Thursday, June 30, 2011

Commemoration of St. Paul

Today we commemorate St. Paul. According to Butler:

ST. PAUL was born at Tarsus, of Jewish parents, and studied at Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel. While still a young man, he held the clothes of those who stoned the proto-martyr Stephen; and in his restless zeal he pressed on to Damascus, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ." But near Damascus a light from heaven struck him to the earth. He heard a voice which said, "Why persecutest thou Me? " He saw the form of Him Who had been crucified for his sins, and then for three days he saw nothing more. He awoke from his trance another man—a new creature in Jesus Christ. He left Damascus for a long retreat in Arabia, and then, at the call of God, he carried the Gospel to the uttermost limits of the world, and for years he lived and labored with no thought but the thought of Christ crucified, no desire but to spend and be spent for Him. He became the apostle of the Gentiles, whom he had been taught to hate, and wished himself anathema for his own countrymen, who sought his life. Perils by land and sea could not damp his courage, nor toil and suffering and age dull the tenderness of his heart. At last he gave blood for blood. In his youth he had imbibed the false zeal of the Pharisees at Jerusalem, the holy city of the former dispensation. With St. Peter he consecrated Rome, our holy city, by his martyrdom, and poured into its Church all his doctrine with all his blood. He left fourteen Epistles, which have been a fountain-head of the Church's doctrine, the consolation and delight of her greatest Saints. His interior life, so far as words can tell it, lies open before us in these divine writings, the life of one who has died forever to himself and risen again in Jesus Christ. "In what," says St. Chrysostom, "in what did this blessed one gain an advantage over the other apostles? How comes it that he lives in all men's mouths throughout the world? Is it not through the virtue of his Epistles?" Nor will his work cease while the race of man continues. Even now, like a most chivalrous knight, he stands in our midst, and takes captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leo the Great; Ireneaus, Bishop, Martyr

Today we commemorate Leo and Irenaeus. According to Butler:
He (Leo) was by birth a Silician, eminent for his piety, and perfectly skilled in the Latin and Greek tongues, in the church music, and both in sacred and polite literature. Pope Agatho dying on the 1st of December, 681, he was chosen to fill the pontifical chair. He confirmed, by the authority of St. Peter, as he says, (writing to the zealous emperor Constantine Pogonatus, the sixth general council held at Constantinople, in which his predecessor St. Agatho had presided by his legates. In the censure of this council we find the name of Honorius, joined with the Monothelite heretics, Theodorus bishop of Pharan, and Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter of Constantinople. Pope Leo II. in his first letter to the bishops of Spain, gives the reason, because Honorius “did not extinguish the flame of the heretical doctrine in its rise, as it became the apostolical authority, but fomented it by negligence.” And in his letter to king Ervigius he makes the same distinction between Honorius and the others. It is evident from the very letters of Honorius himself, which are still extant, from the irrefragable testimony of his secretary who wrote those letters, and from others that he never gave into the Monothelite error; though had he fallen into heresy, this would have only hurt himself; nor is the question of any other importance than as an historical fact. Favourers are sometimes ranked with principals. Honorius had by unwariness, and an indiscreet silence, temporized with a powerful heresy, before his eyes were opened to see the flame which he ought to have laboured strenuously to extinguish when the first sparks appeared. St. Leo reformed the Gregorian chant, composed several sacred hymns for the divine office, and did many things for the advancement of religion, though he was only pope one year and seven months. He pointed out the path to Christian perfection no less by the example of his life, than by his assiduous instructions, and zealous exhortations; and was in a particular manner the father of the poor, whom he diligently relieved, comforted, and instructed with a most edifying tenderness, charity, and patience. He passed to a better life on the 23rd of May, 683, and was buried in the Vatican church on the 28th of June...

According to Butler:
THIS Saint (Irenaeus) was born about the year 120. He was a Grecian, probably a native of Lesser Asia. His parents, who were Christians, placed him under the care of the great St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. It was in so holy a school that he learned that sacred science which rendered him afterward a great ornament of the Church and the terror of her enemies. St. Polycarp cultivated his rising genius, and formed his mind to piety by precepts and example; and the zealous scholar was careful to reap all the advantages which were offered him by the happiness of such a master. Such was his veneration for his tutor's sanctity that he observed every action and whatever be saw in that holy man, the better to copy his example and learn his spirit. He listened to his instructions with an insatiable ardor, and so deeply did he engrave them on his heart that the impressions remained most lively even to his old age. In order to confute the heresies of his age, this father made himself acquainted with the most absurd conceits of their philosophers, by which means he was qualified to trace up every error to its sources and set it in its full light. St. Polycarp sent St. Irenæus into Gaul, in company with some priest; he was himself ordained priest of the Church of Lyons by St. Pothinus. St. Pothinus having glorified God by his happy death, in the year 177, our Saint was chosen the second Bishop of Lyons. By his preaching, he in a short time converted almost that whole country to the Faith. He wrote several works against heresy, and at last, with many others, suffered martyrdom about the year 202, under the Emperor Severus, at Lyons.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Crescens, Martyr; Cyril of Alexander, Bishop, Confessor

Today we commemorate Crescens and Cyril. Crescens was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He converted many in Gaul through the preaching of the Gospel and served as a bishop in Galatia. He was martyred under Trajan.

Cyril was the Patriarch of Alexander from 412 to 444.He defended orthodox Christology against Nestorius. Gnesiolutheran has some quotes from Cyril on the doctrine of justification.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm My Own Grandpa Vs. The Obedient Rebels

Benjamin Kurtz was one of the leading promoters of a movement known as "American Lutheranism." "American Lutheranism" cast aside the historic teachings of Lutheranism and adopted the new measures of revivalism. "American Lutheranism" thought that what Luther did was good but that the "revolution" must continue. Benjamin Kurtz wrote:

"The Fathers--who are the 'Fathers'? They are the children; they lived in the infancy of the Church, in the early dawn of the Gospel day. John the Baptist was the greatest among the prophets and yet he that was least in the Kingdom of God, in the Christian Church was greater than he. He probably knew less, and that little less distinctly than a Sunday-school child, ten years of age, in the present day. Even the apostle Peter, after all the personal instructions of Christ, could not expand his views sufficiently to learn that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, and that the Church of Christ was to compass the whole world. A special miracle was wrought to remove his prejudices and convince him of his folly. Every well-instructed Sunday-school child understands this thing without a miracle, better than Peter did. Who then are the 'Fathers'? They have become the Children; they were the Fathers when compared with those who lived in the infancy of the Jewish dispensation; but, compared with the present and advanced age, they are the Children, and the learned and pious of the nineteenth century are the Fathers. We are three hundred years older than Luther and his noble coadjutors, and eighteen hundred years older than the primitives; theirs was the age of infancy and adolescence, and ours that of full-grown manhood. They were the children; we are the fathers; the tables are turned." --Benjamin Kurtz, "The Fathers", Lutheran Observer November 29, 1849 (original emphasis)

Throughout the New Testament the Old Testament saints are regarded as our "fathers" in the faith. But according to Kurtz they are the children. If you search the internet you'll find lots of people with Kurtz's attitude. They tend to regard church fathers like Augustine either as infants in the faith or perhaps even as unbelievers. They provide a list of short snippets from their works to prove how heretical and infantile these church fathers are that often reveals just how spiritually shallow the person making the list is and how much the person making the list is acting like a rebellious teenager who thinks he knows so much more than his stupid parents. The quotes are often taken out of context and do not teach what the person making the list thinks they teach. Often what the church father says is true but because the person making the list holds to false teaching they regard the truth as false. On a small number of occasions they actually find a false teaching in one of the church fathers. But finding out that your father makes mistakes hardly makes you his father.

A friend of mine asked a professor at a Calvinist seminary why the seminary did not study the church fathers very much. The professor said that Calvin had preserved all the good teachings of the church fathers in his own writings so we don't need to read the church fathers anymore. But this creates a rather strange situation where for all practical purposes Calvin becomes the more-mature one who is able to sift through the writings of the immature church fathers. Calvin becomes father to the church fathers. Then the favorite, more recent theologian of the particular group becomes father to Calvin. I heard a professor from another Calvinist seminary make the claim that if theology does not continue to grow and mature in a church body that church body will die. But this results in every generation essentially becoming "father" of the previous. This process of becoming fathers of the fathers is evident in every branch of the church.

