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Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, The Vigil of Saint Andrew the Apostle

A Homily by St. Augustine the Bishop
Because John was the friend of the Bridegroom, he sought not his own glory, but rather bore witness to the Truth. Did he manifest any desire that his disciples should remain with him instead of following the Lord? Nay, he himself shewed his disciples whom they should follow. Because they thought of him as the Lamb, he spake unto them in some such words as these : Why wait ye on me? I am not the Lamb, look ye there, and behold the Lamb of God. As we have read above, the one thus pointed out was he of whom John once before had spoken, saying : Behold the Lamb of God. And would ye know of what use to us the Lamb of God is? Behold the Lamb of God, saith John, which taketh away the sins of the world.

Let us see what then came to pass : And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. This doth not mean that they companied with him continuously from that time, but only that they thereafter considered themselves to be Christ’s disciples rather than John’s. for it is manifest that they clave unto Jesus only in the time whereinafter he had called them out of the ship. Thus it is added : One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Matthew describeth how they were finally called, thus : Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers ; and he saith unto them : Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men ; and they straightway left their nets and followed him. And from this latter time they clave into him, so as never to depart.

Concerning the former occasion we read that Jesus asked : What seek ye? They said unto him : Rabbi, (which is to day, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? So at this time they are said to have followed him, but not in the sense of cleaving unto him as though never to depart, but in the sense of drawing nigh unto him, in obedience to the words in Ecclesiaticus : If thou see a man of understanding, get thee betimes unto him, and let thy foot wear the steps of his doors. He saith unto them : come and see : so they came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day. O what a blessed day they passed! And since it was about the tenth hour, what a blessed night! Who shall tell what they heard from the Lord? O let us make a house in our heart whither he may come, and there teach us, and abide with us.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that as we do prevent the festival of thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, so he may implore thy mercy for us ; that we being delivered from all our iniquities, may likewise be defended against all adversities, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saint Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr
This Peter, of whom the historian Eusebius hath written, succeeded that eminent man, Saint Thomas, as Pope of Alexandria, in the year of our Lord 300. And the glory of his holiness and teaching hath enlightened not Egypt only, but the whole Church of God. The wondrous patience wherewith he bore the roughness of the times in the persecution under Maximian Galerius caused many greatly to increase in Christian grace. He was the first who cut off Arius, then a Deacon of Alexandria, from the Communion of the faithful on account of his leaning to the Meletian schism. He was condemned to death by Maximian, and was in prison when there came to him the two priests Achilles and Alexander to plead for Arius. But Peter told them that Jesus had appeared to him in the night clad in a rent garment, and had said : Arius hath torn my vesture, which is the Church. Also, he foretold to them that they should be Popes of Alexandria after him and strictly commanded them never to receive Arius into Communion, because he knew him to be dead in the sight of God. That this was a true prophecy the event did shortly prove. At length, in the twelfth year of his episcopate, on November 26th, 311, his head was cut off, and he went hence to receive the crown of his testimony.
Beheading of Saint Peter of Alexandria
Almighty God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, that whereas we are afflicted by the burden of our sins; the glorious intercession of thy Martyr and Bishop blessed Peter may be our succour and defence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr, November 24

Saint Chrysogonus Martyr, November 24

Ss. Chrysogonus and Anastasia
 Saint Chrysogonus was imprisoned at Rome in the fourth century, during the reign of Diocletian. There he lived for the space of two years upon the alms of that holy Anastasia who, along with Chrysogonus, is mentioned in the Gregorian Canon, and is also commemorated in the second Mass of Christmas. She was at that time suffering much persecution from her husband Publius for Christ’s Name’s sake, and was used to write to Chrysogonus to ask for the help of his prayers, and he in return comforted her by his epistles. Presently the Emperor wrote to Rome, commanding the rest of the Christians who were in prison there to be put to death, and Chrysogonus to be sent to himself at Aquileia. When he was brought thither, he said unto him : I have sent for thee, O Chrysogonus, that I may increase thine honours, if only thou wilt bring thy mind to worship the gods. Thereto Chrysogonus answered : With my mind and with my prayers I worship him who is very God, but such gods as are nothing but images of devils, them I hate and curse. Then was the Emperor kindled to fury at this answer, and commanded Chrysogonus to be beheaded. Which done, on the 24th day of November, his body was cast into the sea. A little afterwards the same washed up on the shore, and the Priest Zoilus took it and buried it in his own house. But the Holy Matron Anastasia was burned to death for Christ on December 25th.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
This is a Saint who strove for the truth, even unto death, and feared not the words of sinful men, * forasmuch as he was founded on a sure foundation, even upon the rock of his Master’s precepts.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that by the prayers of thy holy Martyr blessed Chrysogonus, we may be delivered from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
He that hateth his life in this world * shall keep it unto life eternal.

Saint Columbanus, Abbot, Nov. 21

Saint Columbanus, Abbot November 21

Columbanus was the greatest of all the Irish missionary-monks that laboured to spread the Gospel on the continent of Europe ; where he founded several monasteries, for which he wrote a monastic rule that came to have a wide observance before that of Saint Benedict was generally accepted. He was born in West Leinster, Ireland, and was excellently skilled in earthly and heavenly learning. In young manhood, being greatly troubled with the arrogance of his own flesh, he determined to bring it into subjection, and therefore fled from the world, to enter upon monastic discipline. Which same he sought in several places, under the direction of various holy men until, from being a learner, he was called to be a teacher. Whereupon, with the permission of Saint Comgall his superior and director, he took twelve monks, and with them passed over into Gaul, in which country, because of barbarian invasions and civil strife, the Church had become much weakened. And there the example of charity, prayer and penance set by these monks, made great impress on the people. * And their good reputation came to the King of Burgundy, who gave them a place in the mountains of the Vosges. Where at Annegray they founded a monastery, consisting mostly of little huts which they built with their own hands, and where they lived in the utmost sternness of life, with scantiness in all things except devotion, so that God often marvelously provided them with necessaries. When this place became too small for the numbers of men that desired to live under the stern rule of the Saint, he founded another monastery, about eight miles distant, at Luxeuil ; and then a third was founded about three miles from Luxeuil at a place called Fontaine, on account of the abundance of water there. These three, and another called Bobbio, were the foundations of Columbanus himself ; but from these four places his followers founded monasteries in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, to the number of an hundred or more ; which same were centers of religion, industry and learning during many of the dark centuries. * And the holiness and miracles of Columbanus were a light unto all Gaul. But King Theodoric II of Burgundy, whose unclean passions he had rebuked, caused him much trouble, and finally banished him from the country. Whereat he took ship for Ireland, with some of his Irish companions. But a storm drove him back again upon the coast of Gaul, and he therefore betook himself the Theodebert II, King of Austrasia, who graciously welcomed him, and settled him upon the Lake of Constance, where he destroyed the temples of the idols, and contended on all sides against the false worship. Thereupon he was expelled by the inhabitants, and went into Italy to Agilulf, the Arian King of the Lombards, and founded the aforesaid monastery of Bobbio in the Cottian Alps. Where by his writings he contended successfully against the Arians. At length he was worn out by his great labours, and went home to God at a great age, namely, on November 21st, 615.
Saint Columban, Abbot
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee, * and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee (alleluia).
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Columbanus, may commend us unto thee : that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me * are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Sion (alleluia).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr, November 23

Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr

Saint Clement I
Clement was chief pastor of the Church in Rome in the earliest days of Christianity, when to be bishop was almost certainly to live in persecution and die in martyrdom. He is believed to have been the son of Faustinus, a Roman citizen of the Emperors household, and to have received the Faith directly from blessed Peter himself. In the Gregorian Canon, Linus and Cletus are mentioned before Clement, and according to this order blessed Clement was the third successor of the Apostle Peter in the Roman See. It is supposed that he was martyred about the year 99. He is therefore reckoned as the first of the apostolic Fathers, and in the early Church his writings were esteemed next to the canonical Scriptures themselves. Holy Irenaeus testified that Clement had talked with the blessed Apostles, so that their preaching was still in his ears, and their tradition yet before his eyes. Origen identified him with the one whom Saint Paul, writing to the Phillipians, called his fellow-labourer. He is therefore venerated as one of the foremost bishops and shepherds of holy Church, and that both as to time and greatness. For it was such as he that shewed how a bishop in the Church of God should work and live and die.

By his teaching he brought many to Christ, and therefore he was marked for persecution. According to the Book of the Passion of Clement, he was exiled by Trajan to the remote City of Cherson, across the Black Sea, in the Crimea. There he found two thousand Christians at work in the marble quarries, condemned thereto by Trajan. Which same suffered much from want of water until Clement prayed and, whilst in the spirit on the mount hard by, saw the Lamb of God, with the water of life proceeding out from under his feet, wherewith they all quenched their thirst. And from this wonder many unbelievers were brought to Christ. For so a true pastor of the flock careth for the sheep, and useth their very necessities, whether in peace or persecution, to bring them unto salvation.

The same Passion of Saint Clement further saith that Trajan was enraged at the mighty deeds of this holy man, and sent an order to cast him into the depths of the sea, with an anchor tied about his neck. And that some whiles afterwards, when the Christians were praying on the shore, the sea receded three miles. And that on the ocean floor in a grotto of fair stone, shaped like unto a temple, they found the body of the Martyr resting in a depression like unto a stone coffin, and hard by the anchor wherewith he had been weighted down. And that thereafter many of the people that were round about came to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. In which story is set forth the certain hope, which hath ever sustained Christians in all the trials of this life, that Christ careth for us , even in death, and preserveth us unto resurrection, whereby our worth in his sight is to be made manifest to all. The relicks of Clement were brought to Rome by Saints Cyril and Methodius in the time of Nicholas I, and buried in a church dedicated to him, which was built over the place supposed to have been his residence. Likewise in the Crimea a church was built to mark the spot of his vision and the gift of the living waters. It is said that Clement lived as Pope nine years, six months, and six days, and that he held two December ordinations, wherein he made ten priests and two deacons, and for divers places, fifteen bishops.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Let us all pray our Lord Jesus Christ that he may open a well of living waters * for them that confess him.
Be merciful unto the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd and Bishop of the souls of men; and keep us in thy continual protection; at the intercession of thy blessed Martyr, the holy Father Clement, whom thou didst raise up in thy Church to be thine under-shepherd, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
As this blessed man was taken unto the sea, the people did cry with a loud voice : Deliver him, O Lord Jesu Christ; * and Clement wept and said : Father, receive my spirit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple: Propers and Lessons

November 22, Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, November 22

Cecilia was early recognized as one of the most illustrious of virgin Martyrs. Therefore, along with Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha, her name is mentioned in the Gregorian Canon. Her story, and that of Valerian and Tiburtius, her companions, is told as followeth.

Saint Cecilia
Cecilia was a Roman maiden of noble birth, trained up from her earliest years in the teaching of the Christian Faith, who vowed herself unto God in virginity. Given in marriage, against her will, to Valerian, she said to him on their wedding night : Balerian, I am under the guardianship of an Angel who keepeth me always a maiden ; therefore touch me not lest the anger of God, be aroused against thee. And Valerian was in such wise moved at her words that he dared not touch her, and even said that he fain would believe in Christ if haply he might see the Angel. Whereupon Cecilia urged him to be baptized, and for the sake of seeing the Angel he was willing. So she urged him unto Urban the Bishop, who was hiding in the sepulchre of the Martyrs on the Appian Way, on account of the persecution. And he went and was baptized.
Thence he came back to Cecilia, and found her praying, and the Angel with her, shining from the glory of God. Whereupon, as soon as he had recovered from the wonder and fear thereof, he brought his brother Tiburtius, whom Cecilia also taught Christ, and who was baptized by the same Urban, and who also was vouchsafed to see the Angel. A little thereafter the brothers both bravely suffered martyrdom, thereby converting the pagan officer Maximus who chose death with them. The Prefect Almachius then took Cecilia and asked of her, first of all, where was the property of Tiburtius and Valerian. To him the virgin answered that all their goods had been given to the poor. Thereupon, filled with fury, he commanded her to be tortured by the heat of the bath. But after she was unharmed in that place a day and a night, he sent the executioner, who gave her three strokes of the axe. But nevertheless her head was not thereby cut off, although he left her half dead. Three days thereafter, namely upon the twenty-second of November, she winged her flight to heaven, glorified with the two palms of virginity and martyrdom. Her body was buried in the Cemetery of Saint Callistus, and her own house was consecrated as a church, and named after her. At the beginning of the ninth century her relicks were brought into the City by Pope Paschal I, along with those of Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus, and all laid together in the said Church of Saint Cecilia.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
As dawn was fading into day, Cecilia spake with a loud voice, * Arise O soldiers of Christ away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Cecilia thy Virgin and Martyr: grant we beseech thee, that as we do venerate her in our outward office, so we may follow the example of her godly conversation, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21, Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple

From the Book on Orthodox Faith by St. John of Damascus

Entry of Our Lady in the Temple
Joachim took to wife that most eminent and praiseworthy woman, Anne. And even as before her time the holy Hannah (being stricken with barrenness ) by prayer and promise became the mother of Samuel, so likewise this holy Anne, through prayer and promise, received from God the Mother of God, that in fruitfulness she might not be behind any of the famous matrons. And thus Grace ( for such is the signification of the name Anne) is mother of the lady ( for such is the signification of the name of Mary). And indeed this child of grace became the Lady of every creature, since she hath been Mother of the Creator. She first saw the light in Joachim’s house, hard by the Pool of Bethesda, at Jerusalem, and was carried to the temple. There planted in the Lord, the dew of his Spirit made her to flourish in the courts of her God, where she was like unto a green olive tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. And there she in such wise raised her mind utterly above the pride of life, and the lust of flesh, that she kept her soul virgin in her virgin body, as became her that was to receive God into her womb.

