, the vote, and for granting less pay for the same work.  In 1881, the Revised Version of the Bible was published by a committee which included no women scholars.  Elizabeth founded her own committee of women to write a commentary on Scripture, and applying the Greek she learned as a child from her minister, focused on passages used to oppress and discriminate against women.  Although Elizabeth blamed male clergy for women’s oppression, she attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls, with her friend Amelia Bloomer.  As a dissenting prophet, Elizabeth preached hundreds of homilies and political speeches in pulpits throughout the nation.  Wherever she visited, she was experienced as a holy presence and a liberator.  She never lost her sense of humor despite years of contending with opposition, even from friends.  In a note to Susan B. Anthony, she said: “Do not feel depressed, my dear friend:   what is good in us is immortal, and if the sore trials we have endured are sifting out pride and selfishness, we shall not have suffered in vain.”  Shortly before she died, she said: “My only regret is that I have not been braver and bolder and truer in the honest conviction of my soul.”

 

Amelia Jenks, the youngest of six children, born in New York to a pious Presbyterian family, early on demonstrated a kindness of heart and strict regard for truth and right.  As a young woman, she joined in the temperance, anti-slavery and women’s rights movements.  Amelia Jenks Bloomer never intended to make dress reform a major platform in women’s struggle for justice.  But, women’s fashion of the day prescribed waist-cinching corsets, even for pregnant women, resulting in severe health problems.  Faith and fashion collided explosively when she published in her newspaper, The Lily, a picture of herself in loose-fitting Turkish trousers, and began wearing them publicly.  Clergy, from their pulpits, attacked women who wore them, citing Moses:  “Women should not dress like men.”  Amelia fired back:  “It matters not what Moses had to say to the men and women of his time about what they should wear.  If clergy really cared about what Moses said about clothes, they would all put fringes and blue ribbons on their garments.”  Her popularity soared as she engaged clergy in public debate.  She insisted that “certain passages in the Scriptures relating to women had been given a strained  and unnatural meaning.”  And, of St. Paul she said:  “Could he have looked into the future and foreseen all the sorrow and strife, the cruel exactions and oppression on the one hand and the blind submission and cringing fear on the other, that his words have sanctioned and caused, he would never have uttered them.”  And of women’s right to freedom, “The same Power that brought the slave out of bondage will, in His own good time and way, bring about the emancipation of woman, and make her the equal in power and dominion that she was in the beginning.”  Later in life, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a frontier town, she worked to establish churches, libraries, and school houses.  She provided hospitality for traveling clergy of all denominations, and for temperance lecturers and reformers.  Trinity Episcopal Church, Seneca Falls, New York, where she was baptized, records her as a “faithful Christian missionary all her life.”

 

Isabella (Sojourner Truth) was the next-to-youngest child of several born to James and Elizabeth, slaves owned by a wealthy Dutchman in New York.  For the first 28 years of her life she was a slave, sold from household to household.  She fled slavery with the help of Quaker friends, first living in Philadelphia, then New York, where she joined the Mother Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church when African-Americans were being denied the right to worship with white members of St. George’s Church in Philadelphia.  Belle (as Isabella was called) became a street-corner evangelist in poverty-stricken areas of New York City, but quickly realized people needed food, housing and warm clothing.  She focused her work on a homeless shelter for women.  When she was about 46, Belle believed she heard God say to her, “Go east.” So, she set out east for Long Island and Connecticut.  Stopping at a Quaker farm for a drink of water, she was asked her name. “My name is Sojourner,” Belle said. “What is your last name?” the woman asked.  Belle thought of all her masters’ names she had carried through life.  Then the thought came: “The only master I have now is God, and His name is Truth.”  Sojourner became a traveling preacher, approaching white religious meetings and campgrounds and asking to speak.  Fascinated by her charismatic presence, her wit, wisdom, and imposing six-foot height, they found her hard to refuse.  She never learned to read or write, but quoted extensive Bible passages from memory in her sermons.  She ended by singing a “home-made” hymn and addressing the crowd on the evils of slavery.  Her reputation grew and she became part of the abolitionist and women’s rights speakers’ network.  During a women’s rights convention in Ohio, Sojourner gave the speech for which she is best remembered:  “Ain’t I a Woman.”  She had listened for hours to clergy attack women’s rights and abolition, using the Bible to support their oppressive logic:  God had created women to be weak and blacks to be a subservient race.

