Category Archives: Saints

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c. 202

Irenaeus_of_Lyons_202

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Irenaeus! 

There is some doubt as the year of Irenaeus’ birth, with estimates varying from the years 97 to 160. Most authorities settle on a year around 130. Born in Asia Minor, Irenaeus learned the Christian faith from Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus later studied at Rome and then became a presbyter in the church at Lyons, at the invitation of its first bishop, Pothinus. Lyons, then known as Lugdunum, was a flourishing trade center that soon became the most important of its kind in the West, and the principal see in Gaul. During a sudden persecution which caused the imprisonment of many of the members of the church in Lyons, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to mediate a dispute regarding Montanism, a sect of enthusiasts whose teachings Eleutherus, the bishop of Rome, seemed to embrace. On his return to Lyons around 178, Irenaeus was elected bishop, as Pothinus had been killed during the persecution.

True to his name (which means, “the peaceable one”), he acted as mediator again in a dispute in 190. Victor, the bishop of Rome, had excommunicated the Quartodecimans (the “Fourteenthers”) of Asia Minor, who celebrated Easter on the same day as the Jewish Passover, the fourteenth day of Nisan, instead of on the Sunday following the fourteenth day of Nisan, with all other Christians. Irenaeus urged patience and conciliation, and a result of his intervention, good relations were restored. Some centuries later the Quartodecimans conformed to the practice of the catholic Church of their own accord.

Irenaeus’ enduring significance rests on his writings as a theologian, in particular a large treatise entitled, The Refutation and Overthrow of Gnosis, Falsely So-Called, usually shorted to Against the Heresies. In it, Irenaeus describes the major Gnostic systems of thought, thoroughly, clearly, and often with biting sarcasm. This treatise is one of our chief sources of knowledge about second century Gnosticism. He also makes a case for teaching authority in Christianity that has deeply influenced subsequent thought, resting primarily on Scripture (of which the four Gospels are supreme) and emphasizing the interpretive authority in the continuity between the teaching of the apostles and the teaching of bishops and presbyters in the churches, generation after generation, in a visible and public succession (as opposed to the secret handing on of Gnostic doctrines from teacher to disciples). Against the Gnostics, who despised the material and exalted the spiritual, Irenaeus stressed the doctrines of the goodness of creation and of the resurrection of the body. A quote from Irenaus:

If Jesus did have a special secret teaching, to whom would He entrust it? Clearly, to His disciples, to the Twelve, who were with Him constantly, and to whom he spoke without reservation (Mark 4:34). And was the teaching of the Twelve different from that of Paul? Here the Gnostics, and others since, have tried to drive a wedge between Paul and the original Apostles, but Peter writes of Paul in the highest terms (2 Peter 3:15), as one whose teaching is authentic. Again, we find Paul saying to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:27), that he has declared to them the whole counsel of God. Where, then, do we look for Christ’s authentic teaching? In the congregations that were founded by the apostles, who set trustworthy men in charge of them, and charged them to pass on the teaching unchanged to future generations through carefully chosen successors.

In his other major treatise, the Demonstration of Apostle Preaching (which was rediscovered only in 1904), he also sets out the case against Gnosticism. His principal points in this work are a clear reassertion of Christian monotheism, emphasizing the identity of the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New, and the unity of the Father and the Son in the work of revelation and redemption.

Irenaeus died at Lyons about the year 202 and was buried in the crypt of the church of Saint John (now Saint-Irenée). According to a late and uncertain tradition, he suffered martyrdom for the faith.

Taken from The Oxford Dictionary of Saintsand Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Almighty God, you upheld your servant Irenaeus with strength to maintain the truth against every blast of vain doctrine: Keep us, we pray, steadfast in your true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A mediation from St. Augustine looking towards Holy Week

Man’s maker was made man . . . that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey, that Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

St. Augustine, Sermons 191.1

icon cross Central Plaque of a Cross, ca. 1185–1195

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The Feast of St. John

This sonnet and short introduction is written by Malcolm Guite who is a poet that I follow online. I have shared his work with the church before. He has written many sonnets inspired by his life in Christ that help the church enter into the depth and beauty of their faith following the church calendar. Today is the feast of St. John.

