Monthly Archives: January 2020

Charles, King and Martyr, 1649

Charles the First

A biographical sketch of Charles the First, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, may be found on the Anglican History Blog. Another sketch may be found at James Kiefer’s Christian Biographies.

Like his Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, who predeceased him on the scaffold, Charles the First is a controversial figure and inclusion in the sanctoral calendar. Considered by some a martyr for the High Church cause, dying for the sake of Crown and Bishops, he is decried by others as a defender of royal absolutism against parliamentary rule and willing (contra the claim of his steadfast defense of episcopacy) to negotiate a settlement with the Scots if they took up arms against the English in order to restore him to the throne that included the temporary establishment of a presbyterian polity for the Church of England. His flaws notwithstanding, he attracted the loyalty not only of “old style conformists” to the established order of the Church of England and of avant-garde conformists (Laudians) but also of some presbyterians among the Puritans who, despite their ecclesiastical disagreements with Charles and his advisers, wished to see the monarchy continue. The eminent scholar and Calvinist theologian James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, continued a royalist despite his disagreements with the Laudians with whom Charles surrounded himself, and he fainted when he witnessed Charles’ decollation from a nearby rooftop.

Charles, King and Martyr, was first commemorated in the Book of Common Prayer in 1662, two years after the restoration of monarchy and episcopacy in England, and was thus the only person “canonized” by the reformed Church of England. The commemoration was removed from the calendar in 1859, along with other “state services” like the thanksgiving for deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot, with the support of Queen Victoria. In recent years his commemoration has been restored to the sanctoral calendars of several Anglican Churches, including the Anglican Church in North America.

The Collect

Blessed Lord, in whose sight the death of your saints is precious: We praise your name for your abundant grace bestowed upon your servant Charles, king and martyr; by which he was enabled so cheerfully to follow the steps of his blessed Master and Savior in a constant patient suffering of all barbarous indignities, and at last resisting unto blood, and even then, according to the same pattern, praying for his murderers. Let his memory, O Lord, be ever blessed among us, that we may follow the example of his courage and constancy and great charity; for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

 

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Lesslie Newbigin, Bishop and Ecumenist, 1998

Lesslie Newbigin

A brief biographical sketch followed by a longer essay on Lesslie Newbigin’s enduring theological influence may be found in the History of Missiology webpages of the School of Theology of Boston University.

The Collect (for Ecumenists)

Almighty God, we give you thanks for the ministry of Lesslie Newbigin, who labored that the Church of Jesus Christ might be one: Grant that we, instructed by his teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is 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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Thomas Aquinas, Friar, Priest, and Teacher of the Faith, 1274

Thomas Aquinas is the greatest theologian of the high Middle Ages, and, next to Augustine, perhaps the greatest theologian in the history of Western Christianity. Born into a noble Italian family, probably in 1225, he entered the new Order of Preachers founded by Dominic (the Dominicans, or Blackfriars as they were known in England). He soon became an outstanding teacher in an age of intellectual ferment. Because of his size and slowness, Thomas was called “the Ox”. His first master, Albert the Great, is said to have prophesied that although Thomas was called “the dumb ox, his lowing would soon be heard all over the world.”

Perceiving the challenges that the recent rediscovery, through Jewish and Muslim scholars in Spain, of Aristotle’s works might entail for traditional catholic doctrine, especially in its emphasis upon empirical knowledge derived from reason and sense perception, independent of faith and revelation, Thomas asserted that reason and revelation are in basic harmony. “Grace” (revelation), he said, “is not the denial of nature” (reason), “but the perfection of it.” This synthesis Thomas accomplished in his greatest works, the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles, which continue today to exercise profound influence on Christian thought and philosophy. Thomas was considered a bold thinker, even a “radical”, and certain aspects of his thought were condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities. His canonization as a Doctor (Teacher) of the Church on July 18, 1323, vindicated him.

Thomas understood God’s disclosure of his Name, in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM”, to mean that God is Being, the Ultimate Reality from which everything else derives its being. The difference between God and the world is that God’s essence is to exist, whereas all other beings derive their being from him by the act of creation. Although, for Thomas, God and the world are distinct, there is, nevertheless, an analogy of being between God and the world, since the Creator is reflected in his creation. It is possible, therefore, to have a limited knowledge of God, by analogy from the created world. On this basis, human reason can demonstrate that God exists; that he created the world; and that he contains in himself, as their cause, all the perfections which exist in his creation. The distinctive truths of the Christian faith, however, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, are known only by revelation.