In liberal circles, this "maturity" is used as a reason for the ordination of women and homosexuals. In pietist circles this "maturity" is used as a reason for why we don't think baptism and the Lord's Supper are what the church fathers thought they were. Rome is constantly maturing. Papal infallibility was rejected by previous popes but the church has matured and now knows better.

But when we start reading the early church fathers, they don't seem to exhibit the immaturity that we would expect if all this "I'm My Own Grandpa" language were true. Instead we find a depth of faith that is lacking in modern writings. The best of the theologians in our day do not compare to someone like Athanasius. Athanasius made mistakes but lived the Apostolic faith in a way that Christian writers today do not. The church fathers were willing to die for what they believed. What passes for worship in the average evangelical church hardly looks more mature than the historic liturgy but that doesn't keep people from thinking that modern worship is better--whether it's revival hymns or praise and worship songs.

Some in Lutheranism seem to understand Luther as a revolutionary. They envision a Luther who became more "mature" than the church around Him. But Luther was no revolutionary. He was not a father to the church fathers. He was a child of the church fathers. He came to realize that the Apostolic faith had been perverted by those who thought that they were more mature. Even when he gave his "Here I Stand" speech, he was quoting Pope Innocent III. He was calling the church back to the Apostolic faith. He was calling the church to repentance for thinking that they were the fathers and the church fathers were the children.

Although it appears on the surface that Martin Luther was not honoring father and mother, he most certainly was. "Fathers" in the faith are not limited to those who are still living. Luther was being obedient to the true Apostolic fathers and rejecting the innovations that developed in the generations just prior to Luther.

Even while the Apostle were still living, there were people in Corinth and elsewhere who thought that they had matured beyond the Apostolic faith that was handed down to them. They regarded those who did not accept their innovations as immature children. Soon the innovation becomes its own tradition. Such is the case with Rome and such is the case in evangelicalism. The altar call, belief the rapture, handing out tracts, street-corner preaching, and many other things not only are considered as acceptable but as being requirements for a "real" church regardless of the newness of these things. It's as if history begins when I am born and if something is happening in my church today that must be what happened in the church at the time of the Apostles.

The church is healthiest when it regards itself as being a spiritual child of the church fathers who faithfully handed down the Apostolic doctrine. The Apostolic doctrine is all about Jesus. The historic liturgy is all about Jesus. In the sacraments we receive Jesus. If we think that we are too mature for this stuff, what we are really saying is that we are too mature for Jesus. We have found something better than Jesus. It doesn't matter if it's papal infallibility, revival hymns, praise and worship songs, or the rapture. These are all innovations that leads us away from Jesus.

Jeremiah, Prophet

Today we commemorate Jeremiah. Jeremiah was one of the four major prophets of the Old Testament. He lived through the Babylonian siege and destruction of Jerusalem. He communicated God's anger toward His people and suffered persecution and rejection. Although Jeremiah's writings in the books of Jeremiah and Lamentation are filled with proclamations of harsh judgment, Jermiah also reminds us of God's faithfulness. Jeremiah prophecied of the "New Covenant" in Christ when the need for punishments will cease and all will be made right. Jeremiah 31:31-34 says, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Some traditions say that Jeremiah was stoned to death.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sosipater, Saint; Prosper of Aquitaine, Confessor; Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

Today we commemorate Sosipater, Prosper and the Presentation of the Augsburg Confessions. Sosipater was from the city of Berea, he accompanied Paul along with Aristarchus and Secundus the Thessalonians, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, and Trichicus and Tromphimus of Asia, out of Macedonia after a group of Jews began to plot against him. They sailed from Philippi to Alexandria Troas where they met Paul who had gone by land.

Prosper of Aquitane was a bishop who well-known both for his learning and his piety. He fought against the Pelagians in defense of the Christian faith.

The Augsburg Confession is the principal doctrinal statement of the Lutheran Church. It confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. It was signed by the leaders of several German cities and provinces and presented to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, Confessor

Today we commemorate Paulinus. According to Butler:

PAULINUS was of a family which boasted of a long line of senators, prefects, and consuls. He was educated with great care, and his genius and eloquence, in prose and verse, were the admiration of St. Jerome and St. Augustine. He had more than doubled his wealth by marriage, and was one of the foremost men of his time. Though he was the chosen friend of Saints, and had a great devotion to St. Felix of Nola, he was still only a catechumen, trying to serve two masters. But God drew him to Himself along the way of sorrows and trials. He received baptism, withdrew into Spain to be alone, and then, in consort with his holy wife, sold all their vast estates in various parts of the empire, distributing their proceeds so prudently that St. Jerome says East and West were filled with his alms. He was then ordained priest, and retired to Nola in Campania. There he rebuilt the Church of St. Felix with great magnificence, and served it night and day, living a life of extreme abstinence and toil. In 409 he was chosen bishop, and for more than thirty years so ruled as to be conspicuous in an age blessed with many great and wise bishops. St. Gregory the Great tells us that when the Vandals of Africa had made a descent on Campania, Paulinus spent all he had in relieving the distress of his people and redeeming them from slavery. At last there came a poor widow; her only son had been carried off by the son-in-law of the Vandal king. "Such as I have I give thee," said the Saint to her; "we will go to Africa, and I will give myself for your son." Having overborne her resistance, they went, and Paulinus was accepted in place of the widow's son, and employed as gardener. After a time the king found out, by divine interposition, that his son-in-law's slave was the great Bishop of Nola. He at once set him free, granting him also the freedom of all the townsmen of Nola who were in slavery. One who knew him well says he was meek as Moses, priestlike as Aaron, innocent as Samuel, tender as David, wise as Solomon, apostolic as Peter, loving as John, cautious as Thomas, keen-sighted as Stephen, fervent as Apollos. He died in 431.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Albanus of Britain, Martyr

Today we commemorate Albanus of Britain. Albanus was a citizen of Verulam, which is now in England and was converted by a persecuted priest whom he had sheltered in his house. He was executed on Holmhurst Hill in 303.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pudens, Senator, Saint

Today we commemorate Pudens. He is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21. According to tradition, he provided lodging for Saint Peter and was baptised by him, and was martyred under Nero (reigned 54-68).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gervase and Protase, Martyrs

Today we commemorate Gervase and Protase. According to Butler:

ST. AMBROSE calls these saints the protomartyrs of Milan. They seem to have suffered in the first persecution under Nero, or at latest under Domitian, and are said to have been the sons of SS. Vitalis and Valeria, 1 both martyrs, the first at Ravenna, the second at Milan. This latter city was the place which SS. Gervasius and Protasius rendered illustrious by their glorious martyrdom and miracles. St. Ambrose assures us, that the divine grace prepared them a long time for their crown by the good example which they gave, and by the constancy with which they withstood the corruption of the world. He adds they were beheaded for the faith. 2 They are said to have been twin brothers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mark and Marcellianus of Rome, Martyrs

Today we commemorate Mark and Marcellianus. According to Butler:

MARCUS and MARCELLIANUS were twin brothers of an illustrious family in Rome, had been converted to the faith in their youth, and were honourably married. Dioclesian ascended the imperial throne in 284; soon after which the heathens raised tumultuary persecutions, though this emperor had not yet published any new edicts against the church. These martyrs were thrown into prison, and condemned by Chromatius, lieutenant of the prefect of Rome, to be beheaded. Their friends obtained a respite of the execution for thirty days, that they might prevail with them to comply with the judge, and they were removed into the house of Nicostratus the public register. Tranquillinus and Martia, their afflicted heathen parents, in company with their sons’ own wives and their little babes at their breasts, endeavoured to move them by the most tender entreaties and tears. St. Sebastian, an officer of the emperor’s household, coming to Rome soon after their commitment, daily visited and encouraged him. The issue of the conferences was the happy conversion of the father, mother, and wives, also of Nicostratus, and soon after of Chromatius, who set the saints at liberty, and abdicating the magistracy retired into the country. Marcus and Marcellianus were hid by Castulus, a Christian officer of the household, in his apartments in the palace; but they were betrayed by an apostate named Torquatus, and retaken. Fabrian who had succeeded Chromatius, condemned them to be bound to two pillars with their feet nailed to the same. In this posture they remained a day and a night, and on the following day were stabbed with lances, and buried in the Arenarium, since called their cemetery, two miles out of Rome, between the Appian and Ardeatine roads.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mamuold of Regensburg, Abbot

