Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Polycarp (69-155)


"He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails."

 According to the account of his pupil, Irenaeus, Polycarp was himself a pupil of the apostles, more especially of John, and had conversed with many who had seen the Lord in the flesh. According to Tertullian (De praescriptione, 32) and Jerome (Catal. scr. ecci., 17), he was consecrated Bishop of Smyrna by John.

Along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers. His only existing writing, a pastoral letter to the church at Philippi, shows he had little formal education, and was unpretentious, humble, and direct. In  The Letter to the Philippians he encourages the community of faith to remain strong in their faith and to flee from materialism.

Polycarp lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John: "a high value was attached to the witness Polycarp could give as to the genuine tradition of old apostolic doctrine.

In his later years, he tried to settle disputes about the date to celebrate Easter. Irenaeus states (iii. 3) that on Polycarp's visit to Rome his testimony converted many disciples of  the gnostic teachers Marcion and Valentinus.

 At 86, Polycarp was to be burned alive in a stadium in Smyrna; the flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his body burned.The Acts of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian  martyr’s death.

It is recorded that  when he heard Roman officials were intent on arresting him, he decided to wait for them at home. Panic-stricken friends pleaded with him to flee, so to calm them, he finally agreed to withdraw to a small estate outside of town. But while in prayer there, he received some sort of vision. Whatever he saw or heard, we don't know. He simply reported to his friends that he now understood, "I must be burned alive."
Roman soldiers eventually discovered Polycarp's whereabouts and came to his door. When his friends urged him to run, Polycarp replied, "God's will be done," and he let the soldiers in.

compiled from several sources

Sunday, February 21, 2010

the Penitential Psalms (2)


Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to thee,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord";
then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let every one who is godly
offer prayer to thee;
at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
Thou art a hiding place for me,
thou preservest me from trouble;
thou dost encompass me with deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you
the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not keep with you.
Many are the pangs of the wicked;
but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Glory...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Desert Wisdom (5)

On one occasion Abba Ammon went to Abba Anthony, and he lost his way, and sat down for a little and fell asleep; and he rose up from his slumber, and prayed unto God, and said, "I beg Thee, O Lord God, not to destroy that which Thou hast fashioned." Then he lifted up his eyes, and behold, there was the form of a man's hand above him in the heavens, and it showed him the way until he came and stood above the cave of Abba Anthony; and when he had gone into the cave of the old man, Abba Anthony prophesied unto him, saying, "You shall increase in the fear of God." Then he took him outside the cave, and showing him a stone, said, "Curse this stone, and strike it," and he did so. Abba Anthony said unto him, "It is thus that you shall arrive at this state, for you shall bear heaviness, and great abuse;" and this actually happened to Abba Ammon.Now, through his abundant goodness, Abba Ammon knew not wickedness. And after he had become a bishop, through his spiritual excellence they brought unto him a young girl who had conceived, and they said unto him, "So-and-so has done this deed; let them receive correction." But he made the sign of the Cross over her stomach and ordered them to give her six pair of linen cloths, and he said, "When she delivers, either she or the child will die, and if either dies let them be buried." Then those who were with him said unto him, "What is this that you have done? Give the command that they receive correction." And he said unto them, "See, my brothers, she is nigh unto death; what can I do?" Then he dismissed her.And the old man never ventured to judge anyone, for he was full of loving kindness and endless goodness to all the children of men.

from E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," (Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1984), p. 106

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the Penitential Psalms (1)

 There are seven psalms that are particularly expressive of repentance and  remorse of sin. They are known as the  Penitential or  Confessional Psalms.  These are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143   The name Penitential Psalm was  originally associated  the fifty-first Psalm  which was used in the morning office.  Around four hundred four Psalms were identified as penitentials by Augustine of Hippo. Traditionally they are often associated with Lent.


O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in thy wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled.
But thou, O Lord -- how long?
Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of thy steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee;
in Sheol who can give thee praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief,
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil;
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and sorely troubled;
they shall turn back, and be put to shame in a moment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Finan of Lindisfarne (?- 661)

Born in Ireland he trained as a monk at Iona in Scotland. In 651 when Aiden died Finan was elected 2nd bishop of Lindisfarne. As Adian before him held firmly to the Celtic traditions. He also debated Ronan, an Englishman, about the correct way to calculate the date of Easter.

On Lindisfarne Finan was responsible for the building of a wooden cathedral, the roof of which was thatched with seagrass. Finan sent missionaries to Mercia and to Essex. He was involved with converting the kings Sigebert of Essex and Peada of the Middle Angles to Christianity.

Finan  was bishop of Lindisfarne ten years. On the whole, they were successful years. Despite the mounting quarrels over the tension between Roman and Celtic religious practice.

Finan died in 661, and Cuthbert succeeded him as abbot. Bede is the main source for Finan's life.

