Monthly Archives: March 2015

Selected Sunday Scriptures- #68

When I went to the Stations of the Cross on Friday I was reminded of a particular passages from the Letter to the Hebrews:

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. 16 For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

(Hebrews 2:14-18)

This particular passage has always been a comfort to me. There is something reassuring to know that my God has undergone everything that mortal man must face- that he was our “brethren in every respect.” God is not asking us to do anything that He Himself would not do, or to face anything He would not face, or to suffer anything that He would not suffer. We are not the first to walk the path of life- we are merely following in His footsteps. A trailblazer has gone ahead of us and marked the path for us. And for me at least, that is a comforting notion.

The next passage is an entire chapter from the Book of Joshua:

When all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Per′izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb′usites, heard of this, they gathered together with one accord to fight Joshua and Israel.

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning, and went and made ready provisions, and took worn-out sacks upon their asses, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes; and all their provisions were dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ash′taroth. 11 And our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, “We are your servants; come now, make a covenant with us.”’ 12 Here is our bread; it was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey, on the day we set forth to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and moldy; 13 these wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they are burst; and these garments and shoes of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14 So the men partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the Lord. 15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

16 At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them. 17 And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephi′rah, Be-er′oth, and Kir′iath-je′arim. 18 But the people of Israel did not kill them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. 19 But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them, and let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we swore to them.” 21 And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, as the leaders had said of them.

22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall always be slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; so we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and did this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in your hand: do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” 26 So he did to them, and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel; and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to continue to this day, in the place which he should choose.

(Joshua 9)

I am curious what the early Church fathers made of this passage. To me it seems to presage the admission of Gentiles into the ranks of the saved in the Acts of the Apostles. The Gibeonites knew that they faced destruction if they resisted the Israelites, so they chose to become servants instead. And in serving Israel they also served the Lord.  In a way, this is true of Christians as well. We all face destruction on the one hand, but we can overcome this by subjecting ourselves to the authority of God. Yet we are more blessed then the Gibeonites, for we who so subject ourselves not only are spared, but are adopted into the Lord’s own family, and thus gain a share of the inheritance.

That passage also reminded me of this one:

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

(Matthew 15:21-28)

I suspect that most people have trouble with this particular narrative from the Gospels. At first blush it almost seems as though Jesus is cruel or unloving. But when you see this passage in light of the necessity of humility in holding to our faith, it makes sense. In emptying herself of value and worth, the Canaanite woman saves her daughter, and presumably herself. For what she has emptied, discarded or lowered about herself was of the world- status and a perception of how important we are in life. In its place she set faith, her faith in Jesus and His power.

Here is some of St. John Chrysostom’s explanation of this passage:

With this intent did Christ put her off, for He knew she would say this; for this did He deny the grant, that He might exhibit her high self-command.

For if He had not meant to give, neither would He have given afterwards, nor would He have stopped her mouth again. But as He does in the case of the centurion, saying, I will come and heal him,Matthew 8:7 that we might learn the godly fear of that man, and might hear him say, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof;Matthew 8:8 and as He does in the case of her that had the issue of blood, saying, I perceive that virtue has gone out of me,Luke 8:46 that He might make her faith manifest; and as in the case of the Samaritanwoman, that He might show how not even upon reproof she desists: John 4:18 so also here, He would not that so great virtue in the woman should be hid. Not in insult then were His words spoken, but calling her forth, and revealing the treasure laid up in her.

But do thou, I pray you, together with her faith see also her humility. For He had called the Jewschildren, but she was not satisfied with this, but even called them masters; so far was she from grieving at the praises of others.

Why, the dogs also, says she, eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.Matthew 15:27

Do you see the woman’s wisdom, how she did not venture so much as to say a word against it, nor was stung by other men’s praises, nor was indignant at the reproach? Do you see her constancy? He said, It is not meet, and she said, Truth, Lord; He called them children, but she masters; He used the name of a dog, but she added also the dog’s act. Do you see this woman’s humility?

Hear the proud language of the Jews. We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man;John 8:33 and, We be born of God.John 8:41 But not so this woman, rather she calls herself a dog, and them masters; so for this she became a child. What then says Christ? O woman, great is your faith.Matthew 15:28

Yea, therefore did He put her off, that He might proclaim aloud this saying, that He might crown the woman.

