Richard Baxter, Pastor and Teacher of the Faith, 1691

after Robert White,painting,(1670)

Born in 1615 at Rowton, Shropshire, Richard Baxter was largely self-educated. He studied first at the free school of Wroxeter, next under the nominal tutelage of Richard Wickstead, Chaplain at Ludlow Castle, and finally in 1633 under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels. In disgust at the frivolity of the Court of King Charles the First he returned home to study divinity, particularly the medieval Scholastic theologians. In 1634 he came into intimate contact with two devout nonconformist divines, who awakened his sympathies for the positive elements in dissent.

In 1638 he was ordained by John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester, and in 1639 nominated assistant minister at Bridgnorth, where he remained for two years, increasing his knowledge of the issues between nonconformity and the Church of England. After the promulgation of the Et Cetera Oath (an oath of conformity henceforth to the polity of the Church of England, “by archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, et cetera, as it stands now established”) in 1640, he rejected belief in episcopacy (the ministry of bishops) in the form extant in England at the time.

In 1641 he became curate of the incumbent of Kidderminster (meaning that he became assistant priest to the rector or pastor there), where among a population of hand-loom workers he continued to minister with remarkable success until 1660. So far as possible he ignored the differences between presbyterians, episcopalians, and congregationalists, and secured cooperation among the local ministers in common pastoral work. In the early part of the Civil War he temporarily joined the Parliamentary Army as a chaplain. A champion of moderation, he was opposed to the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 (the agreement which bound together the Churches of England and Scotland and eliminated episcopacy) and also disliked Oliver Cromwell’s religious views. After the Battle of Naseby (June 14, 1645) he became chaplain to Colonel Edward Whalley’s regiment, seeking to counteract the sectaries and to curb republican tendencies. On leaving the army in 1647 he retired for a time to Rous Lench, where he wrote his devotional classic, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650).

In 1660 he played a prominent part in the recall of King Charles the Second to England and was appointed a chaplain to the King, but his dissatisfaction with episcopacy led him to decline Charles’ offer of the bishopric of Hereford. He took a prominent part at the Savoy Conference (1661), at which English bishops and Presbyterian divines gathered for review and revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Baxter prepared his “Reformed Liturgy” for the conference, and he presented there his “Exceptions” to the Book of Common Prayer. Because he would not take an oath to conform to the new Act of Uniformity in religion, Baxter, along with several hundred other nonconforming ministers, was removed from his living (pastorate) in 1662. Between 1662 and 1687 the nonconforming ministers endured legal persecution and were not permitted to hold any ecclesiastical office or living. Baxter died on December 8, 1691.

Baxter left nearly 200 writings, which breathe a spirit of deep unaffected piety and reflect his love of moderation. The Reformed Pastor (1656) illustrates the great care he took in his pastoral administration. He also wrote several hymns, among them “Ye holy angels bright” and “He wants not friends that hath Thy love”.

adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church and other sources

The Collect

Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Richard Baxter, who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by your grace enter that everlasting rest which you have prepared for all those who set their hope on Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The image of Baxter is after a painting by Robert White (1670).

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 397

Ambrose was born at Trier, the son of the Praetorian Prefect of Gaul. Following education at Rome and a traditional administrative career, he practiced in the lawcourts and in due course was appointed governor of Aemilia-Liguria, with his seat at Milan. On the death in 373 or 374 of Auxentius, the Arian bishop of Milan, Ambrose became involved in the election of his successor as a mediator between the battling factions of Arians and catholic (orthodox) Christians. The election was an important one in the struggle between the adherents of Nicene orthodoxy and the adherents of the Arian heresy because of the significance of the provincial capital city in northern Italy.

Ambrose exhorted the nearly riotous mob to keep the peace and to obey the law. The Milanese laity of both sides suddenly raised the cry, “Ambrose shall be our bishop!” Though brought up in a Christian family, Ambrose was not yet baptized, but was still a catechumen. After initial resistance, he accepted his popular election to the episcopate of the city, was baptized and ordained bishop on December 7. He devoted himself to the study of theology, perhaps under the guidance of Simplicianus, who later succeeded Ambrose as bishop of Milan.