 

Harriet Ross Tubman.  Slave births were recorded under property, not as persons with names; but we know that Harriet Ross, sometime during 1820 on a Maryland Chesapeake Bay plantation, was the sixth of eleven children born to Ben Ross and Harriet Green.   Although her parents were loving and they enjoyed a cheerful family life inside their cabin, they lived in fear of the children being sold off at any time.  Harriet suffered beatings and a severe injury, but grew up strong and defiant, refusing to appear happy and smiling to her owners.  To cope with brutality and oppression, she turned to religion.  Her favorite Bible story was about Moses who led the Israelites out of slavery.  The slaves prayed for a Moses of their own.  When she was about 24, Harriet escaped to Canada, but could not forget her parents and other slaves she left behind.  Working with the Quakers, she made at least 19 trips back to Maryland between 1851 and 1861, freeing over 300 people by leading them into Canada.  She was so successful, $40,000 was offered for her capture.  Guided by God through omens, dreams, warnings, she claimed her struggle against slavery had been commanded by God.  She foresaw the Civil War in a vision.  When it began, she quickly joined the Union Army, serving as cook and nurse, caring for both Confederate and Union soldiers.  She served as a spy and scout.  She led 300 black troops on a raid which freed over 750 slaves, making her the first American woman to lead troops into military action.  In 1858–9, she moved to upstate New York where she opened her home to African-American orphans and to helpless old people.  Although she was illiterate, she founded schools for African-American children.  She joined the fight for women’s rights, working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but supported African-American women in their efforts to found their own organizations to address equality, work and education.

 

Excerpt from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Solitude of Self:  “To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands.  To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect, of credit in the market place, of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment.”

 

Collect:  O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free:  Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet.  Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

21 July.  Albert John Luthuli, Prophetic Witness in South Africa, (1898-1967).  Mvumbi Luthuli was the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his leadership in South Africa’s non-violent struggle against apartheid.  A man of noble bearing, charitable, intolerant of hatred, and adamant in his demands for equality and peace among all men, Luthuli forged a philosophical compatibility between two cultures — the Zulu culture of his native Africa and the Christian-democratic culture of Europe.  Born into a Christian family around the turn of the twentieth century, Luthuli was educated in mission schools, took a college degree in Durban, and spent the first fifteen years of his working life as a school teacher before taking on the responsibilities of political activism.  In 1936, he was elected a Zulu chief and was made responsible for a five thousand person community in the sugar lands of Natal.  This led to a number of other elected and appointed positions related to the struggle for civil rights in South Africa, culminating in his election as President of the Natal region of the African National Congress in 1945, becoming National President in 1952.  Luthuli’s increasing prominence as a leader of the anti-apartheid movement was met with significant resistance by the white South African government.  His movements were restricted, his publications banned, and he was imprisoned on several occasions.  Luthuli believed the struggle for civil rights was a Christian struggle and his participation and leadership grew out of his understanding of Christian discipleship.  “My own urge because I am a Christian, is to get into the thick of the struggle with other Christians, taking my Christianity with me and praying that it may be used to influence for good the character of the resistance.”  When confronted by the South African government with an appeal to suspend his activism, Luthuli is reported to have said, “The road to freedom is via the cross.”  Although Luthuli’s death in 1967 was nearly a quarter century before the end of apartheid in South Africa, he is remembered as a Christian statesman in the fight against political, racial, and religious oppression.

 

Excerpt from his Nobel Lecture:  Though I speak of Africa as a single entity, it is divided in many ways by race, language, history, and custom; by political, economic, and ethnic frontiers.  But in truth, despite these multiple divisions, Africa has a single common purpose and a single goal – the achievement of its own independence.  All Africa, both lands which have won their political victories but have still to overcome the legacy of economic backwardness, and lands like my own whose political battles have still to be waged to their conclusion – all Africa has this single aim: our goal is a united Africa in which the standards of life and liberty are constantly expanding; in which the ancient legacy of illiteracy and disease is swept aside; in which the dignity of man is rescued from beneath the heels of colonialism which have trampled it.  This goal, pursued by millions of our people with revolutionary zeal, by means of books, representations, demonstrations, and in some places armed force provoked by the adamancy of white rule, carries the only real promise of peace in Africa.  Whatever means have been used, the efforts have gone to end alien rule and race oppression.

