Kentigern, Missionary Bishop in Strathclyde and Cumbria, 603

There are many legends but little known history regarding Kentigern. All the sources are from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Most are from the northern part of Britain, where Kentigern’s evangelistic and pastoral ministry took place. The sources contain various folkloric elements which are considerably older than the eleventh century, but which have no clear historical value (including in one source a confrontation with the druid Merlin). From these traditions we may with some assurance of historicity assume that Kentigern was the son of a British prince (perhaps Owain of Rheged) and of illegitimate birth. Under his nickname Mungo (meaning “darling”) was educated by Bishop Serf at Culross and became a monk in the austere Irish tradition. He later traveled to the northern British kingdom of Strathclyde (Stratclut), in what is now southwestern Scotland, where he was ordained bishop by another Irish missionary bishop. He continued the work of Saint Ninian in preaching the Gospel to the people in the vicinity of Dumbarton, the capital of the kingdom of Strathclyde, and established a religious foundation near Dumbarton, around which the city of Glasgow later grew. Persecuted by the pagan king Morcant Mwynfawr, Kentigern fled to Cumbria (in the kingdom of Rheged) for some time. On the accession of Morcant’s brother, king Riderch Hael the Generous, he was summoned back by the already-baptized king to continue his work of evangelism among the Britons of Strathclyde. Kentigern likely lived to the age of 85, and he died and was buried at his religious foundation at Glasgow. His relics are claimed by Glasgow Cathedral.

The Collect

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

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Kentigern, Missionary Bishop, is commemorated on his traditional feast day of January 13 in the Calendars of the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church. He is commemorated on January 14 in the Kalendar of the Church in Wales as well as that of the Anglican Church in North America, so as not to conflict with the commemoration of Hilary of Poitiers.

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

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Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, 367

Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, was a prolific writer on Scripture and doctrine, an orator, and a poet to whom some of the earliest Latin hymns have been attributed. Augustine called him “the illustrious doctor of the Churches”. Jerome considered him “the trumpet of the Latins against the Arians”. For his defense of the Nicene faith, he is also known as “the Athanasius of the West”.

Hilary (Hilarius) was born in Pectavus (later Poitiers) in Gaul, about 315, into a pagan family of wealth and power. In his writings, he describes the stages of the journey that led him to the Christian faith. He was baptized when he was about thirty years old.

In 350, Hilary was made Bishop of Poitiers. Although he demurred at first, he was finally persuaded by the people’s acclamations. He proved to be a bishop of skill and courage. His orthodoxy was shown when, in 355, the Emperor Constantius ordered all bishops to sign a condemnation of Athanasius (the bishop of Alexandria, champion of Nicene trinitarianism against the Arians), under pain of exile. Hilary wrote to Constantius, pleading for peace and unity. His plea accomplished nothing, and, when he dissociated himself from three Arian bishops in the West, Constantius ordered Julian (later surnamed the Apostate for his conversion to Neoplatonic paganism) to exile Hilary to Phrygia. There Hilary remained for three years, without complaining, writing scriptural commentaries and his principal work, De Trinitate (On the Trinity).

Hilary was then invited by a party of the semi-Arians, who hoped for his support, to a council at Seleucia in Asia, largely attended by Arians; but with remarkable courage, in the midst of a hostile gathering, Hilary defended the Council of Nicaea and its definition of the Trinity, giving no aid to the semi-Arians. He wrote again to Constantius, offering to debate Saturninus, the Western bishop largely responsible for his exile. The Arians feared for the outcome of the debate and persuaded Constantius to return Hilary to Poitiers.

In 360, Hilary was welcomed back to his see with great demonstrations of joy and affection. He continued his battle against Arianism, but he never neglected the needs of his people. Angry in controversy with heretical bishops, he was always a loving and compassionate pastor to his diocese. Among his disciples was Martin, later bishop of Tours, whom Hilary encouraged in his endeavors to promote the monastic life.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with additions

The Collect

O Lord our God, you raised up your servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having you for our Father, and may abide in your Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645

 

Elevated to the see of Canterbury in 1633, William Laud had already been King Charles’ principal ecclesiastical adviser for several years beginning when Laud was serving first as Bishop of Bath and Wells and then as Bishop of London. Born in 1573, after the Church of England’s reformed character had been established by the Elizabethan Settlement, he was the most prominent of a new generation of churchmen who disliked many of the ritual practices which had developed during the reign of Elizabeth the First (many of which began during the reign of her younger brother, Edward VI), and who were bitterly opposed by the Puritan party in the Church of England.

