Saint Jerome

The collect for today, the Feast of St Jerome (c. 342-420), Priest, Monk, Translator of the Scriptures, Doctor of the Church (source):

O Lord, thou God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give thee thanks for thy servant Jerome, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we beseech thee that thy Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to thy righteous will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Epistle: 2 Timothy 3:14-17
The Gospel: St Luke 24:44-48

Domenichino, Last Communion Of St JeromeOne of the most scholarly and learned early church fathers, St Jerome devoted his life to accurately translating the Holy Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin.

Born near Aquileia, northeast Italy, of Christian parents, Jerome travelled widely. He received a classical education at Rome and travelled to Gaul where he became a monk. He later moved to Palestine, spending five years as an ascetic in the Syrian desert. In 374, he was ordained a priest in Antioch. He then pursued biblical studies at Constantinople under Gregory Nazianzus and translated works by Eusebius, Origen, and others.

Travelling to Rome in 382, Jerome became secretary to the aged Pope Damasus. By the time the pope died three years later, Jerome had become involved in theological controversies in which he antagonised many church leaders and theologians. He left Rome under a cloud, returning to Palestine where he lived as a monk at Bethlehem for rest of his life.

Over several decades, Jerome wrote biblical commentaries and works promoting monasticism and asceticism. Most importantly, he produced fresh Latin translations of most of the Old and New Testaments, based on the original biblical languages. This work formed the basis of the Vulgate, which remained the standard Scriptural text of the western church for over a millennium.

Artwork: Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri), The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, 1614. Oil on canvas, Pinacoteca Vaticana.

Saint Michael and All Angels

The collect for today, the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):

O EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant, that as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lesson: Revelation 12:7-11
The Gospel: St Matthew 18:1-10

Giordano, St MichaelThe name Michael is a variation of Micah, and means in Hebrew “Who is like God?”

The archangel Michael first appears in the Book of Daniel, where he is described as “one of the chief princes” and as the special protector of Israel. In the New Testament epistle of Jude (v. 9), Michael, in a dispute with the devil over the body of Moses, says, “The Lord rebuke you“. Michael appears also in Revelation (12:7-9) as the leader of the angels in the great battle in Heaven that ended with Satan and the hosts of evil being thrown down to earth. There are many other references to the archangel Michael in Jewish and Christian traditions.

Following these scriptural passages, Christian tradition has given St. Michael four duties: (1) To continue to wage battle against Satan and the other fallen angels; (2) to save the souls of the faithful from the power of Satan especially at the hour of death; (3) to protect the People of God, both the Jews of the Old Covenant and the Christians of the New Covenant; and (4) finally to lead the souls of the departed from this life and present them to our Lord for judgment. For these reasons, Christian iconography depicts St. Michael as a knight-warrior, wearing battle armor, and wielding a sword or spear, while standing triumphantly on a serpent or other representation of Satan. Sometimes he is depicted holding the scales of justice or the Book of Life, both symbols of the last judgment.

Very early in church history, St Michael became associated with the care of the sick. The cult of Michael developed first in Eastern Christendom, where healing waters and hot springs at many locations in Greece and Asia Minor were dedicated to him. Michael is supposed to have appeared three times on Monte Gargano, southern Italy, in the 5th century. The local townspeople believed that Michael’s intercession gave them victory in battle over their enemies. These apparitions restored his biblical role as a strong protector of God’s people, and were also the basis for spreading his cult in the West.

The Feast of St Michael & All Angels is also known as Michaelmas. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates today as the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.

Artwork: Luca Giordano, St Michael, c. 1663. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Meditation for Michaelmas

Dancing with Angels

Have you ever thought about the title of a book that you might like to write? You know, where you say, “I’d like to write a book with this title?” Sometimes certain phrases and ideas catch us that way and you say, “that would be a good title for a book.” Well, for me, one title of one book that strikes me that way would be “Dancing with Angels.”

Dancing with angels is, I think, a way of speaking about what we do every day in our spiritual and intellectual lives whether as students or teachers, priests or parishioners. Angels are very much about the principles of the understanding, the intellectual and spiritual principles that belong to our understanding of the human and the natural world. They remind us that there is more to reality than what meets the eye. They speak, in a kind of way, to that common feature of our humanity, our loneliness, or what Alistair MacLeod calls our “inarticulate loneliness” out of which comes the struggle to articulate and communicate. The angels remind us that we have dance partners in the pursuit of understanding and in the struggle to act rightly and to be good.

In the year 1257, perhaps even what has come to be known as Michaelmas term, at the University of Paris, Thomas Aquinas, affectionately known as Doctor Angelicus, the angelic doctor, undertook in the Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate, “Disputed Questions on Truth,” the question “Can a man be taught by an Angel?”(Q. 11, art.iii). Angels can teach us, he says, not by supplanting what is given by the light of nature or the light of grace, the human and the divine respectively, but as he says, by “moving the imagination and strengthening the light of understanding.”

Angels help us to understand the terrible, hard and harsh events of our own world and day. After all, will we really even begin to comprehend the terror of terrorism, for example, merely through the lenses of social and economic determinism? Don’t we need the spiritual wisdom which talks about the struggles between the good and evil which we are afraid to name, the spiritual struggles which the religions of the world in their truth and integrity contemplate and know?

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Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her”

The great poet, Dante, speaks of Luke as “scriba mansuetudinis Christi”, the scribe of the gentleness of Christ. The phrase has always stayed with me. Luke is our primary spiritual director, if you will, during the long green season of the Church year, the Trinity season. By far and away, the largest number of gospel readings are taken from his gospel for what amounts to almost half of the Church year.

Dante, it seems to me, has grasped the signal note of St. Luke’s gospel and perhaps, nowhere is that idea of the gentleness of Christ more wonderfully signaled to us than in today’s gospel.

There are only three times in the New Testament when Christ meets us as mourners. There is the story about the raising of Jairus’ daughter who had just died. There is the story about the calling out of Lazarus’ who had been buried for four days. “Behold he stinketh”, Martha cries out, alerting us to the realities of death and decay and as well to how far gone we are in our sins. And there is this story, the story of the widow of Nain when her only son is being carried to the burying ground. In short, the encounter with the newly dead, the dead and buried and the just about to be buried. But here, in Luke’s gospel, the encounter is with the chief mourner, the widow of Nain, whose only son has died and is being carried out of the city to the place of burying.

In all three scenes, Christ meets us as mourners. We are in the presence of death, after all. He enters into our grief and into the intimacy of our sorrows. But the point of all these encounters is that Jesus is not just another sorry soul, not just another weeping mourner, not just another voice to add the cacophony of our sorrows. No. In each case, where he meets us as mourners, there is a word of saving grace and glory, a word of resurrection in the place and in the face of death.

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Week at a Glance, 28 September-4 October

Tuesday, September 29th, St. Michael & All Angels
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
6:30-7:30pm Brownies’ Mtg. – Parish Hall
7:00pm Holy Communion

Thursday, October 1st
1:30-3:00pm Seniors’ Drop-In

Saturday, October 3rd
7:00-9:00pm – Parish Hall
Newfoundland & Country Evening of Musical Entertainment

Sunday, October 4th, Trinity XVII
8:00am Holy Communion
10:30am Holy Communion
4:30pm Evening Prayer at KES