Feast Day of St. Barnabas – June 11th

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

St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

Saint Barnabas was among Christ’s earliest followers and by tradition honored as part of the seventy-two most respected men of the early Church.

His birth date is unknown, but according to Acts 4:36, he was a Cypriot Jew. His Hellenic Jewish parents named him Joseph, but the Apostles later changed his name to Barnabas, defined as “son of consolation.” His story is told primarily in the Book of Acts, with some mention in the epistles of Paul.

Barnabas became a close associate of Saint Paul, and it’s believed they both studied theology in the Jerusalem school of Gamaliel. Their relationship was, as most true friendships are, a rocky one. It survived because of their commonality in love and devotion to their Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Barnabas introduced Paul to Peter and others of the Twelve. The two men felt called by God to become the “Apostles of the Gentiles,” and they sometimes were at odds with Jewish traditions and St. Peter’s insistence on their inclusion.

Either during Christ’s public ministry or after his death and resurrection, Barnabas chose to donate all he had to the Church. He sold his large inherited estate and gave the proceeds to the fledgling band of Apostles, and the spreading of the Gospel.

He died a martyr, stoned to death in 61 AD by an unruly mod in Salamis, Cyprus. His enviable epitaph, given him by St. Luke in Acts 6:24, describes Saint Barnabas as ‘a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.’ His reputation spoke of exceptional kindness, personal holiness, and openness to unbelievers.

 

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. Boniface — June 5th

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.

The Lamb is the Light

Lamb mosaic from the apse of the Church of the Transfiguration

Recently, in church, we read from Revelation Chapters 21 and 22, which tell us about Christ in Glory and the New Heaven and the New Earth. Our church apse depicts in exquisite mosaic design these very scriptures. As I listened, I gained a new appreciation for what it means for me today.

The first thing that made an impression on me was how the scripture spoke of the New City of Jerusalem, (heaven), needing no light. “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Revelation 22:5

I wondered. If I allow light into the dark areas in my life now, can’t God’s glory be more present in me and bring some heaven down on earth??” The following sentence goes on to say, “People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations,” so how else can people bring glory unless they allow more of God into themselves?

I’ve realized that the Tree of Life is Jesus and the Cross, but somehow hearing the reading yesterday about the leaves of the tree being “for the healing of the nations” seemed so full of hope in a new way! Hope for each of us individually, and in this time of division, hope for all the nations.

The goodness and love of God and His provision for us deserve our praise and gratitude.  We are all unclean; we are all full of falsehood; and although the Bible states, “Nothing unclean will enter it, not anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  He has provided healing leaves in the Tree of Life; He has provided the River of the Water of Life to cleanse us, and “take as a gift”. If we do these things, our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

He makes all things new!  We can live and bring His glory into our lives today through His provision of light, healing, and cleansing power. What a gift!

 

Feast Day of Christ’s Ascension – May 30th

Ascension Fresco at the Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus on Cape Cod. Painted by Silvestro Pistolesi from Florence, ItalyUpon the Wings He of the Winde rode
Through all the silver Skies, and made
The Azure Cloud, His Chariot, bring
Him to the Mountain of Celestial joyes.
The Prince o’ th’ Aire durst not an arrow spend,
While through His Realm His Chariot did ascend.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down Him to attend,
And hear Heart-cramping note of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their Music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.

God is gone up with a triumphant shout,
The Lord with sounding Trumpets’ melodies.
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing Praise seraphic wise!
Lift up your heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
and let the King of Glory enter in.

Excerpts from Meditation 20
Edward Taylor
17th Century Puritan Sacred Poet

 

Feast Day of St. Bede – May 25th

Saint Bede was a person of great intellect and an extraordinary scholar. And yet at heart, he was an uncomplicated man who loved God and found life’s joy in following His will.  There are no miracles on Bede’s balance sheet, no visions, and no revelations beyond a steady belief in the love of God and His plan for each of us.

Saint Bede was born c. 673, and while his place of birth is uncertain, it’s believed he was born in present-day Sunderland, England. Sent to Jarrow Monastery at age seven, he spent the majority of his life there. Surrounded by saintly monks, Bede grew in spiritual stature and was an exemplary student of philosophy, astronomy, grammar, arithmetic, Holy Scripture and ecclesiastical history.  Eventually, he became a revered teacher, author, and scholar. His work Ecclesiastical History of the English People earned him the title “Father of English History.”

It’s said that nearing death, Bede called his fellow monks to his bedside and presented each with a gift he had made for them. His legacy then is first and foremost one of love for his fellow man and a life of humility amid personal greatness. He remained in his original Monastery of Saint Paul, Jarrow his entire life, content with the quiet simplicity of learning, writing, and teaching.

The Ancient Tradition of Bell Ringing

Did you know that bells were first created in ancient China? The earliest example of them appeared some 4,000 years ago, around the 1st Millennium BC. Chinese metal workers forged metal tiles together, leaving an opening at the bottom to release the sound. Because of the volume of the bells, they were used to signal important checkpoints throughout the day, such as the end of work.