Laud believed the Church of England to be in direct continuity with the medieval Church, and he stressed the unity of the Church and State, exalting the role of the king as Supreme Governor of the Church. He emphasized the ministerial priesthood and the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and caused consternation by insisting on the reverencing of the altar, returning it to its pre-Reformation position against the east wall of the church, and hedging it about with rails. (During Edward’s reign, and Elizabeth’s, altars had been removed, and simpler communion Tables set lengthwise – long axis oriented east-west – in the chancel of the church. Those who intended to take communion would move from the nave into the chancel at the offertory, and the priest or bishop would preside at the eucharist, standing on the north side of the Table.)

As head of the courts of High Commission and the Star Chamber, Laud persecuted Puritans and was abhorred for the harsh sentencing of some of the prominent members of the party. His identification with the unpopular policies of King Charles, his support of the Bishops’ War against Scotland in 1640 (triggered, in part, by Charles’ and Laud’s attempt to impose an English prayerbook on the Church of Scotland), and his efforts to make the Church independent of Parliament, made him widely disliked. He was impeached for treason by the Long Parliament in 1640, and finally beheaded on January 10, 1645.

Laud’s reputation remains controversial to this day. Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners. He was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England. He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his convictions – though these attempts at reform were marred by his treatment of those who strenuously disagreed with him theologically and liturgically. In many ways he was out of step with the views of the majority of his countrymen, especially in his espousal of royal Stuart views of the “Divine Rights of Kings”. The historian Nicholas Tyacke rates Laud as one of the greatest of the Archbishops of Canterbury, not giving him complete approval, but recognizing that his contribution to the future of the English Church was of major importance.

Writing in the Church Quarterly Review in 1945, A.W. Ballard stated that

As far as doctrine was concerned Laud carried on the teaching of Cranmer and Hooker. He held that the basis of belief was the Bible, but that the Bible was to be interpreted by the tradition of the early Church, and that all doubtful points were to be subjected, not to heated arguments in the pulpits, but to sober discussion by learned men. His mind, in short, like those of the earlier English reformers, combined the Protestant reliance on the Scriptures with reverence for ancient tradition and with the critical spirit of the Ranascence.

Laud made a noble end, praying on the scaffold: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy on me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”

The prayer for the Church on page 816 in the Book of Common Prayer (1979), added to the American Prayer Book in 1928, was written by Archbishop Laud. It was first published in A Summarie of Devotions (1677), adapted from his manuscripts. The original version of the prayer reads:

Gracious Father, I humbly beseech Thee for Thy holy Catholic Church, fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where it is superstitious, rectify it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is in want, furnish it; where it is divided and rent asunder, make up the breaches of it; O Thou Holy One of Israel. Amen.

taken from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with additions, including from
Fathers and Anglicans: The Limits of Orthodoxy (Arthur Middleton, Gracewing 2001) and Commentary on the American Prayer Book (Marion J. Hatchett, Harper San Francisco 1995)

The Collect

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant William Laud, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, Bishop in South India and Evangelist, 1945

The first Indian bishop of the Anglican Church in India, Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah was born in 1874 in a small village in one of the most economically deprived areas of South India (now in the state of Andrha Pradesh), the son of Thomas Vedanayagam, an Anglican priest, and Ellen, a woman with a deep love and understanding of the holy Scriptures. Samuel became a YMCA evangelist at nineteen and secretary of the organization throughout South India only a few years later. He saw that, for the Church in India to grow and to bring ordinary Indians to Jesus Christ, it had to have indigenous leadership. He helped create the Tinnevelly-based Indian Missionary Society in 1903, and was a co-founder of the National Missionary Society of India, an all-India, Indian-led agency founded in December 1905. At the age of thirty-five he was ordained to the presbyterate, and three years later (December, 1912) he was consecrated as the first bishop of the new Diocese of Dornakal, with eleven bishops of the Anglican Church in India participating in the liturgy at St Paul’s Cathedral in Calcutta. Bishop Azariah was the first Indian to be consecrated a bishop in the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

