1 January.  Feast of the Holy Name or of the Circumcision.  The Law of Moses required that every male child be circumcised on the eighth day from his birth (Leviticus 12:3).  It had long been the custom to make of it a festive occasion, when family and friends came together to witness the naming of the child.  January first is the eighth day after Christmas Day, and the Gospel according to Luke records that eight days after his birth the child was circumcised and given his name.  Jesus received the Aramaic name Yeshua, which means “Yahweh is salvation.”  This name appeared in Greek as Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous), whose Latin form is Iesus, from which the English form Jesus is derived.  The evangelist Matthew (Mt 1:21) explains that the child received this name because he would “save his people from their sins.”  The liturgical commemoration of the Circumcision originated in Gaul, where a Council in Tours in 567 enacted that the day was to be kept as a fast day to counteract pagan festivities connected with the beginning of the new year.  The feast was preserved under this name until the 1979 revision of the Prayer Book, when it was changed to the Feast of the Holy Name.  Since the circumcision was the first time that Jesus’ blood was shed, it has often been presented by homilists as a sign of his engagement in the process of our redemption, as well as an indication that he was fully human.  Then, as now, people longed to be freed from the political, social, and spiritual evils that were holding back their growth into the full stature to which they were called by God.  The name of Jesus calls to mind the true freedom for which we have been saved through Jesus the Christ.

 

Excerpt from a sermon by Saint Leo, Pope:  “Dearly beloved brethren, whosoever will keep this day’s festival with true reverence and due honor, must neither think falsely of the Lord’s Incarnation, nor meanly of the Godhead.  For as there is danger of not realizing the truth of Christ’s humanity, so is there no less danger of failing to recognize his equality in glory with his Father.  Wherefore, when we try to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s birth, wherein he was born of a Virgin Mother, we must soar above the clouds of earthly imagination, and with the eye of enlightened faith pierce through the fog of earthly wisdom.  The authority on which we believe is the authority of God himself; and the teaching which we follow is the very teaching of God himself.  Therefore it is true, whether we lend an ear to the testimony of the Law, or to the sayings of the Prophets, or to the trumpet of the Gospel.  This latter did John the Son of Thunder sound, when, filled with the Holy Ghost, he proclaimed:  ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the Same was in the beginning with God; all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made.’ True also is the witness of John when he says:  ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father.’  The Person of the Son of God therefore remained unchanged and one, though he has two natures, keeping his own, and taking ours.  He comes on earth as man to be the restorer of man, but abides all the while in his unchangeable Godhead.  That Godhead which he shares with the Father was not a whit the less almighty, nor did the form of a servant touch the form of God to derogate from it.  The Most High and Everlasting Being, bending down for man’s salvation, took the Manhood into his glory.  Yet he ceased not to be that which he is from everlasting.  Hence we see the only-begotten Son of God in one place confessing that the Father is greater than he, and in another declaring that he and the Father are One.  This is an evident proof of the distinction of his two natures, and the unity of his Person.  For he is inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood, and yet equal to the Father as touching his Godhead.  Albeit, though he be God and Man, he is not two, but One Christ.”

 

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

translated by Digby S. Wrangham:

“This festal day our Muse should be a varied song upraising,

In strains of sweetest melody the Lord of heaven praising.

For all things by this festival have been renewed from heaven,

And pardon to the human race for all their misdeeds given.

The woman finds her silver piece; her candle she hath lighted,

What time to flesh the mind, with God co-equal, is united.

When from Jerusalem the man nigh Jericho is lying,

The good Samaritan comes by and rescues him from dying.

By clemency divine he is into the inn attended,

Whilst wine and oil, as remedy to soothe his pain are blended.

Sweet are the balms of Him, who gives to sick men’s wounds their healing.

The way of penitence for all their sinfulness revealing.

Of the two Testaments the gift of the two pennies telleth,

Since Jesus Christ, the end of both, their mysteries fulfilleth.

Lo ! now the earth buds forth with dew and yet abideth rainless,

Whilst bears a maid our God Himself, and is a mother stainless.

In darkness was the Infant born, Who light eternal giveth;

And circumcision on this day, the eighth day, He receiveth.

This day the Patriarchs of old foresaw in clear prevision,

Who gave themselves and progeny to God by circumcision.

That circumcision was performed this eighth day in a figure.

Which shall a human creature save from God’ righteous rigor.

Ourselves, and not our foreskins, then let us be circumcising.

And cut away the lust and sin for aye within us rising.

That, cleansed in heart and flesh, to us those prizes may be given,

Which the eighth age confers on him deserving joy in heaven.

Come ye then to-day here,

Every organ-player,

Singer and psalm-sayer !

lift your praise,

And upraise,

Minstrel ! your lay here ! Amen.”

 

Collect:  Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation:  Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

 

2 January.  Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, Bishop (1874-1945).  The first Indian bishop of the Anglican church, Azariah was zealous to promote church growth as well as to be a strong advocate of ecumenism and church unity among India’s numerous Protestant denominations.  His father was a village vicar and his mother spent long hours on her son’s religious instruction.  After more than a decade working with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), he was ordained a priest in 1909, and in 1912 was ordained bishop of the new Diocese of Dornakal, a populous diocese located in two parts of Madras.  Azariah was a mainstream broad church Anglican with a high priority for evangelism, and much of his preaching centered on the resurrection.  His ministry cut across class lines and focused heavily on rural “untouchable” caste members.  The bishop’s traditional Anglicanism frustrated many Indian political leaders, who hoped he would be a leading voice for Indian nationalism.  Azariah also took sharp issue with Mahatma Gandhi, who was unalterably opposed to Christians trying to convert Indians.  Azariah saw conversion as foundational to Christian mission.  Gandhi acknowledged the dominant Hindu religion needed reform, but Azariah went further and said it was repressive and grounded in a destructive caste system.  He said, “It is by proclamation of the truth that the early Church turned the world upside down … It is this that will today redeem Indian society and emancipate it from the thralldom of centuries.”  By 1935 the Dornakal diocese had 250 ordained Indian clergy and over 2,000 village teachers, plus a growing number of medical clinics, cooperative societies, and printing presses.  Traveling over the vast diocese by bullock cart or bicycle, and accompanied by his wife and coworker, Anbu, Azariah often built his village sermons around “the four demons – Dirt, Disease, Debt, and Drink.”  He believed in adapting liturgy to local cultures.  Epiphany Cathedral, Dornakal, which took a quarter century to build, was an architectural statement of the bishop’s vision, mixing Muslim, Hindu, and Christian designs.  He saw it as a visual statement of the gifts and beauty of other faith traditions finding their fulfillment in Christianity.

 

Collect:  Emmanuel, God with us, making your home in every culture and community on earth:  we thank you for raising up your servant Samuel Azariah as the first indigenous bishop in India.  Grant that we may be strengthened by his witness to your love without concern for class or caste, and by his labors for the unity of the Church in India, that people of many languages and cultures might with one voice give you glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

3 JanuaryWilliam Passavant, Prophetic Witness (1821-1894).  William Passavant was a Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor who left an uncommonly rich legacy of service.  He was driven by a desire to see the consequences of the Gospel worked out in practical ways in the lives of people in need.  For Passavant, the church’s commitment to the Gospel must not be spiritual only.  It must be visible.  For him, it was essential that Gospel principles were worked out in clear missionary actions.  Passavant was a parish pastor at heart and served in that capacity for much of his ministry even while pursuing other duties.  Passavant was the founder of numerous hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable organizations, principally in Western Pennsylvania, but the reach of his efforts extended from Boston and New York in the east to Chicago and Milwaukee in the mid-west.  Many of these institutions continue to this day.  On a visit to Germany, Passavant came into contact with Theodor Fliedner, the founder of the reconstituted deaconess movement among German Lutherans, and in 1849 he invited Fliedner to come to Pittsburgh and bring four of his deaconesses to serve in the hospital there.  A year later, in 1850, the first American Lutheran deaconess was consecrated by Passavant and thus began the renewed deaconess movement among American Lutherans.  Passavant also knew the importance of education and was the founder of a number of church schools scattered across the mid-west, principal among these being Thiel College, a Lutheran-affiliated college in Greenville, Pennsylvania.  In addition to his charitable, philanthropic, and educational work, and his guidance of the early years of the deaconess movement, Passavant was also a cutting-edge communicator of his time.  He founded two church newspapers, The Missionary and The Workman, both designed to interpret the church’s mission, in consonance with the Lutheran confessions, for the purpose of provoking the desire of the faithful toward loving service to those in need without concern for race, color, creed, or national origin.  Later generations of Lutheran communicators look to Passavant as one of the trailblazers of their vocation.