As bells become more popular in Asia, they grew to represent a symbol of culture and power. They were decorated elaborately and were among the emperors most prized possessions. The more bells you had, the higher your status. The emperor had four, other royalty had three, ministers and religious priests three, and government officials had 1 bell in their houses.

So if bells were created in Asia for nonreligious purposes, how then did they develop into an integral part of the modern church? Essentially, it was their usefulness in communication that drew, in the 5th century AD, Benedictine monks from Italy to the Campana of Asia. There they learned how to cast the metal and brought the tradition to Italy. From there it spread across Europe. Religious ritual bells first rang to commemorate a funeral service and by the 9th century, were a regular part of various religious ceremonies.

All this to say that we have the ancient Chinese to credit for the beginnings of our beautiful tower bells!

 

Feast Day of St. Pachomius – May 15th

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Pachomius the Great, widely recognized as the founder of Christian cenobitic monasticism.

Born in Egypt around the year 292, the future saint was the son of pagan parents. They never-the-less instilled in him good character and a prudent and sensible approach to life. He received an excellent secular education and had all the needed tools for success. However, during a period of turmoil and civil war, it was a common practice for the Roman army to conscript young men against their will. Pachomius, at age twenty-one, was caught up in one such “recruitment” drive. He and several other young men were sent by ship to Thebes, a city in ancient Greece.

The Christians of Thebes recognized the harsh treatment and barren existence the young soldiers endured and treated them with compassion. Daily they brought food and comfort, which impressed Pachomius and the others. He vowed to pursue Christianity once free of the Roman army, and in 314, was converted and baptized.

For seven years, he studied with the hermit Palaemon and then set out on his own.  Christian asceticism was traditionally eremitic, described as individual male or female monastics who lived in individual huts or caves, and occasionally gathered for worship services. Saint Pachomius heard a voice direct him to build a dwelling for hermits to live in community.  Known as the Father of Spiritual Communal Monastic Life, he formed cenobitic communities, where male and female monastics held property in common under the leadership of an abbot or abbess.

Pachomius passed from this life May 9th, 348AD, during an epidemic. He left a legacy of eight monasteries and several hundred monks that followed his rule. Within a generation, cenobitic practices stretched from Egypt to Syria, North Africa and even Western Europe. The number of cenobitic monastics is said to have reached 7,000.

 

Feast Day of St. Matthias – May 14

St. Matthias (Peter Paul Reubens, 1611)

We read in Acts 1:15-16, post Ascension, Peter addressed the brothers, some 120 followers of Jesus. Peter reminded them of the scriptural recommendation that someone fill the office of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. All of the original twelve were chosen and called by Jesus, Himself. How then to find the anointed apostle in His absence?

Peter outlined specific criteria: that it be a man who walked with them from the time of Jesus’ baptism until His Ascension, someone who could testify to the resurrection, who loved Jesus when He was an unknown carpenter, and when He spoke of the cross and other teachings that caused His abandonment.

The group of followers nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. Peter proposed that they pray and draw lots and by this manner, Matthias was selected to join the Eleven.

His name means “gift of God,” and although not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament, Matthias is an example of one who remained faithful and accepted the responsibility offered him. He preached in Cappadocia, Jerusalem, along the shores of the Caspian Sea, and Ethiopia. Accounts differ as to the martyrdom of Saint Matthias; some indicate he died by stoning in Jerusalem, and others by crucifixion in Colchis.

Feast Day of Sts. Philip and James – May 2nd

Quilted icon banner of St. Philip and St. James from the Community of Jesus

Quilted banner of St Philip and St James.

We celebrate two faithful servants of God today, two disciples from a band of twelve that walked beside Jesus on His earthly journey.  They are linked because the relics of each were brought to Rome on the same early day in May.

Let’s begin with Philip, whom Jesus called saying simply, “Follow me.” Philip was an outgoing and enthusiastic man and did not hesitate to call others. It was Philip that brought Nathanael to Jesus.  “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets. Jesus son of Joseph from Galilee,” he announced, to which Nathanael famously replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” John 1:45, 46 Undeterred, Philip invites his friend to come and see for himself. However, like all of us, Philip had his times of doubt. When asked by Jesus to buy bread for the great multitude of those gathered to listen, Philip answered that not two hundred days of wages would feed so many, not even a little.  He was also the one who asked the Lord Jesus that most embarrassing of questions, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” John 14:8   Philip suffered martyrdom in Greece during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Domitian. Crucified upside down, he remained Christ’s loyal friend and disciple to the end.

James, the Son of Alphaeus, was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve pillars of His church, the New Israel.  This James was known as James the Lesser, an indication that James, the son of Zebedee, and known as James the Greater, was the older of the two apostles.  James the Lesser is identified as the author of the Epistle of James and assumed to be the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  He, like Philip, died a martyr’s death. During the time of Nero, Emperor of Rome, James was arrested during Passover, about the year A.D. 62.  He was ordered to stand on top of the Jerusalem wall and preach against Jesus.  Instead, he climbed to the top and told all who would listen about the death and resurrection of Christ.  Soldiers threw him from the wall, and when the fall did not kill him, stoned him to death. He died on that day, at that place, a faithful follower of the Lord he loved.