As bishop, his work moved from primary evangelism to forwarding his desire for more Indian clergy and the need to raise their educational standards. By 1924, the ordained leadership of the Diocese of Dornakal included eight English-born priests and fifty-three Indian clergy. Bishop Azariah was also an avid ecumenist and one of the first to see the importance, indeed the necessity, of a united Church to mission and evangelism (a passion that would be taken up by others in India, like the missionary Lesslie Newbigin). Azariah died on January 1, 1945, two years before the inauguration of the united Church of South India.

In The History of Nandyal Diocese in Andhra Pradesh, Constance Millington writes,

Azariah had two great priorities in his work: evangelism and the desire for Christian unity.

He understood evangelism to be the acid test of Christianity. When asked what he would preach about in a village that had never heard of Christ, Azariah answered without hesitation: ‘The resurrection.’ From a convert he demanded full acceptance of Christianity which would include baptism and which could therefore include separation from family and caste. He claimed that Christianity took its origin in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outburst of supernatural power that this society manifested in the world.

Azariah recognised that because four-fifths of Indian people live in villages, for the Church to be an indigenous one it must be a rural Church. He was constantly in the villages, inspiring and guiding the teachers, clergy and congregations. He blamed the missionaries for not training people in evangelism, and thought their teaching had been mission centred instead of Church centred, and he pleaded with missionaries to build up the Indian Church. Much of the Christian outreach in his area was among the outcast people. Gradually as Christianity spread amongst the villages, the social situation began to change, the Christian outcasts gaining a new self-respect as they realised their worth in the eyes of God.

Azariah considered that one of the factors that hampered evangelism, and possibly the deepening of the spiritual life of the convert, was the western appearance of the Church in both its buildings and its services. As early as 1912 he has visions of a cathedral for the diocese to be built in the eastern style, where all Christians could feel spiritually at hom regardless of their religious background and race. Building was delayed because of the Great War in Europe, but finally his dream was realised when the cathedral of The Most Glorious Epiphany was consecrated on January 6, 1936. The building is a beautiful structure embodying ideas from Christian, Hindu and Moslem architecture. Its dignity and spaciousness create a very different effect from that of the nineteenth and twentieth century Gothic churches and furnishings scattered elsewhere in India. (N.B. For a description of the Cathedral Church of the Epiphany in Dornakal, see here. Also scroll up to the preceding page at this site for a description of Bishop Azariah’s indigenization of the liturgy.)

If evangelisation of India was Azariah’s first priority, the second was that of Church unity. He was the two as inter-related. He believed that a united Church was in accordance with the will of God, ‘that we may all be one’, and he also believed that a United Church would be more effective for evangelism. Addressing the Lambeth Conference in 1930 he pleaded:

“In India we wonder if you have sufficiently contemplated the grievous sin of perpetuating your divisions and denominational bitterness in these your daughter churches. We want you to take us seriously when we say that the problem of union is one of life and death. Do not, we plead with you, do not give us your aid to keep us separate, but lead us to union so that you and we may go forward together and fulfil the prayer, ‘That we may all be one.'”

Bishop Samuel is commemorated in the sanctoral calendars of the Anglican Church in North America and the Church of England on January 2.

prepared from material in Celebrating the Saints (compiled by Robert Atwell), A History of the Church of England in India (The Rt Revd Eyre Chatterton), and others

The Collect

God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Samuel Azariah 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 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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John Wycliffe, Presbyter and Bible Translator, 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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Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170

Born in London of a wealthy Norman family, Thomas was educated at Merton Abbey and at Paris. He was a financial clerk for a while and then joined the curia of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, notable for the quality of its personnel and the skill of their legal expertise. He was sent to study law at Bologna and Auxerre; after being ordained deacon, he became archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154. In this position he was notably successful and was used by Theobald as a negotiator with the Crown. When Henry II succeeded to the throne of England in 1154, he chose Thomas, at Theobald’s suggestion, as Chancellor of England in 1155. Thomas’ close friendship with the young king, his employment on embassies and on military expeditions in which he actually led his troops in battle, apparently presaged a brilliant future in the political sphere. His personal efficiency, lavish entertainment and support for the king’s interests – even, on occasion, against those of the Church – made him a quite outstanding royal official.

