Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thomas Becket, Martyr: 30 December 2009

Thomas Becket was born in Cheapside, about 1118, of parents who were property owners. One of his father’s wealthy friends taught him to ride a horse and other gentlemanly pursuits. He began his education at Merton Priory and overseas in France. He attracted the attention of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who made him Archdeacon of Canterbury as well as Provost of Beverley after demonstrating his abilities in several important missions. Upon Theobald’s recommendation, he was appointed Chancellor, and as such was truly the King’s man, upholding Henry II in all things.

In 1162, Theobald died, and Henry II, thinking to consolidate his power over the church and to remove ecclesiastical courts from the land apponted Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. AT this time, Thomas became an ascetic, and renounced the chancellorship, and a battle began between him and the king. The King tried to force Becket to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon reducing the church’s authority, but Becket refused, and facing trumped up charges on his behaviour as chancellor, fled to France. After several years of exile and negotiations with the Bishop of Rome and threat of excommunication and interdict, Becket was allowed to return. After a severe breachinthe perogaives of the Archbishop of Canterbury (coronation of King Henry III) which resulted in the excommunication of the Archbishop of York, Bishop of London, and Bishop of Salisbury. The king is said to have said, “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” (This is probably what he said, there are other versions, but this is the most likely) Four knights upon hearing this went off to Canterbury on December 29th of 1170 and after Becket refused to accompany them to Winchester, returned with their weapons and killed Becket during vespers at Canterbury Cathedral. As Becket was dying, he said, “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” In shorter terms, Becket died for the prerogatives of the church.

Thomas Becket’s death also affected culture in other ways. A popular pilgrimage to Canterbury lasted for more than 350 years, and in fact the Canterbury Tales were arranged around one such pilgrimage. We note in passing that King Henry VIII had Becket’s shrine and bones destroyed.

Emmanuel, you raised up Thomas Becket to protect the church against the authorities of this world. Help us to remember that the church must be in subjection to you and your word, and not to the authorities or whims of this world: this we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who took our nature upon himself to redeem it. Amen. (white)
Psalm 125
2 Esdras 2:42-48
1 John 2:3-6, 15-17
Mark 11:24-33
Note: If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the readings of the day may be used for Matins instead of those above.

Monday, December 28, 2009

29 December 2009: The Holy Innocents


Childermas is usually celebrated on the 28th of December and commemorates the murder of the children of Bethlehem, usually called the Holy Innocents. According to the Bible, these would have been all the children of Bethlehem of two years and under, probably two dozen or less children. . While there are no independent sources of this event, it is highly consistent with King Herod’s actions who was quite prepared to kill anyone including relatives who were a threat to his sitting on the throne.

In this day, we remember not only those innocents who died after the first Christmas, but also all Holy Innocents killed for political expediency, especially today the children who died from AIDS in Rumania in the 1990’s and the street children murdered by police in Latin America.

In an English tradition, in many Cathedrals, a boy bishop was elected on St. Nicholas Day and continued in office until Childermas, conducting all the minor offices of the Cathedral, and often preaching.

Collect: Emmanuel, as we remember the lives and deaths of those who died when Herod was attempting to kill you, help us to resist tyrants, and to stand strong against those forces today which would destroy innocent lives, whether through neglect or intent: this we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who took our nature upon himself to redeem it. Amen. (red or violet)

Eucharistic Readings:
Psalm 124;
Jeremiah 31:15-17;
Revelation 21:1-7;
Matthew 2:13-18
Daily Office Readings:
AM Psalm 2, 26; Isaiah 49:13-23; Matthew 18:1-14
PM Psalm 19, 126; Isaiah 54:1-13; Mark 10:13-16
Note: If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic reading of the Gospel is to be used for Matins. At the discretion of the celebrant other Eucharistic readings may be used for Matins.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

28 December 2009: St. John the Evangelist


St. John the Evangelist is believed to be the beloved disciple mentioned in the Gospel of St. John. He and his brother were disciples of John the Baptist before becoming disciples of Jesus. He is believed to have been the author of the Gospel of St. John, The three Epistles of St. John, and the book of Revelations. It is almost certain that the Gospel was edited during his life or after his death in Ephesus, where he served as Bishop. John served in Judea and Galilee some twelve years before Herod Agrippa’s persecution drove him out. He ended up in Ephesus, where he served many years, dying at the age of ninety-eight. He suffered in various persecutions and was imprisoned for a while on the island of Patmos. There were several attempts on his life including poison and being boiled in oil which he survived.

Collect: Emanuel, you raised up John to proclaim the Gospel, to reveal that you are love, and to be Bishop of Ephesus. Help us to so love one another that the world would see you in us and our behaviour and come to know you as Lord, and Saviour: this we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who took our nature upon himself to redeem it. Amen. (white)

Eucharistic Readings:
Psalm 92 or 92:1-4,11-14;
Exodus 33:18-23; 1 John 1:1-9; John 21:9b-24

Daily Office Readings:
AM: Psalm 97, 98; Proverbs 8:22-30; John 13:20-35
PM: Psalm 145; Isaiah 44:1-8; 1 John 5:1-12
Note: If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic reading for the Gospel is to be used for Matins. At the discretion of the celebrant other Eucharistic readings may be used for Matins.

Friday, December 25, 2009

St. Stephan


St. Stephan was the first of the martyrs to die for Christ. He was one of the first seven deacons of the church, and was a powerful witness, working many miracles, and convincing many through his preaching that Yeshuah (Jesus) was the Jewish messiah. We note in passing, that the word martyr, actually means witness, and Stephan was one of many through the ages who would witness to Jesus by dying for him. In Stephan’s sermons in the Bible, we see that he knew his scriptures when preaching, and that we who preach should share that knowledge. As we remember St. Stephan today, may we also be willing to witness to others that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and may we like him be willing to forgive those who persecute us. His dying words, were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”.