There is a paradox in the fact that Africa qualifies for such an award in its age of turmoil and revolution.  How great is the paradox and how much greater the honor that an award in support of peace and the brotherhood of man should come to one who is a citizen of a country where the brotherhood of man is an illegal doctrine, outlawed, banned, censured, proscribed and prohibited; where to work, talk, or campaign for the realization in fact and deed of the brotherhood of man is hazardous, punished with banishment, or confinement without trial, or imprisonment; where effective democratic channels to peaceful settlement of the race problem have never existed these 300 years; and where white minority power rests on the most heavily armed and equipped military machine in Africa.  This is South Africa.

Even here, where white rule seems determined not to change its mind for the better, the spirit of Africa’s militant struggle for liberty, equality, and independence asserts itself.  I, together with thousands of my countrymen have in the course of the struggle for these ideals, been harassed and imprisoned, but we are not deterred in our quest for a new age in which we shall live in peace and in brotherhood.”

 

Collect:  Eternal God, we thank you for the witness of Chief Luthuli, Nobel Laureate for Peace, who was sustained  by his Christian faith as he led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.  Strengthen us, after his example, to make no peace with oppression and to witness boldly for our Deliverer, Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

22 July.  Saint Mary Magdalene.  Mary of Magdala near Capernaum was one of several women who followed Jesus and ministered to him in Galilee.  The Gospel according to Luke records that Jesus “went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.  And the Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities:  Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out … ” (Luke 8:1–2).  The Gospels tell us that Mary was healed by Jesus, followed him, and was one of those who stood near his cross at Calvary.  It is clear that Mary Magdalene’s life was radically changed by Jesus’ healing.  Her ministry of service and steadfast companionship, even as a witness to the crucifixion, has, through the centuries, been an example of the faithful ministry of women to Christ.  All four Gospels name Mary as one of the women who went to the tomb to mourn and to care for Jesus’ body.  Her weeping for the loss of her Lord strikes a common chord with the grief of all others over the death of loved ones.  Jesus’ tender response to her grief — meeting her in the garden, revealing himself to her by calling her name — makes her the first witness to the risen Lord.  She is given the command, “Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).  As the first messenger of the resurrection, she tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18).  In the tradition of the Eastern Church, Mary is regarded as the equal of an apostle; and she is held in veneration as the patron saint of the great cluster of monasteries on Mount Athos.

 

From a homily on the Gospels by Gregory the Great (Hom. 25: 1-2,4-5).  “When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away by the disciples.  After they came and saw the tomb, they too believe what Mary had told them.  The text then says:  ‘The disciples went back home’, and it adds: ‘but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.’  We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained.  She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away.  And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him.  For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us:  ‘Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.’  At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for.  When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object.  Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires.  Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a love.  As David says:  ‘My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?’  And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says:  ‘I was wounded by love’; and again:  ‘My soul is melted with love.’  ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom do you seek?’  She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.  Jesus says to her:  ‘Mary.’  Jesus is not recognized when he calls her ‘woman’; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying:  Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself.  And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking.  She immediately calls him ‘rabboni’, that is to say, ‘teacher’, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.”

 

Sequence for the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, attributed to Adam of St. Victor (1112-1146),

translated by Digby S. Wrangham:

“Early on the Sabbath morn,

Ere the daybreak’s first return,

Rose God’s Son from hell again,

And as our hope’s glory shone,

Having utter victory won

O’er him who o’er sin doth reign:

Balm which Resurrection brought.

With all joy and gladness fraught.

To assuage all grief and pain.

Of His rising thus once more

Mary Magdalene first bore

Tidings, when their herald made,

And to Christ’s disciples brought

Joys, looked forward to in thought,

When Christ’s death had made them sad.

Blessed were her eyes that day,

Who was foremost to survey

Him, who o’er the world holds sway,

When death’s power had passed away !

She that sinful woman is,

Whom from all iniquities,

As before His feet she lies,

Christ’s grace laves and purifies.

She, while pleading

With heart bleeding,

Plainly proveth

How she loveth

Jesus all things else before;

He well knoweth,

As she boweth,

What she craveth.

And He laveth

All her conscience doth deplore.

Mother very

Holy, Mary !

Thou for merit

Dost inherit

The bright name of Ocean’s Star !

Such another

As Christ’s mother,

Since her name thou

Thus can’st claim now,

Though in glory lower far I

For that other was the portal,

Through which rose earth’s light immortal:

His resurrection this one tells,

And all the world with gladness fills.

