Monthly Archives: April 2012

Saint Mark the Evangelist

A disciple of Jesus, named Mark, appears in several places in the New Testament. If all references to Mark are accepted as referring to the same person, we learn that he was the son of a woman who owned a house in Jerusalem, perhaps the same house in which Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples. Mark may have been the young man who fled naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul refers to “Mark the cousin of Barnabas”, who was with him in his imprisonment. Mark set out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but he turned back for reasons which failed to satisfy Paul (Acts 15:36-40). When another journey was planned, Paul refused to have Mark with him. Instead, Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus. The breach between Paul and Mark was later healed, and Mark became one of Paul’s companions in Rome, as well as a close friend of the Apostle Peter.

An early tradition recorded by Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor at the beginning of the second century, names Mark as the author of the Gospel bearing his name. This tradition, which holds that Mark drew his information from the teaching of Peter, is generally accepted. In his First Letter, Peter refers to “my son Mark”, which shows a close relationship between the two men (1 Peter 5:13).

The Church of Alexandria in Egypt claimed Mark as their founder, first bishop and most illustrious martyr, and the great Church of San Marco in Venice commemorates the disciple who progressed from turning back while on a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas to proclaiming in his Gospel Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God, and bearing witness to that faith as friend and companion to the apostles Peter and Paul.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

Psalm 2
Quare fremuerunt gentes

Why are the nations in an uproar? *
Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?

Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt,
and the princes plot together, *
against the LORD and against his Anointed?

“Let us break their yoke,” they say; *
“let us cast off their bonds from us.”

He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; *
the Lord has them in derision.

Then he speaks to them in his wrath, *
and his rage fills them with terror.

“I myself have set my king *
upon my holy hill of Zion.”

Let me announce the decree of the LORD: *
he said to me, “You are my Son;
this day have I begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance *
and the ends of the earth for your possession.

You shall crush them with an iron rod *
and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”

And now, you kings, be wise; *
be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear, *
and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish; *
for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all *
who take refuge in him!

The Epistle
Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The Gospel
Mark 1:1-15

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

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The scripture texts for the Lesson, the 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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Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1109

The son of a spendthrift Lombard nobleman with whom he quarrelled as a young man, Anselm was born at Aosta in the Italian Alps around 1033 and took monastic vows in 1060 at the Abbey of Bec in Normandy.  He succeeded his teacher Lanfranc as prior in 1063 and Herluin, the founder of Bec, as abbot in 1078.  As abbot he showed himself a capable spiritual director, his intuitive, sensitive mind well suited to the care of his monks.  He succeeded Lanfranc as archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, four years after Lanfranc’s death, because the English king William Rufus (William the Second) kept the primatial see vacant for that time, despite the wish of the English clergy to have Anselm succeed earlier.  Anselm’s episcopate was stormy, in continual conflict with the crown over the rights and freedom of the English Church, particularly in the matter of the investiture of bishops and clergy.  He suffered exile twice because of his conflicts with King William and his successor, King Henry the First.  Although he was not conspicuous for his political skill, Anselm secured a wider recognition for the primacy of the see of Canterbury, with the Church in Wales, Ireland, and (with some important reservations) Scotland acknowledging the primacy, while York also had to accept a papal decision favorable to Anselm and the see of Canterbury.  Among his other accomplishments as archbishop, he held councils which insisted on stricter observance of clerical celibacy, and he established a new episcopal see at Ely.

During 1077-8, Anselm wrote the Monologion and the Proslogion.  The latter work has been famous for centuries for its “ontological argument” for the existence of God.  The work demonstrated the originality of Anselm’s thought and prepared the way for his later theological works.  God, writes Anselm, “is greater than which nothing greater can be thought.”  Even the fool, who in Psalm 14 says in his heart, “There is no God”, must have an idea of God in his mind, the concept of an unconditional being (ontos) that which nothing greater can be conceived, otherwise he would not be able to speak of “God” at all.  And so this something, “God”, must exist outside the mind as well, because if he did not, he would not in fact be that that which nothing greater can be thought.  Since the greatest thing that can be thought must have existence as one of its properties, Anselm asserts, “God” can be said to exist in reality as well as in the intellect, but is not dependent upon the material world for verification.  To some, the ontological argument has seemed mere deductive rationalism; to others it has the merit of showing at least that faith in God need not be contrary to human reason.