Ambrose rapidly won renown as a defender of Nicene orthodoxy against Arianism and as a great and respected churchman. He wrote straightforward, practical discourses to catechize his people in such matters of doctrine as baptism, the Trinity, the eucharist, and the Person of Christ. About baptism, Ambrose wrote: “After the font (of baptism), the Holy Spirit is poured on you, ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the spirit of holy fear'” (De Sacramentis 3.8).

Apart from De Sacramentis, his most notable work is De Officiis Ministrorum, a treatise on Christian ethics, based on Cicero, with special reference to the clergy. Knowledge of Greek enabled him to introduce much Eastern theology into the West. He also wrote on ascetical subjects and did much to encourage monasticism and the veneration of martyrs in northern Italy. His persuasive preaching was an important factor in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo.

In his dealings with the Roman emperors of his day, Ambrose asserted a remarkable degree of authority. He persuaded Gratian to refuse a hearing to those who objected to the removal of the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome and threatened ecclesiastical sanctions against Valentinian the Second if he restored it. He excommunicated Theodosius for a massacre of several thousand citizens of Salonika (Thessalonika) in 390, forcing the emperor to do public penance for the slaughter. With equal strength he asserted the independence of the Church from imperial control, refusing to cede a basilica to Valentinian’s Arian protégés and protesting against the action of the Gallic bishops in involving Maximus in the execution of Priscillian as a heretic in the year 386.

Ambrose was also a skilled hymnodist, introducing antiphonal chanting to enrich the liturgy of the Church of Milan. It was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church. Those hymns universally attributed to him include Veni redemptor gentium (“Come, thou redeemer of the earth”, “Savior of the nations, come”), the hymn for the first vespers of the Nativity (on Christmas Eve) in the Sarum Use, as well as three other hymns for the daily office. Hymns also attributed to him by later Benedictine editors include Splendor paternae gloriae (“O splendor of God’s glory bright”), Aeterna Christi munera (“The eternal gifts of Christ the King”), and O lux beata Trinitas (“O Trinity of blessed light”).

A meditation attributed to him includes these words: “Lord Jesus Christ, you are for me medicine when I am sick; you are my strength when I need help; you are life itself when I fear death; you are the way when I long for heaven; you are light when all is dark; you are my food when I need nourishment.”

prepared from material in Lesser Feasts and Fasts
and The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Collect

O God, you gave your servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

_________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, are published on the Lectionary page website.

The icon of Saint Ambrose of Milan is from Aidan Hart’s gallery of Western Orthodox saints and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342

Very little is known about the life of Nicholas, except that he was the bishop of Myra, on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor in what is now Turkey, and that he suffered torture and imprisonment during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. It is possible that he was one of the bishops attending the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 (though he is not in any of the early lists of bishops present at the Council). Tradition holds that he was a defender of orthodoxy against Arianism. According to one legend, he was censured by the emperor Constantine after he dealt Arius a blow to the head during a session of the Council of Nicaea, his patience having been sorely tried by Arius’ behavior during the Council.

He was honored as a saint in Constantinople by the late sixth century by the Emperor Justinian, who in 580 dedicated a church to Nicholas in that city. His veneration became immensely popular in the West after the supposed removal of his body to Bari, Italy, in the late eleventh century (the three ships in which his relics were brought from Myra to to the seaport of Bari play a role in the Christmas carol, “I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning”). In England almost 400 churches were dedicated to Nicholas, and there have perhaps been more churches and chapels dedicated to him throughout the world than to any other saint.

Nicholas is famed as the patron of Russia and Greece, the guardian of virgins and poor maidens, the protector of travelers, sailors, and merchants. He is also the patron of many towns and cities, including Bari, Venice, Freiburg, and Galway. In modern times he is perhaps best known as the protector and benefactor of children. One of the best known of the legendary narratives which demonstrate Nicholas’ love for God and for his neighbor is the story of his provision of dowries for three unmarried young women. The story is told that the father did not have money sufficient for their dowries, so on three successive nights Nicholas threw a bag of money through an open window, thus providing dowries for the man’s three daughters and probably saving them from lives of shame and prostitution.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints,
and the New Book of Festivals & Commemorations (Philip H. Pfatteicher, Fortress Press 2008)

The Collect

Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon of St Nicholas of Myra was written by Helen McIldowie-Jenkins and is reproduced here with her generous permission.