Today we commemorate Mamuold also know as Rambold or Ramnold. He was a monk at St Maximinus in Trier in Germany. He died in 1001 at the age of one hundred

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Julitta and Quirinus, Martyrs

Today we commemorate Julitta and Quirinus. According to Butler:

DOMITIAN, the governor of Lycaonia, executing with great cruelty the edicts of Dioclesian against the Christians, Julitta, a lady of Iconium in that country, withdrew to Seleucia with her little son Cyr or Quiricus, only three years old, and two maids. Alexander, the governor of Seleucia, was not less a persecutor than the prefect of Iconium. Wherefore Julitta went on to Tarsus in Cilicia. Alexander happened to enter that city about the same time with her, and she was immediately apprehended holding her infant in her arms, and conducted to the tribunal of this governor. She was of royal blood, the granddaughter of illustrious kings, and she possessed great estates and riches; out of all which she carried nothing with her but present necessaries. Her two maids, seeing her in the hands of the persecutors, fled and hid themselves. Alexander demanded her name, quality, and country; to all which questions she answered only—“I am a Christian.” The judge, enraged, ordered her child to be taken from her, and that she should be extended and cruelly whipt with thongs; which was accordingly executed. Nothing could be more amiable than the little Cyr, a certain air of dignity spoke his illustrious birth; and this, joined to the sweetness and innocence of his tender age and looks, moved all present exceedingly. It was a difficult thing to tear him from the arms of his mother; and he continued still continually to stretch his little hands towards her. The governor held the infant on his knees, and endeavoured to kiss him to pacify him. But the innocent babe having his eyes still fixed upon his mother, and striving to get back to her, scratched the face of the inhuman judge. And when the mother, under her torments, cried out that she was a Christian, he repeated as loud as he was able—“I am a Christian.” The governor being enraged, took him by the foot, and throwing him to the ground from off his tribunal, dashed out his brains against the edge of the steps, and all the place round about was sprinkled with blood. Julitta seeing him thus expire, rejoiced at his happy martyrdom, and gave thanks to God. Her joy increased the rage of the governor, who commanded her sides to be torn with hooks, and scalding pitch to be poured on her feet, while proclamation was made by a crier—“Julitta, take pity on thyself and sacrifice to the gods, lest thou come to the like unfortunate end with thy son.” She always answered “I do not sacrifice to devils or to dumb and deaf statues; but I worship Christ, the only begotten Son of God. by whom the Father hath made all things.” Whereupon the governor commanded her head to be struck off, and the body of the child to be carried out of the city, and thrown where the carcasses of malefactors were usually cast. Remorse and confusion at his own cruelty, and disappointed malice, in the murder of the innocent babe, made him appear more raging than the most furious wild beast. Julitta being led to the place of execution, prayed aloud, thanking God for having given her son a place in his kingdom, and begging the same mercy for herself. She concluded by adding Amen: at which word her head was severed from her body. She suffered in the year 304 or 305. The two maids came privately and buried the remains of both the martyrs in a field near the city.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia of Lucania, Martyrs

Today we commemorate Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia. According to Butler:

THESE saints are mentioned with distinction in the ancient Martyrologies. According to their acts they were natives of Sicily. Vitus or Guy was a child nobly born, who had the happiness to be instructed in the faith, and inspired with the most perfect sentiments of his religion by his Christian nurse, named Crescentia, and her faithful husband Modestus. His father Hylas was extremely incensed when he discovered the child’s invincible aversion to idolatry; and finding him not to be overcome by stripes and such like chastisements, he delivered him up to Valerian, the governor, who in vain tried all his arts to work him into compliance with his father’s will and the emperor’s edicts. He escaped out of their hands, and, together with Crescentia and Modestus, fled into Italy. They there met with the crown of martyrdom in Lucania, in the persecution of Dioclesian. The heroic spirit of martyrdom which we admire in St. Vitus, was owing to the early impressions of piety which he received from the lessons and example of a virtuous nurse: of such infinite importance is the choice of virtuous preceptors, nurses, and servants about children.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elisha, Prophet

Today we commemorate the prophet Elisha. According to the OCA website:

The Holy Prophet Elisha lived in the ninth century before the Birth of Christ, and was a native of the village of Abelmaum, near Jordan. By the command of the Lord he was called to prophetic service by the holy Prophet Elias (July 20). When it became time for the Prophet Elias to be taken up to Heaven, he said to Elisha, "Ask what shall I do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha boldly asked for a double portion of the grace of God: "Let there be a double portion of your spirit upon me." The Prophet Elias said, "You have asked a hard thing; if you see me when I am taken from you, then so shall it be for you; but if you don't see me, it wilt not be" (4 [2] Kings 2: 12). As they went along the way talking, there appeared a fiery chariot and horses and separated them both. Elisha cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horse!" (4 Kings 2: 12). Picking up the mantle of his teacher which fell from the sky, Elisha received the power and prophetic gift of Elias. He spent more than 65 years in prophetic service, under six Israelite kings (from Ahab to Joash). While Elisha lived, he did not tremble before any prince, and no word could overcome him (Sirach 48: 13 ["Sirach" is alled "Ecclesiasticus" in Catholic Bibles ]). The holy prophet worked numerous miracles. He divided the waters of the Jordan, having struck it with the mantle of the Prophet Elias; he made the waters of a Jericho spring fit for drinking; he saved the armies of the kings of Israel and Judah that stood in an arid wilderness by bringing forth abundant water by his prayer; he delivered a poor widow from death by starvation through a miraculous increase of oil in a vessel. The Shunamite woman showing hospitality to the prophet was gladdened by the birth of a son through his prayer, and when the child died, he was raised back to life by the prophet. The Syrian military-commander Namaan was healed from leprosy but the prophet's servant Gehazi was afflicted since he disobeyed the prophet and took money from Namaan on the sly. Elisha predicted to the Israelite king Joash the victory over his enemies, and by the power of his prayer he worked many other miracles (4 Kings 3-13). The holy Prophet Elisha died in old age at Samaria. "In his life he worked miracles, and at death his works were marvellous" (Sir. 48: 15). A year after his death, a corpse was thrown into the prophet's grave. As soon as the dead man touched Elisha's bones, he came to life and stood up (4 Kings 13: 20-21). The Prophet Elisha and his teacher, the Prophet Elias, left no books behind them, since their prophetic preaching was oral. Jesus, son of Sirach, praised both great prophets (Sir. 48:1-15).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tobias, Prophet

Today we commemorate Tobias. We learn about Tobias in the Old Testament Apocryphal book of Tobit. In the book of Tobit, Tobias is sent by his father (Tobit) to collect some money that his father had deposited in the land of Media. The archangel Raphael disguises himself as a human and protects and aids Tobias on his journey. While Tobias is on his journey, he is attacked by a large fish. Raphael instructs Tobias to catch the fish and save its organs so that he can use them as medicine. Tobias ate some of the fish and kept some for the journey. When they get to Ecbatana, a woman named Sarah who had several husbands that were all killed by demons when they tried to consummate the marriage was living there. Raphael reminds Tobias that he is Sarah's closest living male relative and that it was his duty to marry her. Tobias explains that he does not want to end up dead like all the other men. But Raphael instructs Tobias on how to use the fish to perform an exorcism on Sarah. Tobias follows the instructions and performs an exorcism on Sarah and Raphael bound the demon. Instead of consummating the marriage, Tobias asks Sarah to pray with him. After a 14 day marriage feast, Tobias returns home and uses parts of the fish to cure his father's blindness.

The church fathers saw a picture of Christ both in the fish and in the marriage. Christ exorcises His church and marries her.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Onuphrius of Thebais, Hermit; Basilides and His Companions, Martyrs; Ecumenical Council of Nicea, AD 325

Today we commemorate Onuphrius, Basilides, and the Council of Nicea.

