Monthly Archives: December 2014

John Wycliffe, Theologian and Reformer, 1384

John Wycliffe (also Wycliff or Wyclif), born c. 1330, was born in Yorkshire and educated at Oxford University. Fellow of Merton College in 1356 and Master of Balliol College circa 1360-1, he served a rector of Fillingham and later of Ludgershall and of Lutterworth (the latter two until his death in 1384). He was in the service of the Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, and of Edward’s brother, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, from 1371, serving as an envoy and propagandist.

Wycliffe made his reputation early as a philosopher. Reacting against the prevailing scepticism of Oxford thought, which divorced natural and supernatural knowledge, he returned to the philosophical realism of Saint Augustine and Robert Grosseteste. From the beginning his philosophy was religious in character, and it was fed by a sense of the spiritual sterility of skepticism. As a theologian he sought inspiration in the Scriptures and the Fathers rather than in the speculations of medieval Scholasticism, and he fulfilled his doctoral obligations at Oxford by an unprecedented, if unoriginal, series of lectures conmmenting on the entire Bible. His growing repugnance for the religious institutions of his time led to his gradual elaboration, on the basis of his philosophy, of a concept of the Church which distinguished its eternal, ideal reality from the visible, “material” Church, and denied to the latter any authority that did not derive from the former. His idea that the clergy, if not in a state of grace, could lawfully be deprived of their endowments by the civil power, its own authority dependent on being in a state of grace (De Civili Dominio, 1375-60), was condemned in 1377 by Pope Gregory XI. In his De Ecclesia, De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae, and De Potestate Papae (1377-8), Wycliffe maintained that the Bible, as the eternal “exemplar” of the Christian religion, was the sole criterion of doctrine, to which no ecclesiastical authority might lawfully add, and that the papal authority was ill-founded in Scripture. In the later De Apostasia he denied, in violent terms, that the religious (monastic) life had any foundation in Scripture, and he appealed to the government to reform the whole order of the Church in England. At the same time in De Eucharistia he attacked the doctrine of transubstantiation as philosophically unsound and as encouraging a superstitious attitude to the Eucharist. Wycliffe’s eucharistic doctrine was that the bread remained, and that Jesus was truly present in the bread, though in a spiritual and not a material manner.

These published doctrines gradually lost him substantial support in Oxford and reduced his following to a small but loyal group of sholars, along with a number of friends at court (he was protected from ecclesiastical censure three times in his later years by Gaunt and by the Black Prince’s widow). His eucharistic doctrine was condemned by the Univerity in 1381, and Wycliffe’s public refusal to comply in his Confessio created a scandal. The Peasants’ Revolt, popularly though erroneously attributed to his teaching – particularly his teaching on authority and grace – magnified the scandal, and a wide range of his teachings and followers (though not Wycliffe himself) were condemned by Archbishop William Courtenay at the Blackfriars Council in 1382. Wycliffe retired to Lutterworth, where he revised his polemics and produced a series of pamphlets attacking his enemies. After his death from a stroke on December 31, 1384, the continued activity of his disciples, who as they gathered strength among the less educated became known as Lollards, led to further condemnations of Wycliffe’s doctrines in 1388, 1397, and finally at the Council of Constance in 1415. In 1428 Wycliffe’s remains were removed from consecrated ground and burned, and the ashes were cast into the River Swift.

Wyliffe’s philosophical influence at Oxford was considerable for at least a generation, though his later influence in England as a whole is less clear. However, his philosophical and theological writings exercised an influence on Czech scholars, especially Jan (or John) Hus, the Bohemian priest and preacher in Prague who was condemned as a heretic by the same Council of Constance as condemned Wycliffe. (Hus was convicted and burned for his heresy.) Many of Wycliffe’s writings survive only in Czech manuscripts.

Outside the field of philosophy Wycliffe’s ideas were not original and can be compared with similar views of contemporary European reformers. His importance lies in his role in propagating his ideas. Wycliffe was an energetic preacher in Latin and in English, as his surviving sermons show. Furthermore, Wycliffe proposed the creation of a new order of Poor Preachers who would preach to the people from an English Bible.