Jesus did not demean the Canaanite woman- he instead gave her a chance to shine and demonstrate her virtue and worth.

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Saturday Saints- #61

Today’s saint hails from a region which I haven’t picked many saints to feature from. Our saint for today is St. Hubertus:

Saint Hubertus or Hubert (c. 656–727 A.D.) became Bishop of Liège in 708 A.D. He was a Christian saint who was the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians, and metalworkers. Known as the Apostle of the Ardennes, he was called upon, until the early 20th century, to cure rabies through the use of the traditional St Hubert’s Key.

Saint Hubertus was widely venerated during the Middle Ages. The iconography of his legend is entangled with the legend of Saint Eustace. The Bollandists published seven early lives of Hubertus (Acta Sanctorum, November, i., 759–930 A.D.); the first of these was the work of a contemporary, though it is very sparing of details.

He died 30 May 727 A.D. in Tervuren near Brussels, Belgium. His feast day is November 3.

More can be found out about St. Hubertus at his wiki, located here.

St. Hubertus


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Tradition Thursday- #17

This post continues the series on St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Letters. This is the fifth in that series. Here we have the first part of his third letter, which concerns the Sacrament of Baptism:

Or do you not know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Were buried therefore with Him by our baptism into death, etc.

1. Rejoice, you heavens, and let the earth be glad , for those who are to be sprinkled with hyssop, and cleansed with the spiritual hyssop, the power of Him to whom at His Passion drink was offered on hyssop and a reed. And while the Heavenly Powers rejoice, let the souls that are to be united to the spiritual Bridegroom make themselves ready. For the voice is heard of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord. Isaiah 40:3 For this is no light matter, no ordinary and indiscriminate union according to the flesh , but the All-searching Spirit’s election according to faith. For the inter-marriages and contracts of the world are not made altogether with judgment: but wherever there is wealth or beauty, there the bridegroom speedily approves: but here it is not beauty of person, but the soul’s clear conscience; not the condemned Mammon, but the wealth of the soul in godliness.

2. Listen then, O you children of righteousness, to John’s exhortation when he says, Make straight the way of the Lord. Take away all obstacles and stumbling-blocks, that you may walk straight onward to eternal life. Make ready the vessels of the soul, cleansed by unfeigned faith, for reception of the Holy Ghost. Begin at once to wash your robes in repentance, that when called to the bride-chamber you may be found clean. For the Bridegroom invites all without distinction, because His grace is bounteous; and the cry of loud-voiced heralds assembles them all: but the same Bridegroom afterwards separates those who have come in to the figurative marriage. O may none of those whose names have now been enrolled hear the words, Friend, how did you come in hither, not having a wedding garment Matthew 22:12? But may you all hear, Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things: enter thou into the joy of your lord Matthew 25:12 .

For now meanwhile you stand outside the door: but God grant that you all may say, The King has brought me into His chamber. Song of Songs 1:4 Let my soul rejoice in the Lord: for He has clothed me with a garment of salvation, and a robe of gladness: He has crowned me with a garland as a bridegroom , and decked me with ornaments as a bride: that the soul of every one of you may be found not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing Ephesians 5:7; I do not mean before you have received the grace, for how could that be? Since it is for remission of sins that you have been called; but that, when the grace is to be given, your conscience being found uncondemned may concur with the grace.

3. This is in truth a serious matter, brethren, and you must approach it with good heed. Each one of you is about to be presented to God before tens of thousands of the Angelic Hosts: the Holy Ghost is about to seal your souls: you are to be enrolled in the army of the Great King. Therefore make you ready, and equip yourselves, by putting on I mean, not bright apparel , but piety of soul with a good conscience. Regard not the Laver as simple water, but rather regard the spiritual grace that is given with the water. For just as the offerings brought to the heathen altars , though simple in their nature, become defiled by the invocation of the idols , so contrariwise the simple water having received the invocation of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ, and of the Father, acquires a new power of holiness.