A Sonnet for the Feast of St. John

Because it soars upward, the eagle is a symbol of the resurrection or ascension of Christ. By extension, the eagle symbolizes baptized Christians, who have symbolically died and risen with Christ.Especially when the eagle has a halo (as in the image above), it is the symbol of John the Evangelist. The eagle represents John because of his lofty and "soaring" gospel (it is much more theological in nature than the other three). All four gospels have a mascot associated with them.

Because it soars upward, the eagle is a symbol of the resurrection or ascension of Christ. By extension, the eagle symbolizes baptized Christians, who have symbolically died and risen with Christ.
Especially when the eagle has a halo (as in the image above), it is the symbol of John the Evangelist. The eagle represents John because of his lofty and “soaring” gospel (it is much more theological in nature than the other three). All four gospels have a mascot associated with them.

On the third day of Christmas falls the feast of St. John the Evangelist, and it is fitting that the Gospel writer whose prologue goes so deeply into the mystery of Incarnation, and whose words ‘The Word was made flesh’ are read at every Christmas Eucharist, should have his feast-day within the twelve days of Christmas.

In my sonnet sequence Sounding the Seasons I have gathered my sonnets for the four Evangelists into one sequence at the beginning. But here in its proper place in the liturgical year is my sonnet for St. John, the evangelist whose emblem is the Eagle. (for an account of the four emblems see here. I love John’s Gospel and you an hear the five talks I gave on Logos, Light, Life, Love and Glory in John’s Gospel via links on this page.)

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

John

This is the gospel of the primal light,

The first beginning, and the fruitful end,

The soaring glory of an eagle’s flight,

The quiet touch of a beloved friend.

This is the gospel of our transformation,

Water to wine and grain to living bread,

Blindness to sight and sorrow to elation,

And Lazarus himself back from the dead!

This is the gospel of all inner meaning,

The heart of heaven opened to the earth,

A gentle friend on Jesus’ bosom leaning,

And Nicodemus offered a new birth.

No need to search the heavens high above,

Come close with John, and feel the pulse of Love.

Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge. He is a priest, chaplain, teacher and author.

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Merry Christmas! The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Real Twelve Days of Christmas


Holy Family and the Trinity

Celebrating Christ’s birth with saints of the faith during the actual Christmas season.

by Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait

 

Sometime in November, as things now stand, the “Christmas season” begins. The streets are hung with lights, the stores are decorated with red and green, and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and the glories of Santa Claus. The excitement builds to a climax on the morning of December 25, and then it stops, abruptly. Christmas is over, the New Year begins, and people go back to their normal lives.

The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in twelve days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany. Exhortations to follow this calendar rather than the secular one have become routine at this time of year. But often the focus falls on giving Advent its due, with the Twelve Days of Christmas relegated to the words of a cryptic traditional carol. Most people are simply too tired after Christmas Day to do much celebrating.

The “real” twelve days of Christmas are important not just as a way of thumbing our noses at secular ideas of the “Christmas season.” They are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation means in our lives. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history—the entry of God into the world He made, in the form of a baby. The Logos through whom the worlds were made took up His dwelling among us in a tabernacle of flesh. One of the prayers for Christmas Day in the Catholic liturgy encapsulates what Christmas means for all believers: “O God, who marvelously created and yet more marvelously restored the dignity of human nature, grant that we may share the divinity of Him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” In Christ, our human nature was united to God, and when Christ enters our hearts, he brings us into that union.

To read the full article at Christianity Today follow this link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2004/dec24.html?start=3

Posted 8/08/2008 12:33PM on Christianity Today Blog

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The Feast of Stephen, Deacon, and Protomartyr

St_Stephen_Martyrdom26 December NT

All that we know about Stephen the Protomartyr (that is, the first martyr of the Christian Church) is found in chapters 6 and 7 of the Book of Acts.