That one o’er creation reigning,

This a sinner grace obtaining.

The first-fruits have of pious mirth

Outpoured upon the Church on earth–

Mary Magdalene ! appearing.

And our prayers and praises hearing,

Mercifully

This choir wholly

Reconcile with Christ again,

That the fount of God’s compassion.

Which washed out all thy transgression,

May, from heaven

Pardon given,

Make His and thy servants clean.

Let all creatures say ‘Amen !’”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection:  Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

24 July.  Thomas à Kempis, Priest, (1380-1471).  The name of Thomas à Kempis is perhaps more widely known than that of any other mediaeval Christian writer.  The Imitation of Christ, which he composed or compiled, has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Holy Scriptures.  Millions of Christians have found in this manual a treasured and constant source of edification.  His name was Thomas Hammerken, and he was born at Kempen in the Duchy of Cleves [northern Rhineland, Germany].  He was educated at Deventer by the Brethren of the Common Life, and joined their order in 1399 at their house of Mount St. Agnes in Zwolle (in the Netherlands).  He took his vows (those of the Augustinian Canons Regular) there in 1407, was ordained a priest in 1415, and was made sub-prior in 1425.  He died on July 25, 1471.  The Order of the Brethren of the Common Life was founded by Gerard Groote (1340–1384) at Deventer.  It included both clergy and lay members who cultivated a biblical piety of a practical rather than speculative nature, with stress upon the inner life and the practice of virtues.  They supported themselves by copying manuscripts and teaching.  One of their most famous pupils was the humanist Erasmus.  Many have seen in them harbingers of the Reformation; but the Brethren had little interest in the problems of the institutional Church.  Their spirituality, known as the “New Devotion” (devotio moderna), has influenced both Catholic and Protestant traditions of prayer and meditation.

 

An excerpt from The Imitation of Christ, Chapter 13:  Resisting Temptation.  “So long as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation.  Whence it is written in Job:  ‘The life of man upon earth is a warfare.’  Everyone, therefore, must guard against temptation and must watch in prayer lest the devil, who never sleeps but goes about seeking whom he may devour, find occasion to deceive him.  No one is so perfect or so holy but he is sometimes tempted; man cannot be altogether free from temptation.  Yet temptations, though troublesome and severe, are often useful to a man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed.  The saints all passed through many temptations and trials to profit by them, while those who could not resist became reprobate and fell away.  There is no state so holy, no place so secret that temptations and trials will not come.  Man is never safe from them as long as he lives, for they come from within us–in sin we were born.  When one temptation or trial passes, another comes; we shall always have something to suffer because we have lost the state of original blessedness.  Many people try to escape temptations, only to fall more deeply.  We cannot conquer simply by fleeing, but by patience and true humility we become stronger than all our enemies.  The man who only shuns temptations outwardly and does not uproot them will make little progress; indeed they will quickly return, more violent than before.  Little by little, in patience and long-suffering you will overcome them, by the help of God rather than by severity and your own rash ways.  Often take counsel when tempted; and do not be harsh with others who are tempted, but console them as you yourself would wish to be consoled.  The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways.  Fire tempers iron and temptation steels the just.  Often we do not know what we can stand, but temptation shows us what we are.  Above all, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold when he knocks.  Someone has said very aptly:  ‘Resist the beginnings; remedies come too late, when by long delay the evil has gained strength’.  First, a mere thought comes to mind, then strong imagination, followed by pleasure, evil delight, and consent.  Thus, because he is not resisted in the beginning, Satan gains full entry.  And the longer a man delays in resisting, so much the weaker does he become each day, while the strength of the enemy grows against him.   Some suffer great temptations in the beginning of their conversion, others toward the end, while some are troubled almost constantly throughout their life.  Others, again, are tempted but lightly according to the wisdom and justice of Divine Providence Who weighs the status and merit of each and prepares all for the salvation of His elect.  We should not despair, therefore, when we are tempted, but pray to God the more fervently that He may see fit to help us, for according to the word of Paul, He will make issue with temptation that we may be able to bear it.  Let us humble our souls under the hand of God in every trial and temptation for He will save and exalt the humble in spirit.  In temptations and trials the progress of a man is measured; in them opportunity for merit and virtue is made more manifest.  When a man is not troubled it is not hard for him to be fervent and devout, but if he bears up patiently in time of adversity, there is hope for great progress.”