 

Of the kind of boys wanted for the ministry Rev. Passavant writes:  “Not everything in the shape of a boy or man will make a minister.  Not scrawny, scrofulous, dyspeptic and hollow-breasted lads, unfit for the farm, shop and other manual work, but those who are healthy, sound and vigorous, full of all vitalities, should be encouraged.  Not morose, moping, hang-dog lads without mirth and music in their soul, but bright and cheerful ones, with open countenance, whose face is sunshine and whose company is gladness.  Not softlings nor idlers nor imbeciles, nor drones who need to be coddled and shamed and scolded to get them moved, but boys and men who have life in them, the best at work and play in the neighborhood, with the mental force and bodily activities that command success in life.  Not cunning, tricky and lying boys, thoroughly hated for their meanness and deserving to be kicked by their companions.  Not ‘smart boys’ who have every kind of sense but without common-sense.  Not conceited upstarts, to whom the ministry is a service for self and who hold it in esteem for their own admiration.  Not dull souls without power to comprehend truth nor mental force to proclaim it, nor the natural capacity to become ‘able ministers of the New Testament.’  And lastly, not sordid souls, to whom the ‘priest office’ is simply an easy way to earn a piece of bread, a trade to make a living, with the softnesses and perquisites for good measure.  All these classes of men are a withering curse to the fair heritage of God.  The Church should even go back farther than these manifestations of unsuitableness.  Hunt up the family pedigree; but pay little regard to humble circumstances or poverty.  Titled rank is often only ‘the guinea stamp,’ but birth and rank in God’s kingdom are the true nobility.  Paul beautifully refers to this inheritance of greatness:  ‘When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and thy mother Eunice, slaves to God’s grace, this is the true patent of nobility.  The apple does not fall far from the tree.  The faith of holy parents descends to their children.  This is a factor of greatness and goodness.  It develops a quality and capacity of mind found nowhere else.  It endows with sensibility and affection which constitute true magnetism.  Let the Church, then, inquire for the parentage of her future ministry.  Let those who minister at her altars be the offspring of a devout and virtuous ancestry.  Look back along this line as far as can be seen clearly.  Blood tells. Therefore let the Church avoid a ministry from a low-lived and sin-exhausted race.  The taint of impurity goes down through the generations following.  The tribe of Levi exists no longer in form, but it does in fact.  Let our ministry be chosen from this pure and virtuous ancestry, young men who have been given to God in the speechless agony of faith as was Samuel, and who, in a pure youth, as did the Holy One, grow in stature and increase in favor with God and man.”

 

Collect:  Compassionate God, we thank you for William Passavant, who brought the German deaconess movement to America so that dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals for those in need and provide for the theological education of future ministers.  Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless; through Jesus the divine Physician, who has prepared for us an eternal home, and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

 

4 January.  Elizabeth Seton, Founder of the American Sisters of Charity (1774-1821).  Elizabeth Ann Seton was the founder of Sisters of Charity, the first community of sisters native to the United States.  She was also a wife, a widow, a single mother, an educator, a social activist and a spiritual leader.  Elizabeth Ann was born in New York in 1774.  She endured a turbulent childhood and suffered severe bouts of depression.  She survived by immersing herself in poetry, piano lessons, and devoted participation in the Episcopal Church.  In 1795 she married William Seton.  Samuel Provoost, the first Episcopal Bishop of New York, presided.  Three years later, her father-in-law died leaving her husband with the responsibility for a large family and a struggling family business and Elizabeth with a large, inherited family to care for.  In 1801 the business failed and the Setons lost everything.  Her husband showed the symptoms of tuberculosis and in 1803, they set sail for Italy in the hopes that the warm climate would cure his disease.  The Italian authorities, fearing Yellow Fever, quarantined them in a cold stone hospital for the dying.  William soon died and left Elizabeth Ann a young widow with five children and few resources.  While in Italy, she discovered Roman Catholicism.  Returning to New York, she encountered bitter opposition to her new religious leanings.  With five children to support, she felt alone and estranged.  She turned to Roman Catholic clergy for support and in 1805 she formally converted to Roman Catholicism.  In 1806, she met Father Louis Dubourg, S.S. who wanted to start a congregation of women religious, patterned after the French Daughters of Charity.  In 1809 Elizabeth Ann took vows and became “Mother Seton” to a small community of seven women dedicated to teaching.  The sisters were given land in rural Maryland and in 1810 they opened St. Joseph’s Free School to educate needy girls.  The Sisters intertwined social ministry, education and religious formation in all their varied works.  Mother Seton dispatched sisters to operate orphanages in Philadelphia and New York.  Elizabeth Ann Seton remained the Mother of the Sisters of Charity until her death on January 4, 1821.

 

From a conference to her spiritual daughters by Elizabeth Ann Seton:  “Our Daily Work is to Do the Will of God.  I will tell you what is my own great help.  I once read or heard that an interior life means but the continuation of our Savior’s life in us; that the great object of all his mysteries is to merit for us the grace of his interior life and communicate it to us, it being the end of his mission to lead us into the sweet land of promise, a life of constant union with himself.  And what was the first rule of our dear Savior’s life?  You know it was to do his Father’s will.  Well, then, the first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will.  I know what his will is by those who direct me; whatever they bid me do, if it is ever so small in itself, is the will of God for me.  Then do it in the manner he wills it, not sewing an old thing as if it were new, or a new thing as if it were old; not fretting because the oven is too hot, or in a fuss because it is too cold.  You understand — not flying and driving because you are hurried, not creeping like a snail because no one pushes you.  Our dear Savior was never in extremes.  The third object is to do his will because God wills it, that is, to be ready to quit at any moment and to do anything else to which you may be called ….  You think it very hard to lead a life of such restraint unless you keep your eye of faith always open.  Perseverance is a great grace.  To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did.  Which of them gained heaven without a struggle? …  What are our real trials?  By what name shall we call them?  One cuts herself out a cross of pride; another, one of causeless discontent; another, one of restless impatience or peevish fretfulness.  But is the whole any better than children’s play if looked at with the common eye of faith?  Yet we know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life, that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.  But we lack courage to keep a continual watch over nature, and therefore, year after year, with our thousand graces, multiplied resolutions, and fair promises, we run around in a circle of misery and imperfections.  After a long time in the service of God, we come nearly to the point from whence we set out, and perhaps with even less ardor for penance and mortification than when we began our consecration to him.  You are now in your first set-out.  Be above the vain fears of nature and efforts of your enemy.  You are children of eternity.  Your immortal crown awaits you, and the best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love.  You may indeed sow here in tears, but you may be sure there to reap in joy.”

 

Collect:  Holy God, you blessed Elizabeth Seton with your grace as wife, mother, educator and founder, that she might spend her life in service to your people:  Help us, by her example, to express our love for you in love of others; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

8 January.  Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary (1875-1969).  Harriet Bedell was born on March 19, 1875.  Inspired by an Episcopal missionary, she enrolled as a student at the New York Training School for Deaconesses where she was instructed in religion, missions, teaching, and hygiene.  She then became a missionary-teacher among the Cheyenne at the Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma.  In 1916, Bedell was sent to Stevens Village, Alaska, where she was finally set apart as a deaconess in 1922.  She also served as a teacher and nurse at St. John’s in the Wilderness at Allakaket, just 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where she sometimes traveled by dogsled to remote villages.  During her last years in Alaska, Bedell opened a boarding school.  In 1932, hearing about the plight of the Seminoles in Florida, Bedell used her own salary to reopen a mission among the Mikasuki Indians.  There, she worked to revive some of their traditional crafts:  doll-making, basket-weaving, and intricate patchwork designs.  The arts and crafts store that they established to sell their handicrafts improved the economy of the Blades Cross Mission.  Though forced to officially retire at age 63, Bedell continued her ministry of health care, education, and economic empowerment until 1960 when Hurricane Donna wiped out her mission.  Active into her eighties, Deaconess Bedell drove an average of 20,000 miles per year during her ministry.  She was one of the most popular writers in the national Episcopal mission periodical, The Spirit of Missions.  Bedell won the respect of indigenous people through her compassion and respect for their way of life and beliefs.  While active in ministry among the Cheyenne, she was eventually adopted into the tribe and given the name “Bird Woman.”  The diocese of Southwest Florida has long celebrated Harriet Bedell Day on January 8, the anniversary of her death in 1969.

 

Collect:  Holy God, you chose your faithful servant Harriett Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples:  Fill us with compassion and respect for all people, and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

9 January.  Julia Chester Emery, Missionary (1852-1922).  Julia Chester Emery was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1852.  In 1876 she succeeded her sister, Mary, as Secretary of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions which had been established by the General Convention in 1871.  During the forty years she served as Secretary, Julia helped the Church to recognize its call to proclaim the Gospel both at home and overseas.  Her faith, her courage, her spirit of adventure and her ability to inspire others combined to make her a leader respected and valued by the whole Church.  She visited every diocese and missionary district within the United States, encouraging and expanding the work of the Woman’s Auxiliary; and in 1908 she served as a delegate to the Pan-Anglican Congress in London.  From there she traveled around the world, visiting missions in remote areas of China, in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Hawaii, and then all the dioceses on the Pacific Coast before returning to New York.  In spite of the fact that travel was not easy, she wrote that she went forth “with hope for enlargement of vision, opening up new occasions for service, acceptance of new tasks.”  Through her leadership a network of branches of the Woman’s Auxiliary was established which shared a vision of and a commitment to the Church’s mission.  An emphasis on educational programs, a growing recognition of social issues, development of leadership among women, and the creation of the United Thank Offering are a further part of the legacy Julia left to the Church when she retired in 1916.  In 1921, the year before she died, the following appeared in the Spirit of Missions: “In all these enterprises of the Church no single agency has done so much in the last half-century to further the Church’s Mission as the Woman’s Auxiliary.”  Much of that accomplishment was due to the creative spirit of its Secretary of forty of those fifty years, Julia Chester Emery.