From the Treatise Concerning Virgins by Saint Ambrose the Bishop
Such was Mary that her single life offered an ensample to all. If then we be not displeased by the doer, let us applaud the deed ; if any other woman seek like reward, let her follow after like works. In the one Virgin how many glorious examples do shine forth. Hers was the hidden treasure of modesty, hers the high standard of faith, hers the self-sacrifice of earnestness, hers to be the pattern of maidenhood at home, of kinswoman hood in ministry, of motherhood in the temple. O to how many virgins hath she been helpful! How many hath she taken in her arms and presented unto the Lord, saying : here is one who, like me, hath kept stainless clean the wedding chamber, the marriage-bed of my Son.

Why should I go on to speak of the scantiness of her eating, or the multiplicity of her work? How her labour seemed above human capacity, and her refreshment insufficient for human strength ; how her toil never missed a moment, and her fasting took as much as two days together? And when she was fain to eat, she took not dainties, but whatsoever food came first to hand that would keep body and soul together. She would not sleep till need was, and even then, while her body rested, her soul watched. I opine that often she talked in her sleep, either repeating things that she had read, or going on with what she was doing before sleep interrupted her, or rehearsing things executed, or talking of things projected.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Blessed art thou O Mary, for that thou hast believed, * and there shall be a performance in thee of those things which were told thee from the Lord.
O God, who on this day didst vouchsafe that blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost, should be presented in the Temple : grant, we beseech thee, that by her intercession we may be found worthy to be presented unto thee in the temple of thy glory, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth with thee, world without end. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
O holy Mary, help thou the suffering, strengthen the faint-hearted, comfort the sorrowful ; pray for the people, plead for the clergy, entreat for all women dedicated to God * let everyone that keepeth holy-day in thine honour know the benefit of thine intercession (alleluia).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Saint Pontianus, Pope and Martyr, November 19

Saint Pontianus, Pope and Martyr, November 19

Saint Pope Pontianus
Pontianus was a Roman, and succeeded Saint Urban I as Pope, during the reign of the Emperor Alexander. This Emperor banished him into the Island of Sardinia, along with the priest Hippolytus, on account of their profession of the Christian Faith. There he endured many hardships because of his belief in Christ, and departed this life on October 30th, about the year 235. His body was brought to Rome by Pope Saint Fabian and his clergy, and buried in the Cemetery of Saint Callistus, on the Appian Way. He sat in the Seat of Peter four years, four months, and twenty-five days, and held two ordinations in the month of December wherein he made six priests, five deacons, and six bishops for divers places.

A Homily by Saint Augustine the Bishop

Today we keep holy day in anniversary of the triumph of the blessed Martyr Pontianus, concerning whom the Church biddeth us to rejoice at his glory, and to consider how we may follow in his footsteps. For if so be that we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him in glory. In his glorious contest we have two things chiefly to remember : the hardened cruelty of the tormentor, and the unconquered patience of the Martyr : the cruelty of the tormentor, that we may abhor it ; the patience of the Martyr, that we may imitate it. Hear what the Psalmist saith, complaining against sin ; Fret not thyself because of the ungodly, for they shall soon be cut down like the grass. But hear the teaching of the Apostle concerning the patience which is to be shewn against the ungodly : Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may receive the promise.

And so the patience of the blessed Martyr was crowned, and the spiteful ungodliness of the tormentor was given over to everlasting punishment. Christ’s glorious champion shrank not from the dungeon, for during his contest he looked forward to his reward. Like his Master, he bore reproach, endured mocking, and feared not the scourges. And as many sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us ; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Being uplifted above earthly things in the love inspired by this promise, and greatly moved by the pleasant foretaste of the heavenly sweetness, he could say with the Psalmist : Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee : my flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

St.Augustine of Hippo
For as man’s weakness could do so, in this our darkness, he fixed the eyes of his soul on things eternal, and contemplated the joys of the heavenly city. And being unable to describe it , he could only cry in wonder : whom have I in heaven but thee? As thought to say : What thou art passeth my strength to contemplate. It passeth the power of my utterance. It goeth beyond the reach of my understanding. Such is that beauty, that glory, that exaltation, wherein, far from the provoking of men, in the secret of his presence, our Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body, that is may be fashioned like unto his own glorious body! Because of his vision of this perfect liberty he shrank from no danger, and quailed before no torment. And if he could have died a thousand times, he would not have thought that he had paid a price high enough for this perfect liberty.

Collect :
Be merciful to the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd and Bishop of the souls of men : and keep us in thy continual protection, at the intercession of thy blessed Martyr, the Holy Father Pontianus, whom thou didst raise up in thy Church to be thine under-Shepherd, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saint Hilda, Virgin and Abbess, November 17

November 17, Saint Hilda of Whitby, Virgin and Abbess
Saint Hilda of Whitby, 680
Hilda of Whitby was born a princess of the blood-royal, but until the age of thirteen, she was an heathen, at which time along with her great-uncle, King Edwin of Northumbria, she received the light of faith in Baptism at the hands of Saint Paulinus. Whereupon, for over thirty years she lived very nobly amongst her fellows, and then understood that God had called her to leave her country and kindred and her royal honours, and become a nun. Whereat she planned to cross over to France, and enter there one of the monasteries whither many Saxon maidens had already gone, including (as some maintain) her sister Saint Hereswitha. But Saint Aidan sent for her, and after twelve months of religious discipline with some companions in a place on the north band of the Weir, he made her Abbess of Hartlepool, which convent she set in order and wisely ruled for nine years. Then she founded a new religious house on a high headland overlooking the sea, which same became a great abbey, afterwards called Whitby, wherein she ruled with wisdom and holiness for many years. * God had bestowed upon her not only high rank, but a rare prudence in the government of souls, and a zeal for knowledge and ecclesiastical discipline, whereby she became a choice instrument in his hands during the troublous times when the infant Church was carrying on a great battle with paganism. All who knew her, that is to say, common and simple folk, as well as monks and bishops, princes and kings, sought to profit by her clear judgement and wise experience, insomuch that she was honored as the mother her country. Truly was she so called, for both in her own land and is distant places whither her fame had gone, she was the mother of spiritual sons and daughters. And in later days many of her kinswomen followed her on the road to sanctity, such as Saints Sethrida, Audrey, Sexaburga, Ermenilda and Werburga. According to the Celtic custom, a place for monks was joined to the nunnery at Whitby, and Hilda ruled over both. She so inspired these monks with zeal for the rule, for study and for good order, that their house became a school of missionaries, of whom no less than five became bishops ; and of these were Saints John of Beverly and Wilfrid of York. Also a poor cowherd who worked on the monastic lands was encouraged by her to become an ecclesiastical bard, namely, Caedmon, the father of English poetry ; which same was admitted to monastic vows, wherein he lived in holiness till death, and ever after, even unto this present, hath been revered as a Saint. * A council was called at Whitby whilst Saint Theodore ruled the Church of Canterbury, to wit, in 664, to decide whether or not the Celtic customs should continue to be observed in respect to the date of Easter Day and other questions. Persuaded by Saint Wilfred, King Oswy moved the synod to adopt the Roman customs in these things, whereby the Saxon Church did greatly benefit from closer unity with Western Christendom and the larger culture and growing power thereof. Yet out of this council grew certain difficulties and controversies, albeit Saint Theodore and Saint Hilda liked not these things. During the last six years of her life a grievous fever never left her, yet failed she not this while to return thanks to her Maker, nor to instruct and rule her flock. She called the monks and nuns to her death-bed at early cock-crow, and exhorted them to peace amongst themselves and all men, and then passed by death to life eternal, in the year of salvation 680. The tolling of her passing bell was wondrously heard at Harkness, thirteen miles away, where also Begu, a devout soul, saw her blessed soul borne by Angels to heaven.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Come, thou bride of Christ, receive the crown * which the Lord hath prepared for thee forever (alleluia).
Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation : that , like as we do rejoice in the festival of blessed Hilda, thy holy Virgin, so we may learn to follow her in all godly and devout affection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, * who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (alleluia).