Anselm’s important treatise on the Incarnation, Cur Deus Homo? was written after he returned to England from his first exile.  The work is famous for its exposition of the “satisfaction theory” of the atonement, in which Anselm explains the work of Christ in terms of the feudal society of his day.  If a vassal break his bond, he has to atone for this to his lord.  Likewise, sin violates a person’s bond with God, the supreme Lord, and atonement or satisfaction must be made.  We are of ourselves incapable of making this satisfaction, because God is perfect and we are not.  Therefore, God himself has saved us, becoming perfect Man in Christ, so that a perfect life could be offered on the Cross in satisfaction for sin.

Undergirding Anselm’s theology is a profound piety, best summarized as “faith seeking understanding”.  He writes, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may understand (credo ut intelligam).  For this, too, I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”  This understanding of the relationship of prior faith and subsequent knowledge received new emphasis in the work of several late twentieth century theologians and philosophers both of religion and science.

Anselm died on April 21, 1109.  The Canterbury calendar of c. 1165 provides the earliest known evidence for his feasts, one of them commemorating his death and the other his translation (April 7).

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

The Collect

Almighty God, you raised up your servant Anselm to teach the Church of his day to understand its faith in your eternal Being, perfect justice, and saving mercy: Provide your Church in every age with devout and learned scholars and teachers, that we may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, are published on the Lectionary page website.

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Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1012

Born in 953 or 954, Alphege (Old English, Ælfheah) became a monk at Deerhurst in Gloustershire, but retired after some years to a hermitage in Somerset.  Dunstan appointed him abbot of Bath, a community largely composed of Alphege’s former disciples.  In 984 Alphege became bishop of Winchester, where he became known for his personal austerity and his lavish almsgiving.  In 994 king Æthelred sent him to parley with the Danes Anlaf and Swein, who had raided London and Wessex.  The English paid tribute to the Danes, but Anlaf became a Christian and promised never again to come against England “with warlike intent”, a promise that he kept.

In 1005 Alphege succeeded Aelfric as archbishop of Canterbury and received the pallium at Rome.  Meanwhile, Æthelred had proved himself unable to defeat the Danish invaders, and in 1011 the Danes overran much of southern England.  Though the Danegeld tribute was paid to them, it did not prevent their pillaging and other acts of war against the English.  In September of that year they besieged Canterbury and captured it through the treachery of an English archdeacon, Ælfmaer.  For seven months they imprisoned Alphege with other magnates and demanded ransom.  The ransom was paid for the other prisoners, but the sum demanded for the archbishop’s ransom was enormous and would have reduced his people to penury.  Alphege refused to pay the ransom himself and forbade his people to do so as well.  In response, the archbishop was brutally murdered, despite the efforts of the Viking commander Thorkell to save him by offering up all his possessions except his ship for Alphege’s life.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the Danes were “much stirred against the bishop, because he would not promise them any fee, and forbade that any man should give anything for him.  They were also much drunken…and took the bishop, and led him to their hustings, on the eve of the Saturday after Easter…and then they shamefully killed him.  They overwhelmed him with bones and horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow.  And his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God.”

This took place at Greenwich.  Alphege was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral in London and became a national hero by his death.

When the Danish king Canute became king of England in 1016 his policy, after a short period of violence, was one of reconciliation between English and Dane.  His policy found expression in the endowment of the abbey of Saint Edmund at Bury and in the translation of the body of Alphege to Canterbury in 1023.  The body was interred north of the high altar, where the monks venerated it at the beginning and the end of each day.  In his last sermon, Thomas Becket alluded to Alphege as Canterbury’s first martyr, and just before his death commended his cause to God and Saint Alphege.

