Keeping Jesus’ commandment

Our sin of the continuing lack of  unity among the apostolic churches is confirmed in the words of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ and the “amen” found in the Church Fathers.

Jesus speaks in John 10:16  “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” 

St. Augustine:  “Let them all be in the one Shepherd [Christ] and speak with the one voice of the Shepherd, which the sheep may hear and follow their shepherd, not this or that shepherd but the one Shepherd. And in him let them all speak with one voice, not with conflicting voices.” Sermon 46.30 

     Born 354-430; bishop of Hippo, 396-430. Commemorated 15 June in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, 29 August by Roman Catholics.

 Jesus speaks in John 10:27-30  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 

St. Cyprian:  “He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, “I and the Father are one,” and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, “And these three are one.” And does anyone believe that this unity, which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God’s law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.” Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church. 

     Born 200(?)- 258; Martyred bishop of Carthage, 248-258. Commemorated 31 August in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, 14 September by Roman Catholics.

Are we showing the love Jesus he asks of us through the keeping of his commandments? He commands us to oneness; we can pray and labor in showing love and working for reconciliation.

St. Honoratus of Arles, celebrated 16 January in the Catholic and Orthodox churches

Saint Honoratus was born in Gaul (modern France) about 350, and came from a distinguished Roman family. After a pilgrimage to Greece and Rome, he became a hermit on the isle of Lerins, where he was joined by Sts Lupus of Troyes, Eucherius of Lyons, and Hilary of Arles, among others.

Adorned with virtues, St Honoratus treated a variety of spiritual diseases, freeing many from their enslavement to vice. His insight into each person’s character enabled him to apply the appropriate remedies for restoring souls to spiritual health.

St Honoratus died in 429 shortly after being consecrated as Bishop of Arles. St Hilary, his relative and successor, delivered a eulogy which still survives. Laurent Terrade, writing on the the eulogy (the Sermo) for the Ecole Intiative, says:

Caritas [loving charity],the culmination of the Christian virtues (1 Co. 13:2-3) is exercised by Honoratus in the two forms of the love of God and love of one’s neighbour; the latter is attested by his constant care for the needy and his warm hospitality both in Lérins and in Arles…[Regarding a ] saint’s almost magical ability to perform miracles… there are almost no miracles in the Sermo but the success of Honoratus in driving out the snakes from Lérins (VH 15, 4), a quite modest miracle indeed. Hilarius himself insists on this point (VH 37, 1-2): Honoratus’ merits were indeed so outstanding that they did not need to be illustrated by any miracles. Moreover, he had requested and been granted by Christ not to perform miracles. Through his humility, Honoratus himself attributes all his merits to God, that is ultimately to Grace (VH 37, 5).

Read the whole work at http://ecole.evansville.edu/articles/honoratus.html

God grant that we should all seek such humility before God and our fellow man.

St. Augustine on prayers to martyrs

From “The City of God”, Book 22:

But our martyrs are not our gods; for we know that the martyrs and we have both but one God, and that the same. Nor yet are the miracles which they maintain to have been done by means of their temples at all comparable to those which are done by the tombs of our martyrs. If they seem similar, their gods have been defeated by our martyrs as Pharaoh’s magi were by Moses. In reality, the demons wrought these marvels with the same impure pride with which they aspired to be the gods of the nations; but the martyrs do these wonders, or rather God does them while they pray and assist, in order that an impulse may be given to the faith by which we believe that they are not our gods, but have, together with ourselves, one God.

…but to our martyrs we build, not temples as if they were gods, but monuments as to dead men whose spirits live with God. Neither do we erect altars at these monuments that we may sacrifice to the martyrs, but to the one God of the martyrs and of ourselves; and in this sacrifice they are named in their own place and rank as men of God who conquered the world by confessing Him, but they are not invoked by the sacrificing priest. For it is to God, not to them, he sacrifices, though he sacrifices at their monument; for he is God’s priest, not theirs. The sacrifice itself, too, is the body of Christ, which is not offered to them, because they themselves are this body.

