Below is a listing of events at the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical Christian community in the Benedictine tradition located in Orleans MA. Liturgies are held at the Church of the Transfiguration. Also included are events presented by Elements Theatre Company (www.elementstheatre.org) and Gloriae Dei Cantores (www.gdcchoir.org). For more information please call 508-240-2400.
Stephen was the first person martyred for his Christian faith. He was dragged out of Jerusalem and stoned to death but his testimony bore much fruit. Saul, later called Paul, joined in condemning Stephen, but Stephen’s example of steadfast faith in Jesus and his prayer for forgiveness for his murderers found fruit in the mission and witness of Paul after his conversion. The Christian community in Jerusalem, fearful of the hostility of the Judean authorities, scattered. Thus, as a result of Stephen’s martyrdom, the gospel first began to spread beyond Jerusalem
It is commonly understood that John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” He clearly enjoyed a special relationship with his Lord, reclining close to Jesus at the Last Supper, receiving the care of Jesus’s mother at the cross, and being the first to understand the truth of the empty tomb. Yet at the end of his life, on the island of Patmos, John also saw Jesus in his glory and recorded his great vision in the Revelation to John.
This is a tragic event in the history of God’s people. It is also referred to as “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” The Wise Men reported to King Herod that they were searching for the infant king of the Jews. This threatened Herod. To protect himself against being supplanted by this infant, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. No one knows who or how many were killed, so the Church honors them as a group of martyrs. Augustine of Hippo called them “buds killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”
Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa (his brother), and Gregory of Nazianzus are revered in both the Eastern and Western Churches as the Cappadocian Fathers. Along with John Chrysostom they comprise the four hierarchs of the Eastern Church.
They were bishops of Caesarea, Nyssa, and Constantinople respectively and used their influence to restore the faith and discipline of the clergy, to establish disciplined communities of prayer, and helped formulate the doctrine of the Trinity. Together they rescued the church of the fourth century.
This feast belongs to the whole universe. Stars cross the sky; wise men journey from pagan lands; earth receives its savior in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude, as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Come, join the company of those who merrily welcome the Lord from heaven. Among such may we also be numbered, so that beholding his radiance with unveiled face, we too may be transformed from glory to glory by the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and power for endless ages.
Basil the Great
St. Hilary (c. 315-367) was born into a pagan family in Poitiers in France around 315. Following his conversion he became known for his depth of faith and his deep commitment to the church. Though married and a layman, he was elected as bishop in the see of his native town, where he almost immediately became a fervent voice against the Arian heresy of that period. During the next twenty years, he preached and wrote in defense of the orthodox faith, even when sometimes living in exile. St. Augustine called him “the illustrious doctor of the Churches.” As both theologian and poet, Hilary was also a prolific writer of hymns, including the following, written in celebration of Pentecost:
Hail this joyful day’s return,
hail the Pentecostal morn,
morn when our ascended Lord
on his Church his Spirit poured! Alleluia!
Like to clove tongues of flame
on the twelve the Spirit came–
tongues, that earth may hear their call,
fire, that love may burn in all. Alleluia!
Lord, to you your people bend;
unto us your Spirit send;
blessings of this sacred day
grant us, dearest Lord, we pray. Alleluia!
You who did our forebears guide,
with their children still abide;
grant us pardon, grant us peace,
till our earthly wanderings cease. Alleluia!
St. Antony of Egypt (251‒356!!) is considered to be the father of Christian monasticism. As a wealthy young man he heard God’s call through the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, “Go, sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Without hesitating, young Antony obeyed. He arranged for his younger sister to be cared for, sold his possessions, gave his money to the poor, and went out into the Egyptian desert to live as a hermit.
After years of surviving through a disciplined prayer life, manual labor, and reading in solitude, word of his holy life spread throughout the desert and beyond. Even emperors sought him out for advice, and a community of monks gathered to take advantage of Antony’s wisdom and pioneering example.
The feast of the Confession of Peter is celebrated on January 18th marking the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. This Octave concludes on January 25th with the Feast of the Conversion of Paul, also the most notable event of his life.
The confession of Peter is the watershed moment in the Gospel narrative, most completely recorded in Matthew 16. Here Peter becomes the first person to confess that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” and Jesus replies that “upon this rock I will build my church.”
Today we join Peter and all Christians everywhere in hailing Jesus as our God, Lord, and Savior.
A few years after the resurrection of Jesus, Saul came in contact with this new Christian movement, and immediately became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy.” He was on his way to Damascus to lead in further persecution of the Christians there, when his dramatic conversion took place.
From that day, Saul devoted his life totally to Christ, and especially to the conversion of the Gentiles. The book of Acts describes the courage and determination with which Saul (now Paul) planted Christian churches over much of the Roman Empire.
We began the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity with a recognition of Peter. We now conclude it with a feast day honoring Paul, for the remarkable way in which he, too, responded to the call of Christ on his life.
As companions of Paul, Timothy and Titus are commemorated together close to the feast of Paul’s conversion. Paul several times mentions their youth, while entrusting them with great responsibilities, a reminder that faithfulness, care and the love of Christ, not age, are the important qualities for Christian witness.
Marcella was raised in a noble Roman family. She married, but her husband died while she was still in her teens. After that Marcella devoted herself to a life of charitable works, study, and asceticism. Unlike Antony she kept her palace (on the Aventine Hill) and used it as a center for spreading the gospel and caring for poor Christian pilgrims, among whom were St. Athanasius and Sr. Jerome.
She was tortured by the Goths when they captured Rome in 410, and she died from the effects of these injuries at the age of 85.
When Mary placed the baby Jesus in the arms of Simeon, it was the meeting of the Old and New Covenants. The old sacrifices, the burnt offerings were done away, and a new and perfect offering had come into the temple. God had provided himself a Lamb. The offering was to be made once for all on the cross.
According to the Gospel narrative today’s feast is sometimes known as the Purification of Mary. In the Eastern Church it has been called the Meeting of Christ with Simeon. It is also known as Candlemas, because it was observed with a procession of lighted candles. Such a variety of names points to the wealth of spiritual meaning that generations of Christians have discovered in this “small” incident.