 

From an address delivered at the Jubilee celebration of the Women’s Auxiliary:  “Fifty years is something to look back upon; it is something to look forward to.  We do not know what lies before us, but we do know that the one thought we would carry away from such a gathering as this is that we want the one purpose, the one aim, the one object in which every smaller and lesser purpose and aim and object is hidden away and in which everything that may cause dissent or difference may die — please let us make every effort of that future with one end in view — that each day we live, each work we do, each word we say, may give our Lord and Savior, the Master of us all, joy and light !”

 

Collect:  God of all creation, you call us in Christ to make disciples of all nations and to proclaim your mercy and love:  Grant that we, after the example of your servant Julia Chester Emery, may have vision and courage in proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our light and our salvation, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

10 January.  William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (1573-1645).  William Laud, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, having been Charles I’s principal ecclesiastical adviser for several years before.  He was the most prominent of a new generation of Churchmen who disliked many of the ritual practices which had developed during the reign of Elizabeth I, and who were bitterly opposed by the “Puritans.”  Laud believed the Church of England to be in direct continuity with the mediaeval Church, and he stressed the unity of Church and State, exalting the role of the king as the supreme governor.  He emphasized the priesthood and the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and caused consternation by insisting on the reverencing of the Altar, returning it to its pre-Reformation position against the east wall of the church, and hedging it about with rails.  As head of the courts of High Commission and Star Chamber, Laud was abhorred for the harsh sentencing of prominent Puritans.  His identification with the unpopular policies of King Charles, his support of the war against Scotland in 1640, and his efforts to make the Church independent of Parliament, made him widely disliked.  He was impeached for treason by the Long Parliament in 1640, and finally beheaded on January 10, 1645.  Laud’s reputation has remained controversial to this day.  Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners.  He was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England.  He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his sincere convictions.  But in many ways he was out of step with the views of the majority of his countrymen, especially about the “Divine Right of Kings.”  He made a noble end, praying on the scaffold: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”

 

Excerpt from a speech delivered in the Star Chamber concerning pretended innovations in the Church:  “Our maine Crime is (would they al speak out, as some of them do) that we are Bishops; were we not so, some of us might be as passable as other men.  And a great trouble ’tis to them, that we maintain that our calling of Bishops is Iure Divino, by Divine Right:  Of this I have said enough, and in this place, in Leightons Case, nor will I repeate. Only this I will say, and abide by it, that the Calling of Bishops is Iure Divino, by Divine Right, though not all Adjuncts to their calling.  And this I say in as direct opposition to the Church of Rome, as to the Puritan humour.  And I say farther, That from the Apostles times, in all ages, in all places, the Church of Christ was governed by Bishops:  And Lay-Elders never heard of, till Calvins new-fangled device at Geneva.  Now this is made by these men, as if it were Contra Regem, against the King, in right or in power.  But that’s a meere ignorant shift; for our being Bishops, Iure Divino, by Divine Right, takes nothing from the Kings Right or power over us.  For though our Office be from God and Christ immediately, yet may wee not exercise that power, either of Order or Jurisdiction, but as God hath appointed us, that is, not in his Majesties, or any Christian Kings Kingdomes, but by and under the power of the King given us so to doe.”

 

Collect:  Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant William Laud, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

12 January.  Aelred, Abbot of Rielvaulx (1109-1167).  Aelred was born of a family which had long been treasurers of the shrine of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne at Durham Cathedral.  While still a youth, he was sent for education in upper-class life to the court of King David of Scotland, son of Queen Margaret.  The King’s stepsons Simon and Waldef were his models and intimate friends.  After intense disillusion and inner struggle, Aelred went to Yorkshire, where he became a Cistercian monk at the abbey of Rievaulx in 1133.  Aelred soon became a major figure in English church life.  Sent to Rome on diocesan affairs of Archbishop William of York, he returned by way of Clairvaux.  Here he made a deep impression on Bernard, who encouraged the young monk to write his first work, Mirror of Charity, on Christian perfection.  In 1143, Aelred led the founding of a new Cistercian house at Revesby.  Four years later he was appointed abbot of Rievaulx.  By the time of his death from a painful kidney disease in 1167, the abbey had over 600 monks, including Aelred’s biographer and friend, Walter Daniel.  During this period, Aelred wrote his best known work, Spiritual Friendship.  Friendship, Aelred teaches, is both a gift from God and a creation of human effort.  While love is universal, freely given to all, friendship is a particular love between individuals, of which the example is Jesus and John the Beloved Disciple.  As abbot, Aelred allowed his monks to hold hands and give other expressions of friendship.  In the spirit of Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux, Aelred writes:  There are four qualities which characterize a friend:  Loyalty, right intention, discretion, and patience.  Right intention seeks for nothing other than God and natural good.  Discretion brings understanding of what is done on a friend’s behalf, and ability to know when to correct faults.  Patience enables one to be justly rebuked, or to bear adversity on another’s behalf.  Loyalty guards and protects friendship, in good or bitter times.

 

Excerpt from Spiritual Friendship (55-57):  “Although in all other respects animals are proven to be irrational, surely in this respect alone they so imitate the human spirit that they are almost thought to be moved by reason.  They so follow the leader, so frolic together, so express and display their attachment in actions and sounds together, and so enjoy one another’s company with eagerness and pleasure that they seem to relish nothing more than what resembles friendship.  Among angels, too, divine wisdom so provided that not one but several classes should be created.  Among these classes, pleasant companionship and the most tender love created a like will and attachment, so as to allow no entry to envy, for one might seem greater and another less had not charity countered this danger with friendship.  Thus there was a host of angels to banish loneliness and a communion of charity in the various classes to multiply their joy.  Finally, when God fashioned the man, to recommend society as a higher blessing, he said, ‘it is not good that the man should be alone; let us make him a helper like himself.’  Indeed divine power fashioned this helper not from similar or even from the same material.  But as a more specific motivation for charity and friendship, this power created a woman from the very substance of the man.  In a beautiful way, then, from the side of the first human a second was produced, so that nature might teach that all are equal or, as it were, collateral, and that among human beings — and this is a property of friendship — there exists neither superior nor inferior.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, you endowed the abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness:  Grant to your people that same spirit of mutual affection, that, in loving one another, we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the gift of your eternal goodness; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

13 January.  Hilary, Bishop (315-368).  Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, was a prolific writer on Scripture and doctrine, an orator, and a poet to whom some of the earliest Latin hymns have been attributed.  Augustine called him “the illustrious doctor of the Churches.”  Jerome considered him “the trumpet of the Latins against the Arians.”  Hilary was born in Poitiers in Gaul into a pagan family of wealth and power.  In his writings, he describes the stages of the spiritual journey that led him to the Christian faith.  He was baptized when he was about thirty.  In 350, Hilary was made Bishop of Poitiers.  Although he demurred, he was finally persuaded by the people’s acclamations.  He proved to be a bishop of skill and courage.  His Orthodoxy was shown when, in 355, the Emperor Constantius ordered all bishops to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, under pain of exile.  Hilary wrote to Constantius, pleading for peace and unity.  His plea accomplished nothing, and, when he dissociated himself from three Arian bishops in the West, Constantius ordered Julian (later surnamed the Apostate) to exile him to Phrygia.  There he remained for three years, without complaining, writing scriptural commentaries and his principal work, On the Trinity.  Hilary was then invited by a party of “semi-Arians,” who hoped for his support, to a Council at Seleucia in Asia, largely attended by Arians; but with remarkable courage, in the midst of a hostile gathering, Hilary defended the Council of Nicaea and the Trinity, giving no aid to the “semi-Arians.”  He wrote again to Constantius, offering to debate Saturninus, the Western bishop largely responsible for his exile.  The Arians feared the results of such an encounter and persuaded Constantius to return Hilary to Poitiers.  In 360, Hilary was welcomed back to his see with great demonstrations of joy and affection.  He continued his battle against Arianism, but he never neglected the needs of his people.  Angry in controversy with heretical bishops, he was always a loving and compassionate pastor to his diocese.  Among his disciples was Martin, later Bishop of Tours, whom Hilary encouraged in his endeavors to promote the monastic life.

