Saturday, December 31, 2011
Today is celebrated by the church as the Circumcision of Christ, or The Holy Name. Both names are important to us. This is eight days after Christmas. All good Jewish boys were circumcised eight days after their birth. This is the first time that Jesus, or Yeshua sacrifices his blood in order to complete the law. He spent the rest of his life obeying the Law perfectly, so that he could be a pure lamb without blemish, which could be sacrificed for our sins.
Secondly, the Holy Name. Yeshua (Jesus in Aramaic) from Hebrew, Yah Shua means, “God Saves.” It is very important that as Christians we understand the full significance of this name. Shua is much more than “save” as we understand the word. Wycliff in his translation of the Bible translated it as heal. Jesus the healer, Jesus died to heal us. Wycliff was not in error. The word means heal just as much as it means saved. The word implies that we are made completely whole, body, mind and spirit. We are saved from death, from hell and from sickness of body, mind or spirit. To be made whole, we are also saved or made whole for this life here on earth. When we have been saved or healed, we begin the process of sanctification, in which we become holy people. God peals us like an onion removing everything that is not of him. Usually this is a gradual process, although there are times when it can be all at once. AS we submit our selves to God, asking him to heal and purify us, we will usually find another problem waiting to be solved. True saints are always aware how sinful they are.
As we submit ourselves more and more to God, and he heals us, from infirmities, disease, addictions, bad attitudes, sin, we experience shalom. Shalom is like shua. It is not just peace as the world defines peace. Shalom is peace with nature, peace with God, peace with society, peace with ourselves. Peace in good times, peace in bad.
So every time we pronounce the name of Yeshua, let us truly think about the salvation he gives us.
Collect: : Emanuel, you who are with us, help us to remember that the name of Yeshua proclaims your salvation and healing, and through his finished work on the cross he completed his obedience to the law and the prophets began on this day, when he first shed blood in obedience. Help us so to contemplate his holy name that we would truly accept that salvation, healing, and wholeness and that our obedience to you would lead to salvation and healing of many. This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and governs with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.
Exodus 34:1-8; Romans1:1-7; Luke 2:15-21
Friday, December 30, 2011
John Wycliffe (1320-31 December 1384)
John Wycliffe, often referred to as the morning star of the reformation was born in 1320 at Hipswell, Yorkshire in England. He is known to have been in Oxford by 1345 and was influenced by William of Occam, Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseste. He studied theology, ecclesiastical law and philosophy. He became unhappy with the scholastics and the state of the church, especially the clergy in his day. He supported the king’s power over the church in temporal affairs (and of course we must realise that the King was supposed to be Christian.) He argued that the scriptures should be the centre of authority for the church, that the claims of the papacy had no basis in history, that monasticism was beyond repair and that the unworthiness of many priests invalidated the sacraments.
Since he regarded scriptures as being so important, he began translating the scriptures into English, he himself probably translated the Gospels, and it is possible that he translated Acts, the Epistles and Revelations. The Old Testament was translated by his friend, Nicholas of Hereford. This translation had a great influence on the English language of the time.
Wycliffe desired to see the church return to the simplicity of the first three centuries. He desired to see an end to the hierarchy and replace it with poor priests, bound by no vows, but who would preach the gospel to the people. He created an order of lolard preachers, who went out, two by two, bare foot, dressed in dark red robes, armed with a staff, who taught his doctrines. Wycliffe saw the church as Christ’s body, but not necessarily being the same as the Roman Catholic Church.
Struck with apoplexy, he died rather suddenly on December 31st, 1384 after having written many treatises. After Richard II’s wife, Anne of Bohemia died, her servants brought many of these tracts to Bohemia, where they were to have a great affect on Jan Huss, whose writings in turn affected Martin Luther. Wycliffe’s greatest contribution was the English bible. Wycliffe translators, who translate the Bible into many languages is named in his honour.
Emanuel, as you raised up John Wycliff to challenge the church to follow Yeshua and to translate scriptures into the language of the common man, raise up for us clergy who will call us to follow you, and who will make scripture clear to all, that we may truly follow Yeshua. This we ask in the name of Yeshua, whose birth we celebrate. Amen. (White)
Thursday, December 29, 2011
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 appointed 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 breaching of the prerogatives 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)
2 Esdras 2:42-48
1 John 2:3-6, 15-17
Note: If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the readings of the day may be used for Matins.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
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)
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.
Monday, December 26, 2011
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. There are also several stories of the lengths he would go to in order to bring lapsed Christians back to the faith.
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)
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.
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.”.
