Monthly Archives: September 2011

Saint Michael and All Angels

The scriptural word “angel” (Greek, angelos) means, literally, a messenger.  According to the biblical witness, angels, messengers from God, can be visible or invisible, and may assume human or nonhuman forms.  In his Church Dogmatics, the great Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth summarizes the section of the text on angels (“the ambassadors of God”) in this way:

God’s action in Jesus Christ, and therefore his lordship over his creature, is called “the kingdom of heaven” because first and supremely it claims for itself the upper world.  From this God selects and sends his messengers, the angels, who precede the revelation and doing of his will on earth as objective and authentic witnesses, who accompany it as faithful servants of God and man, and who victoriously ward off the opposing forms and forces of chaos.

Of the angels who appear in the biblical narrative, only four are given names:  Michael (Hebrew, “Who is like God?”) and Gabriel (“God is my strength”) are named in the canonical Scriptures; Raphael (“God heals”) in the deuterocanonical book of Tobit; and Uriel (“God is my light”)  in 2 Esdras and in the apocryphal Book of Enoch and the Testament of Solomon.  Michael appears in the Book of Daniel as “one of the chief princes” of the heavenly host and as the special guardian or protector of Israel (Daniel 10 and 12).  In the Book of Revelation he is the principal warrior of the heavenly host against the dragon, who was “thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12).  In the Epistle of Jude, Michael disputes with Satan over the body of Moses and declares, “The Lord rebuke you.”  (The epistle may be citing a lost passage in the Assumption of Moses, an apocryphal Jewish book.)  The second-century Christian text Shepherd of Hermas depicts Michael as an angel of majestic aspect, who has authority over “this people and governs them, for it was he who gave them the law…and superintends those to whom he gave it to see if they have kept it.”  In the second-century Testament of Abraham Michael’s intercession is so powerful that souls can be rescued even from hell, a passage that may have inspired the offertory antiphon in the former Roman Liturgy for the Dead:  “May Michael the standard-bearer lead them into the holy light, which you promised of old to Abraham and his seed.”

The formal veneration of Michael began in the Christian East, where he was invoked particularly for the care of the sick.  A famous appearance of Michael at Mount Garganus (Monte Gargano) in Italy in the late fifth century was important in the spread of his veneration to the West.  The feast of Saint Michael on September 29 commemorates the dedication of his basilica on the Salarian Way near Rome.  From early times his veneration was strong in the British Isles, such that by the end of the Middle Ages in England, almost seven hundred churches were dedicated to him.  He is the patron of the monastery fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy and of Coventry Cathedral, England’s most famous modern cathedral, which was built out of the ashes of the devastation of that city during the Second World War.

prepared in part from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Lesson
Genesis 28:10-17

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Psalm 103
Benedic anima mea

Bless the LORD, O my soul, *
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, *
and forget not all his benefits.

He forgives all your sins *
and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave *
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things, *
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD executes righteousness *
and judgment for all who are oppressed.

He made his ways known to Moses *
and his works to the children of Israel.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us, *
nor will he keep his anger for ever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, *
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has he removed our sins from us.

As a father cares for his children, *
so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

For he himself knows whereof we are made; *
he remembers that we are but dust.

Our days are like the grass; *
we flourish like a flower of the field;

When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
and its place shall know it no more.

But the merciful goodness of the LORD
endures for ever on those who fear him, *
and his righteousness on children’s children;

On those who keep his covenant *
and remember his commandments and do them.

The LORD has set his throne in heaven, *
and his kingship has dominion over all.

Bless the LORD, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding, *
and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, *
you ministers of his who do his will.

Bless the LORD, all you works of his,
in all places of his dominion; *
bless the LORD, O my soul.

The Second Lesson
Revelation 12:7-12

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

The Gospel
John1:47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

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A hymn for Michaelmas

Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels,
maker of all things, ruler of all nations,
grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
steps up to heaven.

Send thine archangel Michael to our succor;
peacemaker blessed, may he banish from us
striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
all things may prosper.

Send thine archangel Gabriel, the mighty,
herald of heaven, may he, from us mortals,
drive every evil, watching o’er the temples
where thou are worshiped.

Send from the heaven Raphael thine archangel,
health-bringer blessed, aiding every sufferer,
that, in thy service, he may wisely guide us,
healing and blessing.

May the blest mother of our God and Savior,
may the celestial company of angels,
may the assembly of the saints in heaven,
help us to praise thee.

Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessed, hear our thankful praises,
thine is the glory which from all creation
ever ascendeth.

Rabanus Maurus (776-856); ver. Hymnal 1940, alt.

The images of the icons are taken from the website of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

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Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, 1626

A devoted scholar, hard-working and accurate, and a master of fifteen languages, Lancelot Andrewes was renowned for his learning and for his preaching, and was a seminal influence on the development of a distinctive reformed Catholic theology in the Church of England.  Born in the parish of All Hallows, Barking, Andrewes was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he was elected Fellow in 1576 and Catechist in 1580.   In 1589 he became Vicar of St Giles, Cripplegate, and Master of Pembroke Hall.  His incumbency at Cripplegate was attached to a prebend at St Paul’s Cathedral, where his remarkable preaching abilities first attracted notice.  In 1601 he became Dean of Westminster.  Under James the First (reigned 1603-1625), who held Andrewes in high esteem, he was made Bishop of Chichester in 1605, of Ely in 1609, and of Winchester in 1619.

A distinguished biblical scholar proficient in both Hebrew and Greek, in 1604 Andrewes attended the Hampton Court Conference and was appointed one of the translators of the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible.  He was largely responsible for the translation of the Pentateuch (the Books of Moses) and the historical Books (including the Chronicles and Kings).  Andrewes was involved in vigorous correspondence with Roman Catholic controversialists and critics of the Church of England, including Cardinal Bellarmine, and in this correspondence he gave a robust defense of the catholicity of the Church of England.

Andrewes died at Winchester House, Southwark, in 1626, on either the twenty-fifth or the twenty-sixth of September (the uncertainty of the date accounts for the variance among Anglican Churches in the date of his commemoration).  He was buried in the parish church which later became Southwark Cathedral.

Andrewes was one of the principal influences in the formation of a distinctly reformed Catholic Anglican theology, which in reaction to the rigidity of the Puritanism of his time, he insisted should be moderate in tone and catholic in content and perspective.  Convinced that true theology must be built on sound learning, he cultivated the friendship of such divines as Richard Hooker and George Herbert, as well as of scholars from abroad, including the French Reformed pastor-theologians Isaac Casaubon and Pierre du Moulin.  His aversion to Calvinism probably explains his absence from the Church of England’s delegation to the Synod of Dort in 1618.  Andrewes held a high doctrine of the Eucharist, emphasizing that in the sacrament we receive the true Body and Blood of Christ, and he consistently used sacrificial language of the rite.  He desired the Church of England to express its liturgy in ordered ceremonial and in his own chapel used the mixed chalice (wine and water), incense, and altar-lights (candles).

In his lifetime Andrewes’ fame rested particularly on his preaching.  He regularly preached at court on the greater Church festivals, being the favorite preacher of the King.  His “Ninety-Six Sermons”, first published in 1629, remain a classic of Anglican homiletical works.  The sermons are characterized by sophisticated verbal conceits, a minute (and to modern sensibilities overworked)  analysis of the text, and constant Greek and Latin quotations.  The noted Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky has written perceptively of the deeply patristic character of Andrewe’s theology in these sermons.

Andrewes was also a deeply devout man, and one of his most admired works is his Preces Privatae (“Private Devotions”), a collection of devotions, mainly in Greek, drawn from the Scriptures and from ancient liturgies, compiled for his personal use.  The Preces were translated in partial versions from 1630 onwards, and the first comprehensive edition was published in 1675.  The Preces illustrate Andrewes’ piety and throw light on the sources of his theology.

Andrewes was respected by many as the model of a bishop at a time when the episcopate was held in low esteem.  His student, John Hacket, later Bishop of Lichfield, wrote of him:

“Indeed he was the most Apostolical and Primitive-like Divine, in my Opinion, that wore a Rochet in his Age; of a most venerable Gravity, and yet most sweet in all Commerce; the most Devout that I ever saw, when he appeared before God; of such a Growth in all kind of Learning that very able Clerks were of a low Stature to him.”