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

The Collect

O loving God, your martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death when he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people: Grant that all pastors of your flock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep; and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, as published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon of Saint Alphege is taken from Aidan Hart’s gallery of icons and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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Isabella Gilmore, Deaconess, 1923

The pagan writer Pliny the Younger attests to the existence of deaconesses in the church in Bithynia in the second century, and documents of the late third and fourth centuries (including the Didascalia and the Apostolic Constitutions) describe the ministry and duties of deaconesses, including assisting at the baptism of women and visiting and ministering to the sick. The ministry disappeared in the West and declined in the East for a number of centuries, but was revived in the Lutheran Church in the nineteenth century, when Pastor Theodor Fliedner opened the first deaconess motherhouse at Kaiserswerth am Rhein. At the request of a local pastor, Fliedner brought four deaconesses to American in 1849 to work in the Pittsburgh Infirmary. In following decades, other deaconess communities were founded in Lutheran population centers both in America and in Europe. In 1862 Elizabeth Catherine Ferard was licensed as a deaconess by the Bishop of London, thus becoming the first Anglican deaconess.

Born in 1842, Isabella Gilmore, sister of the artist William Morris, was widowed at the age of 40. She began training as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital, London in 1882, and two years later, without children of her own, she took on the care of the eight children of her late brother Randall.

In 1886, Bishop Anthony Thorold of Rochester recruited her to pioneer deaconess work in his diocese. The bishop eventually overcame the reluctance she initially felt because of her lack of theological education and lack of practical knowledge of the deaconess order. She received a sense of calling during Morning Prayer in October of that year, later writing, “it was just as if God’s voice had called me, and the intense rest and joy were beyond words.” Together she and the bishop planned for an Order of Deaconesses, and in 1887 she was made a deaconess. A training house was developed on North Side, Clapham Common, which was later to be called Gilmore House in her memory. Isabella herself retired in 1906. During her nineteen years of service, she trained head deaconesses for at least seven other dioceses. At her memorial service, Dr Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, remarked that “Some day, those who know best will be able to trace much of the origin and root of the revival of the Deaconess Order to the life, work, example and words of Isabella Gilmore.”

She died on April 16, 1923 and is commemorated on this day in the Calendar of the Church of England.

Deaconesses were eventually introduced into many Anglican Churches. The office of deaconess has disappeared in those Anglican Churches that ordain women to the diaconate, but the office has been maintained as a commissioned or consecrated lay ministry for women in a number of traditional Anglican Churches, including the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province in America.

prepared from Celebrating the Saints (Robert Atwell) and other sources

The Collect

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Easter Octave

By the provisions of the Book of Common Prayer, the weekdays of the Easter Octave (the week from Easter Day through the Second Sunday of Easter), like the days of Holy Week, take precedence over any commemorations on fixed dates. Thus, the commemorations of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor and Theologian (April 9 – William Law, Presbyter, is also commemorated in some sanctoral calendars on this date); and of George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand April 11), and of Litchfield will not be celebrated this year.

If you have not already been following them, the appointed propers for the days of the Easter Octave (Easter Week) are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Easter Day

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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The propers for Easter Day are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Wednesday in Holy Week

The Collect

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Old Testament
Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me.
Behold, the Lord God helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 70
Deus, in adjutorium

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; *
O LORD, make haste to help me.

Let those who seek my life be ashamed
and altogether dismayed; *
let those who take pleasure in my misfortune
draw back and be disgraced.

Let those who say to me “Aha!” and gloat over me turn back, *
because they are ashamed.

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; *
let those who love your salvation say for ever,
“Great is the LORD!”

But as for me, I am poor and needy; *
come to me speedily, O God.

You are my helper and my deliverer; *
O LORD, do not tarry.

The Epistle
Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

The Gospel
John 13:21-32

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.
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The scripture texts for the Lesson, the 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 weekdays of Holy Week take precedence over feast days and commemorations on fixed dates, therefore the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr, Pastor and Renewer of Society (April 4), is not observed this year.

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