 

Collect:  Holy Father, you have nourished and strengthened your Church by the inspired writings of your servant Thomas à Kempis:  Grant that we may learn from him to know what is necessary to be known, to love what is to be loved, to praise what highly pleases you, and always to seek to know and follow your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

25 July.  Saint James the Apostle.  James, the brother of John, is often known as James the Greater, to distinguish him from the other Apostle of the same name, commemorated in the calendar with Philip, and also from James “the brother of our Lord.”  He was the son of a prosperous Galilean fisherman, Zebedee, and with his brother John left his home and his trade in obedience to the call of Christ.  With Peter and John, he seems to have belonged to an especially privileged group, whom Jesus chose to be witnesses of the Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the agony in the garden.  Apparently, James shared John’s hot-headed disposition, and Jesus nicknamed the brothers, “Boanerges” (Sons of Thunder).  James’ expressed willingness to share the cup of Christ was realized in his being the first of the Apostles to die for him.  As the Acts of the Apostles records, “About that time Herod the King laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church.  He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1–2).  According to an old tradition, the body of James was taken to Compostela, Spain, which has been a shrine for pilgrims for centuries.  Among the Spaniards, James is one of the most popular saints.  In the Middle Ages, under the title of Santiago de Compostela, his aid was especially invoked in battle against the Moors.

 

Sequence for the Feast of St. James the Greater, by Adam of St. Victor (1112-1146),

translated by Digby S. Wrangham:

“Let our choir in sweet laudation.

Sounding with clear intonation,

Chant a new-made song to-day:

‘Tis with James the lyre resoundeth.

Who with merits rare aboundeth

In so wonderful a way.

He and Zebedee his father

Toiled as fishermen together

By the Sea of Galilee:

Jewry’s withered fig-tree bore him, lo

And, as his stem nurse, watched o’er him

In the Law’s severity.

Hearing a voice divine God’s will proclaim.

He, when Christ’s nod and look commands the same,

Abjures at once the fisher’s trade and name,

Scenting afar eternal gifts outpoured:

He gives the Church the Synagogue’s old place,

Changes his sire for God, the law for grace.

Transforming of set purpose in each case

Ship to the cross and nets to God’s own Word.

He, pure vessel ! grain most feeding !

Drinks milk from God’s word proceeding,

Sucks the breasts of life on high.

The Apostolate assumeth,

A great prince in Heaven becometh,

With the word attacks the sky.

The great King of glory he

Doth in all his beauty see,

With his visage bright as flame.

Who, when now the cross drew nigh,

Was in his fierce agony

Sprinkled with a blood-sweat stream.

Him too at that mystic feast

With the Lamb’s divine flesh Christ

Fed most truly;

And his soul with heavenly fire

Did the Paraclete inspire

Fully, thoroughly.

He, his twain wings exercising,

Sets a ladder, heavenward rising,

Of words said and actions done;

And of Magians, God opposing,

Wildest thoughts and doctrines choosing,

Makes the faith with angels’ one.

By this Hebrew’s voice were given

Wakening sounds like God’s in heaven,

Teaching a lost world that even

Its sins penitence could heal:

James like vivid lightning gloweth.

Bright with marks that virtue showeth,

Thought on things divine bestoweth,

And for heaven expends his zeal.

Herod therefore, hot with passion.

Wild with direst indignation.

Forth his cruel mandate sent,

Ordering him to death most dreaded.

With the sword to be beheaded,

Who deserved no punishment.

Thus, martyrdom’s fierce frost all thawed and past,

St. James’s wisdom wins for him at last

The crown which is the victor’s prize.

Through whose assistance now the Church doth shine: —

May its faith stand, its grace too ne’er decline,

But gain at last its guerdon in the skies ! Amen.”

