Sunday, December 4th: The Rector’s Study Group meets at 9:30 on Sunday mornings in the rector’s study. All are welcome. We are currently continuing our discussion of Christian prayer.
Please note that our regular mass schedule is, for the time being: Wednesdays at 6:00 pm, and Saturdays at 10:00 am.
Sunday, December 11th: The next Vestry meeting will be held after mass.
December 3: Francis Xavier
Born at Navarre, in the Basque region of Spain, in 1506, St. Francis Xavier was one of the early companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola and with him a co-founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). After ordination to the priesthood at Rome, Xavier became a missionary, laboring for the gospel in Mozambique, southern India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Japan, and the islands off of China. It is estimated that the number of people who received the light of the Gospel through the preaching of Francis Xavier is second only to the number converted to faith in Christ by the Apostles themselves. Xavier labored for only ten years in the mission field, but suffered much, and worked many miracles. He died of sickness in a hovel on Shangchuan Island (modern Guangdong Province) in the South China Sea while awaiting transportation to mainland China in the year 1552. His relics are kept in a Jesuit Church in Goa, India, where Xavier had labored for a number of years; though his right arm (with which he blessed so many souls) is venerated at the mother church of the Society of Jesus, the Gesu, in Rome.
December 4: John of Damascus
Born around the year 676 in the city of Damascus, John grew up in a Christian family in a land recently conquered by Islam. He received an excellent education from a Sicilian monk named Cosmas whom John’s father hired as a tutor. John became very learned in the disciplines of law, philosophy, theology, and music. Upon his father’s death, John inherited the family’s traditional role of chief counselor of Damascus, serving the Islamic Caliph. After faithfully serving in this capacity, John eventually retired to the monastery of Mar Saba in the Judean wilderness, outside of Jerusalem, where he lived out his days as a priest-monk. Already ancient in John’s lifetime, Mar Saba is still active today. The iconoclast controversy raged during John’s lifetime, and John entered the fray, defending the ancient Christian tradition of venerating holy images (icons). His great work on the subject, “Apologetic Treatises Against those Decrying the Holy Images” is still read and studied today, along with a number of John’s other works, including his systematic exposition of the faith, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”, and a polemic against various heresies. In the 19th century Pope Leo XIII declared John to be a “Doctor of the Church”. He is sometimes called the “Doctor of the Assumption” because of his exposition and defense of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. He died at Mar Saba on December 4, 749.
December 5: Clement of Alexandria
Born about the year 150 AD, probably in Athens. He was originally named Titus Flavius Clemens. He became a convert to Christianity, and set out travelling through the Levant in search of a teacher. After studying with several masters, Clement eventually settled at Alexandria, in Egypt, to study from a master named Pantaenus, in whose teaching Clement says that he “found rest”. Alexandria was a great center of learning in the ancient world. Clement became the head of the Christian Catechetical School there, which trained Christian clergy, apologists, and teachers, and which was very influential in the early exposition of the faith. A number of Clement’s writings survive, and remain valuable to student’s of Christian theology. Clement died about the year 211 AD.
December 6: Nicholas of Myra
This is the Nicholas who evolved into “Santa Claus” in the western Church. In truth, little is known for certain about St. Nicholas except that he was bishop of Myra in Lycia of Anatolia (the southern coast of modern Turkey) in the 4th century, and that he died on December 6 in 345 or 352 AD. He is said to have gone on pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a youth, and to have become bishop of Myra upon his return. Likewise he is said to have been imprisoned during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian, and to have been released when Constantine (who was himself a Christian) became emperor. He is said to have been one of the Fathers present at the Council of Nicaea in 325. One popular legend says that there was a poor man in Myra with three daughters. He could not afford his daughters’ dowries, and so rather than being married, they would either have to turn to prostitution or be sold into slavery. The legend says that St. Nicholas threw three bags of gold through the window of the man’s house during the night, and each bag landed in a shoe (or stocking) of each of his daughters. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of pawn-brokers, and the three gold balls often appearing on pawn shops are an allusion to this story. Nicholas is also the patron of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, children, and a great number of European cities and states. His relics were stolen from Myra by Italian merchants in the 11th century, and brought to Bari in Italy, where they are still venerated. An oily substance, known as “Manna di S. Nicola” flows from his bones, and is collected and used medicinally by the faithful. St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints of Christianity, both East and West.
December 7: Ambrose of Milan
Born around 340 to a Christian family, Ambrose was raised in Trier (modern Germany). He had two siblings, Satyrus and Marcellina who are also saints. Ambrose began his career as a politician, as his father had been. Eventually Ambrose became Governor of the north-Italian province of Aemilia-Liguria. In 374, the Bishop of Milan died and a riot between Arians (who denied the divinity of Christ) and Catholics broke out in the city over the Episcopal succession. Ambrose came to the scene to restore calm, and as he was addressing the crowd, they began to call out “Ambrose, bishop!” Although he was a believer, Ambrose had never been baptized, remaining a catechumen because of what was regarded as the radical manner of life that being a disciple of Christ entailed (the practice of deferring baptism for this reason, sometimes until one was on one’s deathbed, was not uncommon at that time). Within a week, Ambrose was baptized, confirmed, ordained, and installed as Bishop of Milan. As bishop, he remained celibate and embraced an ascetic lifestyle, giving away all that he had to the poor. He also undertook intense theological study, becoming one of the greatest teachers of the Christian faith there has ever been, and one of the original “doctors of the Church”. Before his conversion to Christianity, St. Augustine of Hippo attended Ambrose’s sermons and found them compelling, eventually receiving baptism at the hands of Ambrose at the Easter Vigil at Milan in 387. Ambrose died in 397. His body may still be venerated in the church of San Ambroglio in Milan.
December 8: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The orthodox faith teaches that Jesus Christ is both perfectly and completely man, and perfectly and completely God, all in one divine person. Likewise the Church teaches that the manhood (the humanity) of Jesus was “from the substance of his mother” (in the words of the Athanasian Creed). Scripture teaches that there were two primary actors in the becoming-flesh of the eternal Word: the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin Mary (see Luke 1). The Church has ever affirmed that Mary was prepared for this most special and unique of vocations from the very moment of her conception. Mary is not unique in being “called from the womb” (cf. Isaiah 49.1). Jeremiah the prophet speaks this way about himself (Jer. 1.5), and the Gospel of St. Luke speaks similarly of St. John the Baptist (Lk. 1.15). Indeed we were all called by God from the womb (and so the Church has always recognized the inviolable dignity of every human life, from the moment of conception – cf. Psalm 139.15). The providential preparation of St. Mary for her most important vocation meant that God preserved her from sin and from the effects of sin, and that by grace her heart was made and was kept susceptible to the will of God. The Church officially puts it this way: “her soul, in the first instant of its creation… was, by a special grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and the Redeemer of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin.”