Monday, December 1, 2014SAINT ANDREW
A new church year begins on the Sunday closest to November 30, which is the Feast of Saint Andrew. We sometimes do not celebrate Saint Andrew on November 30 itself, when that date falls on a Sunday, as it does in 2014, in which November 30 is the First Sunday of Advent and we celebrate Saint Andrew on Monday, December 1 instead.
It is interesting that it is Saint Andrew that corresponds to the start of a new church year. Why Andrew?
Perhaps it is because, according to Saint John, Andrew was one of two disciples who followed Jesus after John the Baptist pointed Jesus out by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God." Andrew went and told his brother and brought him to Jesus. This makes Andrew among the first to recongnize that the man named Jesus was not only the Messiah, but, quite shockingly, a Messiah who would be sacrificed for his people.
Perhaps it is because, according to Saint Matthew, Andrew and his brother Peter, both fisherman, were the first to become disciples of Jesus, when he called them to make them "fishers of men." This makes them the first disciples, as well as the first evangelists.
Perhaps it is because, according to Saint John, Andrew was the one who brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus for the feelding of the multitude. This act not only marks Andrew as a faithful servant, but also, along with his recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God, gives Andrew a central role in the development of what would become the Eucharist.
Andrew is very much at the beginning of discipleship and evangelism. And so as we celebrate his feast day, we also celebrate the beginning of a new church year.
Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014Channing Moore Williams
Missionary Bishop in China and Japan
Fr Austin writes:
Today in our church we remember Bishop Williams, who was born in Richmond, Va., volunteered for work in China, became bishop to China and Japan and ended up spending most of his life in Japan. He died exactly 100 years ago today. You can read the short biography for him in Lesser Feasts and Fasts.
In that biography, note these dates: he began work in Nagasaki in 1859; in 1866 his first convert was baptized. Seven years of faithful work without a single baptism: what faith he must have had!
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank thee for thy servant Channing Moore Williams, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to the people of China and Japan. Raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land vangelists and heralds of thy kingdom, that thy Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Thursday, December 4, 2014John of Damascus
d. December 4, 749
Given that Saint Thomas Church is full of images in stone, wood and glass, the church building as we know it could not exist if John of Damascus and others were not successful in arguing against the Iconoclasts.
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) explains his contribution in this way:
John of Damascus was the son of a Christian tax collector for the Mohammedan Caliph of Damascus. At an early age, he succeeded his father in this office. In about 715, he entered the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem. There he devoted himself to an ascetic life and to the study of the Fathers.
In the same year that John was ordained priest, 726, the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian published his first edict against the Holy Images, which signaled the formal outbreak of the iconoclastic controversy. The edict forbade the veneration of sacred images, or icons, and ordered their destruction. In 729–730, John wrote three “Apologies (or Treatises) against the Iconoclasts and in Defense of the Holy Images.” He argued that such pictures were not idols, for they represented neither false gods nor even the true God in his divine nature; but only saints, or our Lord as man. He further distinguished between the respect, or veneration (proskynesis), that is properly paid to created beings, and the worship (latreia), that is properly given only to God.
The iconoclast case rested, in part, upon the Monophysite heresy, which held that Christ had only one nature, and since that nature was divine, it would be improper to represent him by material substances such as wood and paint. The Monophysite heresy was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
At issue also was the heresy of Manichaeism, which held that matter itself was essentially evil. In both of these heresies, John maintained, the Lord’s incarnation was rejected. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, in 787, decreed that crosses, icons, the book of the Gospels, and other sacred objects were to receive reverence or veneration, expressed by salutations, incense, and lights, because the honor paid to them passed on to that which they represented. True worship (latreia), however, was due to God alone.
John also wrote a great synthesis of theology, The Fount of Knowledge, of which the last part, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is best known.
To Anglicans, John is best known as the author of the Easter hymns, “Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise,” “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain,” and “The day of resurrection.”
At Saint Thomas, we sometimes sing the first one (#198 in the Hymnal 1982) at Evensong during Eastertide, and we often sing the latter two (#200 and #210) on Easter Day.
Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by thy servant John of Damascus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Friday, December 5, 2014Clement of Alexandria
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) has this to say about Clement:
Clement lived in the age of “Gnosticism,” a comprehensive term for many theories or ways of salvation current in the second and third centuries, all emphasizing “Gnosis” or “knowledge.” Salvation, for Gnostics, was to be had through a secret and rather esoteric knowledge accessible only to a few. It was salvation from the world, rather than salvation of the world. Clement asserted that there was a true Christian Gnosis, to be found in the Scriptures, available to all. Although his understanding of this Christian knowledge—ultimately knowledge of Christ—incorporated several notions of Greek philosophy which the Gnostics also held, Clement dissented from the negative Gnostic view of the world and its denial of the role of free will.
What Rich Man Will Be Saved? was the title of a treatise by Clement on Mark 10:17–31, and the Lord’s words, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” His interpretation sanctioned the “right use” of material goods and wealth. It has been contrasted to the interpretation of Athanasius in his Life of Antony, which emphasized strict renunciation. Both interpretations can be found in early Christian spirituality: Clement’s, called “liberal,” and that of Athanasius, “literal.”
O God of unsearchable wisdom, who didst give thy servant Clement grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the source of all truth: Grant to thy Church the same grace to discern thy Word wherever truth is found; through Jesus Christ our unfailing light, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.