In reference to Onuphrius, Butler says:

HE lived some time in an austere monastery of one hundred monks, near Thebes in Egypt. A desire of imitating the solitude of St. John Baptist moved him to seek a retreat in the most solitary wilderness of that country. He for some years struggled with grievous temptations; but by perseverance overcame them, and by the exercises of holy solitude prepared his soul for the closest communications with God, in which he found the repose of his heart, the comfort of his earthly pilgrimage, and a kind of anticipation of the eternal enjoyment of heaven. He spent in this retirement sixty years, unknown to the world; but by his prayers never ceased to implore the divine mercy in its behalf, and for the protection of the church under the persecutions of the two Arian emperors, Constantius and Valens. A date-tree and a palm-tree which grew near his cell furnished him with food. He died on the 12th of June.

Basilides and his companions were soldiers in the army of Maxentius. They were tortured for the faith and beheaded by the command of Aurelius.

The Council of Nicea was the first ecumenical council and settled disputes over the divinity of Christ. After much debate, the Council eventually adopted the teaching handed down by the Apostles that Jesus is true God, begotten not made and of the same substance of the Father. Here is the Creed that came out of this Council:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father, through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing; or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance, or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, the catholic church anathematizes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Landerich of Paris, Bishop

Today we commemorate Landerich of Paris. According to Butler:

HE succeeded Audobert in that see, in the reign of Clovis II. about the year 650. In a great famine he distributed among the poor all his own little furniture, and melted down for their use the sacred vessels of the church.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Primus and Felicianus, Martyrs

Today we commemorate Primus and Felicianus.According to Butler:

THESE two martyrs were brothers, and lived in Rome many years, mutually encouraging each other in the practice of all good works. They seemed to possess nothing but for the poor, and often spent both nights and days with the confessors in their dungeons, or at the places of their torments and execution. Some they encouraged to perseverance, others who had fallen they raised again, and they made themselves the servants of all in Christ that all might attain to salvation through him. Though their zeal was most remarkable, they had escaped the dangers of many bloody persecutions, and were grown old in the heroic exercises of virtue when it pleased God to crown their labours with a glorious martyrdom. The Pagans raised so great an outcry against them, that by a joint order of Dioclesian and Maximian Herculius they were both apprehended and put in chains. This must have happened in 286, soon after Maximian was associated in the empire, for the two emperors never seem to have met together in Rome after that year. These princes commanded them to be inhumanly scourged, and then sent them to Promotus at Nomentum, a town twelve miles from Rome, to be further chastised, as avowed enemies to the gods. This judge caused them to be cruelly tortured, first both together, afterwards separate from each other; and sought by various arts to cheat them into compliance, as by telling Primus that Felician had offered sacrifice. But the grace of God strengthened them, and they were at length both beheaded on the 9th of June.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Biblical Evangelism

I recently listened to and read a series of lectures by Rev. H. R. Curtis entitled Freed From the Shopkeeper's Prison. Rev. Curtis persuasively argues that the Biblical doctrine of election and the way that we see evangelism done in the Scriptures should affect the way we do our evangelism. He argues that most of what is practiced as evangelism in Lutheran churches is a form of functional Arminianism. I think this is even true of many Calvinist churches. Anything that is of value in this blog post is probably borrowed from Rev. Curtis. Anything that is not of value is probably the result of my own stupidity.

Throughout evangelicalism, it is generally believed that it is every Christian's duty to be an evangelist and that those who do not actively participate in some sort of evangelism program don't care about those going to hell and are responsible for the damnation of those around them. It is believed by many that the names that are written in the Book of Life will change based upon the behavior of individual believers. Numbers and statistics are often used to show how many converts a person has made or what percentage of the world is unreached.

These beliefs work themselves out in various evangelism programs. If it's all up to us to convert people then we need to find methods where we can reach the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. Bible tracts are used to attract people with different interests. Some have frogs on the front for those who like frogs. Others have a baseball bat for those who like baseball. When you open them up there will be some message loosely tied to the pictures on the front and a sinner's prayer that you can say at the end to "get saved." Jack Chick has his cartoons that are designed to scare you into becoming a Christian. They even contain bad historical information. Some programs heavily promote streetcorner evangelism. You need to stand outside and yell at the pagans to repent or else their blood is on your hands and you probably aren't a real Christian. Other programs tell you to try to befriend people with the sole purpose of trying to convert them.

Are these programs Biblical. I've read through numerous attempts all over the interweb to determine if there is some sort of real Biblical basis for what many in evangelicalism and those who have borrowed from evangelical programs are doing.  What I've found is a string of Bible verses taken out of context to support something that evangelicals are already doing. I don't think that anyone would arrive at these evangelism programs from reading the Biblical text itself. Rather it seems that the evangelism method was determined to be the most successful (by whatever measurement) and that then those who developed these programs looked for texts in the Scriptures to back-up what they were doing.

One belief that is common to all of these programs is that every Christian is an evangelist. But is this true? Where is the Biblical evidence for this position? Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5) but he doesn't tell everyone in the church to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was a called and ordained bishop in the church. There is no command within the Scriptures that says if you are a Christian it is your duty to make a Christian of everyone else. The so-called Great Commission is often emptied of all its Biblical content and then said to be the responsibility of every believer (Matthew 28:18-20). The "commission" is given to the Apostles, not to every individual in the church. The "Go" is often emphasized but in the Greek it's not a command. The Apostles are not told to go anywhere here. It's a participle. They are told that all power has been given to Christ and that as they are going they are to disciple the nations. The Discipling is done by baptizing and teaching. It's not by handing out tracts or yelling at people. Often, Romans 10:14 is used to show how important it is to bring the Gospel to people but verse 15 makes it clear that the ones preaching are those who are being sent forth by the church to do so. These are not self-proclaimed evangelists. People are often told about all the unreached peoples of the world but Romans 10:18 says that the Gospel has already gone out into all the world as does Romans 16:26. According to the Apostle Paul there are no "unreached" people groups. There are no seekers either (Romans 3:11).

Aside from the matter of who does evanglizing, what does it actually look like in the Scriptures? Acts 20:20 is often used as a proof-text for door to door evangelism. But if we read the passage in context we find that Paul was going from house to house because that is where the Christians were gathered. He was going to whatever house the Christians happened to be meeting at on that particular day. He was not going to the houses of unbelievers but to the houses of believers. Also notice that Paul does not tell every person in the congregation to do this. Paul says that this is what he did.

The modern "evangelist" tends to think of Jesus and Paul as spending most of their time outside yelling at the pagans or going door-to-door to pagan houses but that's really not what we find in the Scriptures. If we read the Gospel lessons we actually find Jesus spending most of his time teaching in the local synagogue. He does not seek out pagans. Sometimes we find him outside because of the size of the crowd or in some other locations but even in these cases, his audience is not pagan. He is preaching to the Jews. He spent much of his ministry bringing very harsh law to the Jews to drive them to repentance and prepare them for the Gospel. His audience was the old covenant church. He does speak to a Samaritan woman but she was not a pagan. She was part of a sort of group that had broken off from the old covenant church. On occasion, he is approached by Gentiles but these are not pagan Gentiles. These are Gentiles who came to worship at the temple but had not undergone circumcision. Jesus did not go to them. They came to Him for help. The only example of a pagan Gentile who ends up being ministered to by Jesus is the Syrophoenecian woman (Mark 7:25-30). Jesus does not seek her out. When she asks for help He refuses and refers to her as a dog. When she admits here "dog" status and continues to beg for mercy, only then does Jesus grant her request. Jesus was not very seeker-sensitive. When Jesus sends the 72 out into the different Jewish towns in Luke 10, he specifically tells them NOT to talk to people on the road. When they get to the town, they are not supposed to go door-to-door. They are told to go to a single house and ask to stay there.

Some might argue that this was prior to some new dispensation and that now things are different. Certainly Paul would not behave in this way. He was the Apostle to the Gentiles after all. But if you read what Paul is actually doing in the book of Acts, he doesn't really differ from Jesus. He goes from town to town preaching in the synagogues. He never seeks out pagans. But what about Mars Hill? Doesn't Paul walk up into the pagan temple and start setting these pagans straight. Not exactly. In Acts 17, Paul goes to Athens, sees Mars Hill, gets irritated by the idolatry and goes right to the synagogue. Afterward he spends some time in the marketplace talking with some of the Jews and some of the pagans overhear him. They are curious about this new teaching and take Paul to Mars Hill so that they can learn more. Mars Hill was a place where people would meet to discuss religious matters. Paul did not go voluntarily. Paul was not standing outside of the pagan temple handing out tracts.