4. For since man is of twofold nature, soul and body, the purification also is twofold, the one incorporeal for the incorporeal part, and the other bodily for the body: the water cleanses the body, and the Spirit seals the soul; that we may draw near unto God, having our heart sprinkled by the Spirit, and our body washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 When going down, therefore, into the water, think not of the bare element, but look for salvation by the power of the Holy Ghost: for without both you can not possibly be made perfect. It is not I that say this, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power in this matter: for He says, Unless a man be born anew (and He adds the words) of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:3 Neither does he that is baptized with water, but not found worthy of the Spirit, receive the grace in perfection; nor if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but receive not the seal by water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine, for it is Jesus who has declared it: and here is the proof of the statement from Holy Scripture. Cornelius was a just man, who was honoured with a vision of Angels, and had set up his prayers and almsdeeds as a good memorial before God in heaven. Peter came, and the Spirit was poured out upon them that believed, and they spoke with other tongues, and prophesied: and after the grace of the Spirit the Scripture says that Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ Acts 10:48; in order that, the soul having been born again by faith , the body also might by the water partake of the grace.

5. But if any one wishes to know why the grace is given by water and not by a different element, let him take up the Divine Scriptures and he shall learn. For water is a grand thing, and the noblest of the four visible elements of the world. Heaven is the dwelling-place of Angels, but the heavens are from the waters : the earth is the place of men, but the earth is from the waters: and before the whole six days’ formation of the things that were made, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water. Genesis 1:2 The water was the beginning of the world, and Jordan the beginning of the Gospel tidings: for Israel deliverance from Pharaoh was through the sea, and for the world deliverance from sins by the washing of water with the word Ephesians 5:26 of God. Where a covenant is made with any, there is water also. After the flood, a covenant was made with Noah: a covenant for Israel from Mount Sinai, but with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop. Hebrews 9:19 Elias is taken up, but not apart from water: for first he crosses the Jordan, then in a chariot mounts the heaven. The high-priest is first washed, then offers incense; for Aaron first washed, then was made high-priest: for how could one who had not yet been purified by water pray for the rest? Also as a symbol of Baptism there was a laver set apart within the Tabernacle.

6. Baptism is the end of the Old Testament, and beginning of the New. For its author was John, than whom was none greater among them that are born of women. The end he was of the Prophets: for all the Prophets and the law were until John Matthew 11:13: but of the Gospel history he was the first-fruit. For it says, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, etc.: John came baptising in the wilderness. You may mention Elias the Tishbite who was taken up into heaven, yet he is not greater than John: Enoch was translated, but he is not greater than John: Moses was a very great lawgiver, and all the Prophets were admirable, but not greater than John. It is not I that dare to compare Prophets with Prophets: but their Master and ours, the Lord Jesus, declared it: Among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John Matthew 11:11: He says not among them that are born of virgins, but of women. The comparison is between the great servant and his fellow-servants: but the pre-eminence and the grace of the Son is beyond comparison with servants. Do you see how great a man God chose as the first minister of this grace?— a man possessing nothing, and a lover of the desert, yet no hater of mankind: who ate locusts, and winged his soul for heaven : feeding upon honey, and speaking things both sweeter and more salutary than honey: clothed with a garment of camel’s hair, and showing in himself the pattern of the ascetic life; who also was sanctified by the Holy Ghost while yet he was carried in his mother’s womb. Jeremiah was sanctified, but did not prophesy, in the womb Jeremiah 1:5: John alone while carried in the womb leaped for joy Luke 1:44, and though he saw not with the eyes of flesh, knew his Master by the Spirit: for since the grace of Baptism was great, it required greatness in its founder also.


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Random Musings and Links- #7

Its been quite a while since I last wrote one of these posts, and thus it is long overdue. I’m going to cover some important links, relate a few of my thoughts and preview a few possible post ideas in the future.

To begin with, I wanted to give my readers a heads up that I am going to refrain from commenting at other blogs for the near future. I have not been pleased with my comments for a while. None have been good, much less great, and many were sub-par. Given the trouble that a few have caused me, I’m going to hold off with them for the moment, although I will still comment here. Part of my problem is that when I comment I usually write in haste, which does not lend itself well to careful thought or careful writing. So expect to see very little of me around for the time being.

Deep Strength has written a post exploring how AWALT and how NAWALT. There are three things he has as “questionable” that I wanted to briefly address:

  • Do women have the ability to agape love their husbands? There are no commands for women to agape love their husbands but to philea love them (Titus 2).

  • Do women have full moral agency?

  • Are women able to act as their own agent outside of men: what about the fact that women were under their fathers in the OT, and confirmed through 1 Cor 7 to also be under the authority of their fathers prior to marriage?

