Jerome, Doctor and Priest

The collect for today, the Feast of Saint 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

El Greco, St. Jerome as a Scholar (1610)One of the most scholarly and learned early church fathers, St. Jerome devoted much of his life to accurately translating the Holy Bible from the original languages of 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 in 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: El Greco, Saint Jerome as a Scholar, c. 1610. Oil on canvas, Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Meditation for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Angels and Argyle Socks

“Is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress” to talk of angels and how they dress? Whether they wear argyle socks or not and how many can dance upon the head of a pin? “In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.” With apologies to T.S. Eliot (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock), all our talk is of angels. September closes down with The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. We are in the company of Angels.

But argyle socks and dancing on the head of a pin? How absurd and utterly ridiculous! Yes. I have never seen angels wearing argyle socks even in the many, many representations of angels that belong to the history of art and sculpture. Of course, the angels cannot be seen. And so too, the supposed question about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin is pure nonsense and a complete misrepresentation of the entire intellectual and spiritual tradition to which angels belong. The whole point is that they are immaterial spirits, the pure ideas and the reasons of God in creation, the intellectual principles of things. They are invisible and don’t occupy space. You can’t see them. You can only think and feel them. That is the wonder of the angels. The most important things in life are the things you cannot see, like love and thought, like quarks and electrons, too!

That is the great and wonderful point about the angels. They remind us of an essential aspect of our humanity – that we are intellectual and spiritual creatures, albeit embodied with flesh and blood. The angels remind us of the intellectual and moral nature of reality.

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Saint Michael and All Angels

The collect for today, the Feast of Saint 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

Beccafumi, St. Michael and the Fall of the Rebel AngelsThe 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: Domenico Beccafumi, Saint Michael and the Fall of the Rebellious Angels, c.1524. Oil on wood panel, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

“Be not anxious”

The strong words of this gospel are large letters written to us by Jesus, as it were. What are the strong words? Behold, consider, seek. Through them we see the world with new eyes even as we bear in our own bodies, as Paul suggests, “the marks of the Lord Jesus”. Large letters to be written in our lives.

Jesus tells us not to be anxious more than once. He knows our anxieties and how prone we are to being anxious, quite literally, about “a multitude of things”. It is “the Martha Syndrome”: “Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about a multitude of things” (Luke 10.41). We all have our fears and our worries, our troubles and our concerns, our heart-aches and our despairs. We can worry ourselves, quite literally, to death about them. What are we anxious about? What are our anxieties? Quite simply, they are our cares, the things which, quite literally, occupy our thoughts.

The first Books of Common Prayer, 1549 and 1552, use the phrase “be not carefull” following Tyndale. The King James Version of the Bible, some sixty years later, uses the phrase “take no thought” to capture the Greek word about how our thoughts are taken captive or occupied, possessed, we might even say, with various concerns. The phrase, “take no thought”, became the version in the Books of Common Prayer from 1662 onwards until 1959, when in Canada the word “anxious” was introduced, a word which has 17th century provenance in English but which has been given a greater weight of interpretation in the 20th and 21st centuries; in part, through the influence of the psychology of Sigmund Freud and, in part, through existential philosophy. Angst r us.

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Week at a Glance, 29 September – 5 October

Monday, September 29th, St. Michael and All Angels
6-7:00pm Brownies/Sparks – Parish Hall
7:00 Holy Communion

Tuesday, September 30th
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
6:30-7:30pm Brownies – Parish Hall

Thursday, October 2nd
6:30-7:30pm Girl Guides – Parish Hall

Friday, October 3rd
6-9:00pm Girl Guides Leaders’ Meeting – Parish Hall

Sunday, October 5th, Trinity XVI
8:00am Holy Communion (followed by Men’s Club Breakfast)
10:30am Holy Communion
4:00pm Evening Prayer – Christ Church

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, October 14th
7:00pm Christ Church Book Club: The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and The Titian Committee, by Iain Pears.