What about the conversions that Paul speaks of while he was in prison? We never really see any examples of Paul "evangelizing" as it is understood today while in prison. He's not going up to people and telling them to repent and so forth. In Acts 16 we get a glimpse into what Paul did in prison. He kept the traditional hours of prayer which along with the fact that he was thrown into prison for preaching Christ would naturally lead to questions from his fellow prisoners and the guards. He doesn't go around trying to convert all the prisoners. He appears to be a model prisoner. We don't read of him trying to start any riots or threaten lawsuits. Even when God sends an earthquake and opens the prison doors he doesn't try to escape. He only explains the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the jailor when the jailor asks for an explanation. When Paul is being transported with other prisoners on a boat in Acts 27 he doesn't take the opportunity to tell all the prisoners that they could be shipwrecked at any moment and if they do not make a decision for Christ they will all go straight to hell. He does practice his Christian faith by giving thanks prior to eating but he doesn't behave in the ways that modern evangelists would expect him to.

Doesn't Paul care about the lost? Doesn't Jesus care about the lost? Why did they act this way? Why don't they seem to be desparately trying every method under the sun to try to convince people to convert? Why didn't they tell people that if they walked outside and got hit by a chariot without making a decision for Christ they would go to hell?

The reason they didn't is because they believed the Biblical doctrine of election. Read what Paul wrote in Roman 9 or Ephesians 1. Paul knew that he could not add or subtract anyone's name from the Book of Life. No matter how zealous or how lazy he acted, the same people were already written in the Book of Life. God works through means. But if Paul were lazy, God would send someone else to preach the Gospel of Christ-crucified and gather the elect into the kingdom.

It was Paul's job to preach the Gospel in the places where the elect were most likely to be found--in the synagogues and later on in the churches--and to respond to others who asked questions. Neither Paul nor Jesus regarded every single individual as someone who converted be converted if only they found the right techniques.

God's ways are not our ways. We like power and numbers and immediate results. The Jews were expecting Jesus to come to earth, wipe out the Romans, and establish His earthly kingdom. Instead He came in humility and was crucified. Most of the people on earth had no idea who He was or knew that He was crucified. He was crowned a king with a crown of thorns and began His reign while nailed to a cross--not exactly the type of success most people would hope for in their ministries. Prior to His crucifixion He gained a bit of a following among the losers of society but even they thought He was too much of a loser for them when He started telling them they had to eat His body and drink His blood. If we judged Jesus' preaching by the number of converts He made He did a pretty lousy job. Does this mean Jesus was a bad pastor? Not winsome enough?

I have no doubt that many came to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the preaching of Billy Graham but those same people would have come to believe the Gospel through someone else's preaching if there were no Billy Graham. From a numbers perspective, Billy Graham's ministry looks very effective--sort of. There have been statistical studies done that have shown that there has been virtually no growth in church membership after these crusades and that the vast majority of the people who came forward to "make a decision for Christ" were already Christians and members of a church. Of the few unchurched, if they started going to church at all most stopped after a few months. Billy Graham is a human being. He is not the Holy Spirit and he does not have ability to add or subtract names from the Book of Life. He cannot convert anyone through his methodology. He can only create an emotional experience and some confuse that emotional experience with conversion. Others are truly converted through the preaching of the Word in spite of the strange new methods being used but the strange new methods only introduce confusion into their understanding of their own conversion.

I think most of the people in evangelicalism who are involved with these unbiblical types of evangelism have the best of intentions. They love Jesus and want others to know about Him as well. But to use these new methods shows a distrust in the power of the Word of God and His power to bring His elect to hear the preaching of the Word.

So now we should all sit at home and wait for Jesus to come back because we can't get anybody saved anyhow. No, not really. In some ways the Biblical method requires more work. I've gotten in some theological discussions with self-proclaimed evangelists that often end with the other guy saying, "I'm just an unlearned man." When Paul gives the list of qualifications for a pastor, most about not engaging in negative behavior. The only positive qualification is that the man be able to teach well. In order to teach well he must know the Scriptures well and the doctrines taught in them. He must be able to rightly explain them. If you are an unlearned man that disqualifies you from serving as a pastor. The Great Commission tells pastors to disciple people by baptizing them and teaching ALL that Jesus taught. In John 20, Jesus gives pastors the power to forgive sins in His stead. In order to rightly interpret the Word of God they must spend much time studying it and studying it in the correct way. Jesus said that all of the Scriptures are about Him. So if he preaches on a passage and does not find Jesus there in the passage he is not preaching correctly. If he decides he needs to stop preaching Christ-crucified to focus on holy living then he is not preaching Biblically.

But what about lay people? What is our calling as Christians? We need to be regularly receiving the forgiveness of sins from our pastors both in the preaching of the Word and the sacrament of the Altar. Most importantly we need that forgiveness of sins. Less importantly, your frequent attendance shows your neighbors that you consider Jesus to be something that's pretty important. I have been to so many churches that spent so much time telling the congregation how important it was for them to go out and evangelize all their neighbors but would not preach the Gospel to the congregation. I even heard one sermon where the pastor kept insisting that he was preaching the Gospel during the sermon but never did. We need to be somewhere where we will be forgiven for our sins on a regular basis. That might mean changing churches. Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15 that we must be ready to give answer for the hope that is in us. I don't think that means we all need to be experts in apologetics but we should have a clear understanding of what the Gospel is. I was a member a church that was part of a Calvinist denomination for a number of years and that denomination endorsed something very similar to what I'm endorsing. But I think they failed because Christ-crucified and the forgiveness of sins was not the central message. People were well-equipped to explain the differences between the Reformed denomination that they were a part of and other Reformed denominations but they were rather ill equipped to give a reason for the hope that was in them.

When Peter gives instruction to women who are married to unbelieving husbands (1Peter 3), he doesn't tell the wives to evangelize their husbands. He tells them to be good wives and be respectful and obedient. Peter and Paul don't instruct slaves to evangelize their masters. Peter and Paul instruct them to obey their masters and be good slaves. There seems to be a pretty clear and consistent message in 1 Peter 3 that is in harmony with the teachings of Paul and Jesus. Do the best job you possibly can for your employer or husband or wife or whomever else you come in contact with. Be a good neighbor. Do not return evil for evil. Be respectful. As you engage in your work, hobbies, family life, or whatever else people will ask you questions about what you believe or why you are missing some event to go to church because they have a certain trust and respect for you or maybe just curiosity. At that time you should be ready to give an answer and perhaps invite them to church with you.

The modern evangelical method runs counter to all of this. Standing and yelling on a street corner does not exactly make someone a respectable or trustworthy person. Most people think the person is a nut. Most can't distinguish between the Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, and the Christian who come to their door and most don't care. Are you really happy when the Jehovah Witness comes to you door? Do you have a lot of respect for telemarketers? Do they have a good reputation? If we believe that Jesus is really as great a thing as He really is, should we really try to "close the deal" like we're trying to sell people something that they wouldn't buy if they had time to think about it?

Lately, I've heard lots of stories about people who get arrested or are asked to leave for shouting at people on a street corner. Often, they refuse to get permits and sometimes retaliate with law suits or end up in lengthy court battles. But since Christ did not command us to do this, aren't we just giving Jesus a bad name by disturbing the peace in his name?

If we follow the Biblical pattern, we might still be persecuted but we can rejoice because we will know that we are truly being persecuted for the Gospel. If we suffer for yelling at people with a bullhorn we are suffering because of our own obnoxious plans.

Trust in God. He is not some poor and weak god that can't get His plans done without you. Rejoice that He has forgiven your sins and don't let anyone add to God's Word and tell you what you would be doing if you were a "real" Christian. Salvation has already been won by Jesus on the cross and that message will be delivered.