While others have provided good commentary, there are a few things I wanted to note. First, just because scripture doesn’t command it doesn’t meant that women don’t have the ability to agape love their husbands. Scripture contains what is essential, surely, but it doesn’t contain everything- it cannot, in fact. That is why Jesus gave us the Church, after all- for continued wisdom and guidance. Second, concerning moral agency, I think Deep Strength is conflating moral agency- the ability to choose between right and wrong- with [edit: potential or alleged] female susceptibility to deception. They are not incompatible. Women can choose to do the right thing, just as they can choose to do the wrong thing. Deception merely makes it more difficult to discriminate between the two. Third, women are indeed able to operate as agents outside of the authority of men. Scripture mentions ta number of instances of it, in both the OT and NT. However, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily for the best, at least, all the time. This ties again to the susceptibility of deception- protecting women from deception probably had a large part to do with that. There might be more, of course, and this could be a subject worth exploring in a further post.

Elspeth has closed up shop, although she might comment from time to time. So has Mrs. ktc. Both are going to be moved to my inactive section shortly.

Empath talks about the subtle power of examples.

Stingray has a new blog focused on religious discussions.

Ballista provides yet another example of how conservatives either don’t get it, or pretend not to get it when it comes to marriage.

Bonald has an interesting post, among a great many, which discusses inter-species romance. I mention this one specifically because James T. Kirk is involved.

Free Northerner explores the potential Selection Effects of War.

I agree with Beefy Levinson that enemies are easy to deal with, it is your treacherous friends that are the problem.

Related: Rebellion at a Catholic High School. I hope the admin stands firm.

Mrs. C. had an interesting post on St. Patrick’s day which discussed welcoming sinners. I encourage my readers to read it, because I want to comment on it briefly. There is an interesting tension that the Church has endured since its creation between welcoming sinners, on one hand, and turning a blind eye to sin, on the other. Sometimes the Church has gone too far one way, and sometimes too far the other. I think that a major determinant of how the Church should act with regards to any given individual is determined by that person’s background. The way I see it, there are four sorts of backgrounds someone might have: 1) someone who was born to the faith and never left the church (although they might have strayed), 2) someone who wasn’t born to the faith but converted and is present still in the Church, 3) someone who was born to the faith but then left (prodigal son/daughter?) and 4) someone who wasn’t born to the faith and hasn’t converted before. Each needs to be treated somewhat differently. In brief, I would accord more leniency to persons from the latter backgrounds. The danger of too much leniency (or mercy) towards the former is that it might establish in the minds of the faithful the notion that eschewing sin is not an important or vital part of the faith. In other words, it acts as a stumbling block. This is less of an issue for someone who is coming to the Church for the first time, either ever or for a long time.

Vox brings a story of how Little girls need fathers.

As I was writing this post Rollo put up a new post of his own, where he delves into the subject of “Betas in Waiting.” His efforts in examining the different “stages” of the life of most modern women have provided me with a lot of insights. Some of them will come into play in a future post of mine examining male and female “Sexual Strategies”, and how they interact with one another.


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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #67

A few longer passages mark most of today’s post. The first comes from the Acts of the Apostles:

13 Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphyl′ia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem; 14 but they passed on from Perga and came to Antioch of Pisid′ia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

“Men of Israel, and you that fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he bore with them in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years. 20 And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

26 “Brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. 28 Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead; 31 and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,

‘Thou art my Son,
today I have begotten thee.’

34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way,

‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

35 Therefore he says also in another psalm,

‘Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption.’

36 For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but he whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest there come upon you what is said in the prophets:

41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish;
for I do a deed in your days,
a deed you will never believe, if one declares it to you.’”

42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next sabbath. 43 And when the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul, and reviled him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and went to Ico′nium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 13:13-52)

I chose this passage thanks to a discussion I had recently with a deacon about the evangelical work of St. Paul. He explained that most synagogues would have been relatively small, and everyone would have known everyone else. So it would have been apparent when visitors were present. Often it was practice to have the visitors introduce themselves and say a few words. Paul, being a former Pharisee, probably still dressed as one. So those present would have seen that he was likely an expert of the Law and would have been eager to hear what he had to say. This is why he was given the opportunity to speak up and to explain to the Jews at the Synagogue the Good News.