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
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)
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.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
St. John of the Cross was born 24 June 1542 as Juan de Yepes Alvarez. His parents were Spanish Jews who had converted to the Roman Catholic faith. Because of his father’s death when he was young, the family struggled. He studied at a Jesuit school while working at a hospital in Medina del Campo. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1563. He professed the following year, and studied theology at the University of Salamanca, and at the college of San Andres. He was ordained a presbyter in 1567 and was intending to join the Carthusians because of their strict rule of silence and isolation. Before this could happen, he met St. Theresa of Avila, who convinced him instead to work on the reformation of the Carmelites.
This he started in November of 1568 in Duruelo, which became a religious centre. John continued to help Theresa until 1577. These reforms were regarded by many as being too strict, and there was much resistance to the reformers(called discalced, or barefoot). In December of 1577 for refusing to obey his superior’s orders to relocate (and allegedly for working for reform), John was imprisoned and whipped weekly. He managed to escape in August. During this imprisonment he composed much of his first poem, “Spiritual Canticle.” After returning to normal life, he and St. Theresa formally founded the Order of Reformed Carmelites (discalced). He died in 1591.
While being known for being St. Theresa’s confessor and helping her with founding the Reformed Carmelites, St. John is best known for his poems which are considered classics in Spanish. Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul are considered two of the greatest poems ever written in Spanish. Other works by John were: “Ascent of Mt. Carmel” and sayings of light and love. John expresses the true joys and sufferings of spiritual union in Christ, St. Johns’ works have influenced many Christians through today (Edith Stein, Thomas Merton among others) and are still important today.
From John we learn about the yearning to truly be with God, to follow him and to be willing to sacrifice all for Christ.
Song of Solomon 3:1-4
John 16:12-15, 25-28
Collect: El Shadai, you gave your servant John of the Cross wonderful gifts of spiritual direction, understanding, and the ability to translate the Christian struggle into marvelous poetry. Give us all great love for you and reforming zeal, that we may reform the church so that all are seeking the giver, and not the gift. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in Shekina glory everlasting. Amen. (white)
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
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.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Collect: El Shadai, 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)
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Ambrose of Milan
Ambrose was the governor of northern Italy, when the Bishop of Milan died. Fearing that there would be rioting between the Arian and Catholic factions, he attended the meeting to help maintain calm between the warring factions. He appealed for order and good will on both sides, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop.” He resisted this calling as he was not even baptised, though a catholic. When a letter appeared suggesting that Rome should appoint the bishop of Milan, he yielded and was baptised, confirmed, and ordained deacon, presbyter, and bishop on successive days.
Ambrose was often in dispute with the emperor and many of the imperial family, of whom many (and the majority of the soldiers as well) were Arians (Arians believe that Jesus was part of the creation, that he is superior to us, but not God., the Jehovah’s Witnesses are one Arian group today.) His political acumen lead to the Catholics triumph and to the deposition of Arian clergy. When soldiers were ordered to take a church in Milan, Ambrose filled it with Christians singing hymns. The soldiers, unwilling to attack a church filled with singing Christians backed down. Ambrose also led the Emperor to public penance after slaying a large group of people who resisted him. More important, a law was passed, allowing for a cooling off period of 40 days between such death penalty decisions and execution. At the same time he encouraged the emperor to forgive his enemies.
Ambrose, while composing many hymns, and translating others from Greek to Latin, is best known for the Ambrosian chant, which he probably did not write, but encouraged. It is said that he wrote the Te Deum, and some of his iambic pentameter hymns are with us today (tune to Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow).
Perhaps he is best known for helping to bring Augustine of Hippo to Christ and baptizing him. But he is also famous for promoting the cause of local liturgy (especially of interest to those of us in the Synod of St. Timothy.) His saying, “When I am in Rome, I fast on Saturday, when I am Milan, I do not…” became shortened in English to, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” a far cry from strict liturgical uniformity practiced by many of his time and later.
Ambrose was also well known of being a help to the poor. Of course, he was not perfect and to some extent represented the values of his day. He was hard on Jews and pagans in a way that we are not today, and promoted relics as well. It is also probable that he wrote the Athanasian Creed. In general, as well as defeating the Arians politically, his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew allowed him to defeat them theologically as well, and his death found the Catholics in a much better position in the western Empire. He healed the sick, raised the dead and proclaimed the kingdom. He died April 4, 397, and is entombed in Milan, where his body still may be seen.
Collect: El Shaddai, you raised up Ambrose to keep the peace, to teach the faith and to enrich our worship of you. Be for us Lord, medicine when we are sick, our strength when we need help, the way when we long for heaven, our light when all is dark, and our food when we need nourishment. Send your Ruach haKodesh upon us that we would serve you as Ambrose did. This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and governs with you in Shekina glory everlasting. Amen. (white)
Monday, December 5, 2011
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 t 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.
Proverbs 19:17, 20-23
1 John 4:7-14
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)
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.
1 Samuel 12:20-24
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)