William of York, Archbishop

Today we commemorate William of York. According to Butler:

HE was son of Earl Herbert, and Emma, sister to King Stephen. He learned from his infancy that true greatness consists only in humility and virtue; and renounced the world in his youth, employing his riches to purchase unfading treasures in heaven by works of mercy to the poor, and giving himself wholly to the study and practice of religion. Being promoted to holy orders, he was elected treasurer in the metropolitical church of York, under the learned and good Archbishop Thurstan. When that prelate, after having held his dignity twenty years, retired among the Cluniac monks at Pontefract, to prepare himself for his death, which happened the year following, St. William was chosen archbishop by the majority of the chapter, and consecrated at Winchester in September, 1144, according to Le Neve’s Fasti. But Osbert, the archdeacon, a turbulent man, procured Henry Murdach, a Cistercian monk of the abbey of Fountains, who was also a man of great learning and a zealous preacher, to be preferred at Rome, whither William went to demand his pall, and to plead the cause of his constituents rather than his own. Being deprived by Pope Eugenius III. in 1147, he, who had always looked upon this dignity with trembling, appeared much greater in the manner in which he bore this repulse than he could have done in the highest honours. Being returned into England, he went privately to Winchester, to his uncle Henry, bishop of that see, by whom he was honourably entertained. He led at Winchester a penitential life in silence, solitude, and prayer, in a retired house belonging to the bishop, bewailing the frailties of his past life with many tears, for seven years. The Archbishop Henry then dying in 1153, and Anastasius IV. having succeeded Eugenius III. in the see of Rome, St. William, to satisfy the importunity of others, by whom he was again elected, undertook a second journey to Rome, and received the pallium from his holiness. The saint on his return was met on the road by Robert de Gaunt, dean, and Osbert, archdeacon of the church of York, who insolently forbade him to enter that city or diocess. He received the affront with an engaging meekness, but pursued his journey. He was received with incredible joy by his people. The great numbers who assembled on that occasion to see and welcome him, broke down the wooden bridge over the river Ouse, in the middle of the city of York, and a great many persons fell into the river. The saint seeing this terrible accident, made the sign of the cross over the river, and addressed himself to God with many tears. All the world ascribed to his sanctity and prayers the miraculous preservation of the whole multitude, especially of the children, who all escaped out of the waters without hurt. St. William showed no enmity, and sought no revenge against his most inveterate enemies, who had prepossessed Eugenius III. against him by the blackest calumnies, and by every unwarrantable means had obstructed his good designs. He formed many great projects for the good of his diocess, and the salvation of souls; but within a few weeks after his installation was seized with a fever, of which he died on the third day of his sickness, on the 8th of June, 1154,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Paul of Constantinople

Today we commemorate Paul of Constantinople According to Orthodox Wiki:

Our father among the saints Paul the Confessor or Paul I of Constantinople lived during the fourth century, and served as Archbishop of Constantinople during three periods: from 337 to 339, from 341 to 342, and from 346 to 351. The Arians, led by the Eastern emperor, Constantius, revolted against the election of Paul to his see. Emperor Constantius held a council, banishing Paul and electing in his stead Eusebius of Nicomedia. Eusebius also banished other Orthodox bishops to Rome. After Eusebius died, Paul returned to Constantinople. Although he was greeted warmly by the people, Emperor Constantius once again banished him to Rome. The Western emperor, Constans, returned Paul to Constantinople with a threatening letter to his eastern co-ruler, resulting in Paul's reinstatement as archbishop. After Constans was murdered in a palace coup, Paul was banished again, but now to Cucusus in Armenia. There, celebrating the Divine Liturgy, Arians came upon him and strangled him with his omophorion. In 381, Emperor Theodosius the Great transferred St. Paul's relics to Constantinople. Nearly a thousand years later, in 1326, they were further moved to Venice.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Philip, Deacon

Today we commemorate Philip. According to Butler:

SO much was the number of the faithful increased after the first sermons of St. Peter, that the apostles being entirely taken up in the ministry of the word, it was judged proper to choose seven men, full of the spirit of God and of wisdom, to have care of the poor, under the name of deacons or ministers. St. Philip is named the second in this catalogue, who, according to St. Isidore of Pelusium, was a native of Cæsarea in Palestine. The deacons were not confined to what seemed to give birth to the institution; for at that time the divine mysteries were sometimes administered to the faithful at a supper, as appears from St. Paul, though afterwards the apostles ordered that the blessed eucharist should only be received by persons fasting, as St. Austin observes, and is clear from Tertullian and others. Only the priests could consecrate the holy mysteries; but deacons often delivered the cup. That the deacons were appointed to minister in the holy mysteries, (and this probably by an express order of Christ,) is manifest from the holy scriptures, and from the writings of the disciples of the apostles. In their first institution they were ordained by an imposition of hands with prayer. St. Paul requires almost the same conditions in the deacons as in bishops or priests, and that they be tried before they be admitted into the ministry. St. Ignatius, writing to the Trallians, calls the deacons, “the ministers of the mysteries of Jesus Christ.” And to the Smyrnæans he says: “Reverence the deacons as the precept of the Lord.” 7 In his other epistles, he usually joins the deacons with the priests and bishops as sacred ministers in the church. St. Cyprian calls deacons the ministers of the episcopacy, and of the church. The sacred functions in which deacons were employed, were: first, to minister to the priest at the sacrifice of the eucharist, as St. Laurence testifies in his famous words to Pope Sixtus, recorded by St. Ambrose. Secondly, to baptize in the absence of the priest. Thirdly, to preach the divine word. The holy deacon St. Philip excelled so much in preaching the gospel, that he acquired the name of evangelist, by which he is distinguished in the Acts of the Apostles. After the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the disciples being dispersed into several places, St. Philip first carried the light of the gospel into Samaria. The people of that country listened with one accord to his discourses, and by seeing the miracles which he wrought in confirmation of the doctrine he delivered, great numbers were converted to the faith. For many who were possessed by unclean spirits were delivered, and others afflicted with palsies or lamenesses were healed.

At that time one Simon, surnamed the magician, made a great figure in Samaria. He was a native of Gitton in that country, and, before the arrival of St. Philip, had acquired a great reputation in the city of Samaria, seducing the people, whom he had for a long time bewitched with his magical practices, as St. Luke testifies, 12 who adds: That they all gave ear to him from the least to the greatest, saying: This man is the power of God, which is called great. The infernal spirit sought to oppose these illusions and artifices to the true miracles of Christ; as he was suffered to assist the magicians of Pharaoh against Moses. But God, when he permits the devil to exert in such an extraordinary manner his natural strength and powers, always furnishes his servants with means of discerning and confounding the imposture. Accordingly the clear miracles wrought by Philip put the magician quite out of countenance. Being himself witness to them, and seeing the people run to Philip, to be baptized by him, he also believed, or pretended to believe; and being baptized, stuck close to Philip, hoping to attain to the power of effecting miracles like those which he saw him perform. The apostles at Jerusalem hearing of the conversion of Samaria, sent thither SS. Peter and John to confirm the converts by the imposition of hands, which sacrament only bishops could confer. With the grace of this sacrament at that time were usually conferred certain external gifts of the miraculous powers. Simon seeing these communicated to the laity by the imposition of the hands of the apostles, offered them money, saying: “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I shall lay my hands he may receive the Holy Ghost.” But St. Peter said to him: “Keep thy money to thyself to perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Do penance for this thy wickedness; and pray to God, if perhaps this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. For I see thou art in the gall of bitterness, and engaged in the bonds of iniquity.” Simon being in that evil disposition was incapable of receiving the gifts of the Holy Ghost, at least interior sanctifying grace. Nor did he sincerely seek this. However, fearing the threat of temporal evils, he answered: “Pray you for me to the Lord, that none of these things may come upon me.” From this crime of Simon, the sin of selling any spiritual thing for a temporal price, which both the law of nature and the positive divine law most severely condemn, is called simony; and to maintain that practice lawful is usually termed in the canon law the heresy of Simon Magus. We have no further account of this impostor in the holy scriptures, except that he and his disciples seemed marked out by St. Paul and St. Jude; and St. James proved against them the necessity of good works to salvation. St. Peter also draws their portrait in the most frightful colours. The fathers generally look upon the conversion of Simon to the faith as an act of hypocrisy, founded only in ambition and temporal views, and in the hope of purchasing the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which he ascribed to a superior art, magic. We learn from St. Epiphanius, St. Irenæus, Tertullian, Theodoret, and other fathers, that he afterwards pretended to be the Messias, and called himself the power of God, who was descended on earth to save men, and to re-establish the order of the universe, which he affirmed had been disturbed by the ambition of the angels striving which should be the first, and enslaving men under their government of the world. He said, that to hold man in their captivity, they had invented the law of good works, whereas he taught that faith alone sufficeth to salvation. He pretended that the world was created by angels, who afterwards revolted from God and usurped an undue power in it. Yet he ordered them to be honoured, and sacrifices to be offered to the Father by the mediation of these powers, not to beg their succour, but to appease them that they might not obstruct our designs on earth, nor hurt us after our death. This superstitious worship of the angels was a downright idolatry, and was condemned by St. Paul. See on it Tertullian, St. Epiphanius, and Theodoret. Simon rejected the Old Testament, saying it was framed by the angels, and that he was come to abolish it. Having purchased a beautiful prostitute at Tyre, he called her Helena, and said she was the first intelligence, and that the Father through her had created the angels. He often called himself the Holy Ghost; which name he sometimes gave also to Helena. He required divine honours to be paid to himself under the figure of Jupiter, and to Helena under that of Minerva. He denied free-will, and sowed the seeds of the abominations afterwards propagated by the Gnostics. His extravagant system was a medley formed from Paganism, and the Christian, Jewish, and Samaritan doctrines. He strove in all things to rival Christ. His journey to Rome will be mentioned in the life of St. Peter. St. Philip had the affliction amidst the spiritual success of his ministry, to see the hypocrisy of this monster, and the havoc of souls made by his impiety and blasphemies. Christ himself was pleased to suffer much contradiction in his doctrine, to teach his disciples patience and meekness under the like trials from the obstinacy of impenitent sinners. If their labours were always successful where would be the crown of their patience? 