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Lord and Father, our King and God, by your grace the Church was enriched by the great learning and eloquent preaching of your servant Lancelot Andrewes, but even more by his example of biblical and liturgical prayer: Conform our lives, like his, to the image of Christ, that our hearts may love you, our minds serve you, and our lips proclaim the greatness of your mercy; 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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Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew appears in the Gospels as a tax collector for the Roman government in the city of Capernaum.  He was probably born in Galilee of a Jewish family, although the Jews of the day despised tax collectors as traitors and collaborators with the Roman oppressors and generally excluded them from the activities of the Jewish community.  Pious Pharisees refused to marry into a family who had a tax collector as a member.  Yet in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus notes that it was the tax collector rather than the prideful Pharisee who prayed an acceptable prayer, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”, and went home justified.

In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Levi, not Matthew, is called to discipleship, but Matthew always appears in the lists of the twelve disciples.  In Mark and Luke, Matthew and Levi do not seem to be regarded as the same person; Origen and others distinguished between them as well.  However, it is sometimes suggested the Levi was his original name and that Matthew, which in Hebrew means “gift from God”, was given to him after he joined the followers of Jesus.  Mark calls him the son of Alphaeus, a man otherwise unknown and apparently not the Alphaeus who was the father of James the Less.

Since the second century the authorship of the first Gospel has been attributed to Saint Matthew.  The name Levi does not appear in this Gospel, and in the list of the twelve disciples the name Matthew, who is identified as “the tax collector” (“publican” in older translations), comes after that of Thomas, which it precedes in the other New Testament lists.

Little is known of Saint Matthew’s life beyond the story of his call, when at the word of Jesus he left his desk and devoted himself to following Jesus.  Tradition suggests that he was the oldest of the twelve disciples (and of the later Twelve Apostles).  The fourth-century bishop and historian Eusebius writes that after the Ascension Matthew preached for fifteen years in Judaea and then went to foreign nations.  Socrates Scholasticus writes that he labored in Ethiopia.  Ambrose of Milan sends him to Persia and Isidore of Seville to the Macedonians, while others hold that he preached among the Medes and the Persians.  Heracleon writes that Matthew died a natural death, but later tradition makes him a martyr, dramatizing his death by fire or the sword.

prepared from The New Book of Festivals and Commemoration
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Lesson
Proverbs 3:1-6

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.

So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

The Psalm
Legem pone

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, *
and I shall keep it to the end.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *
I shall keep it with all my heart.

Make me go in the path of your commandments, *
for that is my desire.

Incline my heart to your decrees *
and not to unjust gain.

Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *
give me life in your ways.

Fulfill your promise to your servant, *
which you make to those who fear you.

Turn away the reproach which I dread, *
because your judgments are good.

Behold, I long for your commandments; *
in your righteousness preserve my life.

The Epistle
2 Timothy 3:14-17

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom1 you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Gospel
Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
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The icon,  Saint Matthew Tenders His Account, was written by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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John Coleridge Patteson, Bishop of Melanesia, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1871

The death of Bishop Patteson and his companions at the hands of Melanesian islanders, whom Patteson had sought to protect from slave-traders, aroused the British government to take serious measures to prevent piratical man-hunting in the South Seas.  Their martyrdom was the seed that produced the strong and vigorous Church which flourishes in Melanesia today.

Patteson was born in London in 1827 of a Devonshire family.  He attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1849.  After travel in Europe and a study of languages, at which he was adept, he became a Fellow of Merton College in 1852 and was ordained the following year.

While serving as a curate of Alphington, Devonshire, near his family home, he responded to Bishop George Augustus Selwyn‘s call in 1855 for helpers in New Zealand.  He established a school for boys on Norfolk Island to train native Christian workers.  It is said that he learned to speak some twenty-three of the languages of the Melanesian people.  On February 24, 1861, he was consecrated Bishop of Melanesia.

On a visit to the island of Nakapu, in the Santa Cruz group, Patteson was stabbed five times in the breast, in mistaken retaliation for the brutal outrages committed some time earlier by slave traders (who would sometimes impersonate missionaries in order to kidnap youths).  In the attack, which occurred on September 20, 1871, several of Patteson’s company were also killed or wounded.  Bishop Selwyn later reconciled the natives of Melanesia to the memory of one who came to help and not to hurt.  There is a memorial to Bishop Patteson in the chapel at Merton College.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980), with additions

The Collect

Almighty God, you called your faithful servant John Coleridge Patteson and his companions to be witnesses and martyrs in the islands of Melanesia, and by their labors and sufferings raised up a people for your own possession: Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many, your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The homepage of the Church of the Province of Melanesia is here.

