Monday, January 28, 2013

Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop, 28 January 2013

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329– January 25 389 or 390) was Archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century.  He greatly influenced Greek and Latin speaking theologians and his work continues to influence theologians today.  He and the two brothers, Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil the great are known as the Cappadocian fathers, and together with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom are the great hierarchs in the Eastern Church.

Gregory’s parents were wealthy, and his mother, Nona converted his father Gregory to Christianity, and Gregory came to be Bishop of Nazianzus.   Gregory the son, after studying at home studied in Nazianzus, Caesarea, Alexandria and Athens.  On the way to Athens, during a storm which frightened him, Gregory promised God he would serve him if God would save him.  He continued to teach in Athens before returning home. 

His father desired to ordain him to the presbyterate, so Gregory could help him, but Gregory, preferring the monastic life, resented this, and left, living for a short time with Basil the great, who convince him to return and help his father.  Upon his return, he found divisions, which he was able to heal through his gifts of diplomacy and oratory.

By this time, the emperor Julian had declared himself to be opposed to Christianity.  Gregory wrote Invectives against Julian stating that the emperor should be opposed through love and patience. He also stated that this was a form of theosis, in which we become more like God.   Julian worked against those who opposed him until his death during a war against the Persians.  Gregory and Basil then embarked in a rhetorical war against the Arians, and clearly beat the Arians.  This success led them to be elected Bishops.

Basil was elected as Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and ordained Gregory as Bishop of Sasima, which he had newly created so that Gregory could aid him.  Gregory was unhappy in this position, desiring to return to the contemplative life, and not wishing to be involved in politics as Basil’s pawn.  Instead he went to help his father as co-adjutor of Nazianzus until his father’s death.  He continued to work in the area, but refused to be named bishop, living a simple life. 

In 379, the synod of Antioch under Melatus asked Gregory to go to Constantinople to reestablish Orthodoxy as opposed to Arianism.  A cousin offered him a villa, most of which he converted into a church (Anastasia, or Resurrection) from which he delivered powerful sermons on the Trinity and Unity of the Godhead.  His opponents fearing his popularity attacked and entered the church, injuring Gregory and killing another bishop.  The situation was confused, with Gregory staying (convinced by his followers), but with Arian priests in some of the churches, and remained so until the arrival of  the Emperor, Theodosius, who had Gregory enthroned as patriarch of Constantinople, taking the place of Demophilus. 

Theodosius and Gregory called the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 for the express purpose of uniting the empire behind Trinitarian Christianity.  After the death of the presiding Bishop, Gregory took over the council.  In order to prevent division, Gregory renounced his position as Patriarch, and after giving a farewell speech, he returned to Nazianzus as Bishop, struggling with heretics and poor health.  Eventually, finding himself to weak to continue his work, he appointed a new bishop to serve Nazianzus and retired to his parents estate where he lived for another five years until his death on 25 January 389 (or 390).

Gregory’s greatest role was in the defense of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and in Pneumatology.  He gave us the term procession referring to the Holy Spirit and emphasized that Jesus did not cease being God, nor did he lose his divine attributes when he became man. 

Collect:  Heavenly Father, you strengthened Gregory of Nazianzus through sickness and persecution.  As he was on fire with love for you, so train us up that we may be aflame with your love and share it with all the world.  This we ask through  Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (white)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Conversion of St. Paul: @5 January 2013

The account of the Conversion of St. Paul is repeated several times in the Book of Acts.  Paul was a citizen of Rome, from Tarsus.  He was also a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin and studied under Gamaliel, the most famous Rabbi of his time.

Paul was a true Pharisee, he loved God, but saw that salvation was earned by obeying the 613 Mitzvot (commandments) found in the Tanakh or Old Testament.  Paul had it reversed, thinking we are saved because we obey, and he did his best to obey, to the point of witnessing the martyrdom of Stephan, and by getting warrants to throw Christians in prison, and even have them killed.