The early Christian congregations, like the Jewish synagogues, had a program of assistance for needy widows, and some of the Greek-speaking Jews in the Jerusalem congregation complained that their widows were being neglected. The apostles replied: “We cannot both preach and administer financial matters. Choose seven men from among yourselves, respected, Spirit-filled, and of sound judgement, and let them be in charge of the accounts, and we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” The people accordingly chose seven men, including Stephen, and the apostles laid their hands on them. They are traditionally considered to be the first deacons, although the Scriptures do not use the word to describe them. (The Scriptures do refer to officials called deacons in the local congregations, without being very specific about their duties; and a century or more later, we find the organized charities of each local congregation in the hands of its deacons.)

Stephen was an eloquent and fiery speaker, and a provocative one. (Some readers have speculated that some of his fellow Christians wanted to put him in charge of alms in the hope that he would administer more and talk less.) His blunt declarations that the Temple service was no longer the means by which penitent sinners should seek reconciliation with God enraged the Temple leaders, who caused him to be stoned to death. As he died, he said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” One of those who saw the stoning and approved of it was Saul (or Paul) of Tarsus, who took an active part in the general persecution of Christians that followed the death of Stephen, but who was later led to become a Christian himself.

We remember Stephen on December 26, the day after Christmas. Hence the song

  Good King Wenceslas looked out
    On the feast of Stephen,

describes an action of the king on the day after Christmas Day. The tune used with this song is older than the words and was previously used with a hymn often sung on the feasts of Stephen and other martyrs. It begins:

  Christian friends, your voices raise.
    Wake the day with gladness.
  God himself to joy and praise
    turns our human sadness:
  Joy that martyrs won their crown,
    opened heaven's bright portal,
  when they laid the mortal down
    for the life immortal.

Prayer (traditional language)

We give thee thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to thy Son Jesus Christ, who standeth at thy right hand: where he liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

Prayer (contemporary language)

We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand: where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

Psalm 31 or 31:1-5
Jeremiah 26:1-9,12-15
Acts 6:8–7:2a,51c-60
Matthew 23:34-39 (Inc)

reposted from James Kiefer’s Christian Biographies 

http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/home.html

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ALL SAINTS’ DAY!

All Saints Icon

O God, the King of saints, we praise and glorify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear: for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all your other righteous servants, known to us and unknown; and we pray that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

The following post comes from Dr. Todd Granger’s blog. Todd was a member of All Saints Church and now is a member of Holy Trinity Chatham and maintains a blog on the saints. Visit it here

——-

The impulse of Christians to express the communion of the living and the dead in the Body of Christ by a commemoration of those who, having professed faith in the living Christ in former days, had entered into the nearer presence of their Lord, and especially of those who had crowned their witness by giving up their lives for sake of the Gospel of Christ, goes back to the early days of the Christian Church. Gregory Thaumaturgus (the Wonder Worker), writing before the year 270, refers to the observance of a festival of all martyrs, though he does not give a date. A century later, Ephrem the Deacon (†373) notes such an observance in Edessa on the thirteenth of May, and John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople (†407) writes that a festival of All Saints was observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Constantinople at the time of his episcopate, which remains the feast of All Saints in the Orthodox Churches to this day. In the West, a commemoration of All Saints became established with the rededication of the Pantheon at Rome – originally a pagan temple dedicated to “all the gods” – as a Christian church under the name Sancta Maria ad Martyres (Saint Mary and All Martyrs) by Pope Boniface the Fourth on the thirteenth of May in the year 610. In Ireland and England the focus of the day was slightly different. Some manuscripts of the Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee (fl. early ninth century) note a commemoration of All Martyrs on the seventeenth of April and of All Saints of Europe on the twentieth of April. The metrical English calendar (tenth century, probably from Winchester) also includes the latter commemoration. However, from about the year 800 the first of November gained in popularity as a commemoration of All Saints. Alcuin (†804) mentions the date in a letter of that year, and manuscripts of the Martyrology of Bede have it as a marginal addition at about the same time. Arno, bishop of Salzburg (†821), had it adopted by a synod in the year 798.