The first English versions of the entire Bible are the two associated with Wycliffe’s work, made by translating the Latin Vulgate between 1380 and 1397. It is unknown what part of the work of translation was done by Wycliffe himself, but Wycliffe certainly inspired the project, including the making of the second version after his death in 1384. Both versions were made by scholars who were his immediate disciples: Nicholas Hereford, largely responsible for the first version; and John Purvey, Wycliffe’s secretary, for the second version, completed in 1397.

The modern-day Wycliffe Bible Translators, named in his honor, are committed to translating the Bible into all languages spoken around the world.

Wycliffe is commemorated on December 31 in the Calendars of the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the (Anglican) Church in Wales; and in that of The Episcopal Church on October 30.

compiled from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church,
and the preface to the New English Bible

The Collect

O Lord, God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant John Wycliffe, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to your righteous will; 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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The image of Wycliffe is taken from the website of St Mary’s Church in Lutterworth and is of a late eighteenth century portrait of Wycliffe that hangs in the church.

The Collect is taken from James Kiefer‘s hagiographical website.

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Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, 335

In the Roman Calendar and in the Calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer this day is the commemoration of Sylvester, Bishop of Rome from 314 to 335. Little is known of Sylvester’s life and episcopate. He became bishop of the imperial city in the year of the promulgation of the letter of the emperors Constantine and Licinius (known in later years as the “Edict of Milan”) which declared Christianity a religio licita (a legal religion) in the Roman Empire. He was represented by delegates at the regional Council of Arles, called in 314 in an attempt to heal the Donatist schism, and at the first Council of Nicaea. Though little of historical value is known about him, he figures importantly in medieval legendary hagiography, which asserts that he baptized the emperor Constantine at the baptistery of the Lateran, cleansing him of leprosy. His medieval Acts also assert that he established the Lateran church as the cathedral of the city of Rome on land given to him by Constantine.

The Collect

O God, our Heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Sylvester to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, is commemorated on this day in the calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

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Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop in Western Africa, 1891

Born about the year 1809 into the Yoruba, as a boy of 13, Ajayi (or Adjai) was captured in a Falani attack and sold as a slave. The ship transporting him was arrested by the British Royal Navy and taken to Sierra Leone, where he came under the care of the Church Missionary Society in 1822. At baptism he took the name of a committee member of the CMS. Samuel Ajayi was among the first students of the Fourah Bay Institution, served as a teacher in Sierra Leone, and was a CMS representative on the British government’s Niger Expedition of 1841. After studying at Islington College, the Church Missionary Society’s training school in London, he was ordained in 1843 and was one of the founding members of the CMS mission to the Yoruba people. From 1857 he led the Niger Mission with an all-African staff, covering the area from the Upper Niger to the Delta. In 1864 Crowther was ordained and appointed Bishop of Western Africa beyond the Queen’s jurisdiction. In that same year he was made a Doctor of Divinity by Oxford University (by tradition, new bishops in the Church of England were made Doctors of Divinity by Oxford or Cambridge on their elevation to the episcopate).

As the first native African Anglican bishop and leader of a native African Anglican mission, Crowther exemplified the younger Henry Venn‘s indigenous church policy. Venn, an Evangelical Anglican missionary statesman and grandson of the Evangelical theologian Henry Venn, served as secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1872. His aim was that indigenous missionary churches should be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending. Venn was instrumental in securing Crowther’s appointment as a missionary bishop. However, in his later years, as his authority was increasingly bypassed and the African Niger mission was effectively dismantled by European missionaries, Crowther was the victim of a more ethnocentric missionary approach that marked the imperial period.

Crowther was also the principal influence on the translation of the Bible into Yoruba and on the orthography devised for writing Yoruba, and he encouraged vernacular translation by his clergy. While his attention was over time directed more and more to other languages, he continued to oversee the translation of the Bible into Yoruba, a project that was completed in the mid-1880s.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is now the second-largest Church in the Anglican Communion by membership, after the Church of England.