On December 6, 1272, after being recalled to Naples as regent of studies earlier that year, Thomas experienced a revelation of God, after which he dictated to his scribe no more. He said of the experience that all he had written in comparison to what he had then seen was like so much straw.

Thomas died on the 13th of September in 1274, just under fifty years of age. In 1369, on the 28th of January, his remains were transferred to Toulouse. In addition to his many theological writings, he composed several eucharistic hymns of lasting value, including Adoro te devote (“Humbly I adore thee”) and Pange lingua (“Now, my tongue, the mystery telling”).

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts,
with additions from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Almighty God, you have enriched your Church with the singular learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas: Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars, and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives; 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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Propers for the commemoration of Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Friar, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Helpers of the Apostles

Lydia was the Apostle Paul’s first convert to faith in Christ in Europe. A native of Thyatira in Asia Minor, in the ancient region known as Lydia, she resided in the city of Philippi in Macedonia. She was a merchant of goods dyed with the purple-red dye known as Tyrian purple, so-called because it was first extracted by the Phoenicians. Tyrian purple was extracted from the Murex sea snail and was highly prized in antiquity because it did not fade but became more vibrant and intense with weathering and exposure to sunlight. The Romans considered the dye a mark of high status: the stripe on the toga of a senator was dyed with Tyrian purple, and its use in the emperor’s toga led to its being known as “imperial purple”. The dye was all the more costly because of the difficulty of extraction. One modern writer has estimated that twelve thousand of the Murex snails yielded little more than a gram of dye, enough to dye only the trim of a single garment. Dealing in purple-dyed goods would require a good deal of capital, so Lydia was likely wealthy. When Saint Paul first met her, she was one of a group of women who met outside the city of Philippi for prayer on the Sabbath, and Saint Luke notes that she was a “worshiper of God” (Acts 16:14), suggesting that she was one of those Gentiles who kept some of the Jewish ethical and liturgical customs (including synagogue worship) without fully entering the Jewish community. According to the Acts of the Apostles, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention” to Paul’s preaching that Sabbath, and she and her household were baptized. After this she prevailed on Paul and his companions to stay in her house, thus relieving him of the necessity of earning his support, as was his custom elsewhere. Although Lydia does not appear in any of Saint Paul’s extant epistles, his love for the church at Philippi is evident in his letter to that church, a love that doubtless began with Lydia’s hospitality.

Dorcas, or Tabitha (from the word for “gazelle” in Greek and in Aramaic) was a believer who lived in Joppa, and was known there for her good works and acts of charity, including the making of tunics and other garments for the widows of the church. When she died, the members of the church at Joppa sent messengers to the Apostle Peter, asking him to come to them without delay. On his arrival in the upper room where Dorcas had been laid, he “knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise'” (Acts 9:40), whereupon she was restored to life. This was the first such miracle by one of the apostles, and because of it “many believed in the Lord”. In the Acts of the Apostles Dorcas is called a “disciple” in a feminine form of the word that in the New Testament is applied only to her. Dorcas Societies, which provide clothing and other material needs for the poor, are named for her. The original society was founded in Douglas, Isle of Man in 1834 in thanksgiving for deliverance from a cholera outbreak, and to replace the bedding and clothing of the poor that had been destroyed as part of the effort to prevent an epidemic.

Phoebe, whose name means “bright” or “radiant”, was a diakonos of the church at Cenchreae, the eastern seaport of Corinth. The word diakonos may be translated deacon (or in some versions of the Bible, deaconess), though it may also be translated “helper” or “patron”, given that Saint Paul applies the word to himself in 2 Corinthians (11:23) and in Colossians (1:23,25) and does not mean that he is himself a deacon. In his letter to the Romans, Paul commends Phoebe to the church at Rome, that they might “welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many, and of myself as well” (16:1,2). Some consider the application of the word diakonos to Phoebe, along with 1 Timothy 3:11 (which in Greek reads, “and also the women”, rather than “their [deacons’] wives” as in a number of English translations), evidence that the early Church ordained women to the same diaconate to which men were ordained.