The Martyrs of Raitho- Jointly commemorated on January 14

 

There were groups holy monks were living on a summit in the Sinai region called Raitho, where they had established a monastery.  They were seeking a respite from all the evil in the world as much as one could, and they hoped to cultivate their own ascetic virtues at the holy place of God’s dwelling, living in humility and simply in the

View of Mt. Sinai

View of Mt. Sinai

mountains and caves of the mountain.  Following their practices of prayers, they would come on Sunday to gather in the Church and celebrate the Divine Mysteries and continue to instruct one another in faith.  However, a group of Bedouin tribesmen in the area named the Blemmyes appeared at the monastery.  They were polytheistic nomads who lived along the Red Sea in both Egypt and Arabia.  Initially, they hoped to raid and pillage the monks.  But they found only straw mats and monks dressed in hair-shirts!  The infuriated nomads then chose to sacrifice the thirty-three fathers of Raitho in their hatred.  Not only did they take their lives, but they destroyed the monastic complex as well, leaving only the ruins of Raitho.    The martyrdom of these Christians has been recorded for history by the Egyptian monk Abba Ammonius, in his “Discourse upon the Holy Fathers slain on Mount Sinai and Raitho.”  He would later become one of the first ascetic spiritual advisers to the Byzantine Imperial Court in the late fourth century.  The terrible massacres were also related by the Eparch Nilus as well (AD 390-451).  They recalled, “As Rachel wept for her children who are no more, so Raitho wept for the Fathers taken by the sword.”  Even during later periods other monks were not free from the danger of attacks.  They returned on several occasions to plunder the monks. The first time was in AD 305 or 312, the second time was under Valerian, on 28 December AD 370 and finally in AD 400 during the reign of Arcadius. The collective feast for all these monks is commemorated on the fourteenth of January.

The martyrdom of these exemplars of faith did not prevent more monks and spiritual ascetics from coming to the region.  Moreover, the events led to the building of a larger fortified monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai.  With a substantial gift from the Emperor Justinian and the contribution of Egyptian, Byzantine and local Arab architects, the new walled and fortified monastery of Saint Catherine of Alexandria was built on a nearby site in the sixth century.  Even today it remains one of the holiest monastic sites in the Eastern Christian tradition.  It was also a great center for Arabic-speaking Christians, and there are hundreds of Arab Christian manuscripts that remain in the possession of the monastery.

To be a martyr is to be a witness to faith in Christ.  The holy fathers at Raitho bore witness that we may seek peace in the face of violence, as Christ did in his suffering upon the cross for our sakes.  Today, their relics in our churches remind us of the call to be imitators of Christ and to be bold in telling the story of our own faith in our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

From “The Martyrs of Raitho” by Dr. David Bertaina, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Published in the Fall 2008 edition of Sophia Magazine and used by permission of the author.

The feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, shared by the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox

Saint Hilary, the “hammer against Arianism” of the western church, was born around 320 A.D. He was raised as a pagan, but converted to Christianity as an adult.

Discarding the approach of those who believed the purpose of life was only to satisfy desires he began his search for God by agreeing with the philosophers was saw that human beings should rise above desires and live a life of virtue. Hilary could see in his own heart that humans were meant for even more than living a good life; that was not enough to justify the enormous gift of life. So Hilary went looking for the giftgiver. He was told many of the things about the divine that we still hear today: that there were many Gods, that God did not exist but all creation was the result of random acts of nature, that God existed but did not really care for his creation, or that God was in creatures or images. Hilary saw in his own soul told him these images of the divine were wrong. God had to be one because no creation could be as great as God. God had to be concerned with his own creation — otherwise why create it.