The commemoration of Samuel Ajayi Crowther on December 31, the date of his death from the effects of a stroke in 1891, was adopted provisionally by The Episcopal Church in 2009. The date proposed by For All the Saints is December 30, an open day on the calendar, because John Wycliffe and Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, are commemorated on December 31.

The Collect

Almighty God, you rescued Samuel Ajayi Crowther from slavery, sent him to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to his people in Nigeria, and made him the first bishop from the people of West Africa: Grant that those who follow in his steps may reap what he has sown and find abundant help for the harvest; through him who took upon himself the form of a slave that we might be free, the same Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Holy Innocents (The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents, Gustave Dore)

The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents (Gustave Doré)

 

Herod the Great, appointed ruler (ethnarch) of the Jews by the Romans in 40 BC, kept the peace in Palestine for 37 years. His ruthless control, coupled with genuine ability, has been recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus, who describes him as “a man of great barbarity towards everyone.” Though he identified himself publicly as a practicing Jew, Herod was an Idumaean (an Edomite), the son of Antipater the Idumaean, a high-ranking official under the Jewish ethnarch Hyrcanus II, the last legal Hasmonean rule of Judaea, whose daughter Herod married. Because he was not himself a Hasmonean and was not ethnically a Jew, Herod was continually in fear of losing his throne. It is not surprising that the Magi’s report of the birth of an infant King of the Jews (Matthew 2) caused him fear and anger. Although the event is not recorded in other sources, the story of the massacre of the Innocents is completely in keeping with what is known of Herod’s character.

To protect himself against being supplanted by an infant king, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. We do not know how many were killed, but the Church has always honored these innocent children as martyrs. Augustine of Hippo called them, “buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Jeremiah 31:15-17

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”

Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the Lord,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future,
declares the Lord,
and your children shall come back to their own country.

Psalm 128
Nisi quia Dominus

If the LORD had not been on our side, *
let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side, *
when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive *
in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *
and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters *
have gone right over us.

Blessed be the LORD! *
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

The Epistle
Revelation 21:1-7

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

The Gospel
Matthew 2:13-18

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

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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).

Since December 28 falls on a Sunday this year, the feast of the Holy Innocents is transferred to December 29, taking precedence over the commemoration of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

John, the son of Zebedee, with his brother James, was called from being a fisherman to be a disciple and “fisher of men.” With Peter and James, he became one of the inner group of three disciples whom Jesus chose to be with him at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in the garden of Gethsemane.

John and his brother James are recorded in the Gospel as being so hotheaded and impetuous that Jesus nicknames them “Boanerges,” which means “sons of thunder.” They also appear ambitious, in that they sought seats of honor at Jesus’ right and left when he should come into his kingdom. Yet they were faithful companions who were willing, without knowing the cost, to share the cup Jesus was to drink. When the other disciples responded in anger to the audacity of the brothers in asking for this honor, Jesus explained that in his kingdom leadership and rule take the form of being a servant to all.

If, as is traditionally held, John is to be identified with “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” then he clearly enjoyed a very special relationship with his Master, reclining close to Jesus at the Last Supper, receiving the care of his Mother at the cross, and being the first to understand the truth of the empty tomb.

The Acts of the Apostles records John’s presence with the Apostle Peter on several occasions: the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, before the Sanhedrin, in prison, and on the mission to Samaria to lay hands on the new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

According to tradition, John later went to Asia Minor and settled at Ephesus, where he had the care of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, until her death. Under the emperor Domitian, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he experienced the visions recounted in the Book of Revelation. Irenaeus, at the end of the second century, writes that Polycarp, bishop of the Church at Smyrna, recalled in his old age that he had known the apostle while growing up at Ephesus. It is probable that John died there. He alone of the Twelve is said to have lived to extreme old age and to have been spared a martyr’s death, though he suffered the martyrdom of exile.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Exodus 33:18-23

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Psalm 92
Bonum est confiteri

It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD, *
and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning *
and of your faithfulness in the night season;

On the psaltery, and on the lyre, *
and to the melody of the harp.