Also this passage interested me because of the reaction of the Jewish leaders in the city. They incited not only the leading men of the city, but also the women of high standing. The fact that St. Luke saw fit to mention this shows that it had no small meaning. What I take from it is that it demonstrates that women were not powerless in that day and age, despite the claims of some modern interpreters, who use that argument as a means to distance modern practices from the faith as practiced by the Apostles. In fact the entire book of Acts is replete with examples of Holy women who help to advance the cause of the faith. It is just that the role of the ancient sisters in the faith was often different from that of that of the ancient brothers. Which should be no surprise, much less a cause for alarm or suspicion or anything else. After all, Scripture addresses this matter early on:

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

(Genesis 1:27)

God created us man and woman, each of us with noble work in mind. Some of the work will be the same, and some different. But all is worthy if made in service to the Glory of God.

This brings me to the next major passage, from the Prophet Isaiah:

O Lord, you are my God;
    I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
    plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
    the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
    it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
    cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
    a refuge to the needy in their distress,
    a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
    the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
    the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
    the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
    the sheet that is spread over all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
    and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

(Isaiah 25:1-9)

The Jews who lived in Israel and in the Diaspora during the time of Jesus would have known of this passage. Isaiah was an important prophet, especially during that time, when the Messiah was supposed to appear. But they did not fully understand what the prophet foretold. They knew that the Lord would destroy the shroud, the veil that was kept over the people of the world and that death would be destroyed. But they didn’t understand that it was the final death, the true death, the separation from God which was the result of Original Sin, that was to be destroyed. The disgrace the Lord took away from us was the disgrace of Eden, the disgrace of our father Adam and our mother Eve in rebelling against the Lord. Nor did they understand that when Isaiah said “this is our God”, he was being literal- this was our God who would be present among us. More so, they did not understand that the mountain where death would be destroyed was not Zion, but Golgotha. Most important of all, they did not understand that the feast prepared for them was the body and blood of our Lord. That the banquet feast was the sacrifice made to atone for our sins. They did not understand, and sadly, even when it was explained to them, they still refused to believe:

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

(John 6:35-69)

What is unfortunate is that most of the time the truth is given to us plainly, and yet we refuse to accept it. We are either too committed to what we have believed for a long time, to our preconceived notions, or we refuse to embrace the truth because it requires more of us than we are willing to give. When we are given that truth, let us not follow in the footsteps of those disciples who turned back. Instead, let us recognize that we have no others to whom we can go. Only One is the source of eternal life.

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Saturday Saints- #60

The letter for today’s saint is G.  Our saint for today reaches back when the first cracks between the Western and Eastern Church were starting to form. Fortunately, he was not one that contributed to the eventual schism, and in fact is well respected in both West and East. Our saint is Pope Gregory the First:

Pope Gregory I (Latin: Gregorius I; c. 540 – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was Pope from 3 September 590 to his death in 604. Gregory is well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. He is also known as St. Gregory the Dialogist in Eastern Christianity because of his Dialogues. For this reason, English translations of Eastern texts will sometimes list him as “Gregory Dialogus”.

Throughout the Middle Ages he was known as “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day. His contributions to the development of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, still in use in the Byzantine Rite, were so significant that he is generally recognized as its de facto author.

He was the first of the popes to come from a monastic background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers. He is considered a saint in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and some Lutheran churches. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim. The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good pope. He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.

More can be found out about St. Gregory and his impact on the faith at his wiki, located here.

St. Gregory the Great


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Tradition Thursday- #16

This is the fourth in a series on the Catechetical Letters of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Confession plays a significant role in this selection from his second letter:

13. You see that it is good to make confession. You see that there is salvation for them that repent. Solomon also fell but what says he? Afterwards I repented. Ahab, too, the King of Samaria, became a most wicked idolater, an outrageous man, the murderer of the Prophets 1 Kings 18:4, a stranger to godliness, a coveter of other men’s fields and vineyards. Yet when by Jezebel’s means he had slain Naboth, and the Prophet Elias came and merely threatened him, he rent his garments, and put on sackcloth. And what says the merciful God to Elias? Hast than seen how Ahab is pricked in the heart before Me ? As if almost He would persuade the fiery zeal of the Prophet to condescend to the penitent. For He says, I will not bring the evil in his days. And though after this forgiveness he was sure not to depart from his wickedness, nevertheless the forgiving God forgave him, not as being ignorant of the future, but as granting a forgiveness corresponding to his present season of repentance. For it is the part of a righteous judge to give sentence according to each case that has occurred.