November 17, Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop and Confessor

Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop and Confessor

St.Gregory the Wonderworker
This Gregory was Bishop of Neocaesarea, in Pontus, in the third century, a man who gained much repute for holiness and learning, so that in time he gained ever greater repute for signs and wonders, for which reason he was called Thaumaturgus or Wonderworker. So much was he venerated for wonders that little regard was paid to the details of his holy life by those who wrote of him. By prayer he removed to another place a mountain which was hindering the building of a church ; that he dried up a swamp which was a cause of dissension between brothers ; that he restrained the Lycus Rover which was destructively inundating the fields, which same hi did by fixing in the bank thereof his staff, wherein it staitway grew into a green tree, and thereafter the river dared not flow beyond this limit. * Saint Basil the Great, from his grandmother Saint Macrina, learned much concerning the high repute with which this Gregory was regarded by his own generation. Of him Basil saith that he was a man like unto Moses, and that he had the vision of the Prophets and the spirit of the Apostles. It is known that he was a faithful missionary, and to make his converts love the feasts of holy Church, he instituted games and merry-making on all the great festivals, a thing not much hitherto done. * He drave out the evil of idol-worship, and as well he drave out evil from men’s souls, and did many other mighty works, by means of which he led many fold to the Faith of Jesus Christ. Also, in prophetic spirit, he foresaw things yet to come. When he was about to die, he asked how many infidels remained in the town of Neocaesarea, and when told there were only seventeen, he gave thanks to God, and said : Just so many were the faithful, when I began my episcopate. He wrote much whereby, as well as by wo9ndrous deeds, he adorned the Church. He passed to God about the year 270.

A Homily by the Venerable Saint Bede the Priest

St. Bede
Heathen, who have written evil things against the Church, are wont to Taunt our people with not having a complete faith in God, because they have never been able to remove mountains. To whom it should be answered that not all the things which trough faith have been done in the Church have been fully declared, any more than have the acts of Christ our Lord himself, as the Gospel itself doth testify. And therefore also this could have been done, that a mountain should be removed from the earth, and cast into the sea, if necessity had demanded that it should be done. It is said that such a thing was once done by the prayers of our blessed Father Gregory, Bishop of Neocaesarea in Pontus, a man illustrious by his merits and virtues. * For of him it is told that, when he wished to build a church on a suitable spot, he saw that the site was too narrow for the purpose required, because it was limited on one side y a cliff going down to the sea, and on the other by the proximity of a mountain ; and that therefore went to the place by night and, on bended knees, reminded the Lord of his promise, that according to the faith of him that prayeth, so should he move a mountain. And it is said that when he returned in the morning, he found that the mountain had left as much space to the builders of the church as the work required. Now, if this man did thus, any other man of equal merit could obtain from the Lord, by reason of his faith, that even a mountain should be removed and cast into the sea, provided that in the sight of God necessity required it. * Nevertheless, it should be noted, that by the name of mountain is sometimes signified the devil, and this because of the pride with which he exalteth himself against God, and wisheth to be like unto the Most High. Such a mountain is removed from the earth, and cast into the sea, at the command of those who are strong in faith when, by the preaching of holy teachers, the unclean spirit is driven from the heart of those who are pre-ordained unto life, and permitted to exercise the frenzy of his tyranny only upon the unquiet and bitter minds of the infidels.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, * I will make thee ruler over many things, saith the Lord (alleluia).
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the devout observance of this festival of blessed Gregory, thy Confessor and Bishop, may be profitable unto us for our advancement in all godliness, and for the attainment of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
O holy Priest and Bishop, thou worker of so many mighty works, and good shepherd to Christ’s flock, * pray for us unto the Lord our God (alleluia).

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, Saint Machutus, Bishop and Confessor

November 15, Saint Machutus Bishop and Confessor
St. Machutus

Machutus, better known as Malo, was a Welshman who became a monk and went to Brittany, where he settled among the pagans, and began to preach to them, at a place them called Aleth, but now called Malo. And after he had made many converts, he was consecrated to the episcopate. * But violent discords grew up in his flock, and well nigh broke his heart ; so that he left, with thirty of his monks, and went to Saintes. Where after several years a deputation from Aleth waited upon him, and with tears implored him to return, for they said that with his departure the light had gone, and darkness had settled down upon Brittany. * But Malo returned only long enough to set things somewhat in order, and then went back to Saintes ; for he knew that his end was near, and he was fain to die there. Which same he did in the peace of God, and the year of salvation 621.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the devout observance of this festival of blessed Malo, thy confessor and Bishop, may be profitable unto us for our advancement in all godliness, and for the attainment of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Alternate Matins Lesson for this Sunday, November 14 2010

In some uses of the Western Rite, this Sunday adopts the Lessons and some of the Propers for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany. I believe this is due to the variable length of the season resulting from the movable nature of the feast of Pascha.

Saint Athanasius
VI Sunday after Epiphany

From a Sermon by Saint Athanasius the Bishop

If the hereticks had but known the Person, the matter, and the time whereof the Apostle spake, when he was writing his Epistle to the Hebrews, they would never have behaved so wickedly and foolishly toward Christ as to attribute human qualities to his Godhead. This will be easily seen if ye will but read the beginning of the passage on which we are commenting, and consider it carefully. The Apostle there saith : God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in theses last days spoken unto us by his Son. And again, a little further on : When the Son had purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high ; being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent Name than they. The Apostle doth here expressly specify the time wherein God hath spoken unto us by his Son, namely : When the son had by himself purged our sins. Let us ask, then, when it was that God spake unto us by his Son? Or when did the Son purge our sins? Or when was he born Man? And the Apostle answereth : After God spake unto the fathers by the Prophets : namely: In these last days.
The Apostle, when about to enter upon a discussion of the human dispensation of the Word, which as he saith began in these last days, naturally mentioned first that God had been silent in time past, but had spoken unto the fathers by the Prophets. And secondly, he saith that after the Prophets had discharged their office, and the Law had been given by the ministry of Angels, then the Son also came down unto us to minister. Whereupon he addeth : Being made so much better than the Angels : to shew that as the Son differeth from a servant, so the ministry of the Son must have been better than the ministry and office of the Angels who are not sons but servants.