Whether or not this be the case, 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 in Kaiserwerth on the Rhine. 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. From a deaconess community in London, 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 (now a subjurisdiction within the Anglican Church in North America) and the Anglican Province in America.

The Collect

Almighty God, you inspired your servants Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe to support and sustain your church by their deeds of generous love: Open our hearts to hear you, conform our will to love you, and strengthen our hands to serve you; for the sake of your Son 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 Collect is taken from the New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, Philip H. Pfatteicher.

The icon of Saint Lydia is from the website of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery and is under copyright.

The icon of Saint Tabitha is courtesy of www.eikonografos.com and is used with permission.

Propers for the commemoration of Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe may be found on the Lectionary Page website.

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Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle

Paul, or Saul as he was known until he became a Christian, was a Roman citizen, born at Tarsus, in present-day Turkey. He was brought up as a devoted Jew, studying in Jerusalem for a time under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi of the day. Describing himself, he said, “I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).

A few years after the death of Jesus, Saul came in contact with the new Christian movement, and became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy”. Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was on the way to Damascus to lead in further persecution of the Christians when his dramatic conversion took place.

From that day, Paul devoted his life completely to Jesus Christ and especially to the conversion of Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles describes the courage and determination with which he planted Christian congregations over a large area of the land bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

His letters, the earliest of Christian writings, reveal him as the greatest of the interpreters of Christ’s death and resurrection, and as the founder of Christian theology. He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). His treatment throughout his letters of a theology in which Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the climax and fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham and renewed at Sinai, and his breathtaking rewriting of Israel’s central confession that the Lord God is One to include Jesus as that one Lord, is nothing less than brilliant.

Paul describes himself as small and insignificant in appearance: “His letters are weighty and strong,” it was said of him, “but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account” (2 Corinthians 10:10). He writes of having a disability which he had prayed God to remove from him, and quotes the Lord’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore Paul went on to say, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul is believed to have been martyred at Rome in the year 64, during the persecution under the emperor Nero. As a Roman citizen, he would have been executed by decapitation.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, we may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; 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.

The Lesson
Acts 26:9-21

[Paul said to King Agrippa] “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.”

Psalm 67
Deus misereatur

May God be merciful unto us, and bless us, *
and show us the light of his countenance, and be merciful unto us.

Let your way be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
indeed, let all the peoples praise you.

O let the nations rejoice and be glad, *
for you shall judge the peoples righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

Then shall the earth bring forth her increase, *
and God, even our own God, shall give us his blessing.

God shall bless us, *
and all the ends of the world shall fear him.

The Epistle
Galatians 1:11-24

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

The Gospel
Matthew 10:16-22

[Jesus said to the twelve] “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant[a] above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign[b] those of his household.”

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The 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 (2019).

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Vincent, Deacon of Saragossa, Martyr, 304

Vincent has been called the protomartyr (first martyr) of Spain. Little is known about the actual events surrounding his life, other than his name, his order of ministry, and the place and time of his martyrdom. He was a native of Huesca, in northeastern Spain, and was ordained deacon by Valerius, Bishop of Saragossa. In the early years of the fourth century, the fervent Christian community in Spain fell victim to the persecution ordered by the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian. Dacian, governor of the province of Hispania (Spain), had Valerius and his deacon Vincent arrested and imprisoned at Valencia.

According to one legend, Valerius had a speech impediment, and Vincent was often called upon to preach for him. When the two prisoners were challenged to renounce their faith amid threats of torture and death, Vincent said to his bishop, “Father, if you order me, I will speak.” Valerius is said to have replied, “Son, as I committed you to dispense the word of God, so I now charge you to answer in vindication of the faith which we defend.” The young deacon then told the governor that he and his bishop had no intention of betraying the true God. The vehemence and enthusiasm of Vincent’s defense showed no caution in his defiance of the judges, and Dacian’s fury was increased by this exuberance in Christian witness. Valerius was exiled, but Dacian ordered that Vincent should be tortured. While in prison, he is said to have converted his jailer. At one point, he was offered release on the condition that he burn the holy Scriptures that had been committed to his safekeeping, but he refused.

Accounts of his martyrdom were embellished by the early Christian poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. Augustine of Hippo writes that Vincent’s unshakeable faith enabled him to endure grotesque punishments and, finally, death.

