Saturday, December 1, 2018
Sunday, December 2, 2018THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Advent Sunday is the start of a new church year. At Saint Thomas, we celebrate Advent Sunday with a Procession at 11am and 4pm.
Advent puts past and future in the present moment and asks us to prepare, not for a distant future (for we know not when) but as if the future is today, because it is. Christ has already won the victory. So we are reminded of his incarnation, and wait for him to come again, even as we feed on him in the present moment through the Word and through the Eucharist, that is to say through Jesus Christ, the word made flesh.
As you contemplate what is, was, and is to come, consider any of these advent sermons in the archive.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Monday, December 3, 2018Francis Xavier
Tuesday, December 4, 2018John 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.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018Clement
Thursday, December 6, 2018Nicholas
Bishop of Myra
From the Rector’s Sermon for Christmas Eve 2008:
A few days ago a parishioner sent me the famous editorial from the September 21, 1897 New York Sun, written in response to an eight-year-old girl’s letter, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” which you can find online. “How dreary would the world be,” it says, “if there were no Santa. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.” Indeed.
But if Virginia grew to adulthood and were interested, she could have discovered that behind Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas of Myra, a fourth century bishop in Asia Minor beloved for his care for the poor, for waifs and orphans, and for sailors. Saint Nicholas was one of the bishops who approved the Nicene Creed which we are about to say. So behind him is the Child of Bethlehem, very God of very God who for us came down from heaven. Love really did come down at Christmas.
Almighty God, who in thy love didst give to thy servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray thee, that thy Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Friday, December 7, 2018Ambrose
Bishop of Milan
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) recounts the life of Ambrose as follows:
Ambrose was the son of a Roman governor in Gaul, and in 373 he himself was governor in Upper Italy. Though brought up in a Christian family, Ambrose had not been baptized. He became involved in the election of a Bishop of Milan only as mediator between the battling factions of Arians and orthodox Christians. The election was important, because the victorious party would control the powerful see of Milan.
Ambrose exhorted the nearly riotous mob to keep the peace and to obey the law. Suddenly both sides raised the cry, “Ambrose shall be our bishop!” He protested, but the people persisted. Hastily baptized, he was ordained bishop on December 7, 373.
Ambrose rapidly won renown as a defender of orthodoxy against Arianism and as a statesman of the Church. He was also a skillful hymnodist. He introduced antiphonal chanting to enrich the liturgy, and wrote straightforward, practical discourses to educate his people in such matters of doctrine as Baptism, the Trinity, the Eucharist, and the Person of Christ. His persuasive preaching was an important factor in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo.
Ambrose did not fear to rebuke emperors, including the hot-headed Theodosius, whom he forced to do public penance for the slaughter of several thousand citizens of Salonika.
About Baptism, Ambrose wrote: “After the font (of baptism), the Holy Spirit is poured on you, ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the spirit of holy fear’” (De Sacramentis 3.8).
A meditation attributed to him includes these words: “Lord Jesus Christ, you are for me medicine when I am sick; you are my strength when I need help; you are life itself when I fear death; you are the way when I long for heaven; you are light when all is dark; you are my food when I need nourishment.”
Among hymns attributed to Ambrose are “The eternal gifts of Christ the King,” “O Splendor of God’s glory bright,” and a series of hymns for the Little Hours.
At Saint Thomas we sing the first one, #234 in the Hymnal 1982, every now and again at Choral Evensong.
O God, who didst give to thy servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, December 8, 2018Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sunday, December 9, 2018THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.