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Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690

Theodore was born of Greek parents in 602 in Tarsus, the Apostle Paul’s home city in Cilicia, in Asia Minor.  A learned monk of the East, educated in Athens, he was residing in Rome when Pope Vitalian was searching for a candidate for the archbishopric of Canterbury at a time when the English Church, decimated by plague and torn by strife over rival Celtic and Roman customs, was in need of strong leadership.  Vitalian ordained Theodore to the episcopate on March 26, 668.

Theodore reached England in 669, having consulted first with Agilbert, bishop of Paris and sometime bishop of Wessex, on the way.  On his arrival, he made a visitation of most of the country, filled vacant sees, and established an important school at Canterbury which soon gained a reputation for excellence in all branches of learning, and where many bishops and other leaders of the English and Irish Churches were trained.  This school taught not only Latin and Greek (unusual for the time), but also Roman law, the rules of meter, arithmetic, music, and biblical exegesis in the literal school of Antioch.  At the Synod of Hertford in 672, whose ten decrees were based on the canons approved by the Council of Chalcedon, Theodore dealt admirably with the legacy of division in the English Church between bishops in the separate Roman and Irish traditions. bringing the two traditions to unity.  For example, he recognized Chad‘s worthiness and regularized his episcopal ordination.  The synod also dealt with the respective rights of bishops and monasteries.

Theodore gave definitive boundaries to English dioceses, so that their bishops could better give pastoral attention to their people and laid the foundations of the parochial organization that still obtains in the English Church.  Theodore’s second synod, at Hatfield, produced a declaration of orthodoxy by the Church in England during the Monothelite controversy.  The synods later held at Clovesho were the result of Theodore’s inaugurating the series of synods at Hertford, which decreed that such yearly synods should be held.

According to the Venerable Bede, Theodore was the first archbishop whom all the English willingly obeyed.  Possibly to no other leader does English Christianity owe so much.  His great achievement was to give unity, organization, and scholarship to a divided Church on the edge of the civilized world at an age when most men had reached retirement or infirmity.  Theodore died in his eighty-eighth year, September 19, 690, and was buried, with Augustine and the other early English archbishops, in the monastic Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Canterbury.

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

The Collect

Almighty God, you called your servant Theodore of Tarsus from Rome to the see of Canterbury, and gave him gifts of grace and wisdom to establish unity where there had been division, and order where there had been chaos: Create in your Church, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The icon of Saint Theodore of Tarsus was written by and is © Aidan Hart, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen and Mystic, 1179

Born of a noble family in Bermersheim in 1098, Hildegard was subject to mystical religious experiences from early childhood.  The youngest of ten children, at the age of eight she was entrusted to the care of Jutta, a recluse attached to the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg in the Rhineland.  Hildegard became a nun at fifteen and led an uneventful, studious life for seventeen years until her visions and revelations began.  On Jutta’s death in 1136 she succeeded her as abbess of the community that had gathered around Jutta.

Under the direction of her prior and confessor, Volmar, in 1141 she began to record some of her visions.  Having won the approval of the archbishop of Mainz (the primate of Germany), between 1141 and 1151 she dictated her Scivias (probably an abbreviation of scito vias Domini, “know the ways of the Lord”).  This work is divided into three books containing twenty-six visions, combining insights into the nature of humanity and the world with her vision of salvation history leading to the Last Judgment.  At the urging of Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Eugenius the Third in 1147/48 gave his guarded approval of sections of this work and granted Hildegard permission to continue writing.

Meanwhile, her community at Disibodenberg had grown too large for its convent, and sometime between1147 and 1152 she led them to Rupertsberg, near Bingen, where a large convent was built.  From this house she undertook many journeys in the Rhineland, reformed several other convents, and made a new foundation at Eibingen.

Hildegard exerted a wide influence, and like some other visionaries she felt called upon the reprove rulers.  Her correspondents included Henry the Second of England, the emperor Frederick Barbarossa, Pope Eugenius the Third, and various other prelates.  She showed herself remarkably gifted and insightful in a number of fields.  She wrote poems, musical compositions (seventy-seven carmina), a morality play with dramatic songs (the Ordo virtutum), and works of medicine and natural history.  Her Liber divinorum operum in three books contains visions of the cosmos, the earth, and created things, comprising studies on the elements, plants, minerals, fishes, birds, mammals, and reptiles.  The Physica and the Causae et curae cover the circulation of the blood, headaches, giddiness, frenzy, insanity, and obsessions.  Her other works include commentaries on the Gospels, on the Athanasian Creed, and on the Rule of Saint Benedict.  In addition to being abbess, visionary, physician, and musician, she was also an artist, providing illustrations for the Scivias.