 

From a sermon on the Trinity by Saint Hilary, Bishop:  “May I Serve You by Making You Known.  I am well aware, almighty God and Father, that in my life I owe you a most particular duty.  It is to make my every thought and word speak of you.  In fact, you have conferred on me this gift of speech, and it can yield no greater return than to be at your service.  It is for making you known as Father, the Father of the only-begotten God, and preaching this to the world that knows you not and to the heretics who refuse to believe in you.  In this matter the declaration of my intention is only of limited value.  For the rest, I need to pray for the gift of your help and your mercy.  As we spread our sails of trusting faith and public avowal before you, fill them with the breath of your Spirit, to drive us on as we begin this course of proclaiming your truth.  We have been promised, and he who made the promise is trustworthy:  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  Yes, in our poverty we will pray for our needs.  We will study the sayings of your prophets and apostles with unflagging attention, and knock for admittance wherever the gift of understanding is safely kept.  But yours it is, Lord, to grant our petitions, to be present when we seek you and to open when we knock.  There is an inertia in our nature that makes us dull; and in our attempt to penetrate your truth we are held within the bounds of ignorance by the weakness of our minds.  Yet we do comprehend divine ideas by earnest attention to your teaching and by obedience to the faith which carries us beyond mere human apprehension.  So we trust in you to inspire the beginnings of this ambitious venture, to strengthen its progress, and to call us into a partnership in the spirit with the prophets and the apostles.  To that end, may we grasp precisely what they meant to say, taking each word in its real and authentic sense.  For we are about to say what they already have declared as part of the mystery of revelation:  that you are the eternal God, the Father of the eternal, only-begotten God; that you are one and not born from another; and that the Lord Jesus is also one, born of you from all eternity.  We must not proclaim a change in truth regarding the number of gods.  We must not deny that he is begotten of you who are the one God; nor must we assert that he is other than the true God, born of you who are truly God the Father.  Impart to us, then, the meaning of the words of Scripture and the light to understand it, with reverence for the doctrine and confidence in its truth.  Grant that we may express what we believe.  Through the prophets and apostles we know about you, the one God the Father, and the one Lord Jesus Christ.  May we have the grace, in the face of heretics who deny you, to honor you as God, who is not alone, and to proclaim this as truth.”

 

Collect:  O Lord our God, you raised up your servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith:  Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having you for our Father, and may abide in your Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; who live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

16 JanuaryRichard Meux Benson, Religious (1824-1915), and Charles Gore, Bishop (1853-1932)  Richard Meux Benson and Charles Gore are remembered for their role in the revival of Anglican monasticism in the nineteenth century.  Richard Meux Benson, the principal founder of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, was born in London.  As a student at Christ Church, Oxford, he came under the influence of Edward Bouverie Pusey, who became his spiritual mentor and lifelong friend.  In 1849 Benson was ordained a priest and became rector of Cowley, a village neighboring Oxford.  In 1866, together with two other priests, he founded the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE), “a small body to realize and intensify the gifts and energies belonging to the whole Church.”  SSJE became the first stable religious community for men in the Anglican Church since the Reformation, styled as a missionary order patterned on St. Vincent de Paul’s Company of Mission Priests.  A branch house was established in Boston in 1870.  In 1874 work began in Bombay, and later Poona.  By 1880 SSJE had opened a mission house in Cape Town, South Africa, and in 1903 in the Transkei.  Benson wrote the original SSJE Rule and served as Superior until 1890.

 

Charles Gore was born in Wimbledon and educated mainly at Oxford.  He was ordained in 1876 and served in positions at Cuddeston and Pusey House, Oxford, both of which were focused upon theological education and the formation of clergy.  While at Pusey House, Gore founded the Community of the Resurrection, a community for men that sought to combine the rich traditions of the religious life with a lively concern for the demands of ministry in the modern world.  Gore, a prolific writer, was a principal progenitor of liberal Anglo-Catholicism in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Anglicanism.  He was concerned to make available to the church the critical scholarship of the age, particularly with respect to the Bible.  A second but no less important concern was to prick the conscience of the church and plead for its engagement in the work of social justice for all.  Between 1902 and 1919, Gore served successively as bishop of the dioceses of Worcester, Birmingham, and Oxford.

 

Collect:  Gracious God, you have inspired a rich variety of ministries in your Church:  We give you thanks for Richard Meux Benson and Charles Gore, instruments in the revival of Anglican monasticism.  Grant that we, following their example, may call for perennial renewal in your Church through conscious union with Christ, witnessing to the social justice that is a mark of the reign of our Savior Jesus, who is the light of the world; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

17 January.  Anthony, Abbot (251-356).  In the third century, many young men turned away from the corrupt and decadent society of the time, and went to live in deserts or mountains, in solitude, fasting, and prayer.  Antony of Egypt was an outstanding example of this movement, but he was not merely a recluse.  He was a founder of monasticism, and wrote a rule for anchorites (solitary ascetics).  Antony’s parents were Christians, and he grew up to be quiet, devout, and meditative.  When his parents died, he and his younger sister were left to care for a sizable estate.  Six months later, in church, he heard the reading about the rich young ruler whom Christ advised to sell all he had and give to the poor.  Antony at once gave his land to the villagers, and sold most of his goods, giving the proceeds to the poor.  Later, after meditating on Christ’s bidding, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” he sold what remained of his possessions, placed his sister in a “house of maidens,” and became an anchorite.  Athanasius, who knew Antony personally, writes that he spent his days praying, reading, and doing manual labor.  Moving to the mountains across the Nile from his village, Antony dwelt alone for twenty years.  In 305, he left his cave and founded a “monastery,” a series of cells inhabited by ascetics living under his rule.  Athanasius writes of such colonies:  “Their cells like tents were filled with singing, fasting, praying, and working that they might give alms, and having love and peace with one another.”  Antony visited Alexandria, first in 321, to encourage those suffering martyrdom under the Emperor Maximinus; later, in 355, to combat the Arians by preaching, conversions, and the working of miracles.  Most of his days were spent on the mountain with his disciple Macarius.  He willed a goat-skin tunic and a cloak to Athanasius, who said of him:  “He was like a physician given by God to Egypt.  For who met him grieving and did not go away rejoicing?  Who came full of anger and was not turned to kindness? … What monk who had grown slack was not strengthened by coming to him?  Who came troubled by doubts and failed to gain peace of mind?”

 

From the Life of Anthony by Saint Anthansius, chapter 19:  “Let us hold fast our discipline, and let us not be careless.  For in it the Lord is our fellow-worker, as it is written, “to all that choose the good, God works with them for good.”  But to avoid being heedless, it is good to consider the word of the Apostle, ‘I die daily.’  For if we too live as though dying daily, we shall not sin.  And the meaning of that saying is, that as we rise day by day we should think that we shall not abide till evening; and again, when about to lie down to sleep, we should think that we shall not rise up.  For our life is naturally uncertain, and Providence allots it to us daily.  But thus ordering our daily life, we shall neither fall into sin, nor have a lust for anything, nor cherish wrath against any, nor shall we heap up treasure upon earth.  But, as though under the daily expectation of death, we shall be without wealth, and shall forgive all things to all men, nor shall we retain at all the desire of women or of any other foul pleasure.  But we shall turn from it as past and gone, ever striving and looking forward to the day of Judgment.  For the greater dread and danger of torment ever destroys the ease of pleasure, and sets up the soul if it is like to fall.”

 

Collect:  O God, by your Holy Spirit you enabled your servant Antony to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil:  Give us grace, with pure hearts and minds, to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

18 January.  Confession of St. Peter, Apostle.  When Simon Bar-Jona confessed, “You are the Christ,” Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.”  This rough fisherman and his brother Andrew were the first disciples called by Jesus.  Peter figures prominently in the Gospels, often stumbling, impetuous, intense, and uncouth.  It was Peter who attempted to walk on the sea, and began to sink; it was Peter who impulsively wished to build three tabernacles on the mountain of the Transfiguration; it was Peter who, just before the crucifixion, three times denied knowing his Lord.  But it was also Peter who, after Pentecost, risked his life to do the Lord’s work, speaking boldly of his belief in Jesus.  It was also Peter, the Rock, whose strength and courage helped the young Church in its questioning about the mission beyond the Jewish community.  Opposed at first to the baptism of Gentiles, he had the humility to admit a change of heart, and to baptize the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household.  Even after this, Peter had a continuing struggle with his Jewish conservatism; for Paul, writing to the Galatians, rebukes him for giving way to the demands of Jewish Christians to dissociate himself from table-fellowship with Gentiles.  Though the New Testament makes no mention of it, the tradition connecting Peter with Rome is early and virtually certain.  According to a legend based on that tradition, Peter fled from Rome during the persecution under Nero.  On the Appian Way, he met Christ, and asked him, “Domine, quo vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”). The Lord answered, “I am coming to be crucified again.”  Peter thereupon retraced his steps, and was shortly thereafter crucified, head downwards.  “I am not worthy to be crucified as my Lord was,” he is supposed to have said.  As we watch Peter struggle with himself, often stumble, love his Lord and deny him, speak rashly and act impetuously, his life reminds us that our Lord did not come to save the godly and strong but to save the weak and the sinful.  Simon, an ordinary human being, was transformed by the Holy Spirit into the “Rock,” and became the leader of the Church.

 

Collect:  Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God:  Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

19 January.  Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester (1008-1095).  Wulfstan was one of the few Anglo-Saxon bishops to retain his see after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.  Beloved by all classes of society for his humility, charity, and courage, he was born in Warwickshire, and educated in the Benedictine abbeys of Evesham and Peterborough.  He spent most of his life in the cathedral monastery of Worcester as monk, prior, and then as bishop of the see from 1062 until his death on January 18, 1095.  He accepted the episcopate with extreme reluctance, but having resigned himself to it, he administered the diocese with great effectiveness.  Since the see of Worcester was claimed by the province of York before its affiliation as a suffragan see of Canterbury in 1070, Wulfstan was consecrated at York.  As bishop, he rapidly became famous for his continued monastic asceticism and personal sanctity.  Even though Wulfstan had been sympathetic to King Harold of Wessex, he was among those who submitted to William the Conqueror at Berkhamstead in 1066.  He therefore was allowed to retain his see.  At first, the Normans tended to disparage him for his lack of learning and his inability to speak French, but he became one of William’s most trusted advisers and administrators, and remained loyal in support of William I and William II in their work of reform and orderly government.  He assisted in the compilation of the Domesday Book, and supported William I against the rebellious barons in 1075.  William came to respect a loyalty based on principle and not on self-seeking.  Archbishop Lanfranc also recognized the strength of Wulfstan’s character, and the two men worked together to end the practice at Bristol of kidnapping Englishmen and selling them as slaves in Ireland.  Because he was the most respected prelate of the Anglo-Saxon Church, Wulfstan’s profession of canonical obedience to William the Conqueror’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, proved to be a key factor in the transition from Anglo-Saxon to Anglo-Norman Christianity.  William’s policy, however, was to appoint his own fellow-Normans to the English episcopate, and by the time of William’s death, in 1087, Wulfstan was the only English-born bishop still living.

