Monday, March 19, 2012

St Joseph

Today the Church remembers the humble man who trusted God and lovingly cared for The Blessed Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus.  We know little about him, other than he was a carpenter and a man of great faith.  Tradition presumes he died sometime before the crucifixion of Jesus.  He has been venerated since the first century, as attested by this beautiful prayer that has come to us from 50 AD:

Oh St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

Oh St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your divine son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss his fine head for me, and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen

St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, John Collier

Shrine to the Repose of St Joseph, The Church of St Joseph, Rio de Janeiro

St. Joseph is the Patron of the Universal Church, fathers, workers, and the dying.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Baptism of Jesus

Theophany, Frank Wysochansky 

Theophany, Nana Quparadze 

Thou didst sanctify the streams of Jordan, sending down from heaven Thy Holy Spirit,
and didst crush the heads of the dragons that lurked therein.
(Orthodox prayer)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blessed Epiphany

Most High God!
Thou that enkindlest
the fires of the shining stars!
O Jesus!
Thou that art peace and life and light and truth,
hear and grant our prayers.

This present day has been made holy
by thy mystic baptism,
whereby thou didst sanctify
those waters of the Jordan,
which of old were thrice turned back.

It is holy by the star shining in the heavens,
whereby thou didst announce
thy Virginal Mother's delivery
and didst, on the same day,
lead the Magi to adore thee in thy crib.

It is holy too,
by thy changing the water
of the pitchers into wine;
which the steward of the feast,
knowing that he had not so filled them,
drew forth for the guests.

Glory be to thee, O Lord Jesus,
that didst appear on this Day!
And to the Father and to the Holy Spirit,
for everlasting ages. Amen.
Hymn of St. Ambrose (338-397)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus

Today is the 8th day of Christmas, and the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, also known in some places as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.  In fulfillment of the Law, Joseph and Mary took their newborn son to be circumcised on the eighth day, after-which he was given the name Jesus (which means Savior).  This feast is important because it proclaims the importance of the Incarnation- that God became flesh- that God became like us, in all ways.  That the Mighty Creator humiliated the divine self to become a baby who was hungry and needed to be nursed, who got dirty and needed to be bathed by his parents, who felt pain and bled at his circumcision.  As St. Athanasius wrote, God became human, so that humans might become god and partake in the divine nature.

This feast is also important because in Christ, the Law was fulfilled as the Son of God was marked with the sign of the Old Covenant.  In Christ, we were all circumcised, and with the fulfillment of the Law, Christ inaugurated the New Covenant, in which our hearts would be circumcised and marked as God's own forever with the sign of water baptism.

The Patristics have had many fruitful meditations on the blood of Christ shed at the Circumcision serving as a "down payment" of the precious blood that would be shed on the Cross.  I have some discomfort with Augustine and Anselm's theories of the atonement, by which God demanded Christ's blood as a payment for sin.  However, I do find it fruitful to contemplate on what this first drop of Christ's blood might mean in the overall scheme of God's saving actions in the world.  This drop of blood signifies, at least, God's willingness to suffer with us, and to experience once and for all, pain and sorrow, so that we could be free from it.  Of course even with Christ's victory over sin and death on the Cross, we continue to suffer, as we await the full dawning of the reign of God.  But, at least for me, there is much comfort in knowing that God is willing to continue to suffer with us, as we await the day of our redemption.

St. Basil the Great

Saturday, December 31, 2011

St. Sylvester

Today is the seventh day of Christmas and the feast of St. Sylvester.  Enjoy this legendary tale of how St. Sylvester slew a dragon who had been killing three hundred people a day.  It's a delightful story about this saint about which little is known.

In this time it happed that there was at Rome a dragon in a pit, which every day slew with his breath more than three hundred men. Then came the bishops of the idols unto the emperor and said unto him: O thou most holy emperor, sith the time that thou hast received christian faith the dragon which is in yonder fosse or pit slayeth every day with his breath more than three hundred men. Then sent the emperor for Saint Silvester and asked counsel of him of this matter. Saint Silvester answered that by the might of God he promised to make him cease of his hurt and blessure of this people. Then S Silvester put himself to prayer, and Saint Peter appeared to him and said: Go surely to the dragon and the two priests that be with thee take in thy company, and when thou shalt come to him thou shalt say to him in this manner: Our Lord Jesu Christ which was born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried and arose, and now sitteth on the right side of the Father, this is he that shall come to deem and judge the living and the dead, I commend thee Sathanas that thou abide him in this place till he come. Then thou shalt bind his mouth with a thread, and seal it with thy seal , wherein is the imprint of the cross. Then thou and the two priests shall come to me whole and safe, and such bread as I shall make ready for you ye shall eat. Thus as Saint Peter had said, Saint Silvester did. And when he came to the pit, he descended down one hundred and fifty steps, bearing with him two lanterns, and found the dragon, and said the words that Saint Peter had said to him, and bound his mouth with the thread, and sealed it, and after returned, and as he came upward again he met with two enchanters which followed him for to see if he descended, which were almost dead of the stench of the dragon, whom he brought with him whole and sound, which anon were baptized, with a great multitude of people with them. Thus was the city of Rome delivered from double death, that was from the culture and worshipping of false idols, and from the venom of the dragon. At the last when Saint Silvester approached towards his death, he called to him the clergy and admonished them to have charity, and that they should diligently govern their churches, and keep their flock from the wolves. And after the year of the incarnation of our Lord three hundred and twenty, he departed out of this world and slept in our Lord.

It is also New Year's Eve, and it is customary to say a Te Deum on this day in thanksgiving for God's blessings in the past year.  Here are two Te Deum's in thanksgiving for 2011.

Friday, December 30, 2011

St. Sylvester's Race: A benefit for the Anglican Church of Christ the King, Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro

On Dec. 31, St. Sylvester's Day, Luiz Coelho, an artist and candidate for Holy Orders in Rio de Janeiro, will be running the St. Sylvester's Day race in Sao Paulo to raise funds for the painting of a mural on the altar wall of the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the slum of Cidade de Deus, in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.  The mural will be a contemporary depiction of St. Augustine's City of God, set in Cidade de Deus, with Christ and the saints depicted as Brazilians living in a renewed city of peace.  If you would like to contribute to this project- and to learn more about it- please visit Luiz' blog here.  Those who make a contribution will be able to have one of the saints or a symbol in the mural offered in memory of a loved one, or in thanksgiving.  I fully support this project which will bring beauty to this holy house, and inspire hope in those who see a visual prophetic witness of God's desire for this neighborhood's becoming.  Prayerfully consider making a small contribution today.

Interior of Christ the King Anglican Church, Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro