Feast Day of Saint Lawrence, August 10

Saint Lawrence (also spelled Laurence) is a highly venerated Roman martyr, revered and respected for his Christian valor. His death occurred in 258 AD, executed at the decree of the Roman Emperor Valerian. Historians differ as to his manner of death. Some say he was beheaded, while others record that he roasted to death on a gridiron. He was one of seven deacons of the Roman church serving Pope Sixtus II, all of whom were executed. Before his arrest, Saint Lawrence distributed the church’s treasures to the poor and the sick.

 A martyr is one who voluntarily suffers torture and death rather than denies or betrays his religious beliefs. It is a person for whom principle is worth the sacrifice. Following Lawrence’s death, many throughout Rome converted to Christianity, their hearts emboldened by his bravery and steadfast obedience. For his generosity in the face of great adversity, Saint Lawrence is the patron saint of the poor.  To this humble man, perhaps his highest honor.

Faith Unlimited

Last week, one of our beloved Community members went to be with the Lord. His wake and funeral honored him and his faith so well! We shared many stories of how his prayers of great faith pushed the limits and boundaries that we sometimes put on what God can do. There were many times in his life when he could have chosen to be afraid or overwhelmed, but he was a man of prayer and action, and God’s will first and foremost.

He struggled with Alzheimer’s and one of the nurses’ aides that cared for him, shared a secret of how he dealt with difficulties. He said, “You can look at hardships and complain or you can ‘flip it.’ God is good, and you always need to flip it and see the other side.”

Our loved one chose scriptures, read at his funeral, that reflected this positive attitude:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Interestingly, Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always” two times. I think it’s because we need to be reminded to rejoice at all times, to trust and rejoice (to flip it) and not just in good times. We need to choose to pray with faith, and remember that, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “When you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

Rejoice always!

Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Sunday, August 6th

 

This Sunday we will sing a revered hymn, dedicated to the Feast of the Transfiguration.  Words and music written by two church members, the Transfiguration Hymn holds special memories of the prayerful planning and unique construction of our house of worship, so named The Church of the Transfiguration. The beautiful hymn’s poetry recalls the story of Jesus mystically transformed and reads:

Transfigured, Jesus stands in rays of light.
His three disciples cringe in awe and fear.
They shield their eyes before the glory bright,
The Majesty divine is dawning here!

Two others stand beside the Vision fair,
They talk together of Jerusalem.
They speak of what must be accomplished there,
The suffering and the cross awaiting him.

A cloud of mist enfolds the holy three:
The Vision fades; a heavenly Voice they hear:
“This is my Son, this is the chosen One,”
Then Jesus says, “Arise, and have no fear.”

Grant us to be transformed as we behold,
O blessed Lord, this heavenly vision fair;
Your light and truth and love our souls enfold;
By grace may we at last your glory share.

Words by Hal M. Helms

In the final stanza, the composer adds a soaring descant that hovers like an overlay of angel-voices, witnesses to the love God sent in Jesus His Son.

The Community of Jesus

 

Feast Day of Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus – Monday July, 29th

A Prayer for Hospitality and Service

Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. – From “The Daily office of the Mission of St. Clare

Scripture

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.  – Romans 12: 9-13

Feast of St James the Great – Thursday, July 25th

James the Great (or Greater), son of Zebedee, was born in approximately 3 AD. He was brother to John, also one of the original Twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus. His father Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman, was a man of means; Salome, James’ mother, was a pious woman who later followed Jesus and used the family’s wealth to help His ministry.

James was a man of “firsts”:  one of the first disciples to join Jesus, one of only three chosen to witness Christ’s transfiguration, and believed to be the first apostle martyred for his faith.

He was known to be a man with a fiery temper. He and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or “Sons of Thunder”.  The Bible, in Luke 9:51-56, records the following: As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples Jamesand John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then He and His disciples went to another village. How refreshingly human!

Universally, StJames the Great is recognized as the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. Tradition maintains that StJames preached the gospel in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) as well as the Holy Land. Upon his return to Judea circa 44 AD, he was decapitated by Herod Agrippa, who used his own sword to commit the execution. Legend maintains that disciples of James carried his body by sea back to Iberia, and then took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela.  A pilgrimage route was established and remains today. Camino de Santiago, or The Way of StJames, is among the most famous of all Christian pilgrimages.

James the Great is often depicted clothed as a pilgrim, with staff in hand, pilgrim hat, and a scallop shell on his shoulder. Scallop shells became a symbol of pilgrimage because of their abundance on the coast of Galicia, near StJames’ tomb. In the Middle Ages, a pilgrimage was often a penance assigned by a priest, and the pilgrim was required to present proof that their journey was complete. A local souvenir, such as a scallop shell, served not only as proof, but could be used as a bowl for food or water along the way.

StJames the Great (or Elder) is honored by tradition and legend and rightfully so.  But perhaps his greatest accomplishment is found in Matthew 4, verses 21 and 22: Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Feast of St. John Cassian – Tuesday July 23rd

Today we remember a quiet man in an unquiet world, born to wealthy parents in Scythia Minor, present-day Dobrogea, Romania, c. 360 AD. Like many Desert Ascetics of his time, he pursued a three-step path to holiness:  Purgatio, Illuminatio, and Unitio.  

Purgatio – in Greek, catharsis, a young monk’s struggle with “the flesh,” recognizable sins such as gluttony, lust, and desire for possessions. Through this process, often taking many years, the monks discovered that their strength to resist came through prayer and grace.

Illuminatio – in Greek, theoria, the second step, monks practiced the paths of holiness as described in the Gospel. They concentrated on the Christ found in Matthew Chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. Many monks died still striving to achieve the Lord’s commission.