 

An excerpt from the most famous and in some ways the most telling tale about Wulfstan.  Many post-Conquest bishops embarked on ambitious building projects at their cathedrals, replacing the Saxon churches with larger, more impressive buildings in the new style.  Wulfstan clearly felt he had to do the same at his church, but he mourned the loss of the old cathedral [from William of Malmebury’s Gesta Pontificium Anglorum (1095)]:  “When the bigger church [at Worcester], which he had himself started from the foundations, had grown large enough for the monks to move across to it, the word was given for the old church, the work of St Oswald, to be stripped of its roof and demolished.  Wulfstan stood there in the open air to watch, and could not keep back his tears.  His friends mildly reproved him:  he should rather rejoice that in his lifetime so much honor had accrued to the church that the increased number of monks made larger dwellings necessary.  He replied:  ‘My view is quite different.  We unfortunates are destroying the works of saints in order to win praise for ourselves.  In that happy age men were incapable of building for display; their way was to sacrifice themselves to God under any sort of roof, and to encourage their subjects to follow their example.  But we strive to pile up stones while neglecting souls.’  He said more along these lines, undermining opposed views with his own assertions.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son led captivity captive and gave gifts to your people:  multiply among us faithful pastors, who, like your holy bishop Wulfstan, will give courage to those who are oppressed and held in bondage; and bring us all, we pray, into the true freedom of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

20 January.  Fabian, Bishop and Martyr (200-258).  In 236, an assembly was held at Rome to elect a pope as successor to Antherus.  In the throng was Fabian, a layman from another part of Italy.  Suddenly, according to the historian Eusebius, a dove flew over the crowd and lighted on Fabian’s head.  In spite of the fact that he was both a total stranger and not even a candidate for election, the people unanimously chose Fabian to be pope, shouting, “He is worthy! He is worthy!”  Fabian was ordained to the episcopate without opposition.  During his fourteen years as pontiff, Fabian made numerous administrative reforms.  He developed the parochial structure of the Church in Rome, and established the custom of venerating martyrs at their shrines in the catacombs.  He appointed seven deacons and seven sub-deacons to write the lives of the martyrs, so that their deeds should not be forgotten in times to come.  When Privatus, in Africa, stirred up a new heresy, Fabian vigorously opposed and condemned his actions.  He also brought back to Rome, for proper burial, the remains of Pontian, a pope whom the emperor had exiled in 235 to a certain and rapid death in the mines of Sardinia.  The Emperor Decius ordered a general persecution of the Church in 239 and 240, probably the first persecution to be carried out in all parts of the empire.  Fabian was one of the earliest of those martyred, setting a courageous example for his followers, many of whom died in great torment.  Cyprian of Carthage, in a letter to Cornelius, Fabian’s successor, wrote that Fabian was an incomparable man. “The glory of his death,” Cyprian commented, “befitted the purity and holiness of his life.”  Fabian’s tombstone, the slab which covered his gravesite, still exists.  It is in fragments, but the words “Fabian … bishop … martyr” are still dimly visible.

 

From a letter about the death of St. Fabian, pope and martyr by Saint Cyprian:  ”Fabian Offers us a Model of Courage.  We, the Christian community, assemble to celebrate the memory of the martyrs with ritual solemnity because we want to be inspired to follow their example, share in their merits, and be helped by their prayers.  Yet we erect no altars to any of the martyrs, even in the martyrs’ burial chapels themselves.  No bishop, when celebrating at an altar where these holy bodies rest, has ever said, “Peter, we make this offering to you,” or “Paul, to you,” or “Cyprian, to you.”  No, what is offered is offered always to God, who crowned the martyrs.  We offer in the chapels where the bodies of those he crowned rest, so the memories that cling to those places will stir our emotions and encourage us to greater love both for the martyrs whom we can imitate and for God whose grace enables us to do so.  So we venerate the martyrs with the same veneration of love and fellowship that we give to the holy men of God still with us.  We sense that the hearts of these latter are just as ready to suffer death for the sake of the Gospel, and yet we feel more devotion toward those who have already emerged victorious from the struggle.  We honor those who are fighting on the battlefield of this life here below, but we honor more confidently those who have already achieved the victor’s crown and live in heaven.  But the veneration strictly called “worship,” or latria, that is, the special homage belonging only to the divinity, is something we give and teach others to give to God alone.  The offering of a sacrifice belongs to worship in this sense (that is why those who sacrifice to idols are called idol-worshippers), and we neither make nor tell others to make any such offering to any martyr, any holy soul, or any angel.  If anyone among us falls into this error, he is corrected with words of sound doctrine and must then either mend his ways or else be shunned.  The saints themselves forbid anyone to offer them the worship they know is reserved for God, as is clear from the case of Paul and Barnabas.  When the Lycaonians were so amazed by their miracles that they wanted to sacrifice to them as gods, the apostles tore their garments, declared that they were not gods, urged the people to believe them, and forbade them to worship them.  Yet the truths we teach are one thing, the abuses thrust upon us are another.  There are commandments that we are bound to give; there are breaches of them that we are commanded to correct, but until we correct them we must of necessity put up with them.”

 

Collect:  O God, in your providence you singled out the holy martyr Fabian as worthy to be chief pastor of your people, and guided him so to strengthen your Church that it stood fast in the day of persecution:  grant that those whom you call to any ministry in the Church may be obedient to your call in all humility, and be enabled to carry out their tasks with diligence and faithfulness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

21 January.  Agnes, Martyr (292-304).  As a child of twelve years, Agnes suffered for her faith, in Rome, during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian.  After rejecting blandishments and withstanding threats and tortures by her executioner, she remained firm in refusal to offer worship to the heathen gods, and was burned at the stake — or, according to another early tradition, was beheaded with the sword.  The early Fathers of the Church praised her courage and chastity, and remarked upon her name, which means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin.  Pilgrims still visit Agnes’ tomb and the catacomb surrounding it, beneath the basilica of her name on the Via Nomentana in Rome that Pope Honorius I (625–638) built in her honor to replace an older shrine erected by the Emperor Constantine.  On her feast day at the basilica, two lambs are blessed, whose wool is woven into a scarf called the pallium, with which the Pope invests archbishops.  Pope Gregory the Great sent such a pallium in 601 to Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  A representation of the pallium appears on the coat of arms of Archbishops of Canterbury to this day.

 

From a treatise On Virgins by Saint Ambrose, bishop:  “Too Young to be Punished, yet Old Enough For a Martyr’s Crown.  Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity.  It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice.  It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve.  The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.  There was little or no room in that small body for a wound.  Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it.  Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents’ frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound.  Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners.  She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains.  She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers.  She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it.  Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege.  She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.  A new kind of martyrdom!  Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valor despite the handicap of youth.  As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.  In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself.  The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full.  All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God.  So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted.  What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.  What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage!  She answered: ‘To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse.  I will be his who first chose me for himself.  Executioner, why do you delay?  If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish.’  She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.  You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself.  One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr’s crown.”

 

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

translated by Digby S. Wrangham:

“As we tell once more the fashion

Of this glorious virgin’s passion,

Be we kindled to the fight:

As we touch the sacred flower,

Let us breathe the scents that shower

From its sweetness’ full delight !

Beautiful and wise and noble,

Agnes now had to the double

Of five years an added three:

Much the prefect’s first-born loves her,

But to maiden scorn he moves her,

Not submission to his plea.

Wonderful power of faith,

Wondrous virginity,

Wonderful virtue hath

Virgin hearts’ constancy !

So did the Son of God

Come of His wondrous will.

And in frail flesh abode;

Which is more wondrous still !

Sick, to bed the lover goeth:

When the cause the prefect knoweth,

Quickly seeks he for a cure:

Much now, vowing more, he proffers, —

Short-lived offerer, short-lived offers ! —

But his gifts are all too poor.

Her doth the prefect, bare,

To outrage vile expose,

But a thick fringe of hair

Christ round her body throws,

And a robe heaven-whitened.

One of the angel-race

Beside her takes his place;

The den of lust that night

Becomes the abode of light,

And the lewd are frightened.

Her blind lover, most indignant,

Rushes in, and a malignant

Spirit robs him of life-breath.

Weeps his father, all are crying,

Rome bewailed a young man dying

By so terrible a death.