 

Collect:  O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy

Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

26 July.  Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Gospels tell us little about the home of our Lord’s mother.  She is thought to have been of Davidic descent and to have been brought up in a devout Jewish family that cherished the hope of Israel for the coming kingdom of God, in remembrance of the promise to Abraham and the forefathers.  In the second century, a devout Christian sought to supply a fuller account of Mary’s birth and family, to satisfy the interest and curiosity of believers.  An apocryphal gospel, known as the Protevangelium of James or The Nativity of Mary, appeared.  It included legendary stories of Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne.  These stories were built out of Old Testament narratives of the births of Isaac and of Samuel (whose mother’s name, Hannah, is the original form of Anne), and from traditions of the birth of John the Baptist.  In these stories, Joachim and Anne — the childless, elderly couple who grieved that they would have no posterity — were rewarded with the birth of a girl whom they dedicated in infancy to the service of God under the tutelage of the temple priests.  In 550 the Emperor Justinian I erected in Constantinople the first church to Saint Anne.  The Eastern Churches observe her festival on July 25.  Not until the twelfth century did her feast become known in the West.  Pope Urban VI fixed her day, in 1378, to follow the feast of Saint James.  Joachim has had several dates assigned to his memory; but the new Roman Calendar of 1969 joins his festival to that of Anne on this day.

 

An excerpt from a sermon by Saint John Damascene, Oration 6, on the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  5, 6.  “Joachim and Ann, how blessed and spotless a couple!  You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says:  ‘By their fruits you will know them.’  The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter.  For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity:  she who remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth.  She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body.  Joachim and Ann, how chaste a couple!  While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter.  While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is.  Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come!  Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity.  Rejoice in God, all the earth.  Sing, exult and sing hymns.  Raise your voice, raise it and be not afraid.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

27 July. William Reed Huntington, Priest, (1838-1909).  “First presbyter of the Church,” was the well-deserved, if unofficial, title of the sixth rector of Grace Church, New York City.  Huntington provided a leadership characterized by breadth, generosity, scholarship, and boldness.  He was the acknowledged leader in the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention during a period of intense stress and conflict within the Church.  His reconciling spirit helped preserve the unity of the Episcopal Church in the painful days after the beginning of the schism, led by the Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, which resulted in the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church.  In the House of Deputies, of which he was a member from 1871 until 1907, Huntington showed active and pioneering vision in making daring proposals.  As early as 1871, his motion to revive the primitive order of “deaconesses” began a long struggle which culminated in 1889 in canonical authorization for that order.  Huntington’s parish immediately provided facilities for this new ministry, and Huntington House became a training center for deaconesses and other women workers in the Church.  Christian unity was Huntington’s great passion throughout his ministry.  In his book, The Church Idea (1870), he attempted to articulate the essentials of Christian unity.  The grounds he proposed as a basis for unity were presented to, and accepted by, the House of Bishops in Chicago in 1886, and, with some slight modification, were adopted by the Lambeth Conference in 1888.  The “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral” has become a historic landmark for the Anglican Communion.  It is included on pages 876–878 of the Book of Common Prayer, among the Historical Documents of the Church.  In addition to his roles as ecumenist and statesman, Huntington is significant as a liturgical scholar.  It was his bold proposal to revise the Prayer Book that led to the revision of 1892, providing a hitherto unknown flexibility and significant enrichment.  His Collect for Monday in Holy Week, now used also for Fridays at Morning Prayer, is itself an example of skillful revision.  In it he takes two striking clauses from the exhortation to the sick in the 1662 Prayer Book, and uses them as part of a prayer for grace to follow the Lord in his sufferings.

 

Excerpt from The Church Idea, an Essay toward Unity:  “What is the Church Idea?  Briefly, it is this, that the Son of God came down from heaven to be the Savior not only of men, but of man; to bring ‘good tiding of great joy’ not only to every separate soul, but also to all souls collectively.  He died, not only to save the scattered sheep, but to gather them, that they might be scattered sheep no longer.  If we would receive the Gospel in its fullness, we must recognize it as a message endowed with a twofold significance, sent with a two-fold purpose, freighted with a twofold blessing.  Not that there are two Gospels – God forbid!  St. Pau would have his Galatians hold accursed even the angel who shall dare to preach them a second Gospel.  But this single Gospel has a twofold outlook; in the one direction, it fronts upon the individual; in the other it fronts upon society.”

 

Collect:  O Lord our God, we thank you for instilling in the heart of your servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love for your Church and its mission in the world; and we pray that, with unflagging faith in your promises, we may make known to all people your blessed gift of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

28 July.  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), and Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Composers.  Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, into a family of musicians.  As a youngster he studied violin and organ and served as a choirboy at the parish church.  By early adulthood, Bach had already achieved an enviable reputation as a composer and performer.  His assignments as a church musician began in 1707 and a year later he became the organist and chamber musician for the court of the Duke of Weimar.  In 1723, Bach was appointed cantor of the St. Thomas School in Leipzig and parish musician at both St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches, where he remained until his death in 1750.  A man of deep Lutheran faith, Bach’s music was an expression of his religious convictions.