1 Comment

Filed under Commemorations

Channing Moore Williams, Missionary Bishop to China and Japan, 1910

Bishop Williams, a Virginia farmer’s son, was born in Richmond on July 18, 1829, and was brought up in financially straitened circumstances by his widowed mother. He attended the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Ordained deacon in 1855, he offered himself for work in China, where he was ordained priest in 1857. Two years later, he was sent to Japan and opened work in Nagasaki. His first convert was baptized in 1866, the year he was chosen bishop for both China and Japan.

After 1868, he decided to concentrate all his work on Japan, following the Meiji Restoration that restored imperial rule to Japan and lead to great social and political changes that opened Japan to renewed contact with the Western world. Relieved of his responsibility for China in 1874, Williams made his base at Edo (now Tokyo), where he founded a divinity school, later to become St Paul’s University. At a synod in 1887 he helped bring together the English and American missions to form the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Holy Catholic Church of Japan, when the Church there numbered fewer than a thousand communicants.

Williams translated parts of the Prayer Book into Japanese, and he was a close friend and warm supporter of Bishop Samuel Isaac Schereschewsky, his successor in China, in the latter’s arduous work of translating the Bible into Chinese.

After resigning his jurisdiction in 1889, Bishop Williams stayed in Japan to help his successor there, Bishop John McKim, who was consecrated in 1893. Williams lived in Kyoto and continued to work in the opening of new mission stations until his return to America in 1908. He died in Richmond on December 2, 1910.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty and everliving God, we thank you for your servant Channing Moore Williams, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of China and Japan. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for Channing Moore Williams, Missionary Bishop to China and Japan, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, 1637

A native of London, in 1605 Nicholas Ferrar entered Clare Hall, Cambridge, where he was one of the most brilliant of his generation. In 1610 he was elected a Fellow. Leaving the damp air of Cambridge in 1613 because of ill health, he entered the service of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James the First and wife of the Elector Palatine Frederick V. Within a month of arriving on the Continent, he decided to leave the Princess’ service and spent the next five years traveling widely, visiting the Netherlands, Austria, Bohemia, and other German principalities, Italy and Spain, learning to speak Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish. He studied at Leipzig and at Padua, where he undertook studies at the famous medical school. In the course of his travels he met Reformed, Lutherans, Anabaptists and Roman Catholics, including Jesuits and Oratorians, as well as Jews, broadening his religious education. Returning to England in 1618 after a vision that he was needed at home, he was employed by the Virginia Company, becoming Deputy Treasurer in 1622. Shortly before the dissolution of the Company in 1624, he was elected to Parliament, but the contemporary politics and his religious aspirations determined him to give up the career which he had begun.

In 1625 he settled at Little Gidding, an estate in Huntingdonshire, and was joined there by his immediate family and a few friends and servants who together established a common life. In 1626 Ferrar was ordained deacon by Bishop William Laud, and under Ferrar’s direction this household lived a life of prayer and work. They restored the derelict church near the manor house, became responsible for services there, taught many of the local children, and looked after the health and well-being of the people of the neighborhood. A regular round of prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer was observed (there was always a member of the household at prayer), along with the daily recitation of the whole of the Psalter. The members of the household community became widely known for fasting, private prayer and meditation, and for writing stories and books illustrating themes of Christian faith and morality. The community’s piety and ideals, thoroughly biblical and founded on the Prayer Book, were warmly approved by the Bishop of Lincoln. King Charles the First visited Little Gidding and was greatly impressed by their life. (One of the activities of the Little Gidding community was the preparation of harmonies of the Gospels, one of which was presented to the King by the Ferrar family.) Nicholas Ferrar died on December 4, 1637.