14. Again, Jeroboam was standing at the altar sacrificing to the idols: his hand became withered, because he commanded the Prophet who reproved him to be seized: but having by experience learned the power of the man before him, he says, Entreat the face of the Lord your God 1 Kings 13:6; and because of this saying his hand was restored again. If the Prophet healed Jeroboam, is Christ not able to heal and deliver you from your sins? Manasses also was utterly wicked, who sawed Isaiah asunder , and was defiled with all kinds of idolatries, and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood 2 Chronicles 33:12-13; but having been led captive to Babylon he used his experience of misfortune for a healing course of repentance: for the Scripture says that Manasses humbled himself before the Lord, and prayed, and the Lord heard him, and brought him back to his kingdom. If He who sawed the Prophet asunder was saved by repentance, shall not thou then, having done no such great wickedness, be saved?

15. Take heed lest without reason you mistrust the power of repentance. Would you know what power repentance has? Would you know the strong weapon of salvation, and learn what the force of confession is? Hezekiah by means of confession routed a hundred and fourscore and five thousand of his enemies. A great thing verily was this, but still small in comparison with what remains to be told: the same king by repentance obtained the recall of a divine sentence which had already gone forth. For when he had fallen sick, Esaias said to him, Set your house in order; for you shall die, and not live. 2 Kings 20:1 What expectation remained, what hope of recovery, when the Prophet said, for you shall die? Yet Hezekiah did not desist from repentance; but remembering what is written, When you shall turn and lament, then shall you be saved Isaiah 30:15, he turned to the wall, and from his bed lifting his mind to heaven (for thickness of walls is no hindrance to prayers sent up with devotion), he said, Remember me, O Lord, for it is sufficient for my healing that You remember me. You are not subject to times, but art Yourself the giver of the law of life. For our life depends not on a nativity, nor on a conjunction of stars, as some idly talk; but both of life and its duration. Then art Yourself the Lawgiver according to Your Will. And he, who could not hope to live because of the prophetic sentence, had fifteen years added to his life, and for the sign the sun ran backward in his course. Well then, for Ezekias’ sake the sun turned back but for Christ the sun was eclipsed, not retracing his steps, but suffering eclipse Isaiah 38:8, and therefore showing the difference between them, I mean between Ezekias and Jesus. The former prevailed to the cancelling of God’s decree, and cannot Jesus grant remission of sins? Turn and bewail yourself, shut your door, and pray to be forgiven, pray that He may remove from you the burning flames. For confession has power to quench even fire, power to tame even lions.

16. But if you disbelieve, consider what befell Ananias and his companions. What streams did they pour out ? How many vessels of water could quench the flame that rose up forty-nine cubits high ? Nay, but where the flame mounted up a little too high, faith was there poured out as a river, and there spoke they the spell against all ills : Righteous are You, O Lord, in all the things that You have done to us: for we have sinned, and transgressed Your law. And their repentance quelled the flames. If you believe not that repentance is able to quench the fire of hell, learn it from what happened in regard to Ananias. But some keen hearer will say, Those men God rescued justly in that case: because they refused to commit idolatry, God gave them that power. And since this thought has occurred, I come next to a different example of penitence.

17. What do you think of Nabuchodonosor? Have you not heard out of the Scriptures that he was bloodthirsty, fierce , lion-like in disposition? Have you not heard that he brought out the bones of the kings from their graves into the light ? Have you not heard that he carried the people away captive? Have you not heard that he put out the eyes of the king, after he had already seen his children slain 2 Kings 25:7? Have you not heard that he broke in pieces the Cherubim? I do not mean the invisible beings—away with such a thought, O man —but the sculptured images, and the mercy-seat, in the midst of which God spoke with His voice. The veil of the Sanctuary he trampled under foot: the altar of incense he took and carried away to an idol-temple 2 Chronicles 36:7: all the offerings he took away: the Temple he burned from the foundations. How great punishments did he deserve, for slaying kings, for setting fire to the Sanctuary, for taking the people captive, for setting the sacred vessels in the house of idols? Did he not deserve ten thousand deaths?