 

George Frederick Handel was also born in Halle, Germany.  After studying law, he became organist at the Reformed Cathedral in Halle in 1702, and in 1703 he went to Hamburg to study and compose opera.  His interest in opera led him to Italy and then on to England where he became a citizen in 1726.  Once in England, Handel supported himself with court appointments and private patronage.  His energies were devoted to producing Italian operas and English oratorios, large choral works based upon religious themes.  Handel’s most popular work, Messiah, was first performed in Dublin in 1741, and is notable for its powerful musical interpretation of texts from the Holy Scriptures.  A man of great charity and generosity, Handel died in London in 1759 and was buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

 

Henry Purcell was born in London and became one of the greatest English composers, flourishing in the period that followed the Restoration of the monarchy after the Puritan Commonwealth.  Purcell spent much of his short life in the service of the Chapels Royal as a singer, composer and organist.  With considerable gifts as a composer, he wrote extensively in a variety of genres for the church and for popular entertainment.  He died in 1695 and is buried adjacent to the organ near the north aisle of Westminster Abbey.

 

Collect:  Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, who teaches us in Holy Scripture to sing your praises and who gave your musicians Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell grace to show forth your glory in their music:  Be with all those who write or make music for your people, that we on earth may glimpse your beauty and know the inexhaustible riches of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

29 July.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany are described in the Gospels according to Luke and John as close and much-loved friends of Jesus.  Luke records the well-known story of their hospitality, which made Martha a symbol of the active life and Mary of the contemplative, though some commentators would take the words of Jesus to be a defense of that which Mary does best, and a commendation of Martha for what she does best — neither vocation giving grounds for despising the other.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead which, in John’s Gospel, is a powerful anticipation of resurrection and sign of eternal life for those who claim by faith the resurrection of Jesus.  The story of the raising of Lazarus also sheds additional light on Martha.  Jesus delays his visit to their home and arrives only after Lazarus is dead.  Martha comes out to meet Jesus on the road, and while somewhat terse at first, she is still confident of his power to heal and restore.  The exchange between them evokes Martha’s deep faith and acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah.  John also records the supper at Bethany at which Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with fragrant ointment and wiped them with her hair.  This tender gesture of love evoked criticism from the disciples.  Jesus interpreted the gift as a preparation for his death and burial.  The devotion and friendship of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus have been an example of fidelity and service to the Lord.  Their hospitality and kindness, and Jesus’ enjoyment of their company, show us the beauty of human friendship and love at its best.  And the raising of Lazarus by Jesus is a sign of hope and promise for all who are in Christ.

 

An excerpt from a sermon by Saint Augustine (Sermon 103: 1-2.6).  “Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labor among the many distractions of the world, we should have but one goal.  For we are but travelers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, but not yet of enjoyment.  But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.  Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but also by religious aspirations.  They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them.  Martha welcomed him as travelers are welcomed.  But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Savior, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit.  For the Lord willed to put on the form of a slave, and under this form to be fed by his own servants, by condescension and not by need.  For this was indeed condescension, to present himself to be fed; since he was in the flesh he would in fact be hungry and thirsty.  Thus was the Lord received as a guest who came unto his own and his own received him not; but as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God, adopting them who were servants and making them his brothers, ransoming the captives and making them his coheirs.  No one of you should say:  ‘Blessed are those who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!’  Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh.  He did not in fact take this privilege from you.  As he says:  ‘Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me.’  But you, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace.  Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one.  But when you come to the heavenly homeland you will find a traveler to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarreling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?  No, there will be none of those tasks there.  What you will find there is what Mary chose.  There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed.  Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God.  Would you know what we will have there?  The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, ‘Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.'”