Russian Icon of Athanasius
It was for this reason that the Apostle, seeing the difference between the new ministry of the Son and the old of the Angels, maketh very bold in writing and speaking to the Hebrews. For this cause, therefore, he doth not compare the details of the two ministries, and then come to the general conclusion that the new was greater or more honorable than the old. For if he had so done, some might have reasoned therefrom that the two ministries were of the same kind : and on this wise thay might be misled to think that the Apostle’s conclusion (to wit, that the new ministry is better than the old) was arrived at by comparing the degrees in each of things which the two ministries had in common. Therefore he saith plainly that the Son himself was made better than the Angels, to distinguish at once and completely the nature of the Son from the nature of things created.

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity

Matins Lesson: A Homily By St Jerome the Priest

The eighth recorded miracle should have been that which was wrought when a certain ruler, desiring not to be kept out of the mystery of the true Circumcision, besought Christ to recall his daughter to life. But a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood, thrust herself in, and so her cure occupieth the eighth place, for which reason the raising of the ruler’s daughter is postponed and made the ninth in enumeration, even as it is written in the psalms : Then shall the princes come out of Egypt ; the Morian’s land shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. And again (as saith the Apostle) : Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in ; and so all Israel shall be saved.

So it is that we read: And, behold a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. In the Gospel according to Luke it is written that the ruler’s daughter was about twelve years of age. Note therefore that this woman, who typifies the Gentiles, had been diseased for the same time that the Jewish nation, typified by the ruler’s daughter, had been living in faith. For we see not clearly the hideousness of evil, until we compare it with good.

This woman with the issue of blood came not to the Lord in a house or in a city, for all such as she were by the Law banished out of cities. Rather, she came to him in the way, as he walked ; so it was that the Lord healed one, even while he was on the road to heal another. Whence also the Apostles said : It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you ; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
For she said within herself, if I may but touch the hem of his garment, * I shall be whole.
O Lord, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that, through thy bountiful goodness, we may all be delivered from the hands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said * Daughter, be of good comfort ; thy faith hath made thee whole, alleluia.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saint Britius, Bishop and Martyr, November 13

Saint Britius, Bishop and Confessor

Ss.Brice and Martin of Tours
Britius, also called Brice, was trained form childhood by Saint Martin of Tours in the monastery of Marmoutier. But in spite of his monastic profession, he became a passionate, arrogant, and avaricious priest ; and whenever his spiritual father Martin rebuked him, he retaliated with abuse and counter-accusations. However, when holy Martin was asked to depose him form the priesthood, he replied : If Christ bore with Judas, why not Martin with Brice? * For at times the young priest would return to Martin with a penitence as passionate as his rebellion had been. So that, in the long run, through the prayers and charity of Saint Martin, Brice reformed ; and when Martin died, he became bishop in his stead. Then began grievous trials for Brice ; and among other things he was unjustly charged with seducing a nun, and thereby forced out of his diocese. And although he vindicated himself form most of the charges, he patiently and cheerfully accepted exile at Rome as a penance for the many sins of arrogance and avarice of which he knew he had been guilty. * After almost twenty years of banishment and penance, when his successor in the See of Tours had died, the Pope ordered him to return and assume the office again. And so changed was he that his people knew him to be a Saint of God on earth. Thereupon he ruled his diocese for seven years ; and having built a church over the body of his beloved master Martin, he went to God, after an episcopate of forty-seven years, namely, in the year 444 ; and straitway his feast began to be kept at Tours, and afterwards throughout Europe.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God ; that the devout observance of this festival of blessed Britius, thy Confessor and Bishop, may be profitable unto us for our advancement in all godliness, and for the attainment of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Saint Martin I Pope and Martyr, November 12

Saint Martin I Pope and Martyr

Martin, concerning whose life we know much from the Liber Pontificalis and from his letters, was born at Todi in Tuscany. In those days it was customary, before the consecration of a Pope, to get the confirmation of the election from the Emperor ; but when Martin was elected, he did not seek it, because this same, Constans II, had placed himself outside the Church through heresy. At the beginning of his Popedom, however, in the year 649, he was careful to send an ambassage with letters to Paul, Patriarch of Constantinople, to call upon him to return to the truth of the Orthodox Faith from the blasphemous heresy of the Monothelites. But Paul, backed up by the heretical Emperor, banished the Legates of the Roman See into divers places in the Islands. This evil deed moved the Pope to gather together at the Lateran a council of one hundred and five bishops, by whom Paul was condemned, and certain heretical edicts of the Emperor were censured. * Thereupon Constans sent his Chamberlain Olympius into Italy, as Exarch, straitly commanding him to bring to naught this resistance of Pope Martin to the Monothelites. But Olympius found no way to bring harm to Martin, and soon departed. Whereupon Constans sent the Exarch Theodore Calliopas to Rome, with command to lay hands on the Pope. By him Martin was treacherously taken to the Island of Naxos. Later he was brought to Constantinople, where he was kept in prison till he was sent to the Crimea. * There his sufferings for the Orthodox Faith utterly broke him down ; and he left this life in the eighth year of his pontificate, on September 16th, 655. November 12th is reputed to be the day of his translation, for his body was afterwards brought to Rome, and buried in the Church dedicated under the names of Saints Sylvester and Martin of Tours. He sat Saint Peters Chair for six years, one month, and twenty-six days, and was the last the Popes to be honored with the Martyr’s title. He held two ordinations in the month of December, wherein he made eleven priests, five deacons, and thirty-three bishops divers  places.  
Pope Saint Martin I
A Homily by St. Gregory the Pope

Dearly beloved brethren, if we consider what and how great things are promised us in heaven, all things which are upon earth grow poor in our mind. For when this world’s goods are reckoned against heavenly rewards, they are found to be a hindrance rather than a help. Earthly life, being compared to life eternal, ought rather to be called death than life. For what is the daily failing of our corruptible body but, as it were, a slow death? And what tongue can tell, or what mind comprehend, how great is the rejoicing in the city above? For there they have part with the choirs of Angels, and stand with those blessed spirits before the glory of the Creator, and see God face to face, and gaze upon Light Incomprehensible, and have no fear of death, but rejoice in the gift of an incorruption which is eternal.