Toward the end of her life she and her convent were placed under interdict by the chapter of Mainz for burying an excommunicate in their graveyard, but Hildegard successfully appealed to the archbishop to have the interdict lifted.  She died at the age of eighty-one.  Attempts to secure her canonization in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were unsuccessful, but her name was inserted into the Roman Martyrology in the fifteenth century.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
and The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Collect

God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation, and show forth your glory not only with our lips but in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Ninian, Bishop in Galloway, c. 430

The dates of Ninian’s life, and the exact extent of his missionary work are uncertain and disputed.  The earliest extant, and possibly the best, account is the brief one given by the Venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People:

“The southern Picts, who live on this side of the mountains, are said to have abandoned the errors of idolatry long before this date [the arrival of Columba among the northern Picts in 565] and accepted the true Faith through the preaching of Bishop Ninian, a most reverend and holy man of British race, who had been regularly instructed in the mysteries of the Christian Faith in Rome.  Ninian’s own episcopal see, named after Saint Martin and famous for its stately church, is now held by the English, and it is here that his body and those of many saints lie at rest.  The place belongs to the province of Bernicia and is commonly known as Candida Casa, the White House, because he built the church of stone, which was unusual among the Britons.”

Ninian was a Romanized Briton, born in the latter half of the fourth century.  He died about the year 430, less than a decade after the departure of the last of the Roman legions from Britain.  Bede writes that he was educated in Rome, where he is supposed to have been ordained to the episcopate.  But the main influence on his life was Martin of Tours, with whom he spent some time, and from whom he gained his ideals of an episcopal-monastic structure designed for missionary work.

About the time of Martin’s death in 397, Ninian established his episcopal see and missionary base at a place called Candida Casa (the White House, or Whithorn) in what is now Galloway, in southern Scotland.  This region would in time become part of the northern British kingdom of Rheged, whose most famous king, Urien, figures in Arthurian tales.  Ninian dedicated the church at Candida Casa  to Martin.  Traces of place names and church dedications suggest that his work covered the Solway Plain and the Lake District of England (regions of the later kingdom of Rheged).  According to Bede, Ninian also converted many of the Picts of what is now central Scotland and by tradition may have evangelized as far north as the Moray Firth, among the northern Picts.

Ninian, together with Patrick, is one of the links of continuity between the ancient Romano-British Church and the developing Celtic Church in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980), with additions

The Collect

O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant and bishop Ninian you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in the land of Britain: Grant, we pray, that having his life and labors in remembrance we may show our thankfulness by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The icon of Saint Ninian was written by and is © Aidan Hart, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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Holy Cross Day

“The word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18) is the central affirmation of Christianity, demonstrating the depth both of human sin that made the death of Christ necessary and of the divine love of God that caused him to act to redeem humanity through the death of Christ.  The Cross is a shorthand expression for the redeeming passion and death of Jesus Christ.

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This feast day of the Cross is a celebration of the Johannine view of the crucifixion of Christ as the time of his glorification, the moment of death being the moment of his triumph and victory.  His degradation on the Cross paradoxically corresponds to his exaltation.  Against the darkness is lifted the beacon of hope, against the forces of evil and destruction is erected “the sign of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:30), against death and defeat is raise the sign of life and victory.  It is therefore natural that Christian piety and devotion should attach themselves to the instrument on which the world’s sin was taken away.  Made holy by its use, stained and washed with Christ’s blood, the Cross on which the Savior of the world died was surrounded with honor and pious legends.  It replaced the tree of disobedience in Eden and became the sign of the perfect Man’s obedience.  As the first tree brought corruption and death, so the second brought life and health.  The sign of death is transformed into the sign of life, that where Satan, who by a tree in the garden once overcame the progenitors of the human race, by a tree is overcome by the Second Adam.  Moreover, these is an eschatological dimension to the Cross as “the sign of the Son of Man”, echoed in a versicle and reponse in the old Divine Office and now in the Liturgy of the Hours a Responsory in Evening Prayer I of The Triumph of the Cross:  “This sign of the cross shall be in the heavens when the Lord shall come to judge.”