The community did not long survive Nicholas Ferrar’s death, having incurred the hostility of the Puritans, who contemptuously called it a “protestant nunnery”. But Nicholas’ brother John and sister Susanna Collett kept up the life of prayer and work established at Little Gidding until their deaths in 1657. The memory of the religious life at Little Gidding was thereafter kept alive, principally through Izaak Walton’s description in his Life of George Herbert: “He (Ferrar) and his family…did most of them keep Lent and all Ember-weeks strictly, both in fasting and using all those mortifications and prayers that the Church hath appointed…and he and they did the like constantly on Fridays, and on the vigils or eves appointed to be fasted before the Saints’ days; and this frugality and abstinence turned to the relief of the poor….”

The community at Little Gidding was not a religious community in a conventional sense. They did not live according to a formal Rule and no vows were taken. They were instead more strictly a Christian household ordering their common life by the Book of Common Prayer according to early 17th century High Church principles.

The life of the Little Gidding community inspired T.S. Eliot, who gave the title, “Little Gidding”, to the last of his Four Quartets.

The Collect

Lord God, make us worthy of your perfect love; that, with your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Saint Andrew the Apostle

Andrew, whose name means “manly”, was the brother of Simon Peter and was born in Bethsaida, a village of Galilee. The Gospel according to John tells us that Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of the two disciples who followed Jesus after John had declared of him, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Andrew and the other disciple followed Jesus, and Andrew’s first act afterward was to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. For this reason, Andrew is given the title “the First-Called” by the Eastern Churches.

Though Andrew was not a part of the inner circle of disciples – Peter, James, and John, he is always named in the lists of the disciples. In Matthew and Luke, his name appears second, while in Mark and in the Acts of the Apostles he is listed after Peter, James, and John, as fourth in the list in company with Philip. Andrew appears prominently in several incidents in the Gospels. Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and in the Gospel according to Matthew Jesus calls them from their occupation, and they immediately respond to his call. Andrew was the disciple who brought the boy with the loaves and the fishes to Jesus for the feeding of the multitude.

The fourth century historian and bishop Eusebius writes that after Pentecost, Andrew preached in Scythia. Jerome and Theodoret locate his preaching in Greece (Achaia), and Nicephorus places him in Asia Minor and Thrace. The late second century Muratorian Fragment connects him with the writing of the Gospel according to John. A late tradition holds that he was martyred on November 30, c. 70 at Patras in Achaia. An ancient church still stands over the traditional site of his martyrdom. The earliest mention of his being crucified on an X-shaped (“Greek”) cross is from the tenth century. This tradition accounts for the X-shaped cross of St Andrew that appears in medieval and Renaissance iconography.

St Andrew’s body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople in 357 and later translated to the cathedral in Amalfi, Italy. The patriarchate of Constantinople grounds its claim to be an apostolic see (like Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome) on the tradition of his having been the first bishop of the Church at Byzantium, the older town which the emperor Constantine enlarged to found Constantinople. The Churches of Greece and Russia particularly give high honor to St Andrew, and because of a legend that certain of his relics were translated to St Andrew’s Church in Fife in the eighth century, he became a patron saint of Scotland (hence the appearance of the X-shaped Cross of St Andrew on the Scottish flag and on the British Union flag).

The feast of St Andrew was observed as early as the fourth century in the East and by the sixth century at Rome. The feast day determines the beginning of the Church year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St Andrew’s Day, whether before or after. In most liturgical books the sanctoral calendar begins with the commemoration of St Andrew the Apostle.

prepared from material from Lesser Feasts and Fasts
and from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations
(Philip H. Pfatteicher, Fortress Press)

The Collect

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Deuteronomy 30:11-14

[Moses said to the people of Israel] For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Psalm 19
Caeli enarrant

The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,

Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.

In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

The Epistle
Romans 10:8b-18

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

The Gospel
Matthew 4:18-22

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

__________________________________________________

The scripture texts for 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).

The icon of Saint Andrew the Apostle was written by and is © Aidan Hart and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Holy Days: Other Major Feasts

For All the Saints—redevivus

Beginning with the commemoration of Saint Andrew on November 30, For All the Saints will again be offering brief biographical sketches and propers for the commemorations that are to be found in the new Calendar of Holy Days and Commemorations in the Anglican Church in North America.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Commemorations, General