St. Philip was probably still at Samaria, when an angel appearing to him, ordered him to go southward to a road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he found an Ethiopian eunuch, one of the principal officers in the court of Queen Candace, and her high treasurer, who, being a Jew, had made a religious visit to the temple, and was then on his road homewards. Such was his affection to the sacred writings, that he was reading the prophecy of Isaiah as he was travelling in his chariot. The passage on which he was meditating happened to be that in which the prophet, speaking of the passion of Christ, says he was led like a sheep to the slaughter; that his humiliation was crowned, his ignominious condemnation being taken away by the glory of his resurrection; for who can explain his eternal generation, or the glorious resurrection of his humanity, which is as it were a second miraculous birth. St. Philip expounded to him this text, which the eunuch did not understand, instructed him perfectly in the faith, and baptized him. After which the eunuch returning home full of joy, became the apostle and catechist of Ethiopia his country, as St. Jerom assures us from Eusebius. The Abyssinians to this day regard him as their apostle. As for St. Philip, when he had baptized his illustrious convert, he was conveyed by God to Azotus, where he published the gospel, and in all the other towns in his way to Cæsarea, the place of his ordinary residence. Twenty-four years afterwards St. Paul, when he came thither in 58, lodged in his house. His four daughters were virgins and prophetesses. St. Jerom says they preserved their virginity by vow, or at least out of devotion. The same father thinks their gift of prophecy was the recompense of their chastity. St. Philip probably died at Cæsarea. It was the apostle St. Philip who died at Hierapolis, whose death and daughters some have confounded with the deacon’s.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Boniface of Mainz, Archbishop, Martyr

Today we commemorate Boniface. According to Butler:

ST. BONIFACE was born at Crediton in Devonshire, England, in the year 680. Some missionaries staying at his father's house spoke to him of heavenly things, and inspired him with a wish to devote himself, as they did, to God. He entered the monastery of Exminster, and was there trained for his apostolic work. His first attempt to convert the pagans in Holland having failed, he went to Rome to obtain the Pope's blessing on his mission, and returned with authority to preach to the German tribes. It was a slow and dangerous task; his own life was in constant peril, while his flock was often reduced to abject poverty by the wandering robber bands. Yet his courage never flagged. He began with Bavaria and Thuringia, next visited Friesland, then passed on to Hesse and Saxony, everywhere destroying the idol temples and raising churches on their site. He endeavored, as far as possible, to make every object of idolatry contribute in some way to the glory of God; on one occasion, having cut down on immense oak which was consecrated to Jupiter, he used the tree in building a church, which he dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles. He was now recalled to Rome, consecrated Bishop by the Pope, and returned to extend and organize the rising German Church. With diligent care he reformed abuses among the existing clergy, and established religious houses throughout the land. At length, feeling his infirmities increase, and fearful of losing his martyr's crown, Boniface appointed a successor to his monastery, and set out to convert a fresh pagan tribe. While St. Boniface was waiting to administer Confirmation to some newly-baptized Christians, a troop of pagans arrived, armed with swords and spears. His attendants would have opposed them, but the Saint said to his followers: "My children, cease your resistance; the long-expected day is come at last. Scripture forbids us to resist evil. Let us put our hope in God: He will save our souls." Scarcely had he ceased speaking, when the barbarians fell upon him and slew him with all his attendants, to the number of fifty-two.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Quirinus of Syscia, Bishop, Martyr

Today we commemorate Quirinus. According to Butler:

ST. QUIRINUS was bishop of Siscia, a city in Pannonia, situate upon the river Save; which being now reduced to a borough, called Sisek or Sisseg, in Hungary, the episcopal see is removed to Zagrab, capital of modern Croatia. St. Jerom makes honourable mention of this saint in his Chronicle, upon the year 309. Prudentius calls him an eminent martyr. Fortunatus ranks him among the most illustrious martyrs of the church. He suffered on the 4th of June, 303, or 304. His acts give the following account of his triumph: The holy prelate having intelligence that Maximus, the chief magistrate of the city, had given an order for his apprehension, left the town, but was pursued, taken, and carried before him. Maximus asked him whither he was flying? The martyr answered: “I did not fly, but went away to obey the order of my master. For it is written: When they persecute you in one city, fly to another.” Maximus said: “Who gave you that order?” Quirinus.—“Jesus Christ, who is the true God.” Maximus.—“Know you not that the emperor’s orders would find you out anywhere? Nor can he whom you call the true God help or rescue you when you are fallen into their hands, as you now see to your cost.” Quirinus.—“The God whom we adore is always with us wherever we are, and can always help us. He was with me when I was taken, and is now with me. It is he that strengthens me, and now answers you by my mouth.” Maximus.—“You talk much, and are guilty thereby of delay in executing the commands of our sovereigns: read their divine edicts, and comply with what they enjoin.” Quirinus.—“I make no account of such injunctions, because they are impious; and, contrary to God’s commandments, would oblige us his servants to offer sacrifice to imaginary divinities. The God whom I serve is everywhere; he is in heaven, on earth, and in the sea. He is above all things, containing everything within himself; and by him alone everything subsists.” Maximus said: “Old age has weakened your understanding, and you are deluded by idle tales. See, here is incense; offer it to the gods, or you will have many affronts to bear, and will suffer a cruel death.” Quirinus.—“That disgrace I account my glory; and that death will purchase me eternal life. I respect only the altar of my God, on which I have often offered to him a sacrifice of sweet odour.” Maximus.—“I perceive you are distracted, and that your madness will be the cause of your death. Sacrifice to the gods.” “No,” said Quirinus, “I do not sacrifice to devils.” Maximus then ordered him to be beaten with clubs, and the sentence was executed with great cruelty. The judge said to him under that torment: “Now confess the power of the gods whom the great Roman empire adores. Obey, and I will make you the priest of Jupiter.” Quirinus replied: “I am now performing the true functions of a priest, in offering myself a sacrifice to the living God. I feel not the blows which my body has received: they give me no torment. I am ready to suffer much greater tortures, that they who have been committed to my charge may be encouraged to follow me to eternal life.” Maximus commanded that he should be carried back to prison and loaded with heavy chains till he grew wiser. The martyr in the dungeon made this prayer: “I thank thee, O Lord, that I have borne reproaches for thy sake; and I beseech thee to let those who are in this prison know that I adore the true God, and that there is no other besides thee.” Accordingly at midnight a great light was seen in the prison, which being perceived by Marcellus the gaoler, he threw himself at the feet of St. Quirinus, and said, with tears: “Pray to the Lord for me; for I believe that there is no other God but him whom you adore.” The holy bishop, after a long exhortation, signed him in the name of Jesus Christ. This expression of the acts seems to imply, that he conferred on him the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. This magistrate, not having authority to put the martyr to death, after three days’ imprisonment, sent him to Amantius, governor of the province, called the First Pannonia. Prudentius calls him Galerius, governor of Illyricum, under which Pannonia was comprised. He had probably both those names, a usual thing at that time among the Romans. The bishop was carried in chains through all the towns that lay on the Danube, till being brought before Amantius, then on his return from Scarabantia, the governor ordered him to be conducted to Sabaria, 2 whither he himself was going. Certain Christian women in the mean time brought him refreshments, which as he was blessing, his chains dropt off from his hands and feet. On his arrival at Sabaria, Amantius ordered him to be brought before him on the public theatre, and having read the records of what had passed between him and Maximus, asked the saint if he owned the truth of the contents, and whether or no he persisted in his former confession of the Christian faith? The saint answered: “I have confessed the true God at Siscia: I have never adored any other. Him I carry in my heart, and no man on earth shall ever be able to separate me from him.” 3 Amantius endeavoured to overcome his resolution by large promises, and by the consideration of his old age: but finding him inflexible, he sentenced him to be thrown into the river with a millstone at his neck, and his order was obeyed. But to the great astonishment of the spectators (who were assembled in crowds on the banks of the river to behold the execution), the saint, instead of sinking to the bottom, continued a long time above water, with the millstone at his neck, exhorting the Christians to continue steadfast in the faith, and to dread neither torments, nor death itself. But perceiving that he sunk not at all, he began to fear he should lose the crown of martyrdom. He thereupon addressed himself to Christ in these words: “It is not wonderful for thee, O almighty Jesus, to stop the course of rivers as thou didst that of Jordan, nor to make men walk upon the water as Peter did on the sea, by thy divine power. These people have had a sufficient proof in me of the effect of thy power. Grant me what now remains, and is to be preferred to all things, the happiness of dying for thee, Jesus Christ my God.” He soon after sunk to the bottom: upon whose death the acts of the martyrs make this reflection, “That he with difficulty obtained by his prayers to be drowned.” 4 His body was found a little below the place, and laid in a chapel built on the bank. Soon after a great church was erected near the gate of Sabaria, leading to Scarabantia, in which his remains were laid. When, by the inroads of barbarians, the Pannonians were afterwards driven out of their country, the relics of this martyr were carried to Rome, and deposited in the catacombs of St. Sebastian, but removed in 1140 into the church of St. Mary beyond the Tiber. Molanus proves, that they are now kept in a monastery in Bavaria. The river in which St. Quirinus was drowned was called Sabarius, now Guntz.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Caecilius of Carthage, Pastor