He is raised by Agnes’ pleading;

But the crowd, — blind rage misleading —

For the maid prepare the stake:

Its bright blaze the guilty bumeth;

‘Gainst the fierce the fierce flame turneth

For the Most High’s honor’s sake.

To the Savior thanks she proffers,

To the lictor her throat offers;

Neither fears she when she suffers,

Conscious of her purity.

Agnes ! thou, thy crown receiving,

At the saving Lamb’s side living,

Comfort to thy parents giving,

Bidd’st them mount to joys on high !

Lest they mourn, as dead and buried,

One, to Spouse divine now married,

In a lamb’s shape, Christ the story

Of His own and of thy glory

Set before them, spotless maid !

Suffer not our separation

From that Lamb, our One salvation;

Unto Whom devoted wholly,

Thou didst noble Constance thoroughly

Heal of sickness by His aid.

Vessel, glorious and elected !

Flower, with scent by naught affected !

By the angelic choirs respected !

Thou art as the type erected

Of a maiden’s spotless fame.

Off the palm of victory bearing,

Still thy virgin blossom wearing,

Grant we may, unfit appearing

For a special title, share in,

With the saints, their general name ! Amen.”

 

Collect:  Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame:  Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

22 January.  Vincent, Deacon of Saragossa and Martyr (died 304).  Vincent has been called the protomartyr of Spain.  Little is known about the actual events surrounding his life, other than his name, his order of ministry, and the place and time of his martyrdom.  He was a native of Huesca, in northeastern Spain, and was ordained deacon by Valerius, Bishop of Saragossa.  In the early years of the fourth century, the fervent Christian community in Spain fell victim to a persecution ordered by the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian.  Dacian, governor of Spain, arrested Valerius and his deacon Vincent, and had them imprisoned at Valencia.  According to one legend, Valerius had a speech impediment, and Vincent was often called upon to preach for him.  When the two prisoners were challenged to renounce their faith, amid threats of torture and death, Vincent said to his bishop, “Father, if you order me, I will speak.”  Valerius is said to have replied, “Son, as I committed you to dispense the word of God, so I now charge you to answer in vindication of the faith which we defend.”  The young deacon then told the governor that he and his bishop had no intention of betraying the true God.  The vehemence and enthusiasm of Vincent’s defense showed no caution in his defiance of the judges, and Dacian’s fury was increased by this exuberance in Christian witness.  Valerius was exiled, but the angry Dacian ordered that Vincent be tortured.  Although the accounts of his martyrdom have been heavily embellished by early Christian poets, Augustine of Hippo writes that Vincent’s unshakeable faith enabled him to endure grotesque punishments and, finally, death.  Records of the transfer and present whereabouts of Vincent’s relics are of questionable authenticity. We are certain, however, that his cult spread rapidly throughout early Christendom and that he was venerated as a bold and outspoken witness to the truth of the living Christ.

 

From a sermon of St. Augustine of Hippo:  “Christ the King of Martyrs.  To you, said the Apostle Paul, it has been granted for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.  Vincent had received both these gifts; he had received them, and he kept them.  After all, if he had not received them, what would he have had?  But he did have faithfulness in his words, he did have endurance in his sufferings.  So do not any of you be too self-assured when offering a word; do not be too confident in your own powers when suffering trials or temptations; because it is from him that we have the wisdom to speak good things wisely, from him the patience to endure bad things bravely.  Call to mind the Lord Christ warning and encouraging his disciples in the gospel; call to mind the king of martyrs equipping his troops with spiritual weapons, indicating the wars to be fought, lending assistance, promising rewards; first saying to his disciples, In this world you will have distress; then immediately adding words that would allay their terrors:  But have confidence:  I myself have vanquished the world.  So why should we be surprised, dearly beloved, if Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished?  In this world, he says, you will have distress; such that, even if it distresses, it cannot oppress you; even if it knocks you down, it cannot knock you out.  The world mounts a double attack on the soldiers of Christ.  It wheedles in order to lead them astray; but it also terrifies, in order to break them.  Let us not be held fast by our own pleasures, let us not be terrified by someone else’s cruelty, and the world has been vanquished.  At each attack, Christ comes running to the defense, and the Christian is not vanquished.  If, in this passion of Vincent’s, one only gave thought to human powers of endurance, it would begin to look unbelievable; but if one acknowledges divine power, it ceases even to be wonderful.  Such hideous cruelty was being unleashed on the martyr’s body, and such calm serenity was displayed in his voice; such harsh, savage punishments being applied to his limbs, but such assurance echoing in his words, that we would have imagined that in some marvelous way, while Vincent was suffering, that it was someone else and not the speaker that was being tortured.  And indeed, my dearest brethren, that is how it was; undoubtedly that is how it was: someone else was speaking.  Christ, you see, promised even this to his witnesses in the gospel, when he was preparing them for this sort of contest.  For he said:  Do not think beforehand about how or what you are to speak.  For it is not you that are speaking, but the Spirit of my Father who is speaking in you.  So the flesh was suffering, and the Spirit was speaking.  And while the Spirit was speaking, not only was ungodliness being confounded and convicted, but weakness was even being strengthened and comforted.”

 

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

translated by Digby S. Wrangham:

“Let the whole Church celebrate, —

Triumphs of a martyr great ! —

Vincent’s victories to-day !

To the King, who, whilst he fought,

Help, strength, armor, to him brought,

Praise and glory let us pay !

He, while still but young in years,

At the judgment-seat appears

Of the prefect Datian:

Word for word he gives again;

A grand controversy then,

Touching points of faith, began.

‘There is nothing,’ Vincent saith,

‘Truer than our holy faith:

‘Christ I worship, Christ alone:

‘Sire I the true God I declare,

‘And reject those gods, which are

‘No true gods, but wood and stone.

‘I despise thine every threat,

‘And thy mercy should regret;

‘Therefore, torturer ! rend and tear !’

Then the prefect, big with wrath,

Fierce as wild beast in the path,

Cruel tortures doth prepare.

He, upon the iron horse

Lifting him without remorse.

Racks him with long-lasting pain,

Till an iron heated frame.

Hissing with devouring flame.

Tears him from the rack again.

From its crossbars taken down.

Into prison is he thrown

On some potsherds’ broken ends:

Whose sharp points to him appear

Sweetness with sweet flowers to share,

Till his soul to heaven ascends.

Forth to wild beasts is he cast;

They behold; they stand aghast;

By a bird is he watched o’er:

Sailors plunged him in the deep;

At his loss for joy they leap.

But his corpse now reaches shore.

Thus, victorious every way,

Heaven and earth his power obey:

Let the Church rejoice and sing !

‘Tis a day of victory,

‘Tis a day of jubilee.

Which this feast to us doth bring.

Martyr ! in thy blood, we pray.

Wash thou all our sins away,

And primeval joys restore;

That, thus cleansed from sin’s alloy,

We may in thy glory joy

With all saints for evermore ! Amen.”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, your deacon Vincent, upheld by you, was not terrified by threats nor overcome by torments:  Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

23 January.  Phillips Brooks, Bishop (1835-1893).  Writing about Phillips Brooks in 1930, William Lawrence, who as a young man had known him, began, “Phillips Brooks was a leader of youth …. His was the spirit of adventure, in thought, life, and faith.”  To many who know him only as the author of “O little town of Bethlehem,” this part of Brooks’ life and influence is little known.  Born in Boston, Phillips Brooks began his ministry in Philadelphia.  His impressive personality and his eloquence immediately attracted attention.  After ten years in Philadelphia, he returned to Boston as rector of Trinity Church, which was destroyed in the Boston fire three years later.  It is a tribute to Brooks’ preaching, character, and leadership that in four years of worshiping in temporary and bare surroundings, the congregation grew and flourished.  The new Trinity Church was a daring architectural enterprise for its day, with its altar placed in the center of the chancel, “a symbol of unity; God and man and all God’s creation,” and was a symbol of Brooks’ vision — a fitting setting for the greatest preacher of the century.  This reputation has never been challenged.  His sermons have passages that still grasp the reader, though they do not convey the warmth and vitality which so impressed his hearers.  James Bryce wrote, “There was no sign of art about his preaching, no touch of self-consciousness.  He spoke to his audience as a man might speak to his friend, pouring forth with swift, yet quiet and seldom impassioned earnestness, the thoughts of his singularly pure and lofty spirit.”  Brooks ministered with tenderness, understanding, and warm friendliness.  He inspired men to enter the ministry, and taught many of them the art of preaching.  He was conservative and orthodox in his theology; but his generosity of heart led him to be regarded as the leader of the liberal circles of the Church.  In 1891, he was elected Bishop of Massachusetts.  The force of his personality and preaching, together with his deep devotion and loyalty, provided the spiritual leadership needed for the time.  His constant concern was to turn his hearers’ thoughts to the revelations of God.  “Whatever happens,” he wrote, “always remember the mysterious richness of human nature and the nearness of God to each one of us.”