In 1162, Henry, expecting the same relationship to continue, obtained his election as Archbishop of Canterbury. But from this time Thomas deliberately adopted an austere way of life and immediately, to the king’s annoyance, resigned the chancellorship. However, the hairshirt, discipline, vigils, and maundies which he adopted did not end his previous determination. In character he was sensitive and intransigent, ready in speech and thorough in action.

Now that he was archbishop, through no choice of his own, Thomas was determined to carry through, at whatever cost, what he saw as the proper duties of his state. These included the paternal care of the soul of the king, tactlessly presented by his friend of yesterday in a way which caused considerable annoyance. Thomas also opposed Henry in matters of taxation, on the claims of secular courts to punish ecclesiastics for offences already dealt with by church courts, and most important, on freedom to appeal to Rome. A long and bitter struggle ensued, and neither king nor archbishop would give way. At a council in Northampton Thomas, nearly alone, withstood royal claims of money owing the king from the days of Becket’s chancellorship and appealed to the pope. He then escaped to France.

His exile lasted over six years, during which time he lived first in the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny and later at Sens. Both sides appealed to Pope Alexander III, who tried hard to find an acceptable solution. But the dispute grew in bitterness. Henry was bent on Becket’s ruin, while the archbishop used ecclesiastical censures against the king’s supporters among the higher clergy and even attempted to obtain an interdict of England. Thomas came to believe that deeper issues of principle were at stake in the dispute: the claims of Church and State, ultimately of God and Caesar.

Although peace was eventually patched up in 1170 and Thomas returned to his diocese, the reconciliation was superficial. In defiance of the rights of Canterbury, Prince Henry had been crowned, and Becket answered by excommunicating the bishops most closely concerned. In a rage Henry asked his courtiers who would rid him of “this turbulent priest”. Four barons took the king at his word. After an altercation with Becket, they murdered him in his own cathedral. Although he had not always lived like a saint, he died like one, commending his cause to God and his saints, accepting death “for the name of Jesus and for the Church”.

The news of his death shocked Christendom. Miracles were soon reported at his tomb, his faults were forgotten, and he was hailed as a martyr for the cause of Christ and the liberty of the Church. He was canonized in 1173, and his relics were translated in 1220. Representations of his martyrdom rapidly appeared all over Europe and beyond: early examples survive not only from France and Germany, but also from Iceland, Sicily, and even Armenia. At Canterbury Thomas more or less replaced the following of earlier local saints by the popularity of the pilgrimage, which soon became one of the most important in Europe. The Pilgrims’ Way, from London or Winchester to Canterbury, can still be traced. The stained glass windows that depict it at Canterbury are a rich source for many details of medieval life, and Chaucer immortalized its practice and its personnel in the Canterbury Tales. The great 16th century Catholic humanist Erasmus later attacked several elements of the cult and Henry VIII destroyed the shrine, ordering all mention of his name in liturgical books to be erased.

In recent years his commemoration has been restored to the sanctoral calendars of Anglican Churches.

adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God, our strength and our salvation, you called your servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of your people and a defender of your Church: Keep your household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The icon supra is taken from the Sacra Domus Nazarena weblog.

The Becket Panel of Wymondham Abbey “depicts Saint Thomas Becket and eight scenes from his life [from his archiepiscopal consecration to his martyrdom]. It was painted by Father David Hunter, a former chaplain at Wymondham Abbey, and was given by him to the parishioners of Wymondham Abbey in thanksgiving for 900 years of Christian witness here in this place.”

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The Holy Innocents

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).

An icon of the Holy Innocents entitled, “The Lament of Rachel“, and the troparion for the day, may be viewed at the “Come and See” Icons website.

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