Feast of St. Barnabas, Companion of Paul — June 11

Barnabas, named Joseph at birth, was an early and prominent disciple.  His new name, Barnabas, means “son of encouragement” and was given to him by the apostles.  They recognized his kindness, compassion, and ability to offer consolation in times of affliction.

Barnabas, a native of Cyprus and a Levite, is identified in the Acts of the Apostles.  His first recorded action is one of generosity toward Jerusalem’s Christian community.  He sold a parcel of land that he owned, and gave the much needed proceeds to the community.  He showed an equal generosity of Spirit by welcoming Saul after his conversion. Himself highly respected by the Christian disciples in Jerusalem, Barnabas convinced them of Saul’s courage and sincerity. The two men subsequently led several successful missions, converting many to the Christian faith.

Barnabas is thought to be the cousin of Mark the Evangelist based on Colossians 4:10, which directly refers to them as cousins. It was a dispute over John Mark that led Barnabas and Paul to separate.  Consequently, Barnabas returned to Cyprus with John Mark, while Paul and Silas evangelized Galatia.

According to fifth century writings, Barnabas was martyred for his faith in 61 AD. Tradition and legend describe his martyrdom as follows:  certain Jews, jealous of his extraordinary success, fell upon him as he was disputing in the synagogue, dragged him out, and after the most inhumane tortures, stoned him to death.  It’s also said that his kinsman, John Mark was present at his death, and privately interred his body.

Barnabas, prophet, teacher, apostle, and missionary is often depicted with a pilgrim’s staff and olive branch. A humble man, he was servant to all and understood the importance of prayer in daily life.  He was a courageous and kindhearted man whose life of love and sacrifice made a difference.

Community of Jesus St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

Feast of St. Columba

Saint Columba ( Irish Colmcille, meaning Church Dove) was born to influential, aristocratic parents in the year 520 in Gartan, County Donegal, Ireland. He was monk, priest, scholar, poet, historian, missionary, prophet and peacemaker.  Although an inheritor of pagan Irish culture, Columba was raised a Christian. His first teacher was an Irish priest, and his later education included the studies of Divine Wisdom and Sacred Scripture.

Columba is considered one of three Patron Saints of Ireland, following in importance to Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid of Kildare. He’s the patron-saint of the city of Derry, and founded a monastic settlement there c. 540.  Literacy in Ireland is largely attributed to the work of Columba. Early Irish monasteries, such as Derry, gathered both practitioners and teachers of reading and writing. They provided the first schools, scriptoriums, libraries, and archives.

In 562, Columba travelled to Scotland as a ‘Pilgrim for Christ.’  He hoped to find a secluded place in which to pursue a contemplative life.  As mentioned, Columba belonged to a powerful, aristocratic family. A Scottish kinsman, Conall mac Comgaill King of Dál Riata, granted him the Island of Iona to use as he wished. On this tiny Hebridean island, Columba founded a leading cultural and religious monastery, unrivaled in medieval Britain.  Iona expanded from a small, enclosed monastery to one with significant public responsibility.

Saint Columba is credited with varied miracles, from healing the sick to subduing wild beasts, including the Loch Ness monster! He performed agricultural miracles that endeared him to Britain’s common people. One such miracle was making bitter apples sweet and another, returning spilt milk to its over-turned bucket.

The following prayer is attributed to Columba, dedicated missionary, and expresses his sincere longing that all should know Christ:

Kindle in our hearts, O God,
The flame of love that never ceases,
That it may burn in us,
Giving light to others.
May we shine forever in your temple,
Set on fire with your eternal light,
Even your Son Jesus Christ,
Our Saviour and redeemer.  Amen.  


Feast of St. Boniface — Missionary and Martyr, June 5

Feast Day of Saint Boniface — Eighth Century Bishop

The feast of Saint Boniface, celebrated  June 5th, honors a man credited for three major life time accomplishments: missionary to and apostle of Germania, reformer of the Frankish church (and its ensuing influence on Western Christianity), and zealous pursuit of an alliance between the papacy and Frankish aristocrats.

Born c. AD 675, in Devon, England, Boniface was martyred for his missionary work on June 5, AD 754, in Frisia (now part of the Netherlands.)  It is said that he was attacked and martyred as he read Scripture to new Christian converts on Pentecost Sunday. During his life, many honors were given him, including selection as archbishop and metropolitan of all German territory east of the Rhine.

