Archive for February, 2012

God willed that many things should be said by the prophets, his servants, and listened to by his people. How much greater are the things spoken by the Son. These are now witnessed to by the very Word of God who spoke through the prophets. The Word of God does not now command us to prepare the way for his coming: he comes in person and opens up the way for us and directs us toward it. Before, we wandered in the darkness of death, aimlessly and blindly. Now we are enlightened by the light of grace, and are to keep to the highway of life, with the Lord to precede and direct us.

The Lord has given us many counsels and commandments to help us toward salvation. He has even given us a pattern of prayer, instructing us on how we are to pray. He has given us life, and with his accustomed generosity, he has also taught us how to pray. He has made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son.

So, my brothers, let us pray as God our master has taught us. To ask the Father in words his Son has given us, to let him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognize the words of his Son. Let the Son who lives in our hearts be also on our lips. We have him as an advocate for sinners before the Father; when we ask forgiveness for our sins, let us use the words given by our advocate. He tells us: Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. What more effective prayer could we then make in the name of Christ than in the words of his own prayer?

St Cyprian, bishop and martyr, On the Lord’s Prayer (full text here)

Duccio di Buoninsegna, from Maestà (1308-11)

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Blessed the man who does not follow the counsels of the wicked,
or stand in the paths that sinners use,
or sit in the gatherings of those who mock:

His delight is the law of the Lord,
he ponders his law day and night.

He is like a tree planted by flowing waters,
that will give its fruit in due time,
whose leaves will not fade.

All that he does will prosper.
Not thus are the wicked, not thus.
They are like the dust blown by the wind.

At the time of judgment the wicked will not stand,
nor sinners in the council of the just.

For the Lord knows the path of the just;
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1

The Apse Mosaic at San Clemente, (13th cent)

“The cross of the Lord is become the tree of life for us.”

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When the pyre was ready, Polycarp took off all his clothes and loosened his under-garment. He made an effort also to remove his shoes, though he had been unaccustomed to this, for the faithful always vied with each other in their haste to touch his body. Even before his martyrdom he had received every mark of honour in tribute to his holiness of life.

There and then he was surrounded by the material for the pyre. When they tried to fasten him also with nails, he said: “Leave me as I am. The one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails.” So they did not fix him to the pyre with nails but only fastened him instead. Bound as he was, with hands behind his back, he stood like a mighty ram, chosen out for sacrifice from a great flock, a worthy victim made ready to be offered to God.

Looking up to heaven, he said: “Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise.

“I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”

When he had said “Amen” and finished the prayer, the officials at the pyre lit it. But, when a great flame burst out, those of us privileged to see it witnessed a strange and wonderful thing. Indeed, we have been spared in order to tell the story to others. Like a ship’s sail swelling in the wind, the flame became as it were a dome encircling the martyr’s body. Surrounded by the fire, his body was like bread that is baked, or gold and silver white-hot in a furnace, not like flesh that has been burnt. So sweet a fragrance came to us that it was like that of burning incense or some other costly and sweet-smelling gum.

The Martydom of Polycarp

The Martyrdom of St Polycarp of Smyrna

How does the Church grow honestly and faithfully in martyrdom-less societies? How does on-going persecution and acts of martyrdom in places like China, northern Africa, and the Middle East witness to the Church in North America and Europe?

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The book of Acts portrays a movement that is turning large numbers “from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26.18) and re-socializing them into a community that lives by very different norms – the norms defined by Jesus’ life and teachings. Such a movement – when lived with integrity – inevitably has an explosive effect in the surrounding culture. That is Luke’s vision for the transformative power of the church: it turns the world upside down not through armed revolution but through the formation of the church as a counter-culture, an alternative witness-bearing community. (128)

Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Ugo da Carpi, St Peter Preaching (14th cent.)

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3:30am Vigils
7:00am Lauds, Eucharist
2:00pm Mid-Day Prayer
5:30pm Vespers
7:30pm Compline

A Cistercian brother at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virgina.

adj., of common or established type or occurrence

[Middle English ordinarie, from Old French, from Latin ōrdinārius, from ōrdō, order]

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Praise the Lord.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures for ever.

He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.

He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.

(Ps 111.1-5)


εξομολογησομαι σοι κυριε εν ολη καρδια μου
εν βουλη ευθειων και συναγωγη

μεγαλα τα εργα κυριου
εξεζητημενα εις παντα τα θεληματα αυτου

εξομολογησις και μεγαλοπρεπεια το εργον αυτου
και η δικαιοσυνη αυτου μενει εις τον αιωνα του αιωνος

μνειαν εποιησατο των θαυμασιων αυτου ελεημων
και οικτιρμων ο κυριος

τροφην εδωκεν τοις φοβουμενοις αυτον
μνησθησεται εις τον αιωνα διαθηκης αυτου

(Ps 110.1-5, LXX)

Holy Thursday, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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Bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Take what I cannot give: My heart, body, thoughts, time, abilities, money, health, strength, nights, days, youth, age, and spend them in thy service, O my crucified Master, Redeemer, God.

Frederick W. Robertson, 19th cent.

Andrea Mantegna, Crucifixion (1457-1459)


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