On his way to Damascus, he had an experience to transform his life forever.  He comes face to face with the risen Lord, who even suggests that Saul might be sympathetic to Christians (why are you kicking against the goads? Says Jesus to Paul).  He who was spiritually blind comes face to face with Yeshua and is struck blind literally.  We who are spiritually blind need to be careful when we say we see, for our sin will be greater.  Paul realizes something is going on, and he fasted for three days.  On the third day, Ananias, a follower of the way is directed by the Lord to go heal Saul.  Ananias has some misgivings, but obeys the Lord.   Saul recovers his sight and is immediately baptised.  He has come from trying to be saved through obedience to obeying because he is saved.  Would that all Christians would learn to thank the Lord through his obedience. 

Paul goes form persecuting the church, to proclaiming Yeshua as Messiah, a Messiah not only for Jews, but for Goyim (gentiles) as well, the true saviour of the world.  Paul was a prolific writer and evangelist.  Thirteen Epistles were written by Paul.  He also traveled extensively in what is now Italy, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Crete, and Malta.  We know he planned on visiting Spain, and probably did.  There is also some evidence he may have made it to Britain as well.  Only St. Thomas made it further than Paul amongst the Apostles. 

Paul talked about a thorn in his flesh, which God would not cure, telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”  I suggest that the thorn in the flesh (it has been identified with everything from poor eyesight to homosexuality) was deliberately not identified, so that we could each say, God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness in that area.

Whether we write, or preach, or go telling others about Yeshua, we need to have Paul’s enthusiasm, and his thankfulness, and great desire to spread the Good News to all nations. 

Collect of the Day:  Lord, as we remember your appearance to St. Paul and his marvelous conversion on this day, so move in our hearts that we would share his passion to proclaim the Gospel.  This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (white)

Psalm 67
Acts 26:9-21
Galatians 1:11-24

Matthew 10:16-22
If there is no celebration of the Eucharist today, use the lesson from Acts with matins 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

St. Vincent of Zaragoza (22 January 2013)

St. Vincent of Zaragoza (died 304)

St. Vincent was born in Huesca, Spain.  He lived in Zaragoza and served as Deacon to the Bishop Valerius.  According to legend, when he and Valerius were brought to trial, that Valerius could not respond due to a speech impediment.  Receiving the Bishops permission to speak, Vincent  launched into a fervent defence of the faith.  Even his gaoler was converted.  Vincent suffered many severe torments, before dying without renouncing his Lord. 

Collect:  Heavenly Father, as you raised Vincent to be deacon in Saragossa, and gave him eloquence to proclaim and strength to die for his faith, so fill us with your spirit that we would always be ready to proclaim the Gospel and to live and die for Yeshua.  In the name of Yeshua we pray, Amen.  (red)

Monday, January 21, 2013

St. Agnes, 21 January 2013

St. Agnes (c. 291-21 January 304)

Agnes was born to a noble family in Rome in about the year 291.  She was raised as a Christian and was martyred at the tender age of 12.  A Roman Prefect had decided that she was to marry his son.  When Agnes refused, the prefect ordered that she be put to death.  As it was forbidden to kill virgins, she was dragged to the brothel, but the men who attempted to rape her were struck blind.  When they took her to the stake to burn her, the wood would not burn.  She was finally beheaded by the sword, cheerfully dying for her Lord.   

It is said that her martyrdom helped end martyrdoms in Rome, as people were disgusted that paganism had to be preserved by the death of one so young. 

(readings may be omitted if no celebration of the Eucharist. )

Collect: Lord Yeshua, who gave even children the strength to stand up for the true faith in face of persecution.  Give us Agnes’s child like faith that we may always witness as to what you have done for us.  This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (red)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Miles Coverdale: 19 January 2013