Boniface, in his whole-hearted desire to convert the German people, destroyed the sacred oak of their pagan God, Thor.  Witnesses claimed at the first stroke of the axe, a mighty wind came down and felled the ancient oak. Many were converted to Christianity through the  brave action of Bonaface.  A popular legend in Germany is that the traditional Christmas Tree  began with this event. It is said that Bonaface urged all who were present to take home a fir tree in celebration.  The evergreen symbolized peace, immortality, and praise to the Christian God.

Feast of St. Justin, Martyr — June 1

Justin Martyr was born to pagan parents c. 100 AD, in Samaria (modern-day Nablus, West Bank.)  He had an active and searching mind that sought the true meaning of life.  The philosophies of his day brought great disappointment.  He pursued many teachers: a Stoic who “knew nothing of God and did not even think knowledge of Him to be necessary”; a Peripatetic (itinerant philosopher), whose primary interest was collecting fees;  a Pythagorean, requiring courses in geometry, astronomy and music, none of which interested Justin; and a teacher of Platonism, intellectually demanding but no food for Justin’s empty heart.

Justin the Martyr Community of Jesus icon

 

Around the age of thirty, Justin happened upon an old man, reportedly a Syrian Christian. They talked about God, and the elder praised the reliability of the  prophets and their testimony.  Justin records that, “A fire was suddenly kindled in my soul. I fell in love with the prophets and these men who loved Christ; I reflected on all their words and found this philosophy alone was true and profitable. That is how and why I became a philosopher. And I wish that everyone felt the same way that I do.”

 

He was so moved by this aged man, he renounced his former religion and philosophical background.  Dressed in a philosopher’s cloak, he traveled the land teaching, interpreting Scripture, and spreading the love of Christ as the one and only “true philosophy.”


165, in Rome, Italy, Justin and his disciples were arrested and ordered to sacrifice to the Roman Gods. Justin replied with the words, “No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.” When the prefect threated torture without mercy, Justin gave this reply, “If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hope to be saved.” All were taken out and beheaded, giving their lives for the true philosophy.

Feast Day of St. Bede the Venerable – May 25

Saint Bede’s story is one of a call within a call, a man who carried in his heart this mission: to break the word to the poor and unlearned. Born the year 673 in Jarrow, Northumbria (England), he was sent to the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul at the age of three. There he received scholarly instruction from saintly monks and became one of the outstanding scholars of his day. His areas of expertise included philosophy, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history and Holy Scripture. He eventually became a monk there, was ordained at thirty, and except for one brief teaching sojourn in York, devoted his life to the study of Scripture, teaching, and writing at the monastery.

Known as the “Father of English History”, he was the first to date events anno Domini (A.D.) His best-known work is Historia Ecclesiastica gentis anglorum , a history of the English Church and its people, completed in 729. His manuscript remains a primary source of early English history.

Another title awarded St. Bede is “Patron Saint of English Writers and Historians.”  Known as a meticulous scholar and respected stylist, in addition to his great work of history, he composed forty-five other books, including thirty commentaries on books of the Bible. Bede spent his final Lent working on a translation of the Gospel of Saint John into English. He completed the translation on the day of his death.

Perhaps his most cherished title is that of “The Venerable Bede.” Venerable:  worthy of respect or reverence by reason of dignity, character, and exceptional wisdom.  It is said he died in 735 while praying his favorite prayer, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As in the beginning, so now, and forever.” Amen.

St. Bede Feast Day at the Community of Jesus

Saint Bede

Ringing Down

“Beauty turns the heart towards God” the preacher proclaimed this weekend, and I thought of a phrase I’d heard before…, “like a flower to the sun”. For this young bell ringer, well struck, ordered ringing is a sound which has this beautiful character and the capacity to turn the ears to His voice. On Sunday following Pentecost service, we rang haltingly, bumping into each other rhythmically, I missed my spot more than a few times. The service beforehand had advocated for the Holy Spirit to burn away all the nonsense in our hearts. This is really great news! Consequently a small bonfire was lighting up my heart as we rang, each untimely stroke giving the Holy Spirit a bit more fuel. Meanwhile, a coffee hour reception was being held on the common… with cake!