 

Excerpt from a sermon by Phillips Brooks, “The Christ in whom Christians Believe”:  “He said that the mysterious presence of those who had passed away, which all had known, was to culminate and be fulfilled in Him.  ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’  Wherever you ‘are together in my name, there am I.’  Words and words and words again like those He spoke, in which He declared that He was to be an everlasting presence among mankind, and therefore that which had taken place in the life of those disciples might forever take place; that that which Jesus had done in the days when He was present upon the earth should be continually repeated, in that He was forever to do that which He had been doing, giving Himself to human kind for their inspiration, for their elevation, for their correction, for their reproof, as He had been doing, their salvation, as He had been doing in those days in which He was here among them.  Men have believed that simply. They have recognized that word of Christ, and found the fulfilment of it in their own lives; and that has been the Christian religion, — just exactly what it was in the old days when Jesus was present in Jerusalem and Galilee.  Just exactly what men did then men have been doing in all the generations that have come since.  Just exactly what was possible then is possible for them now — that we may become the followers of that same Christ and the receivers through Him of the divine life, by which alone the human life is perfected and fulfilled.”

 

Collect:  O everlasting God, you revealed truth to your servant Phillips Brooks, and so formed and molded his mind and heart that he was able to mediate that truth with grace and power:  Grant, we pray, that all whom you call to preach the Gospel may steep themselves in your Word, and conform their lives to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

 

24 January.  Ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi, First Woman Priest (1907-1992).  Named by her father “much beloved daughter,” Li Tim-Oi was born in Hong Kong.  When she was baptized as a student, she chose the name of Florence in honor of Florence Nightingale.  Florence studied at Union Theological College in Guangzhou (Canton).  In 1938, upon graduation, she served in a lay capacity, first in Kowloon and then in nearby Macao.  In May 1941 Florence was ordained deaconess.  Some months later Hong Kong fell to Japanese invaders, and priests could not travel to Macao to celebrate the Eucharist.  Despite this setback, Florence continued her ministry.  Her work came to the attention of Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong, who decided that “God’s work would reap better results if she had the proper title” of priest.  On January 25, 1944, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Bishop Hall ordained her priest, the first woman so ordained in the Anglican Communion.  When World War II came to an end, Florence Li Tim-Oi’s ordination was the subject of much controversy.  She made the personal decision not to exercise her priesthood until it was acknowledged by the wider Anglican Communion.  Undeterred, she continued to minister with great faithfulness, and in 1947 was appointed rector of St. Barnabas Church in Hepu where, on Bishop Hall’s instructions, she was still to be called priest.  When the Communists came to power in China in 1949, Florence undertook theological studies in Beijing to further understand the implications of the Three-Self Movement (self-rule, self-support, and self-propagation) which now determined the life of the churches.  She then moved to Guangzhou to teach and to serve at the Cathedral of Our Savior.  However, for sixteen years, from 1958 onwards, during the Cultural Revolution, all churches were closed.  Florence was forced to work first on a farm and then in a factory.  Accused of counterrevolutionary activity, she was required to undergo political re-education.  Finally, in 1974, she was allowed to retire from her work in the factory.  In 1979 the churches reopened, and Florence resumed her public ministry.  Then, two years later, she was allowed to visit family members living in Canada.  While there, to her great joy, she was licensed as a priest in the Diocese of Montreal and later in the Diocese of Toronto, where she finally settled, until her death on February 26, 1992.

 

Collect:  Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much-beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of a priest in our Communion.  By the grace of your Spirit inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

25 January.  Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle.  Paul, or Saul as he was known until he became a Christian, was a Roman citizen, born at Tarsus, in present-day Turkey.  He was brought up as an orthodox Jew, studying in Jerusalem for a time under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi of the day.  Describing himself, he said, “I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).  A few years after the death of Jesus, Saul came in contact with the new Christian movement, and became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy.”  Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen.  He was on the way to Damascus to lead in further persecution of the Christians when his dramatic conversion took place.  From that day, Paul devoted his life totally to Christ, and especially to the conversion of Gentiles.  The Acts of the Apostles describes the courage and determination with which he planted Christian congregations over a large area of the land bordering the eastern Mediterranean.  His letters, the earliest of Christian writings, reveal him as one of the greatest of the interpreters of Christ’s mind, and as the founder of Christian theology.  He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  Paul describes himself as small and insignificant in appearance:  “His letters are weighty and strong,” it was said of him, “but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Corinthians 10:10).  He writes of having a disability which he had prayed God to remove from him, and quotes the Lord’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, Paul went on to say, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9).  Paul is believed to have been martyred at Rome in the year 64 under Nero.

 

From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop:  “For Love of Christ, Paul Bore Every Burden.  Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable.  Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him.  He summed up his attitude in the words:  I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead.  When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy:  Rejoice and be glad with me!  And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said:  I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution.  These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.  Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all:  Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us!  This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honors, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil.  The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him.  Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.  The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ.  Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers.  He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.  To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings.  Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.  Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field.  As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats.  Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.”

 

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

translated by Digby S. Wrangham:

“Let us joy, that Savior praising,

Hope in sinners’ bosoms raising,

That they pardon will obtain,

When He Saul severely chided,

And, converted, called and guided

Back to Mother-Church again.

Saul, still threats and slaughter breathing,

With blood-thirsty purpose seething,

‘Gainst the Lord’s disciples tried.

Powers obtained for apprehending

And, when bound, with torture rending

Those who served the Crucified.

As he journeyed, Jesus struck him

To the earth, and, to rebuke him,

With His radiance made him blind;

Till, once more his feet regaining,

He, a guiding hand obtaining,

In a lodging is confined.

He laments, fasts, prays, believeth.

Is baptized, his sight receiveth;

Changed to Paul that Saul became

Who had been our flock’s oppressor;

Paul, henceforth our law’s professor,

Into Paul thus changed his name.

Therefore, Paul, the Gentiles’ teacher !

Chosen vessel ! as our preacher,

Light on our dark hearts outpour;

And, for us thy prayers employing,

Life for us obtain, destroying

Death that lasteth evermore ! Amen.”

 

Collect:  O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world:  Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

26 January.  Timothy, Titus, and Silas, Companions of St. Paul.  Timothy and Silas are mentioned in The Acts of the Apostles.  Timothy’s father was Greek and his mother a Jewish believer.  Paul chose him as a companion for his mission to Asia Minor but had him circumcised because the “Jews who were in those places” knew that his father was a Greek (Acts 16:1–3).  Timothy undertook missions to the Thessalonians, Corinthians and the Ephesians.  Eusebius counts him as the first bishop of that city.  Silas is known by his Latinized name Silvanus when Paul cites him as his companion along with Timothy (1 & 2 Thes 1:1).  He was a prophet in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22–35), but also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37–8).  He went with Paul and Barnabas to deliver the decision of the apostolic council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1–21) that Gentile believers did not have to observe the law of Moses.  Paul chose Silas to accompany him on missions to Asia Minor and Macedonia where he may have remained after Paul left (Acts 15:41–18:5).  Tradition has it that he died there after some years of missionary work.  Titus, a Greek, accompanied Paul to Jerusalem for the apostolic council.  During Paul’s third missionary journey Titus was sent on missions to Corinth from which he gave Paul encouraging reports (2 Cor 7:13–15). Paul, who calls him: “my true child in the common faith” (Titus 1:14) left him to organize the church in Crete (Titus 1:5), and Eusebius reports that he was the first bishop there.  These three are celebrated on the day after the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul because of their close connections with him.  Though they were all young and inexperienced, they were entrusted with missions and matters that helped form the very life and history of the Church.  Faithfulness, love and devotion to Christ saw them through situations they could not have imagined.

 

From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop:  “I Have Fought the Good Fight.  Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven.  He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards.  Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift.  Reflect on what this means.  To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle.  Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities.  Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward.  Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.  But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant.”  I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us.  I need not think only of perils and hardships.  It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out:  Who is weak that I do not share the weakness?  Who is scandalized that I am not consumed with indignation?  I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.  Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward?  Then listen to Paul himself:  I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day – and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming.  You see how he calls all to share the same glory?  Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.  In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces.  We should also realize that he shares our nature in every respect.  If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown.  This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.”

 

Collect:  Just and merciful God, in every generation you raise up prophets, teachers and witnesses to summon the world to honor and praise your holy Name:  We thank you for sending Timothy, Titus and Silas, whose gifts built up your Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Grant that we too may be living stones built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

27 January.  Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Witnesses.  The commemoration of these three devout women follows directly on the observance of three of Paul’s male co-workers in the Lord.  It is a reminder that though the first century was a patriarchal time from which we have very few women’s voices, the apostles and indeed the whole early church depended on women for sustenance, protection and support.  Lydia was Paul’s first European convert.  She was a Gentile woman in Philippi who, like many others, was attracted to Judaism.  As what the Jewish community called a “God-fearer” she was undoubtedly accorded respect by the Jewish community, but still would have been marginalized.  Paul encountered her on a riverbank where she and a group of women had gathered for Sabbath prayers.  Undoubtedly Paul preached his gospel of inclusiveness to them and Lydia “opened her heart” and, together with the whole household of which she was head, was baptized.  Lydia was a prosperous cloth-merchant and a person of means.  She was able to lodge Paul, Timothy, and other of his companions in her house, which Paul used as a local base of operations (Acts 16: 11-40).  Phoebe was the apparent patroness of the Christian community in Cenchreae near Corinth.  She is the first person mentioned in the long list of Paul’s beloved associates in Chapter 16 of Romans.  Paul refers to her as a “sister”, as a “deacon” and as a “patroness” or “helper” of many.  In other words, Paul includes her as part of his family in Christ and infers that she has housed and provided legal cover for the local church.  Paul’s use of the word “deacon” should be used with caution since the diaconate as an order had not yet developed in the church, but it does suggest the kind of ministry out of which the notion of ordained deacons developed.  It would not be too much to call her a “proto-deacon”.  Dorcas (Tabitha in Aramaic), was a revered disciple in Joppa who devoted herself to “good works and acts of charity.”  When she fell ill and died, the community sent for Peter who came and after prayer, revived her (Acts 9:36-42).  Though we have no record of the words of these three women, the apostolic testimony to their faith and their importance to the mission of the early church speaks for itself.