At that point, Hilary tells us, he “chanced upon those books which…were written by Moses and the prophets.” When he read the verse where God tells Moses “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14), Hilary said, “I was filled with admiration at such a clear definition of God, which expressed the incomprehensible nature in words most suited to human understanding.” In the Psalms and the Prophets, he found descriptions of God’s power, concern, and beauty. For example in Psalm 139, “Where shall I go from your spirit?” he found confirmation that “there is no place without God, nor is there any place which is not in God.”

Still he was troubled. He now knew the giftgiver, but what was he, as the recipient of the gift? Was man just created for the moment to disappear at death? It only made sense to him that God’s purpose in creation should be “that what did not exist began to exist, not that what had begun to exist would cease to exist.” Then he found the Gospels and read John’s words including “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…” (John 1:1-2). From John he learned that these words “do not merely tell me that the Son was called God [but was God]… no accidental title, but an eternal reality, a permanent element of his existence…”Finally Hillary’s soul was at peace: “No longer did it look upon the life of this body as troublesome or wearisome, but believed it to be what the alphabet is to children… namely, as the patient endurance of the present trials of life in order to gain a blissful eternity.”

After becoming a Christian, he was elected bishop of Poitiers in 350 in what is now France by the acclamation of both laity and clergy. He was already married with one daughter named Apra.

When the emperor Constantius II began to sympathize with Arian doctrines, St. Hilary became involved in the opposition to his efforts. The Arians did not believe in the divinity of Christ and the Arians had amassed a lot of power, especially in some regions of the Eastern Church. Some may wonder at all the trouble; it might seem to be only words to us today. However, the fight over Arianism was not a fight over words, but rather for the eternal life of those who might accept the Arian position and stop believing in Jesus as second member of the Trinity and their hope of salvation. Pope Benedict XVI says of Hilary: “… his concern as a Pastor impelled him to work strenuously to re-establish the unity of the Church on the basis of right faith as formulated by the Council of Nicea.”   In the work, “On the Trinity,” Hilary tells us, “For one to attempt to speak of God in terms more precise than he himself has used: — to undertake such a thing is to embark upon the boundless, to dare the incomprehensible. He fixed the names of His nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever is sought over and above this is beyond the meaning of words, beyond the limits of perception, beyond the embrace of understanding.”

Hillary’s work branded him as a troublemaker. When Hilary wrote to the emperor in 356 protesting the Arians’ persecution of their opponents, he was exiled from Poitiers to the East. His banishment gave him time to study and write. He learned everything he could about what the Arians said and what the orthodox Christians answered and then he began to write. “Although in exile we shall speak through these books, and the word of God, which cannot be bound, shall move about in freedom.”

After three years, the emperor kicked him back towards Poitiers. Sulpicius Severus tell us that the emperor was tired of having to deal with the pest, who had become a defender and champion of the orthodox apostolic teaching, and felt that Hilary would be less of a threat back in his diocese. Having not told Hilary that he had to go straight back to his home, Hilary took his time traveling through Greece and Italy, preaching against the Arians as he went.

St. Hilary continued to fight against Arianism until his death in 367 or 368. He was proclaimed a doctor of the Roman Church in 1851. His holy relics still rest in the cathedral bearing his name at Poitiers in France.

He is revered as the Patron against snakebites. He has also lent his name to the “Hilary term” of English law courts and universities, which begin on or near his Feast Day.

Hilary’s extant writings can be read at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf209.toc.html.

A sermon on St. Hilary by Pope Benedict XVI can be found at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071010_en.html

Joint saints of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, part I

The Seventy ApostlesThere are many saints revered in both the Roman and Orthodox world. These saints are a treasure trove of information about the first thousand years, often recalling the earliest days when Christian martyrs gave their all for their faith.

One source of information on these saints is at the Wikipedia page “List of popes”  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_popes ) where one can find the Popes of Rome that are also revered as saints in Eastern Christianity.

Some saints are even more special in that that their feast days are also the same in both churches. As the historically apostolic churches pray in unity of time for these saint’s intercessions, we could also add special prayers for the unity of the Faith and the reconciliation of the churches.

Future posts will include information about these saints.