In the year 355 the emperor Constantine built two basilicas in Jerusalem.  One of the churches was on the supposed site of the Holy Sepulchre, and in the course of excavating for this church, the story goes, the Cross on which Christ was crucified was discovered.  Cyril of Jerusalem, who seems to be reliable, writing in the year 350, says that the Cross of Christ was found at Jerusalem during the time of Constantine.  According to a less reliable tradition, Saint Helena, Constantine’s mother, was the one who discovered the True Cross.  Not one but three crosses were found, it is said, and Helena was able to determine which one was Christ’s Cross by applying the three crosses to a dead man.  One cross brought the dead man to life, and this was declared to be the Cross of Christ.

The relic of the True Cross was preserved in a silver receptacle in the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre after pieces had been taken away by pilgrims and distributed throughout the world.  The Spanish pilgrim, Egeria, who made a journey to Jerusalem ca. 385-388 and who describes the ceremonies of the Church there, tells of the practice of the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday and of how the deacons guarded it so the pilgrims who kissed it would not bite out pieces to carry away.

The Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, first clearly mentioned by Pope Sergius (687-701), commemorated the exposition of the True Cross at Jerusalem in 629 by the emperor Heraclius after he had recovered it from the Persians who had captured it when they destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 614.  This exposition seems actually to have taken place in the spring, but it was celebrated in the fall at the time of the anniversary of the dedication of the church.

from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations,
the Revd Dr Philip H. Pfatteicher

The Collect

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

The Lesson
Isaiah 45:21-25

Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
“Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”

Psalm 98
Cantate Domino

Sing to the LORD a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,
when he comes to judge the earth.

In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.

The Epistle
Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but semptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Gospel
John 12:31-36a

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

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

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Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, Martyr, 258

Thasius Cecilianus Cyprianus was an aristocratic and cultivated orator and teacher of rhetoric in Carthage who was born about the year 200.  He was converted to the Christian faith about the year 246, and his conversion was thoroughgoing.  He gave up all pagan writings and concentrated his studies thenceforth on the Scriptures and Christian commentaries, including those of Tertullian, a compatriot whom he regarded as his master.  Shortly after his conversion he became a presbyter, and in 248 he was chosen bishop of Carthage by the people and clergy of Carthage with the consent of the neighboring bishops.  A year later the persecution under the emperor Decius began, forcing Cyprian to flee to safety.  He kept in touch with his Church by letters and through this means directed them with wisdom and compassion.  During the persecution a number of Christians had apostatized by sacrificing to idols or had lapsed by buying certificates which stated falsely that they had sacrificed.  Cyprian reconciled these lapsi after a suitable time of penance.  One of his presbyters, Novatus, readmitted the without any penance at all, while the rigorist bishop of Rome, Novatian, taught that the Church could not absolve an apostate at all, leading a group into schism at Rome and Antioch over this vexing question.  In time this group came to be called the Novatians, and they would continue as a schismatic church for some time to come.  Throughout the controvery, Cyprian insisted on discreet compassion, the unity of the Churh, and the need for obedience and loyalty.

From this controversy there arose another concerning the validity of baptism administred by schimatics, heretics, and apostates.  Cyprian’s view conflicted with that of Pope Stephen the Second, bishop of Rome, but Cyprian was supported by other African bishops in rejecting the validity of these baptisms.  The controversy became acrimonious and was settled only after the deaths of the two protagonists by the Church’s acceptance of the Roman tradition in favor of their validity.  Augustine of Hippo tells us that Cyprian atoned for his passion in the controversy by his glorious martyrdom.  Under the persecution of the emperor Valerian, which specifically required bishops, presbyters, and deacons to sacrifice to idols, Cyprian was exiled in 257 and condemned to death and beheaded on the fourteenth of September, 258.

Many of Cyprian’s writings have been preserved.  In his treatise, On the Lord’s Prayer, he writes:  “We say ‘Hallowed be thy Name’ not that we want God to be made holy by our prayers but because we seek from the Lord that his Name may be made holy in us…so that we who have been made holy in Baptism may persevere in what we have begun to be.”

His book, On the Unity of the Catholic Church strongly affirms the unity of the episcopate and the sinfulness of schism:  “The episcopate is a single whole,” he writes, “in which each bishop’s share gives him a right to, and a responsibility for, the whole.  So is the Church a single whole, though she spreads far and wide into a multitude of churches…If you leave the Church of Christ you will not come to Christ’s rewards, you will be an alien, an outcast, an enemy.  You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother.”

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

The Collect

Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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