Devotion to Vincent spread rapidly throughout the early Church as he was venerated as a bold and outspoken witness to the truth of the living Christ.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty God, your deacon Vincent, upheld by you, was not terrified by threats nor overcome by torments: Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; 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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Propers for the commemoration of Vincent, Deacon of Saragossa and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon of Saint Vincent is from a painting in the Chiesa di San Vincenzo in Cucciago, in the Diocese of Milan.

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Agnes, Martyr at Rome, 304

As a child of twelve or thirteen years, Agnes suffered for her faith, in Rome, during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian, the last and fiercest of the persecutions of Christians by the imperial state. Intensely dedicated to Christ, her fifth century Acts tell that she refused arranged marriage, saying that she preferred even the death of the body to the end of her consecrated virginity. After rejecting the blandishments of her examiners, and withstanding the threats and torments of her executioner, she remained firm in her refusal to offer worship to the gods of the imperial state, and was executed by being pierced through the neck with a sword. Venerated as a martyr from shortly after her death, early Church Fathers, including Ambrose, Jerome and Prudentius, praised her courage and chastity and remarked upon her name, which means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin.

In his treatise On Virginity, Ambrose of Milan wrote

“Is this a new kind of martyrdom? The girl was too young to be punished, yet old enough to wear a martyr’s crown; too young for the contest, but mature enough to gain victory. Her tender years put her at a disadvantage, but she won the trial of virtue. If she had been a bride, she could not have hastened to her wedding night as much as she, a virgin, went with joyful steps to the place of her execution, her head adorned with Christ himself rather than plaits, with a garland woven of virtues instead of flowers.”

Pilgrims still visit Agnes’ tomb and the catacomb surrounding it, beneath the basilica of her name on the Via Nomentana in Rome that Pope Honorius the First (625-638 ) built in her honor to replace an older shrine erected by the daughter or granddaughter of the emperor Constantine about 350. On her feast day at the basilica, two lambs are blessed, whose wool is woven into a scarf called the pallium, with which the Pope invests archbishops. Pope Gregory the Great sent such a pallium in 601 to Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. A representation of the pallium appears on the coat of arms of Archbishops of Canterbury to this day.

Agnes was commemorated from ancient times in England (probably from the time of the Augustinian mission to Kent), and her feast day is included in the Calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, whence it has entered the sanctoral calendars of most of the Anglican Churches.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; 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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Propers for the commemoration of Agnes, Virgin and Martyr at Rome, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon is from a fresco by Ambrogio Borgognone (1495).

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Fabian, Bishop of Rome and Martyr, 250

In 236, an assembly was held in Rome to elect a bishop as successor to Antherius. In the throng was one Fabian, a layman from another part of Italy. Suddenly, according to the historian Eusebius, a dove flew over the crowd and lighted on Fabian’s head. Despite his being both a stranger and not a candidate in the election, the people unanimously chose Fabian to be bishop, shouting, “Axios! He is worthy! He is worthy!” Fabian was ordained to the episcopate without opposition.

During his fourteen years as bishop, Fabian made numerous administrative reforms. He divided the Church at Rome into seven deaconries and established the custom of venerating martyrs at their tombs in the catacombs. Along with Donatus, the bishop of Carthage, Fabian issued letters condemnatory of Privatus, bishop of Lambaesis in Numidia, and of his heretical opinions. Fabian also brought back to Rome, for proper burial, the remains of Pontian, a bishop of Rome whom the emperor had exiled in 235 to a certain and rapid death in the mines of Sardinia.

Intending to restore traditional Roman piety, the emperor Decius issued an edict in 250 requiring persons throughout the empire, with the exception of Jews, to sacrifice and burn incense to the gods and to the well-being of the emperor in the presence of a Roman magistrate. This led to a general persecution of Christians, probably the first persecution carried out in all parts of the Roman Empire. Fabian was one of the earliest of those martyred at Rome, setting a courageous example for his flock, many of whom died in great torment.