For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD; *
and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

LORD, how great are your works! *
your thoughts are very deep.

The dullard does not know,
nor does the fool understand, *
that though the wicked grow like weeds,
and all the workers of iniquity flourish,

They flourish only to be destroyed for ever; *
but you, O LORD, are exalted for evermore.

For lo, your enemies, O LORD,
lo, your enemies shall perish, *
and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.

But my horn you have exalted like the horns of wild bulls; *
I am anointed with fresh oil.

My eyes also gloat over my enemies, *
and my ears rejoice to hear the doom of the wicked who rise up against me.

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, *
and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

Those who are planted in the house of the LORD *
shall flourish in the courts of our God;

They shall still bear fruit in old age; *
they shall be green and succulent;

That they may show how upright the LORD is, *
my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

The Epistle
1 John 1:1-9

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Gospel
John 21:19b-24

And after saying this Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

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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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Celebrating Martyrs – in Christmastide?

Christmas is the yearly expectation of redemption and the proclamation of the consummation. Three feasts days came to be closely associated with Christmas: St Stephen, St John, and Holy Innocents. The ancient association of these martyr’s* days [and the later medieval addition in the West of the feast day of St Thomas of Canterbury] reinforces the eschatological understanding of the celebration of Christmas. The birth of Jesus is more than a commemoration of his birthday. His birth into this world prefigures the birth into the next world of his martyrs, who follow in his train. The birth of Christ is a judgment on the persecution and rejection of God and his Word, and means joy for those who remain faithful and steadfast even in the face of great persecution. These are days of judgment as well as joy…

…In the Western Church, St Stephen’s Day is the first of a succession of three festivals immediately following Christmas – St Stephen, St John, the Holy Innocents – that associate the three “heavenly birthdays” with the birthday of Christ: as he was born into this world from heaven, so they were born from this world into heaven.

from the New Book of Festivals & Commemorations, Philip H. Pfatteicher (Fortress Press, 2008)

*St John the Evangelist (the Theologian), while he did not suffer martyrdom by death, suffered martyrdom by exile to the island of Patmos during the reign of the emperor Diocletian.

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Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

Very probably a Hellenistic Jew, Stephen was one of the “seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3), who were chosen by the apostles to relieve them of the administrative burden of waiting on tables and caring for the widows. By this appointment to assist the apostles, Stephen, the first named of those whom the New Testament calls “the Seven”, became the first to do what the Church traditionally considers to be the work and ministry of a deacon.

It is apparent from that Stephen’s ministry involved more than serving tables, for the Acts of the Apostles speaks of his preaching and performing many miracles. These activities led him into conflict with some of the Jews, who accused him of blasphemy, and brought him before the Sanhedrin. His powerful sermon before the Council is recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. His denunciations of the Sanhedrin and against the Temple so enraged the members of the council that, without a trial, they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

Saul, later called Paul, stood by, consenting to Stephen’s death, but Stephen’s example of steadfast faith in Jesus, and of intercession for his persecutors, was to find fruit in the mission and witness of the Apostle Paul after his conversion. A sermon by Fulgentius, a sixth century bishop of Ruspe, proclaims that Paul, helped by Stephen’s prayers, now rejoices with Stephen, delights in the glory of Christ with Stephen, exalts with Stephen, and reigns with Stephen.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

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

The First Lesson
Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’”

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Psalm 31:1-5
In te Domine speravi

In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame; *
deliver me in your righteousness.

Incline your ear to me; *
make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold; *
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, *
for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit, *
for you have redeemed me,
O LORD, O God of truth.

The Second Lesson
Acts 6:8-7:2a,51c-60

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:

“Brothers and fathers, hear me…Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

The Gospel
Matthew 23:34-39

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

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The scripture texts for the Lessons 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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