Unitio – Greek word theosis. In this final stage, the soul of the monk bonded with the Spirit of God and achieved a mystical level of peace. It is at this stage that many elderly monks fled deep into the desert or remote forests to find solitude.

These three steps comprised the life-form of Saint John Cassian, ascetic, monk, theologian, writer and abbot. Even so, he saw all of life as a means to an end as described in the following quote:

Fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection, as we have said; they are its tools. For perfection is not to be found in them; it is acquired through them. It is useless, therefore, to boast of our fasting, vigils, poverty, and reading of Scripture when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow men. Whoever has achieved love has God within himself and his intellect is always with God.

                                 – Saint John Cassian

 

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene – Monday, July 22

We honor today Saint Mary Magdalene, one of the most beloved women in the Bible. In the canonical gospels, she’s mentioned by name twelve times, more than most of the other apostles. Yet factually, she remains a mysterious figure. We can conclude that her surname “Magdalene” indicates she was Mary from Magdala in Galilee. Multiple legends surround Mary. Some believe she is Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha. Others identify her as the prostitute from whom Jesus cast seven demons. And still others, the penitent sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Whether all suppositions are true, partly true, or truly false, they portray a woman who knew herself and her need for Jesus. They point to a generous person of means, who used her wealth to further the ministry of the Son of God. She is the woman recognized as a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus, present at His burial, the first witness of the empty tomb, and the first to whom our risen Lord identified himself. Mary, without hesitation or doubt, immediately testified to the appearance of the resurrected Christ. For these reasons, she earned the epitaph Apostola Apostolorum, the apostle to the apostles. Mary Magdalene was an unwavering witness of the name of Jesus Christ, sent to teach the principles of salvation to others.

Across the Pond

The Church of the Transfiguration Ringers are about to return home from a ringing tour in England, the heart of the change-ringing world. Click here to follow the trip on Facebook and see where we have been so far!

The tour is a dream come true and and has been an amazing opportunity to learn from the long tradition of ringing in merry old England. We’re been able to meet many ringers and ring bells in a variety of towers. Our whirlwind tour included 30 towers in and around London, Cambridge, Oxford and more!

Feast Day of Saint Benedict, Abbot July 11th

Community of Jesus St. Benedict iconToday’s hymn to begin the liturgy for our feast of St. Benedict begins with a prayer to our monastic forefather: “O precious jewel of the heavenly king, standard of the righteous, way of monastics, Benedict, withdraw us from the mire of the unclean world.”   Peter Damian, 11th C

The word “mire” can be used to describe a situation or state of difficulty, distress, or embarrassment from which it is hard to extricate oneself.  Is it truly possible to withdraw from a situation of difficulty or distress? I’m not sure, and it seems some suffering will always exist in our personal lives this side of heaven.  It is possible, however, to experience freedom from “mire-full” thinking. You know, those anxious thoughts that continuously make me feel inadequate, or that want to judge others and put them down. I experience feelings of panic and fear when I’m embarrassed, or when I don’t know how to finish a job by a deadline I agreed to.  We can be freed of these or any other thoughts, or “mire,” with a dose of St Benedict’s medicine.

Freedom from daily mire is part of what St Benedict’s way of life is meant to help us accomplish —  to be free to cherish Christ above all, to be free of our burdens so that we are available to listen to the Holy Spirit with the “ear” of our hearts.  Then, free to forgive ourselves, and genuinely desire union with Christ. In a relationship with Him, we are given the choice of freedom and with that an opportunity to become whole. Let us follow Saint Benedict’s path of prayer, obedience, and inward detachment from worldly cares which we cannot solve. 

 

Feast Day of Saints Priscilla and Aquila July 8

A first century married couple, Priscilla and Aquila are counted among the original Seventy Disciples. Described by the Apostle Paul as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” they’re mentioned six times in four different books of the New Testament.  They’re never referred to individually, but because of their depth of oneness in faith and love for Christ, are always mentioned as a couple. Here are the six Biblical references and significant facts gleaned from them:

    • Acts 18: 2-3    They shared the occupation of tentmakers with the Apostle Paul
    •  Acts 18:8        Priscilla and Aquila set sail from Corinth, Greece, with Paul
    • Acts 18:26      In Ephesus, they encountered Apollos, an eloquent preacher, who received and accepted accurate counsel from them regarding the tenets of Baptism
    • Romans 16:3 Paul sent greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, calling them his “co-workers in Christ who risked their lives for me.”
    • 1 Cor 16:19    Paul sent warm greetings in their name to the Church in Corinth
    • 2 Tim 4:19     Paul, under persecution and in fear, sent greetings to his
      kind and loyal friends, Priscilla and Aquila

 

  •  The missionary journey of Priscilla and Aquila began in Rome from which they were expelled by Emperor Claudius. They traveled to Corinth in Greece and established a tent-making shop and employed the Apostle Paul. They opened their home to gatherings of Christians and Paul himself baptized them there. Eventually, Paul took the couple with him to the Greek city of Ephesus, where they settled, while he traveled on to Antioch in Turkey. Their home in Ephesus was used as a place of worship, and the couple evangelized and taught many about the love of Christ. Upon the death of Emperor Claudius in 54 AD, Emperor Nero reversed the Jewish expulsion decree, and Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome, where they were warmly welcomed by the Christian church. When “The Great Fire” occurred in Rome on July 19, 63AD, and destroyed 70% of the city, the Christians were ultimately blamed and Aquila and Priscilla were among those martyred.  

    Ruins of Ancient Corinth where Priscilla and Aquila made tents and employed the Apostle Paul