The date of the first of November is probably based on the dedication of a chapel in Saint Peter’s, Rome, for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world” by Pope Gregory the Third (†741). A November commemoration of All Saints was already widespread in Frankish lands during Charlemagne’s reign (†814). Pope Gregory the Fourth, under Gallican influence, ordered the observance of the first of November as a feast of All Saints, and by the early ninth century an English calendar (of Oxford) ranks the day as a principal feast. There were over twelve hundred ancient church dedications to All Saints in England, a number surpassed only by dedications to Saint Mary the Virgin.

All Saints’ Day has been preserved in all editions of the Book of Common Prayer, from 1549 onwards. In the 1979 Prayer Book, All Saints’ Day is classed as a Principal Feast, along with Easter Day, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany; and alone of the seven, All Saints’ Day may be observed on the Sunday following, in addition to its observance on its fixed date. It is also recognized as a baptismal feast, being one of the four recommended in the 1979 Prayer Book for the administration of Holy Baptism.

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980),
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, and other sources

The Collect

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Lesson
Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Psalm 34:1-10, 22
Benedicam Dominum

I will bless the LORD at all times; *
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

I will glory in the LORD; *
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD; *
let us exalt his Name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me *
and delivered me out of all my terror.

Look upon him and be radiant, *
and let not your faces be ashamed.

I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me *
and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him, *
and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; *
happy are they who trust in him!

Fear the LORD, you that are his saints, *
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *
but those who seek the LORD lack nothing that is good.

The LORD ransoms the life of his servants, *
and none will be punished who trust in him.

The Epistle
1 John 3:1-3

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

The Gospel
Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
___________________________________________________

The Lesson, Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

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All Hallow’s Eve; A Sonnet of reclamation

I am reposting from Malcolm Guite’s blog which I follow thanks to David Taylor. Click here to visit.

All Hallow’s Eve; A Sonnet of reclamation  

The dark is bright with quiet lives and steady lights undimmed

 

Even here in England, where the tradition is less strong, Hallowe’en seems to be creeping up on Christmas in the crass comercialism stakes! Halloween itself simply means the eve of all Hallows, and All Hallows is the Christian feast of All Souls, the day we remember all the souls who have gone before us into the light of Heaven. It is followed immediately on November 2nd by All Saints Day a day when we think particularly of those souls in bliss who, even in this life, kindled a light for us, or to speak more exactly, reflected for us and to us, the already-kindled light of Christ! It is good that we should have a season of the year for remembrance and a time when we feel that the veil between time and eternity is thin and we can sense that greater and wider communion of saints to which we belong. It is also good and right that the Church settled this feast on a time in the turning of the year when the pre-Christian Celtic religions were accustomed to think of and make offerings for the dead. But it was right that, though they kept the day, they changed the custom. The greatest and only offering, to redeem both the living and the dead, has been made by Christ and if we want to celebrate our loving connections we need only now make gifts to the living, as we do in offering sweets to the ‘trick or treaters’ in this season, and far more profoundly in exchanging gifts at Christmas.

Anyway given that both these seasons of hospitality and exchange have been so wrenched from their first purpose in order to sell tinsel and sweeties, I thought I might redress the balance a little and reclaim this season with a sonnet for All Souls/All Saints that remembers the light that shines in darkness, who first kindled it, and how we can all reflect it.

I am posting this sonnet now as some churches who keep the feast a little earlier, on this coming Sunday, the 28th, may wish to make use of sonnet. Do feel free to print the words or use the recording.

The image which follows this poem, and takes up one of its key lines, is byMargot Krebs Neale. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title.

All these sonnets are being published together this December by Canterbury Press in a book called Sounding the Seasons, which will be launched at St. Edward’s Church Cambridge on December 5th at 7:30pm.

 

All Saints

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards

Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,

It glances from the eyes, kindles the words

Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright

With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,

The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.

Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing

He weaves them with us in the web of being

They stand beside us even as we grieve,

The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,

Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above

The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,

To triumph where all saints are known and named;

The gathered glories of His wounded love.

‘Each shard still shines’ image by Margot Krebs Neale

 

About malcolm guite

Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge. He is a priest, chaplain, teacher and author of various essays and articles and a book about contemporary Christianity. He also plays in Cambridge rock band Mystery Train, and lectures widely in England and USA on poetry and theology.

 

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