18. You have seen the greatness of his evil deeds: come now to God’s loving-kindness. He was turned into a wild beast , he abode in the wilderness, he was scourged, that he might be saved. He had claws as a lion ; for he was a ravager of the Sanctuary. He had a lion’s mane: for he was a ravening and a roaring lion. He ate grass like an ox: for a brute beast he was, not knowing Him who had given him the kingdom. His body was wet from the dew; because after seeing the fire quenched by the dew he believed not. And what happened ? After this, says he, I, Nabuchodonosor, lifted up my eyes unto heaven, and I blessed the Most High, and to Him that lives for ever I gave praise and glory. Daniel 4:34 When, therefore, he recognised the Most High , and sent up these words of thankfulness to God, and repented himself for what he had done, and recognised his own weakness, then God gave back to him the honour of the kingdom.

19. What then ? When Nabuchodonosor, after having done such deeds, had made confession, did God give him pardon and the kingdom, and when you repent shall He not give you the remission of sins, and the kingdom of heaven, if you live a worthy life? The Lord is loving unto man, and swift to pardon, but slow to punish. Let no man therefore despair of his own salvation. Peter, the chiefest and foremost of the Apostles, denied the Lord thrice before a little maid: but he repented himself, and wept bitterly. Now weeping shows the repentance of the heart: and therefore he not only received forgiveness for his denial, but also held his Apostolic dignity unforfeited.

20. Having therefore, brethren, many examples of those who have sinned and repented and been saved, do ye also heartily make confession unto the Lord, that you may both receive the forgiveness of your former sins, and be counted worthy of the heavenly gift, and inherit the heavenly kingdom with all the saints in Christ Jesus; to Whom is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.


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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #66

Today’s post begins with some sage advice from the Book of Sirach. It will end with two passages from the Gospel of John. The first verse for today covers the importance of wise counsel:

16 A wooden beam firmly bonded into a building
    will not be torn loose by an earthquake;
so the mind firmly fixed on a reasonable counsel
    will not be afraid in a crisis.

(Sirach 22:16)

You can never go wrong by surrounding yourself with other wise people. Think of it as mutual reinforcement of each others mental and spiritual structures.

27 O that a guard were set over my mouth,
    and a seal of prudence upon my lips,
that it may keep me from falling,
    so that my tongue may not destroy me!

(Sirach 22:27)

Something I wish I was better at was keeping silent. While I’m not exactly gregarious, I have a problem with speaking when I shouldn’t. As Scripture is oft to remind us, rarely do we do better by speaking than bridling our tongue.

15 Slander has driven virtuous women from their homes,
    and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.

(Sirach 28:15)

I found this verse interesting, because my initial interpretation of what was likely not what the author intended. He probably warned against slander as it ruined the name of virtuous wives, whose husbands divorced them thinking that they had committed adultery. An understandable worry against an evil thing, certainly. My take, at least at first, was to think of those who slander husbands- which causes wives to leave them and break up families. While it wasn’t what he intended at first, I would suspect that Ben Sira would warn against that slander all the same.

This brings me to the Gospel of John, and this passage:

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

(John 8:44)

Reading this passage made me think back to my latest Tradition Thursday post. I saw the influence of St. John in St. Cyril’s explanation of Satan, and how is the father of lies. Really, when you think about it this passage of Scripture is one of the most forthright ones when it comes to the nature of the Evil One.

Finally, we close with another passage from John, the woman at the well:

Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again to Galilee. He had to pass through Samar′ia. So he came to a city of Samar′ia, called Sy′char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samar′ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar′ia?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain;[a] and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

This passage was the Gospel reading at the parish that I attended last week. Not that is any great surprise- the readings during Lent follow a pattern every year. But what was new was the homily that followed. The priest explained that he had heard from a Biblical scholar that there is a key piece of information that most people lack when reading this passage. It concerns why the woman went to get water from the well at noon (the sixth hour from sunrise).

Noon was not the usual time to get water from the well. It would have been the hottest part of the day. Certainly the most unpleasant time to go and lug around a heavy water jar. Some might think that the woman choose that hour because she wouldn’t want to be seen by the other women collecting water. That she went when no one else would be there. Not so. A Jewish person living at the time of Jesus or John would have understood exactly what was going on.