Ash Wednesday (3) The Begining of Lent

Penitential Prayer of St. Ambrose of Milan

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen
St. Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397)

Graphic: Praying Shepherd : Pieter Bruegel II

see the Living water  page on Lent

John Hyde, (1865-1912,)

“Shout the victory of Jesus Christ” (John Hyde's dying words).

  see John Hydes Living Water Bio

Sunday, February 14, 2010

There is a Wideness in God's Mercy

There's a wideness in God's mercy 
   like the wideness of the sea; 
there's a kindness in God's justice, 
   which is more than liberty. 
There is welcome for the sinner, 
   and more graces for the good; 
there is mercy with the Savior; 
   there is healing in his blood. 

There is no place where earth's sorrows 
   are more felt than up in heaven; 
there is no place where earth's failings 
   have such kindly judgment given. 
There is plentiful redemption 
   in the blood that has been shed; 
there is joy for all the members 
   in the sorrows of the Head. 

For the love of God is broader 
   than the measure of the mind; 
and the heart of the Eternal 
   is most wonderfully kind. 
If our love were but more faithful, 
   we should trust God's every word; 
and our life would be thanksgiving 
   for the goodness of the Lord.

Fredrick William Faber

pic: 7 acts of mercy; Peter Brugel

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Old Celtic Cradle Song

Sleep, my babe, lie still and slumber,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will lend thee,
All through the night
Soft and drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
Mother dear her watch is keeping,
All through the night
God is here, you'll not be lonely,
All through the night
'Tis not I who guards thee only,
All through the night
Night's dark shades will soon be over,
Still my watchful care shall hover,
God with me His watch is keeping,
All through the night

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feast of the Presentation /Purification /Candlesmas

The Feast of the Presentation, often called Candlemas, commemorates the purification Mary and the presentation of Christ in the temple, which took place 40 days after his birth as Jewish law required. According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days. Also, she was to remain 33 days "in the blood of her purification." 

Luke tells us, quoting Exodus 13:2,12, that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every firstborn child was to be dedicated to the Lord. They also went to sacrifice a pair of doves or two young pigeons, showing that Mary and Joseph were poor. Once in the temple, Jesus was purified by the prayer of Simeon, in the presence of Anna the prophetess.

Simeon, upon seeing the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis:
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace,
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

 ("a light to the revelation of the Gentiles"), By the 11th century, the custom had developed in the West of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation. The candles were then lit, and a procession took place through the darkened church while the Canticle of Simeon was sung. Because of this, the feast also became known as Candlemas. Candlemas is still an important feast in many European countries.

Today, the feast is still celebrated on February 14th in some Eastern Churches, including the Armenian Church, where the feast is called, "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple." Most churches in the West celebrate it on February 2nd.
1st Painting: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Presentation in the Temple, 1342,
2nd painting: Presentation at the Temple by Giovanni Bellini - 1460-64

Brigid and the Monastic Community of Kildare

Brigid founded the first monastic community that grew into the most renowned monastic city in Ireland, Kildare. Brigid was the abbess of the convent and church and the leader of the community that grew up around Kildare. She was known for her piety, her hard work, and her hospitality. She worked side by side with her nuns tending sheep, milking cows, along with weaving and cooking. Gifts given to the monastery by the rich were given to the poor and sold for food. No one was turned away from the  community, they provided for all.

Kildare grew so big that Brigid could no longer run it alone. A local bishop, Cloneth came to the monastery to help her and he brought monks with him. The monks were master silver and bronze smiths and made beautiful silver and metal ornaments to go with the nuns woven and embroidered tapestries . One of her biographers, a monk who lived at Kildare while Brigid was there, said this about the monastery and town:

But who could convey in words the supreme beauty of her church and the countless wonders of her city, of which we speak? “City” is the right word for it: that so many people are living there justifies the title. It is a great metropolis, within whose outskirts–which Saint Brigid marked out with a clearly defined boundary–no earthly adversary feared, nor any incursion of enemies. For the city is the safest place of refuge among all towns of the whole land of the Irish, with all their fugitives. It is a place where the treasures of kings are looked after, and it is reckoned to be supreme in good order.

compiled from a number of sources
Photo: the Cathedral  at Kildare dedicated to St. Brigid. From an old postcard in Reg Dosell's Collection

Monday, February 1, 2010

Brigid ( 451–525)

Brigid's Prayer

I should like a great lake of finest ale
For the King of kings.
I should like a table of the choicest food
For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith,
And the food be forgiving love.

I should welcome the poor to my feast,
For they are God’s children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
For they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.

God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.
God bless our food,
God bless our drink,
All homes, O God embrace.

this piece has appeared on this blog before. It's a fav and worth repeating  in connection with St Brigid's Feast day enjoy !!!