Miles Coverdale (c1488-20 Jan.  1569) was a Bible translator during the time of the reformation.  He was born in Yorkshire, studied at Cambridge and was a priest at Norwich.  Later he joined the Austin Fryers and left after defending Robert Barnes in a heresy trial. From 1525 through 1538 he stayed on the continent working on his translation.  Part of this time was spent working with William Tyndale, whose translation of the New Testament was used in Coverdale’s translation.  This Bible was smuggled into England and was very popular.  After Cramer convince Henry VIII that an English Bible would be a good thing, he put Coverdale to work on editing.   Coverdale’s first work was weak, in part because it was translated from Latin, not from the original languages.  Coverdale’s work on the Psalms in the Great Bible was very good, and these became the Psalms used in the Anglican Book of Common prayer, making these versions very well known even to today.  After Cromwell was executed, Coverdale went back into exile, and did not return until 1548.  He was made Chaplain to King Edward, and made Bishop of Exeter, which role he fulfilled well.  After the succession of Queen Mary, he was deposed and again went into exile.  After Queen Mary’s death, he returned to England in 1559, and server as rector of St. Magnus’s, but was not returned to his Bishopric, probably because of conflicts with Puritans regarding vestments.  He was a popular preacher and introduced German theological ideas to England.  He died in London and is buried there.

His chief contribution was the translation of the Psalter used in the Book of Common Prayer.

Dear Lord, you raised up Miles Coverdale to work on presenting the Bible to the people of England in a language which they could understand.  As he suffered much in this work, yet was faithful to you and your word, raise up in this and every generation men who are good and holy  with a mission to help Christians understand your word.  This we ask in the name of Yeshuah who revealed the Tanakh to the Jews.  Amen.  . 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Confession of St. Peter: 18 January 2013

Confession of St. Peter

On this day, we remember not so much St. Peter, but his confession recognizing Jesus as Messiah. All the disciples and many others recongnised that Jesus was a holy man or a prophet, but it was Peter who specifically made the jump to recognise Jesus as the Messiah who was sent by God.  Jesus’ answer tells us something about our relationship to God.  It is not through brains or intelligence that we recognise, but by the Holy Spirit that we come to know him as Messiah.

Heavenly Father, as we remember Peter’s recognition of Yeshua as the Messiah, help us to truly recognize him as well in heart and mind that we may follow Peter, walking on water, healing, raising the dead, and proclaiming the Gospel.  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.  (white)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

St. Anthony: 17 January 2013

St. Anthony the Great (251-356)

Anthony was born to wealthy Christian parents in Coma, lower Egypt.  One day on his way to church, he was meditating on Jesus saying, “sell of you have, follow me and you will have riches in heaven (Mathew 19:21), At church, the same scripture was used, and as a result, Anthony at the age of 34 looked to the needs of his sister and sold the rest.  The land he owned was given to the tenants who worked it.  The money he made was given to the poor and he left to live in the desert.

He stayed in the desert for thirteen years, during which time he was faced with temptations by boredom, laziness and images of women. He then moved into a tomb and sealed it.  Beaten in the body by the devil, he was found unconscious and taken to a church.  After recovering there, he went out to the desert again but to an even more isolated place.  Visions of various animals appeared to him to scare him, but he just laughed at them and told them they had no power over Christ.  During this time he was locked in an abandoned fort and his only communication was through a crack in the wall.  Eventually he emerged, peaceful and enlightened.  He went to Alexandria to seek martyrdom and witnessed to many, but was not martyred.  He returned to his fort for a while, but so many people came to see him that it interfered with his prayer life, so he moved yet again, deeper into the desert.    He found a pool and palm trees and settled there.  There he grew a garden and wove mats made of reeds.  Many would come to visit him, but actually conversed with members of the community which gathered around him.  A vision of an angel inspired his form of dress from here on, and he was never bored again.  He prophesied the persecution of the church at this time.  In 338 he was called by Athanasius to help him refute Aryanism. 

Knowing his time was near, he divided his few possessions and charged the monks to bury him secretly so that his body would not be divided up.  They obeyed and to this day the site of his burial is unknown.  While not the founder of monastism, or anchorites, his life was an inspiration to both.  He was well known for establishing monasteries in Egypt. 

Collect:  Dear Lord, you raised up Anthony to be a shining light in the desert, encouraging those suffering persecution, and strengthening those tempted by Aryanism, so raise up in this and every generation encouragers to strengthen us in true doctrine.  This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reigns with you and Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (white)

Lessons: (omitted if no celebration of the Eucharist)
Psalm 91:9-16 or 1 
1 Peter 5:6-10 
Mark 10:17-21 

My apologies, somehow we missed the Holy Name, the Epiphany and St. Hilary.