Interestingly, it wasn’t the well struck, ordered ringing, or lack thereof, which brought a smile between the ringers in the tower Sunday. Instead, we spontaneously rung down (were we hungry for cake?). Ringing down means the bells swing lower and lower, faster and faster until each bell hangs, and eventually rests, downward. Typically the bells rest upside down so that a ringer can use the momentum and weight of the bell to control the clapper striking and sounding of the bell.  And at the moment, what’s wonderful about the way we ring down is that; we’re not skilled enough yet to keep everything in time, which means the bells begin to overlap and wash over each other as they get faster and faster. It’s one of my favorite sounds, and it sounds as if the tower is glowing.

Here’s an animation of well struck, ordered ringing with the bells pausing in the upwards position.

 

 

 

 

 

Animation Credit: https://sites.google.com/site/weltondunholmescothernchurches/bell-ringing-welton-st-mary-s

 

Feast of Pentecost — May 20

PENTECOST
from the Greek Pentekostos or Fiftieth Day

It was an amazing display of God’s creative power:  wind, fire, and a musical cacophony of many languages. But it was so much more than an event, an anomaly to be discussed, misunderstood, and sometimes discredited, by the gathering crowd of pilgrim Jews.  Thousands were in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Shavuot, which honors spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.  Peter, often first to seize the moment, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.  He quoted the prophet Joel, who some 850 years prior, described the coming of this day:  And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.  And also on My menservants and on My maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days. It was an important and necessary component to the fulfillment of Jesus’ death and resurrection.   God united Christian followers then and forever by sending the Holy Spirit to fill their hearts.  A foundation was laid for His church; indeed, some refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the church, where all find equal access to the gifts of the spirit and all that His love offers.

When the Day of Pentecost had come, they (the chosen disciples and Mary, the Mother of Jesus) were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.   Acts 2:2-4

Pentecost Liturgical Art installation at the Church of the Transfiguration on Cape Cod

Pentecost at the Community of Jesus

 

Feast of St. Pachomius, Abbot – May 15

From the Prayers of St. Pachomius:

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and filla all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Pachomius was a soldier in the Egyptian army in the 3rd century when he first heard the call of Christ. He was inspired by Christians who voluntarily visited the soldiers and daily brought them food. Upon discharge from the army he was baptized and went to live an ascetic life in the desert. He soon turned to communal life with other monks and established the first organized structure for monastic communal living as we recognize it today.  He also wrote the first monastic rule that is still in use in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and at his death in 346 he was abbot-general over 11 monasteries with 7,000 monks.

 

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle — May 14

“As to the soul, we must develop her power by faith and knowledge” — attributed to St. Matthias by Clement of Alexandria

In the nine days of waiting between Jesus’s ascension and the day of Pentecost, the disciples remained together in prayer. During this time, Peter reminded them that the death of Judas had left the fellowship of the Twelve with a vacancy. Two men were nominated, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. After prayer, the disciples cast lots, and Matthias was chosen to join them. And with that, Matthias disappears from recorded history.

Clement of Alexandria, however, included several sayings of St. Matthias in his writings, and Abbot Gueranger, OSB comments on these in The Liturgical Year.

We must subject the body to the spirit in order to be restored to the image and likeness of God unto which we were created. But the soul has inclinations towards evil…what is to be her protection? Faith and knowledge. Faith humbles her, and then exalts and rewards her; and the reward is knowledge. — The Liturgical Year,  Abbot Gueranger O.S.B., adapted

St. Matthias, Cloister Saint — Community of Jesus

The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ – May 10

On this Feast, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: “If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.”
— St. Augustine  from a Sermon for the Lord’s Ascension

We are commemorating the day on which our human nature was carried up in Christ, above all the hosts of heaven, above all the ranks of angels, beyond the highest heavenly powers to the very throne of God the Father. Today we have been made possessors of paradise, having gained more through Christ’s unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil’s malice. Our enemy drove us out of the bliss of first abode, but the Son of God has placed us at the right hand of the Father, with who he lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
— Adapted from a sermon on the Ascension of Leo the Great (c.400-461)