Collect: Emanuel, you raised up your servant Stephan to a ministry of service and to preach the Gospel. Teach us like him to forgive those who persecute us, and to be faithful in service and proclaiming your kingdom, this we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who took our nature upon himself to redeem it. Amen. (red)
Jeremiah 26:1-9,12-15 Acts 6:8--7:2a,51c-60; Matthew 23:34-39
Daily Office Readings:
AM: Psalm 28, 30; 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:1-7
PM: Psalm 118; Wisdom 4:7-15; Acts 7:59-8:8
Note: If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic reading for the Epistle is to be used for Matins. At the discretion of the celebrant other Eucharistic readings may be used for Matins.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

21 December 2000" Stl Thomas the Apostle


St. Thomas was one of Jesus’ disciples and was called the twin. Little is know of him. In the gospels we are told that Thomas said they should go to Jerusalem with Jesus to die with him, expressing his faith. Thomas though is far more known as being “Doubting Thomas,” for saying he would not believe in the resurrection if he did not touch the nail holes in Jesus’ hands. Jesus reveals himself to Thomas, who exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas first served in Syria. From Syria he travelled to India to Palayoor. He stayed there until the year 52 when he travelled to what is now southern Kerala state where he established seven churches. (It is said he was assigned to India by lots between the apostles. He was martyred in Kerala by Bramins who did not want him converting the people to Chrisianity. Most of this part of India remained under the jurisdiction of the Church of the East until more recent times. Today Mar Thoma Christians are divided up between Roman Catholic, Church of the East, Jacobites and Anglicans.

It is interesting to note that there were Jewish colonies in both Palayoor and Kerala, so just as Joseph of Arimathea travelled to Jewish colonies to first proclaim the Gospel, and Paul also visited the Jews at first, so did Thomas visit the Jewish communities first.

Thomas must be admired for his tenacity in travelling such a long way, as tansportaiton in the first centruay was not very good,

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas: 7 December (transferred from Sunday)


St. Nicholas (270-December 6, 346) is one of the most beloved of saints, and many tails surround him.

What is known is that Nicholas was from Lycia (in Turkey today) and made pilgrimage to Palestine and Egypt, supposedly to study with the desert fathers. Returning some years later, he went to Myra (now Demre, Turkey) where he was quickly ordained Bishop. He was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution, but was released when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. He also attended the council of Nicaea.

Nicholas was known for his generosity. It is said that a poor man had three daughters and that just before each came of age, he would throw a bag of gold through the window, so that she would have a dowry so as not be need to be sold into slavery. The third time the poor man caught him in the act, and Nicholas told him not to thank Nicholas but the thank God.

Many other fantastic tails surround Nicholas, and while they al probably are based on true stories, the form in which they come to us is more like a fairy tale. Nicholas as a result of his kind actions came to be known as a Patron of children and sailors among others.

Many Orthodox countries, as well as the Netherlands and countries in Eastern Europe celebrate St. Nicholas day. Nicholas is always vested as a Bishop and comes on a white horse, rewarding good children with candy (in Holland with chocolate coins) and bad children with lumps of coal. Shoes are left out to receive these gifts. In Dutch, St. Nicholas is Sinter Klas, and in New York with its mix of Dutch and English came to be known as Santa Claus.

Collect: El Shaddai, as you raised up Nicholas of Myra to be generous to the poor, children and sailors, bless us that we may be blessings to all who are in need, and teach us to protect the poor, children, sailors, and others whom this world has forgotten, and let your blessing be upon them as well. This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and governs with you in Shekina glory everlasting. Amen. (red)

Friday, December 4, 2009

St. Clement of Alexandria: 5 December


St. Clement of Alexandria was from Athens and followed many teachers until he came to the true teacher, Jesus. Athens was a trade and culture center at the time, and it was natural that the catechetical school would develop there. Clement was one of the early teachers, beginning teaching there in about 190. Clements main contribution to theology is in what he taught Origen. Also during the persecution in about 212, he flees Alexandria, and going to Cappadocia to help his former pupil Bishop Alexander during the persecution. The events of his death are unknown, but he died between 212 and 215.

Collect: El Shaddai, your presbyter Clement of Alexandria came to you after much seeking and dedicated himself to teaching the faith to Christians and Pagans. Grant in this and every place men and women who are dedicated to teaching your holy word to those who know and do not know you, and grant that we would truly teach Christians what is truly meant to walk with you. This we ask through our Saviour, Yeshuah haMoshiach who taught his disciples the truth. Amen. (red)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

St. Johon of Damascus, Presbyter


John of Damascus (676-4 December 749) came from a Christian family which served the Caliph of Damascus. His father found a Christian tutor for him, and John received a well rounded education, and served the Caliph in a high position as well from a young age. His name was forged to a document implicating him in an invasion of Damascus. As a result he lost his post, and had his right hand severed. The hand was miraculously restored after a night in prayer.

He retired to Mar Saba Monastery near Jerusalem after this. He was ordained presbyter and wrote several hymns still used in the west, and many hymns still used in the east. He was a defender of icons in the iconoclast controversy, and his writings addressed many of the theological controversies of his time including on the Jakobites, Nestorians, the Monathelites and the Manicheans and of course the Iconoclast controversy.

Collect: El Shaddai, you raised up your presbyter, John of Damascus to defend the faith, and write hymns. So raise up in this and every generations men and women who will defend the church against heresy and who will stand up for the faith. This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who stood against the false teaching of his time, and who lives and reigns with you and Ruach haKodesh, one God in shekina glory everlasting. Amen. (white)