 

Collect:  Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany:  Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

30 July.  William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Shaftesbury, (1801-1885) Prophetic Witnesses.  William Wilberforce was born into an affluent Yorkshire family in 1759 and received his education at Cambridge.  In 1780 he was elected to the House of Commons, serving until 1825.  Drawn to the evangelical expression of the church from 1784, his colleagues convinced him not to abandon his political activism in favor of his newfound piety, but as a consequence he refused appointment to high office or to a peerage.  Wilberforce passionately promoted overseas missions, popular education, and the reformation of public manners and morals.  He supported parliamentary reform and emancipation for Roman Catholics.  Above all, he is remembered for his persistent, uncompromising, and single-minded crusade for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, for which he received the blessing of John Wesley.  Wilberforce’s eloquence as a speaker, his charm in personal address, and his profound religious spirit made him a formidable power for good; and his countrymen came to recognize in him as a man of heroic greatness.  Wilberforce died in London on July 29, 1833, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

 

Anthony Ashley Cooper was born in 1801, son of the Sixth Earl of Shaftsbury.  Educated at Harrow and Oxford, he became a Member of Parliament at the age of 25, representing the pocket borough of Woodstock that was controlled by the Shaftsbury family.  He soon took up the challenge of social reform with particular concern for the just treatment of factory workers, particularly children.  Lord Ashley led the charge in Parliament to limit workers’ hours and improve work and safety conditions.  He also successfully pushed through legislation that regulated the working conditions of women and children in the mines, and restricted the abuse of little boys as chimney sweeps.  Lord Ashley devoted his parliamentary career to issues of injustice at all levels of English society, with particular concerns for the oppression of women and children.  He was an outspoken critic of the slave trade.  Like Wilberforce, he was a man of prayer and deep faith, and his diaries are filled with profound spiritual reflections.

 

Excerpt from William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity:  “Let true Christians then, with becoming earnestness, strive in all things to recommend their profession, and to put to silence the vain scoffs of ignorant objectors.  Let them boldly assert the cause of Christ in an age when so many, who bear the name of Christians, are ashamed of Him: and let them consider as devolved on Them the important duty of suspending for a while the fall of their country, and, perhaps, of performing a still more extensive service to society at large; not by busy interference in politics, in which it cannot but be confessed there is much uncertainty; but rather by that sure and radical benefit of restoring the influence of Religion, and of raising the standard of morality.”

 

Collect:  Just and eternal God, we give you thanks for the stalwart faith and persistence of your servants William Wilberforce and Anthony Ashley-Cooper, who, undeterred by opposition and failure, held fast to a vision of justice in which no child of yours might suffer in enforced servitude and misery.  Grant that we, drawn by that same Gospel vision, may persevere in serving the common good and caring for those who have been cast down, that they may be raised up through Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

31 July.  Ignatius of Loyola Priest and Monastic, (1491-1556).  Ignatius was born into a noble Basque family.  In his autobiography he tells us, “Up to his twenty-sixth year, he was a man given over to the vanities of the world and took special delight in the exercise of arms with a great and vain desire of winning glory.”  An act of reckless heroism at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 led to his being seriously wounded.  During his convalescence at Loyola, Ignatius experienced a profound spiritual awakening.  Following his recovery and an arduous period of retreat, a call to be Christ’s knight in the service of God’s kingdom was deepened and confirmed.  Ignatius began to share the fruits of his experience with others, making use of a notebook which eventually became the text of the Spiritual Exercises.  Since his time, many have found the Exercises to be a way of encountering Christ as intimate companion and responding to Christ’s call:  “Whoever wishes to come with me must labor with me.”  The fact that Ignatius was an unschooled layman made him suspect in the eyes of church authorities and led him, at the age of 37, to study theology at the University of Paris in preparation for the priesthood.  While there, Ignatius gave the Exercises to several of his fellow students; and in 1534, together with six companions, he took vows to live lives of strict poverty and to serve the needs of the poor.  Thus, what later came to be known as the Society of Jesus was born.  In 1540 the Society was formally recognized, and Ignatius became its first Superior General.  According to his journals and many of his letters, a profound sense of sharing God’s work in union with Christ made the season of intense activity which followed a time of great blessing and consolation.  Ignatius died on July 31, 1556, in the simple room which served both as his bedroom and chapel, having sought to find God in all things and to do all things for God’s greater glory.  His life and teaching, as Evelyn Underhill and others have acknowledged, represents the best of the Counter-Reformation.

 

A prayer of St. Ignatius:  (Suscipe)

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding and my entire will,

all I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

That is enough for me.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, from whom all good things come:  You called Ignatius of Loyola to the service of your Divine Majesty and to find you in all things.  Inspired by his example and strengthened by his companionship, may we labor without counting the cost and seek no reward other than knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.  Amen.