Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saint George (ca. 275/281 – 303)

George was probably born in Nicomedia, during the late third century.Both his parents were Christians from noble families of Anici. Thus George was raised with Christian beliefs. At the age of 14, George's father Geronzio a tribune in Emperor Diocleations Army passed away. A few years later, George's mother, Policronia, died.
George presented himself to the Emperor desirind a career in the military. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as his father had been one of his finest soldiers.
By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedeia.
In the year AD 302, Diocletian issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. George renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George refused.

Recognizing George would not renounce his faith Diocletian condemned him to death. Before his execution George gave his wealth to the poor. George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians, they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where he was soon honored as a Christian martyr.
He became the patron of England in the late Middle Ages. In old plays and in art St. George is the slayer of the dragon; The Golden Legend did much for the extension of the tale. The Red Cross Knight of Edmund Spenser's Faƫrie Queene is St. George and stands for the Church of England. St. George's Cross appears in the Union Jack.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Celtic Christianity a Historic Overview (pt.3) Atfter Whitby to the Present

After Whitby
The decree of Whitby did not immediately change the whole face of British Christianity. For hundreds of years there were pockets of resistance to the Roman mission, notably in Devon, Cornwall and Scotland. For instance on Iona, the Celtic monastic community was not finally dispersed until the Benedictine Abbey was built in the 13th century.

The period of resistance ( and renewal) was marked by some of the greatest achievements of the Celtic tradition with illuminated gospel manuscripts like the Book of Kells, and high standing crosses with Scriptural imagery on one side and creation imagery on the other. The general picture throughout Britain and Ireland however, was of gradual conformity to the Roman mission. The riches of the Celtic churches spirituality was guarded in the teachings of an oral tradition passed down among the laity for hundreds of years.

Increasingly, and especially after the 16th century Reformation in Britain, the Celtic tradition again met with resistance. The reciting of their prayers was discouraged and even banned because they were regarded as pantheistic and pagan in origin. In Scotland, a combination of Religious persecution and the 19th century Highland clearances, (in which thousands of families were torn from their ancestral lands to make room for large scale sheep farming,) resulted in the fragmentation of the Celtic culture. This loss of the collective memory, meant that the oral tradition began to be lost.

However, even this did not represent the death of the Celtic tradition however. Attempts were made to transcribe and collect the prayers, in Scotland in Alexander Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica (1900) and in Ireland in Douglas Hyde's Religious Songs of Connacht (1906).
Carmichael and Hyde were part of a revival of Celtic art and literature, and others were finding new ways to express the spirituality of the Celtic tradition. Although they had ensured that written copies of some of the prayers were preserved, by the 20th century, their living use had virtually disappeared.

Despite the previous centuries of resistance to the Celtic tradition, the 20th century saw a growing toleration of the Celtic tradition and an increasing depth of appreciation for its spiritual riches, and their applicability for today. This included George MacLeod, who founded of the Iona community in the Hebrides (and was at one time Minister of St. Cuthbert's church).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday (2)

Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate

Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen

Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing

Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty

Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the sleepers,

Glory and power are his forever and ever.

Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

Graphic: A Syrian Icon depicting Christ's Resurrection

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A New Monasticism

Bonhoeffer's Vision of a New Monasticism

'...the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this...'
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Extract of a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his brother Karl-Friedrick on the 14th of January, 1935. (Source: John Skinner, Northumbria Community).

Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace."

“The expansion of Christianity and the increasing secularization of the church caused the awareness of costly grace to be gradually lost…. But the Roman church did keep a remnant of that original awareness. It was decisive that monasticism did not separate from the church and that the church had the good sense to tolerate monasticism. Here, on the boundary of the church, was the place where the awareness that grace is costly and that grace includes discipleship was preserved…. Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p.46)

see living Water thumb nail life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday (2)

O sacred head, surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
Death's pallid hue comes over you
The glow of life decays,
yet angel hosts adore thee
and tremble as they gaze

I see thy strength and vigor
all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor,
bereaving thee of life;
O agony and dying!
O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,
O turn thy face on me.

In this thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think of me
with thy most sweet compassion,
unworthy though I be:
beneath thy cross abiding
for ever would I rest,
in thy dear love confiding,
and with thy presence blest.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)

Graphic: Crucifixion by Gustave Dore

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy / Holy Thursday (1)

Maundy Thursday is always the Easter week Thursday before Good Friday. The name orginated in England and Scotland among the Protestant Churches. Although the Scottish Book of Common Prayer uses the name "Holy Thursday". Roman Catholics, except in England, refered to Maundy Thursday as "Holy Thursday". In the Eastern Orthodox Church, tradition it goes by Great and Holy Thursday.

The word Maundy is an English derivative of the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" (Jesus's statment "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you" in the John 13:34.")

On this day four events are remember: Christ's washing of the Disciples' Feet, the sharing of the Last Supper with the disiples, Christ's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His betrayal by Judas Iscariot.

graphic: Salvador Dali's 1955 painting 'The Sacrament of the Last Supper"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday (1)

"Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion! Shout for joy you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey - on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Zechariah 9:9
graphic: Icon, Jesus enters Jerusalem

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Martin Luther King (1929-1968)

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

from "i've been to the mountain top" delivered April 3rd 1968

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

from " I have a dream" delivered at the Linclon memorial august 28th 1963