When we hear these things our hearts burn within us. And we long to be already there, where we hop to rejoice eternally. But we cannot attain unto great rewards save through great labour. Therefore saith the mighty preacher Paul: No man is crowned except he strive lawfully. If the greatness of the reward delighted the mind, then the pressure of the struggle cannot make the heart grow faint. Therefore the truth saith to all who would come to him : If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Almighty God, mercifully look upon our infirmities: that whereas we are afflicted by the burden of our sins: the glorious intercession of thy Martyr and Pope, blessed Martin, may be our succour and defense, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th, Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop and Confessor

Saint Martin of Tours

Martin (according to the account written of his life by his friend Saint Sulpicius Severus, from which is taken most of what is herein given for his feast) was born at Sabaria, in Pannonia. When he was ten years old he became a catechumen, in spite of his father and mother, who were heathens. Now his father was an officer in the army, who had risen from the ranks ; and therefore Martin, at the age of fifteen, was forced into the army against his will, and served as a soldier first under Constantius and then under Julian. Once at the gate of Amiens a poor man asked of him an alms for Christ’s Name’s sake, and since he had nothing to his hand but his arms and his clothes, he gave him half of his cloak. In the night following he dreamt that Christ appeared to him clad in the half of his cloak, and saying to the Angels who bore him company: While Martin was yet a catechumen, he clad me in this garment. Whereupon Martin made haste to be baptized.

He was eighteen years of age when he thus put on Christ, and thereafter he gave up the life of a soldier, and betook himself to Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, by whom he was placed in the order of acolytes. Being afterwards made Bishop of Tours, and that much against his will, (for he was taken by force and consecrated,) he gave himself to his office with diligence. But for his Episcopal residence, he built at Tours a monastery wherein he lived in holiness, in company of four-score monks. Famous for holy works and many miracles, he at last fell sick of a grievous fever at Candes, a remote village in his diocese, and besought God in constant prayer to set him free form the prison of his dying body. But when his disciples expostulated with him, he changed his prayer and said : Lord, if I be still needful to thy people, I refuse not to labour!

St. Martin of Tours
 When his disciple saw him, in the height of the fever, lying upon his back and praying, they entreated him to turn over and take a little rest upon his side, as much as the violence of his sickness would allow him. But Martin answered them: Suffer me to look heavenward rather than earthward, that my spirit may see the way whereby it is so soon going to the Lord At the moment of death he saw the enemy of mankind, and cried out : Why hast thou come hither, O beast of blood? In me thou shalt find nothing of thine! With these words on his lips, he gave up his soul to God, being aged eighty years. He is said to have been received by a company of Angels, whereof many men afterwards testified that they heard them singing, among the which was Saint Severinus, Bishop of Cologne. His blessed death took place on November 8th, but his feast is kept on November 11th, being the day of his burial at Tours. Whereto, it is said, two thousand monks and nuns came to honour him, being his disciples in the many religious houses he had founded.

A Homily by Saint Ambrose the Bishop

The candle is faith, even as it is written : Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths. Now our faith is to us the very word of God, for this word of God furnisheth us with light, whereof faith is the candle. It is written concerning the incarnate Word of God : That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. For a candle cannot shine, unless it be set a-light from some fire. And it is the incarnate Word of God that lighteth us.

St. Ambrose of Milan
Also it is written : What woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And in this connection, the candle, which is lighted to find the lost piece, is the strength of our understanding and affections. Let no man therefore attempt to seek faith under the Law. For the Law is by measure, but grace is without measure ; the Law overshadowed , but grace enlighteneth. And therefore let no man shut up his faith within the measure of the Law, but give it unto the Church ; wherein shineth the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, and whereon the divine glory of the great high priest doth strike from heaven, lest the shadow of the Law should rest any more at all upon her.

O Lord God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that, by the intercession of blessed Martin thy Confessor and Bishop, we may be defended against all adversity, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 10, Saints Tryphon, Respicius, Nympha, Martyrs

Commemorated on November 10

In the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, Italy, are enshrined the relicks of the three Martyrs commemorated on November 10. About the year 250, during the reign of the Emperor Decius, one Tryphon strove by preaching the Faith of Jesus Christ to bring all men to worship the Same. For this cause he was taken by the servants of Decius, and at first tormented upon the rack, and thereafter cruelly tortured in various ways, such as with red-hot nails driven into his insteps, and with scorching from lighted torches. The courage wherewith Tryphon bore all these things brought to faith in the Lord Christ the Prefect Respicius, who thereupon declared himself a Christian. He likewise was then in divers ways tormented ; and afterwards he was led along with Tryphon to an image of Jupiter : and when Tryphon prayed, the statue fell down. Then were both Tryphon and Respicius savagely lashed with whips loaded with lead, until they attained the crown of their glorious testimony. This was the tenth day of November, on which day also a certain maiden named Nympha, having openly confessed that Jesus Christ is very God, added the palm of martyrdom to the crown of virginity.

Grant, O Lord, we pray thee that, as by the prayers of thy blessed Martyrs, Tryphon, Respicius, and Nympha, we do feel the effectual succour of thy protection, so we may at all times devoutly observe their festival, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

Saint Theodore Martyr, November 9

For Saint Theodore Martyr, Matins lesson ix

St. Theodore of Tyrone
Of this Theodore (known as The Tyro, that is, the recruit) a panegyric is extant, attributed to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in which the Saint is thus invoked : As a soldier, fight for us! As a Martyr, win us peace! He is reputed to have been a Christian soldier, who was arrested in the fourth century, during the reign of the Emperor Maximian, for having set on fire a temple of idols. And it is said that the commander of the Legion offered him pardon if he would but profess repentance for his act, and curse the Christian Faith, and that , as he steadfastly refused, he was cast into prison. And that there he was tormented with iron claws, and yet whilst they tore the flesh off his ribs, he sang joyfully the thirty-third psalm : I will bless the Lord at all times. And that thereafter he was thrown upon a pile of burning wood, whereupon still praising God and praying, he gave up his soul to Christ, about the year 306. And the Lady Eusebia is said to have wrapped his body in a winding-sheet and buried the same on her own farm.

O God, who hast set about us the protection of the glorious confession of thy blessed Martyr Theodore, grant that we may ever profit by the following of his ensample, and be sustained by the succour of his intercession, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Octave Day of All Saints, Treatise by Saint Cyprian

Octave Day of All Saints

From the Treatise on Mortality, by Saint Cyprian the Bishop and Martyr

Dearly beloved : We should keep in mind, and ponder well ; that we have made a renunciation of the world, and so are supposed to spend our time here meanwhile as strangers and pilgrims. Let us reflect on that day which can see us each at home in one of the many mansions. That day will see us delivered hence, and disentangled from the nets and snares of things temporal. It will put us back into the true Garden of Eden, that is , the kingdom of heaven. Is there any in a far country that hath opportunity to return to his Fatherland, and maketh not his way thereto with all possible speed? Was ever any in haste to make his voyage homeward, that longed not for a fair wind, that the might the sooner embrace his loved ones?