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, praised Fabian in a letter to Cornelius, Fabian’s successor at Rome, as “an incomparable man, the glory of whose death corresponded with the holiness of his life.” Fabian was buried in the catacomb of Callixtus and was later transferred to the church of Saint Sebastian. The original slab which covered his gravesite survives in fragments, but the words “Fabian…bishop…martyr” are still dimly visible.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

O God, in your providence you singled out the holy martyr Fabian as worthy to be chief pastor of your people, and guided him so to strengthen your Church that it stood fast in the day of persecution: Grant that those whom you call to any ministry in the Church may be obedient to your call in all humility, and be enabled to carry out their tasks with diligence and faithfulness; 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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Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle

When Simon Bar-Jona confessed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and on this rock will I build my church.” This rough fisherman and his brother Andrew were the first disciples called by Jesus. Peter figures prominently in the Gospel accounts, often stumbling, impetuous, intense, and uncouth. It was Peter who attempted to walk on the sea, and began to sink; it was Peter who impulsively wished to build three tabernacles on the mountain of the Transfiguration; it was Peter who, just before the crucifixion, three times denied knowing his Lord.

But it was also Peter who, after Pentecost, risked his life to do the Lord’s work, speaking boldly of his faith in Jesus. It was also Peter, the Rock, whose strength and courage helped the young Church in its questioning about the mission beyond the Jewish community. Opposed at first to the baptism of Gentiles without their first submitting to circumcision, he had the humility to admit a change of heart, and to baptize the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household. Even after this, Peter had a continuing struggle with his Jewish conservatism; for Paul, writing to the Galatians, rebukes him for giving way to the demands of some Jewish Christians (the “Judaizers”) to dissociate himself from table fellowship with Gentile Christians.

Though the New Testament makes no mention of it, the tradition connecting Peter with Rome is early and virtually certain. According to tradition, Peter suffered martyrdom during the persecution under Nero. He is said to have been crucified head downwards, because he told his executioners that he was not worthy to be crucified as his Lord was.

As we watch Peter struggle with himself, often stumble, love his Lord and deny him, speak rashly and act impetuously, his life reminds us that our Lord did not come to save the godly and strong but the save the weak and the sinful. Simon, an ordinary human being, was transformed by the Holy Spirit into the “Rock”, and became the leader of the infant Church.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Acts 4: 8-13

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Psalm 23
Dominus regit me

The LORD is my shepherd; *
therefore I can lack nothing.

He shall feed me in green pastures *
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.

He shall refresh my soul *
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, *
for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

You shall prepare a table before me, in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

The Epistle
1 Peter 5:1-4

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The Gospel
Matthew 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

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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 (2019).

The icon is a fragment from a 13th century Roman fresco.

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Antony, Hermit in Egypt, 356

In the third century, many young men turned away from the corrupt and decadent society of the time, and went to live in deserts or mountains, in solitude, fasting, and prayer. Antony of Egypt was an outstanding example of this movement, but he was not merely a recluse. He was a founder of monasticism, and wrote a rule for anchorites.

Antony’s parents were Christians, and he grew up to be quiet, devout, and meditative. When his parents died, he and his younger sister were left to care for a sizable estate. Six months later, in church, he heard the reading about the rich young ruler whom Christ advised to sell all he had and give to the poor. Antony at once gave his land to the villagers, and sold most of his goods, giving the proceeds to the poor. Later, after meditating on Christ’s bidding, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” he sold what remained of his possessions, placed his sister in a “house of maidens,” and became an anchorite (solitary ascetic).

Athanasius of Alexandria, who knew Antony personally, writes that he spent his days praying, reading, and doing manual labor. For a time, he was tormented by demons in various guises. He resisted, and the demons fled. Moving to the mountains across the Nile from his village, Antony dwelt along for twenty years. In 305, he left his cave and founded a “monastery”, a series of cells inhabited by ascetics living under his rule. Athanasius writes of such colonies: “Their cells like tents were filled with singing, fasting, praying, and working that they might give alms, and having love and peace with one another.”

Antony visited Alexandria, first in 312, to encourage those suffering martyrdom under the emperor Maximinus; later, in 335, to combat the Arians by preaching, conversions, and the working of miracles. Most of his days were spent on the mountain with his disciple Macarius.

He willed a goat-skin tunic and a cloak to Athanasius, who said of him: “He was like a physician given by God to Egypt. For who met him grieving and did not go away rejoicing? Who came full of anger and was not turned to kindness?…What monk who had grown slack was not strengthened by coming to him? Who came troubled by doubts and failed to gain peace of mind?”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

O God, by your Holy Spirit you enabled your servant Antony to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil: Give us grace, with pure hearts and minds, to follow you, the only God; 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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Propers for the commemoration of Antony, Hermit in Egypt are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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