 

Collect:  Filled with your Holy Spirit, gracious God, your earliest disciples served you with the gifts each had been given:  Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity, and Phoebe as a deacon who served many.  Inspire us today to build up your Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

28 January.  Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Theologian (1225-1274).  Thomas Aquinas is the greatest theologian of the high Middle Ages, and, next to Augustine, perhaps the greatest theologian in the history of Western Christianity.  Born into a noble Italian family, he entered the new Dominican Order of Preachers, and soon became an outstanding teacher in an age of intellectual ferment.  Perceiving the challenges that the recent rediscovery of Aristotle’s works might entail for traditional Christian doctrine, especially in its emphasis upon empirical knowledge derived from reason and sense perception, independent of faith and revelation, Thomas asserted that reason and revelation are in basic harmony. “Grace” (revelation), he said, “is not the denial of nature” (reason), “but the perfection of it.”  This synthesis Thomas accomplished in his greatest works, the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles, which even today continue to exercise profound influence on Christian thought and philosophy.  He was considered a bold thinker, even a “radical,” and certain aspects of his thought were condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities.  His canonization on July 18, 1323, vindicated him.  Thomas understood God’s disclosure of his Name, in Exodus 3:14, “I Am Who I Am,” to mean that God is Being, the Ultimate Reality from which everything else derives its being.  The difference between God and the world is that God’s essence is to exist, whereas all other beings derive their being from him by the act of creation.  Although, for Thomas, God and the world are distinct, there is, nevertheless, an analogy of being between God and the world, since the Creator is reflected in his creation.  It is possible, therefore, to have a limited knowledge of God, by analogy from the created world.  On this basis, human reason can demonstrate that God exists; that he created the world; and that he contains in himself, as their cause, all the perfections which exist in his creation.  The distinctive truths of Christian faith, however, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, are known only by revelation.  Thomas died just under fifty years of age.  In 1369, on January 28, his remains were transferred to Toulouse.  In addition to his many theological writings, he composed several eucharistic hymns.  They include “O saving Victim” and “Now, my tongue, the mystery telling.”

 

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas:  “The Cross Exemplifies Every Virtue.  Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us?  There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way:  in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.  It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ.  Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives.  Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.  If you seek the example of love:  “Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends.”  Such a man was Christ on the cross.  And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.  If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross.  Great patience occurs in two ways:  either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid.  Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth.  Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great.  In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.  If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.  If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death.  For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.  If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.  Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because “they divided my garments among themselves.”  Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourging.  Nor to greatness of rank, for ‘weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head.’  Nor to anything delightful, for ‘in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.’”

 

Collect:  Almighty God, you have enriched your Church with the singular learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas:  Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars, and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

29 JanuaryAndrei Rublev, Monk and Iconographer (1360-1430).  Generally acknowledged as Russia’s greatest iconographer, Andrei Rublev was born around near Moscow.  While very young he entered the monastery of The Holy Trinity and in 1405, with the blessing of his of abbot, he transferred to the Spaso-Andronikov monastery where he received the tonsure and studied iconography with Theophanes the Greek and the monk Daniel.  Among his most revered works are those in the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir.  The icon (“image” in Greek) is central to Orthodox spirituality.  It finds its place in liturgy and in personal devotion.  An icon is two-dimensional and, despite being an image of someone, it is not a physical portrait.  Western art, especially since the Renaissance, has sought to represent figures or events so that the viewer might better imagine them.  A western crucifix seeks to enable us to imagine what Golgotha the divine unmediated by the human, historical imagination.  For Andrei, writing an icon was a spiritual exercise.  It involved the ritual of preparing the surface, applying the painted and precious metal background and then creating the image, first outlining it in red.  Throughout he would repeatedly say the “Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me”).  He was creating a window into the Divine which he knew was always before him but which was invisible to the human eye.  He knew he was able to create such an image of God because he himself was made in the image of God.  His object was to be totally focused on receiving God’s love and loving in return.  He died peacefully in 1430.  As Jesus was the icon of God, so each one of us is also.  Ascetic practice aims at freeing that image from sinful distraction and claiming it more and more.  To venerate an icon is to find some of the ineffable beauty that is God, that is manifest in Christ and the saints, and is also in each one of us.

 

Collect:  Holy God, we bless you for the gift of your monk and icon writer Andrei Rublev, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provided a window into heaven for generations to come, revealing the majesty and mystery of the holy and blessed Trinity; who lives and reigns through ages of ages.  Amen.

 

31 January.  John Bosco, Priest (1815-1888).  Giovanni Bosco was born near Turin, Italy.  His father died when he was two, leaving his mother to provide marginal subsistence for the family.  He showed a remarkably sweet and kind disposition, which put him at odds with many of the rough boys with whom he grew up.  When he was nine, he received a vision.  Christ and the Blessed Virgin encouraged him to be kind, obedient, and hard-working, and a great future would be shown him.  Don Bosco always counted this as the beginning of his vocation.  Giovanni was fascinated by the traveling circuses which visited his region and went about learning to juggle, walk a tightrope and do magic tricks.  He put on local “shows” which drew both children and adults.  The “price” of admission to these exhibitions was time spent at the end of the show saying prayers together.  With help from some patrons who recognized his intelligence and talent, he attended seminary and when ordained took an appointment as chaplain to a girls boarding school.  Don Bosco was not satisfied ministering only to well-to-do young women.  In time, every Sunday and feast day the campus filled up with ragamuffin boys who came for catechism, basic schooling and supervised play.  The raucous energy of the boys scandalized the school and Don Bosco was fired.  In 1846 he was able to open an orphanage and put the new work under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales.  With the help of an assistant priest and some seminarians he had groomed from among his boys, he formed the Salesian Order.  This order, grudgingly admired by secular politicians, was recognized by the Pope and grew to include women religious, lay brothers, and dedicated laity, operating orphanages, vocational schools and nighttime primary schools for working people.  Don Bosco summed up his theory of education: “Every education teaches a philosophy by suggestion, implication, atmosphere.  Every part has a connection with every other part.  If it does not combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all.”

 

From the Spiritual Testament by Saint John Bosco  “I Have Always Labored Out of Love.  First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfill their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people.  I have always labored lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal.  And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.  My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth.  It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him.  Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys.  We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.  I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts.  They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.  See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness.  It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.  Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons.  Let us place ourselves in their service.  Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority.  Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.  This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles.  He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity.  He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to hope for God’s mercy.  And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.  They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.  There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips.  We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.  In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.”

 

Collect:  Compassionate God, you called John Bosco to be a teacher and father to the young:  Fill us with love like his, that we may give ourselves completely to your service and to the salvation of all; through your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

31 January.  Samuel Shoemaker, Priest (1893-1963).  Born in Baltimore, Sam Shoemaker was a highly influential priest of the Episcopal Church and is remembered for his empowerment of the ministry of the laity.  While attending Princeton University, Shoemaker came under the influence of several major evangelical thinkers, among them Robert Speer and John Mott.  After college he spent several years in China and came under the influence of Frank Buchman, founder of The Oxford Group, a group initially oriented toward the personal evangelization of the wealthy and influential.  Although he would eventually break from Buchman, aspects of the Oxford Group’s approach would influence Shoemaker for the rest of his life.  Training for the priesthood at The General Seminary, Shoemaker became an Episcopal priest in 1921.  After a brief curacy and further involvement with student ministry at Princeton, Shoemaker was called in 1925 to become the Rector of Calvary Church, New York City, a post he held for sixteen years.  During his tenure, Calvary’s ministry grew exponentially, largely through Shoemaker’s ability to hold in creative tension the power of personal evangelism and giving authentic witness to one’s faith while remaining faithful to the liturgical and sacramental traditions of the church.  Two significant movements—Faith at Work and Alcoholics Anonymous—have their roots in Shoemaker’s work at Calvary Church, New York City.  Faith at Work, founded in 1926, grew out of Shoemaker’s passion for personal witness in the workplace.  In the 1940’s, the movement became increasingly ecumenical and many of the leaders of spiritual renewal in mainstream American evangelicalism have connections to Shoemaker’s Faith at Work movement.  Also during Shoemaker’s tenure at Calvary, New York, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded.  Although Shoemaker did not create A.A., his work provided the foundation, based upon principles he learned earlier from the Oxford Group, for the need to be recognized and the movement to flourish.  Much of the teaching upon which A.A. is built bears the unmistakable influence of Shoemaker who is generally regarded as the spiritual mentor of the movement.  Later in life, Shoemaker served as Rector of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh.

 

Collect:  Holy God, we thank you for the vision of Samuel Shoemaker, priest and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous; and we pray that we may follow his example to help others find salvation through knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.