Today, we commemoate Caecilius. Caecilius was the bishop of Carthage and converted Cyprian to the Christian faith. When Caecilius died, Cyprian took care of his wife and children.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blandina of Lyon, Virgin, Martyr; Erasmus of Syria, Bishop, Confessor, Martry

Today we commemorate Blandina and Erasmus. According to Butler:

AFTER the miraculous victory obtained by the prayer; of the Christians under Marcus Aurelius, in 174, the Church enjoyed a kind of peace, though it was often disturbed in particular places by popular commotions, or by the superstitious fury of certain governors. This appears from the violent persecution which was raised three years after the aforesaid victory, at Vienne and Lyons, in 177, whilst St. Pothinus was Bishop of Lyons, and St. Irenæus, who had been sent thither by St. Polycarp out of Asia, was a priest of that city. Many of the principal Christians were brought before the Roman governor. Among them was a slave, Blandina: and her mistress, also a Christian, feared that Blandina lacked strength to brave the torture. She was tormented a whole day through, but she bore it all with joy till the executioners gave up, confessing themselves outdone. Red-hot plates were held to the sides of Sanctus, a deacon of Vienne, till his body became one great sore, and he looked no longer like a man; but in the midst of his tortures he was "bedewed and strengthened by the stream of heavenly water which flows from the side of Christ." Meantime, many confessors were kept in prison and with them were some who had been terrified into apostasy. Even the heathens marked the joy of martyrdom in the Christians who were decked for their eternal espousals, and the misery of the apostates. But the faithful confessors brought back those who had fallen, and the Church, "that Virgin Mother," rejoiced when she saw her children live again in Christ. Some died in prison, the rest were martyred one by one, St. Blandina last of all, after seeing her younger brother put to a cruel death, and encouraging him to victory.

According to Wikipedia:

According to his legend, when the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian began, Erasmus was called before a judge, beaten around the head, spat upon and "besprinkled...with foulness." He was then beaten with leaden mauls until his veins broke and burst. Erasmus suffered all of these punishments with tremendous willingness. Erasmus was then thrown into a pit of snakes and worms, and boiling oil and sulfur were poured on him but "he lay therein as he had lain in cold water, thanking and loving God." Then thunder and lightning came and electrocuted everyone around save Erasmus. Thus the saint was protected from the lightning. Diocletian had him thrown in another pit, but an angel came and slew all the vipers and worms. Then came the Western Roman Emperor Maximian who, according to Voragine, was "much worse than was Diocletian." Erasmus would not cease preaching the Gospel, even though he was "put into a pan seething with rosin, pitch, brimstone lead, and oil, [which were] pour[ed] ... into his mouth, [from] ... which he never shrank." A searing hot cloak and metal coat were both tried on him, to no effect, and an angel eventually carried him away to safety." "And when this holy man came before the false gods" to which he was to be forced to sacrifice, they "fell down and broke all in pieces, and consumed into ashes or dust." That made the emperor so angry he had Erasmus enclosed in a barrel full of protruding spikes, and the barrel was rolled down a hill. But an angel healed him. Further tortures ensued: His teeth were ... plucked out of his head with iron pincers. And after that they bound him to a pillar and carded his skin with iron cards, and then they roasted him upon a gridiron...and did smite sharp nails of iron in his fingers, and after, they put out his eyes of his head with their fingers, and after that they laid this holy bishop upon the ground naked and stretched him with strong withes bound to horses about his blessed neck, arms, and legs, so that all his veins and sinews that he had in his body burst." The version of the Golden Legend did not relate how Erasmus fled to Mount Lebanon and survived on what ravens brought him to eat, an interesting pre-Christian mytheme. When he was recaptured, he was brought before the emperor and beaten and whipped, then coated with pitch and set alight (as Christians had been in Nero's games), and still he survived. Thrown into prison with the intention of letting him die of starvation, St Erasmus managed to escape. He was recaptured and tortured some more in the Roman province of Illyricum, after boldly preaching and converting numerous pagans to Christianity. Finally, according to the legend, his stomach was slit open and his intestines wound around a windlass. This late legend may have developed from interpreting an icon that showed him with a windlass, signifying his patronage of sailors.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Justin, Martyr

Today we commemorate Justin Martyr. According to Butler:

ST. JUSTIN was born of heathen parents at. Neapolis in Samaria, about the year 103. He was well educated, and gave himself to the study of philosophy, but always with one object, that he might learn the knowledge of God. He sought this knowledge among the contending schools of philosophy, but always in vain, till at last God himself appeased the thirst which He had created. One day, while Justin was walking by the seashore, meditating on the thought of God, an old man met him and questioned him on the subject of his doubts; and when he had made Justin confess that the philosophers taught nothing certain about God, he told him of the writings of the inspired prophets and of Jesus Christ Whom they announced, and bade him seek light and understanding through prayer. The Scriptures and the constancy of the Christian martyrs led Justin from the darkness of human reason to the light of faith. In his zeal for the Faith he travelled to Greece, Egypt, and Italy, gaining many to Christ. At Rome he sealed his testimony with his blood, surrounded by his disciples. "Do you think," the prefect said to Justin, "that by dying you will enter heaven, and be rewarded by God?" "I do not think," was the Saint's answer; "I know." Then, as now, there were many religious opinions, but only one certain—the certainty of the Catholic faith. This certainty should be the measure of our confidence and our zeal.