We reckon a paradise like unto Eden to be our home ; already we begin to know of the Patriarchs as our kinsmen. Why should we not make haste and run, to see our home, and to greet our kinsfolk? A great many of those we love are waiting for us there - father and mother and brothers and children. There in great company they await is, they who are sure now await us, they who are sure now never to die any more, but not yet sure of us. O when we come to see them, and to embrace them, what gladness will it be both for us and for them! O what brightness of life is in that heavenly kingdom, where is no more fear of death, but the certainty of living everlastingly! O what consummated felicity! O what enduring joy!

There is the glorious company of the Apostles. There is the jubilant fellowship of the Prophets. There is the countless army of Martyrs crowned for victory in strife and in suffering. There triumph Virgins who by noble self-control have tamed the desires of the flesh and of the body. There are repaid with mercy the Merciful, who by feeding and gifting the needy, have wrought righteousness, have kept the commandments of the Lord, and have exchanged heritages upon earth for treasures in heaven. Thitherward, dearly beloved brethren, let us hasten with eager hearts. Let us fain to be with these, so that soon their lot may be ours also, namely to e with Christ.

The Four Crowned Martyrs, November 8

The Four Crowned Martyrs
For the Four Crowned Martyrs, November 8

From ancient times the relicks of four unknown Martyrs have been venerated at Rome, under the name of the Four Crowned Ones. Thereby the people of God have had a continuous memorial of the many unknown soldiers of Christ, whose faithfulness is crowned in heaven, even if they be without honour in this world. The earthly remains of these Four Crowned Ones were at first buried in the Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, on the Lavican Way. In the same place were the remains of other Martyrs, which are said to have been translated thither from Pannonia, in a region southwest of the Danube. These latter are wont to be identified with five Martyrs who suffered in that country under Diocletian, early in the fourth century, and whose Acts, probably written in the same century, are generally regarded as authentic. From which we learn that they were Five Christian Artisans, named Claude, Nicostratus, Symphorian, Castor, and Simplicius, who were renowned stonemasons and sculptors; and that, because they refused to carve idols for the pagans, they were tortured, and then put into leaden caskets, and drowned in the Save River. A basilica was built in Rome in the fifth century in honour of the Four Crowned Martyrs, and thither about the middle of the ninth century Saint Pope Leo IV translated the relicks of the nine Saints. But because of the great devotion with which the Four Crowned Martyrs have ever been regarded, the commemoration to the Five Holy Artisans, who are their companions in glory, is made under the title, and on the feast, which is peculiar to their common shrine ; that like as we venerate their common constancy in the confession of the Faith, so we may feel the common succour of their loving intercession. It is also because of the association of the four unknown ones with the Five Holy Artisans that stone-masons have been wont to claim the Four Crowned Martyrs as their heavenly patrons ; in token of their desire for a like fellowship with such as prefer to suffer persecution rather than to do dishonest work, or to earn a livelihood sinfully.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that, like as we have known thy glorious Martyrs to be constant in their confession of thy Faith, so we may feel the succour of their loving intercession, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saint Willibrord Bishop and Confessor, November 7

November 7, Saint Willibrord, Bishop and Confessor

Willibrord was born in Northumberland, being the son of a godly Englishman named Wilgis, who became a monk, and was a most holy man. Before Willibrord was seven years of age, he was taken to the monastery of Ripon, and given in charge to Saint Wilfrid, the founder and ruler thereof, to be trained up in a holy life and learning. There, in a short while, he wonderfully stepped forward, not in knowledge only, but also in grace, and led the life of a monk until the twentieth year of his age. Then he had a desire for a harder life, and with the leave of Abbot and brethren, went into Ireland to the holy men Egbert and Wigbert, who both had journeyed thither for the love of heavenly things. In their devout companionship and conversation, and amid the most excellent teachers of godliness and sacred learning, with whom the Isle of the Saints then abounded, this future teacher of many nations passed twelve years, and himself gained learning and character.

Somewhere around the age of thirty he was ordained priest, and was sent by Egbert to convert the pagans of Friesland, along with eleven companions of his own country folk eminent for learning and holiness of life, among whom were Saints Swithbert and Adelbert. He landed at Utrecht, and was welcomed, along with his companions, by Pepin of Heristal, who had brought Southern Friesland under his power, and who mightily helped the preaching of the Gospel, so that in a short while many were turned from the worshipping of idols unto the Christian Faith. Thereafter Willibrord journeyed to Rome to seek a wider knowledge of missionary work in that great Christian center, where he was welcomed by Saint Pope Sergius I who sent him back much comforted. Later, when Saint Wilfrid had consecrated holy Swithbert as legionary bishop, Pepin sent Willibrord to Rome to be consecrated Archbishop by the same holy Pope Sergius.
Willibrord returned to Friesland as soon as he could, and established his See at Utrecht. He proclaimed the Word of God with much fruit in Friesland, Holland, Seeland, and Flanders, (even unto the uttermost tribes of those countries,) brake their idols, destroyed their temples and shrines, dedicated many temples to Christ, and established bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church, eminent for knowledge and grace. He founded houses of religious of both sexes, among which the principal was that for monks at Echternach, in Luxemburg, the government whereof he himself took, and held until his death. At length, after a life of holy and unwearied apostolic labours, he passed away, to be ever with Christ, on November 7th, 739, and of his own age the eighty-first. He is usually reckoned as the Apostle of the Frisians, for it was through his labours and those of his blessed companions, especially of Saint Swithbert, that this barbarous people were made gentle in Christ. He was buried in the Abbey of Echternach. After his death his apostolic labours were taken up by many other Englishmen, eminent among whom were Saints Willehad, Marcellinus, and Lebwin, all of whom are commemorated in the Martyrology.
O God, who didst vouchsafe to send thy blessed Saint Willibrord to preach thy glory to the Gentiles, we humbly pray thee, that, by his merits and intercession, we may both see and know the things which we ought to do, and by thy mercy be enabled to perform the same, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November 6 Saint Leonard of Limoges, Ab

From the Golden Legend

The Abbot Saint Leonard
Of Saint Leonard.

