John West

The collect for a missionary, in commemoration of The Rev’d John West (1778-1845), Priest, first Protestant missionary to the Red River Valley, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):

John WestO GOD, our heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst call thy blessed Apostles and send them forth to preach thy Gospel of salvation unto all the nations: We bless thy holy Name for thy servant John West, whose labours we commemorate this day, and we pray thee, according to thy holy Word, to send forth many labourers into thy harvest; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson: Acts 12:24-13:5
The Gospel: St Matthew 4:13-24a

John Wyclif

The collect for today, the commemoration of John Wyclif, (c 1320-84), Scholar, Translator, Reformer (source):

O Lord, God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant John Wyclif, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to your righteous will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson: Daniel 2:17-24
The Gospel: St Matthew 13:9-16

Madox Brown, Wyclif Reading His Translation

Artwork: Ford Madox Brown, John Wycliffe Reading His Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt, 1847-61. Oil on canvas, Bradford Art Galleries and Museums.

Saint Thomas Becket

The collect for today, the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket (1117-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr (source):

O Lord God,
who gavest to thy servant Thomas Becket
grace to put aside all earthly fear
and be faithful even unto death:
grant that we, caring not for worldly esteem,
may fight against evil,
uphold thy rule,
and serve thee to our life’s end;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Epistle: 1 Timothy 6:11-16
The Gospel: St Luke 12:37-43

King Henry II and Saint Thomas BecketThomas Becket was a close personal friend of King Henry II of England and served as his chancellor from 1155. When Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, died in 1162, Henry saw an opportunity to exercise control over the church and detemined to have his chancellor elected to the post. Thomas saw the dangers of the king’s plan and warned Henry that, if he became archbishop, his first loyalty would be to God and not the king. He told Henry, “Several things you do in prejudice of the rights of the church make me fear that you would require of me what I could not agree to.” What Thomas feared soon came to pass.

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Meditation on the Feast of the Holy Innocents

“Then Herod … sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem”

There is no greater challenge to the cultural celebration of Christmas than the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We like to think that Christmas is for children and for the child in all of us. We might want to think again. God “madest infants to glorify [him] by their deaths.” Now, there is a show-stopper! A real shocker. Try marketing that!

And yet, this is inescapably part of the Christmas story, albeit a part of the story we easily overlook. It recalls us to the inescapable political occasion for the nativity of Christ in Bethlehem – a census for taxation purposes – and then ups the ante in terms of the real-politique of power and domination. Herod embarks upon a policy of infanticide, killing all the little children in Bethlehem. Why? Out of fear for a rival king, the child King of Bethlehem, as he has heard from the Magi. He embarks upon a human scorched earth policy to destroy a potential rival to his power.

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The Innocents

The collect for today, the Innocents’ Day, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):

O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith, even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lesson: Revelation 14:1-5
The Gospel: St Matthew 2:13-18

When wise men from the East visited King Herod in Jerusalem to ask where the king of the Jews had been born, Herod felt his throne was in jeopardy. So, he ordered all the boys of Bethlehem aged two and under to be killed. On this day, the church remembers those children.

The Massacre of the Innocents is recorded only in St Matthew’s Gospel, where it is said to be fulfillment of a prophecy of Jeremiah.

The church has kept this feast day since the 5th century. The Western churches commemorate the innocents on 28 December; the Eastern Orthodox Church on 29 December. Medieval authors spoke of up to 144,000 murdered boys, in accordance with Revelation 14:3. More recent estimates, however, recognising that Bethlehem was a very small town, place the number between ten and thirty.

This episode has been challenged as a fabrication with no basis in actual historic events. James Kiefer has a point-by-point presentation of the objections with replies in defence of biblical historicity.

This is an appropriate day to remember the victims of abortion.

Giovanni Pisano, Massacre of the Innocents (Pistoia)

Artwork: Artwork: Giovanni Pisano, Massacre of the Innocents (detail of pulpit), 1298-1301. Marble, Chiesa di Sant’Andrea Apostolo, Pistoia. Photograph taken by admin, 24 May 2010.