You see, at noon the men would have stopped working and taken a break (what we here in the Americas might call a siesta). Rather than going at noon to avoid been seen, the woman was at the well to ensure that she was being seen. The woman, who had been married 5 times, and who wasn’t married to man number 6, was out there looking for man number 7. She was out there searching for something. Only she was looking for the wrong thing. This is why Jesus talks about the harvest later- she was someone who needed someone to help her find her way. Just like all of us. In fact, the priest quoted G.K. Chesterton, who noted that the man who knocked at the door of a brothel was looking for God… only he was looking the in wrong place. Thus it was for the woman at the well. She was looking for God, only she was looking in the wrong place. Fortunately for her, God showed up and made it the right place.

This leads to the lesson for all of us: We are all looking for God, whether or not we realize it. The question we should be asking ourselves is if we are looking for Him in the right place.


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A Mountain Out Of A Molehill

This post is an opportunity for my readers to help my out. I am concerned that I might have made something out to be a bigger deal than it really was. Or perhaps misunderstood the point that was being made. It began when I read this post over at Leane’s blog. This paragraph in particular caught my eye:

Men left to themselves too long tend to become rough, brutish, and even evil. I saw enough of this in the Army during the two years overseas with the same outfit. There was something vital missing in the lives of these soldiers. It was the influence of their mothers, their sisters, their wives, and their sweethearts. The deterioration of the soldiers overseas was slow and gradual but still very definite. The great mass of mankind finds it pretty difficult to climb very much above its environment. An all-male environment is not good for a man over a long period of time. God never intended for the average man to so live. Eve appeared on the scene soon after Adam.

I reacted… rashly to this message. Here is my response:

I don’t know how to describe this paragraph other than as vile. The central argument is that without women (presumably good women) in their lives then adult men will become uncivilized savages. To the best of my knowledge there is zero support for this in Sacred Scripture or Tradition. A great many monastics lived lives which stand as a strong testament against the proposition advanced here.

Furthermore, even if this were true, and I contend it is not, this is an awful thing to include in advice supposedly directed at women. It is the worst kind of pastoral care. More than a few women will read this as saying that their presence is the only thing keeping the men in their life from being “ough, brutish, and even evil.” This feeds into the worst parts of female nature. It is especially poisonous for wives who have rebellious tendencies- which happens to be all of them, as all human beings are rebellious at heart. Simply put, there is no good reason to include this paragraph in this particular work.

Additionally, if I or another man was to write something similar, only with the roles reversed- describing the awful things women will do if left too long to themselves, would anyone simply leave it be? Or would it be called out?

I am going to stop here. I am sorry for hijacking this comment thread, but I could not remain silent.

This drew, as expected, some opposition from female commenters, as well as the blog hostess herself. What I hope to hear from my readers is whether my reaction to that paragraph was on target, and whether I over-reacted or not. As a quick recap, and to help folks better understand what I was saying, here are the three general points I was making:

  1. The argument which the author made is not supported by Sacred Scripture or Tradition.
  2. It was bad pastoral practice to include this paragraph in the book it was found in.
  3. A similar paragraph or statement with the roles reversed would not be ignored like that paragraph was.

If anyone thinks I was wrong, please indicate where I screwed up. And if you have any problems with my response, besides the bad proofreading, please let me know. Don’t hold back, let me have it. [Although I will say that I think the response of one of the female commenters to a piece of red meat I left in the second point justifies my third point.]

So, did I make a mountain out of a molehill?

[Update: It wasn’t clear from my post, but Leane did not write that paragraph. Her post was quoting from a book called The Wife Desired. The book was written by a Catholic priest back in 1951.]


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Saturday Saints- #59

The letter for today’s post is F, and that means our saint for today is St. Flavian of Constantinople:

Flavian (or Phlabianus) (died August 11, 449) was Archbishop of Constantinople from 446 to 449. He is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Flavian was the guardian of the sacred vessels of the great Church of Constantinople and, according to Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos, was reputed to lead a saintly life, when he was chosen to become Archbishop of Constantinople.

Here are a few facts about St. Flavian, drawn from his wiki:

  • He was highly regarded by Pope Leo the Great, and wrote him a letter before learning of Flavian’s death
  • At a Council in Ephesus he was violently attacked at a church council, and later died from his injuries
  • Because of the nature of his death, in opposition to the heretic Eutyches, he was later declared a saint by the church

St. Flavian

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