It is said that Leonard was about the year of our Lord five hundred. And he was baptized in the holy font of Saint Remigius, archbishop of Rheims, and was instructed of him and induced in holy discipline of health. And the parents and kinsmen of Saint Leonard were chief and highest in the palace of the king of France. This Leonard gat so much grace of the king, that all the prisoners that he visited were anon delivered. And when the renomee of his holiness grew and increased, the king constrained him for to dwell with him long time, till that he had time convenable, and gave to him a bishopric. And he refused it and left all, desiring to be in desert, and went to Orleans, preaching there with his brother Lifardus, and there lived a little while in a convent. And then Lifardus had desire to dwell alone in a desert upon the river of Loire, and Leonard was warned by the Holy Ghost to preach in Guienne, and then they kissed together and departed. Then Leonard preached there and did many miracles, and dwelled in a forest nigh to the city of Limoges. In which forest the king had do make a hall or a lodge, which was ordained for him when he should go hunt. And it happed on a day that the king went for to hunt in that forest, and the queen, which was gone thither with him for her recreation, which then was great with child, began to travail of child. And the travail endured long, and she was in point to perish, so that the king and all the meiny wept for the peril of the queen. And then Leonard passed through the forest and heard the voice of them that wept, and was moved with pity and went thither. And the king called him, and demanded him what he was, and he said that he was a disciple of Saint Remigius. And then the king had good hope because he had been informed of a good master, and brought him to the queen, and prayed him that he would pray for her, and for the fruit that she bare, that she might get of God double joy. And anon as he had made his prayer, he gat of God that he required. Then the king offered to him much gold and silver, but he refused all, and desired him to give it to poor men, and said: I have no need of such things, it sufficeth me to despise the riches of the world and to serve God in this wood, and that is that I desire. And then the king would have given to him all the wood. I will not have all, but as much as I may go about with mine ass in a night, I desire, which the king gladly granted to him. And there was made a monastery in which he lived long in abstinence, and two monks with him. And their water was a mile from them, wherefore he did do make a pit all dry, the which he filled with water by his prayers, and called that place noble, because he had received it of a noble king. And he shone there by so great miracles, that who that was in prison and called his name in aid, anon his bonds and fetters were broken, and went away without any gainsaying freely, and came presenting to him their chains or irons. And many of them that were so delivered, dwelled still with him and served there our Lord. And there were seven of his noble lineage which sold away all their goods and dwelled with him, and he delivered to each of them a part of that wood. And by his holy example he drew many to him. And at the last this holy man, being endowed with many virtues, the eighth ides of November departed out of this world, and slept in our Lord, whereafterward for the many miracles that God showed there, it was showed to the clerks of the church that because that place was over little for the great multitude of people that came thither, that they should do make in another place another church, and bear therein the body of Saint Leonard honourably.

And then the clerks and the people were all three days in fastings and in prayers. And on the third day they saw all the country covered with snow, save only the place wherein Saint Leonard would rest, which was all void. And thither was the body transported, and the church made. And the great multitude of irons of diverse manners witness well how many miracles our Lord hath showed for him, and specially to prisoners, of whom the fetters and irons hang tofore his tomb.

The viscount of Limoges had do make a great chain for to fear withal the malefactors, and commanded that it should be fastened unto a trunk in his tower. And whosomever was bounden with this chain to that trunk thereas it was set, he might see no light. And it was a place right dark, and whoso died there, died not of one death only, but more than of a thousand torments. And it happed that one of the servants of Saint Leonard was bounden with this chain without deserving, so that almost he gave over his spirit. And then as he might, in his courage he avowed to Saint Leonard, and prayed him that sith he delivered other that he would have pity on his servant. And anon Saint Leonard appeared to him in a white vesture and said: Fear thee nothing, for thou shalt not die. Arise up, and bear thou this chain with thee to my church; follow me, for I go tofore. Then he arose and took the chain and followed Saint Leonard, which went tofore him till he came to the church. And anon, as he was tofore the gates, Saint Leonard left him there, and he then entered into the church and recounted to all the people what Saint Leonard had done. And he hung that great chain tofore his tomb. There was a certain man which dwelled in the place of Saint Leonard, and was much faithful and devout to Saint Leonard. And it happed that this good man was taken of a tyrant, which began to think in himself that Saint Leonard unbindeth and looseth all them that be bounden in irons, and the might of iron hath no more might against him than wax hath against the fire. If I set this man in irons Leonard shall anon deliver him, and if I may keep him I shall make him pay for his ransom a thousand shillings. I wot well what I shall do. I shall go make a right great and deep pit under the earth in my tower, and I shall cast him therein bounden with many bonds. And after I shall do make a chest of tree upon the mouth of the pit, and shall make my knights to lie therein all armed. And how be it that if Leonard break the irons, yet shall he not enter into it under the earth.

And when he had made all this that he thought, this man which was enclosed therein cried oft to Saint Leonard, so that on a night Saint Leonard came and turned the chest wherein the knights lay armed, and closed them therein like as dead men be in a tomb. And after entered into the fosse or pit with great light, and took the hand of his true servant, and said to him: Sleepest thou or wakest. Lo! here is Leonard whom thou so much desirest. And he, sore marvelling, said: Lord help me! And anon his chains were broken, and took him in his arms and bare him out of the tower, and then spake to him as a friend doth to a friend, and set him at home in his house. There was a pilgrim which returned from the visiting of Saint Leonard, and was taken in Almaine and put in a pit or fosse, and fast closed therein. And this pilgrim prayed strongly Saint Leonard and also them that took him, that they would for the love of Saint Leonard let him go, for he had never trespassed to them. And they answered, but if he would pay much money he should not depart. And he said: Be it between you and Saint Leonard, to whom I remit the matter. And the night following Saint Leonard appeared to the lord of the castle and commanded him that he should deliver his pilgrim, and on the morn he supposed he had dreamed, and would not deliver him. The next night he appeared to him again, and commanded him to let him go, but yet he would not obey. The third night Saint Leonard took this pilgrim and brought him out of the castle, and anon the tower and half the castle fell, and oppressed many of them that were therein, and the prince only was left, to his confusion, alive, and had his thighs broken. et cetera.

There was a knight in prison in Brittany which oft called on Saint Leonard, which anon appeared to him in the sight of all men, and knowing him, and they being sore abashed, entered into the prison and brake his bonds and put them in the man's hand, and brought him forth before them all, being sore afeard.

There was another Leonard, which was of the same profession and of one virtue, of whom the body resteth at Corbigny. And when this Leonard was prelate in a monastery he was of so great humility that he was seen to be lowest of all. And much people came to him, so fast and so many, that they that were envious said to the king Clothair that, if he took not good heed to the realm of France he should suffer damage, and that great by Leonard, which gathered to him much people under the shadow of religion. And then this cruel king commanded that he should be chased away, but the knights that came for to chase him were so converted by his words that, they were compunct, and promised to be his disciples. And then the king repented him, and required pardon of him, and put them from him that had so missaid of him, and from their goods and honours, and loved much Saint Leonard, so that unnethe the king would not re-establish them again to their estate at the prayers of the holy saint. And this holy saint impetred and had grant of God, that whosomever were holden in prison and prayed in his name that he should anon be delivered. And on a day, as he was in his prayers, a right great serpent stretched him from the foot of Saint Leonard along upward unto his breast, and he never therefore left his orison. And when he had accomplished his orisons, he said to the serpent: I know well that sith the beginning of thy creation thou tormentest men as much as thou mayst, but thy might is given to me now, do to me now that which I have deserved. And when he had said thus the serpent sprang out of his hood and fell down dead at his feet. After this, on a time when he had appeased two bishops that had been in discord, he said that he should on the morn finish his life. And so he did, and that was about the year of our Lord five hundred and seventy.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Leonard of Limoges, may commend us unto thee, that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.