Saturday, 26 May 2012


File:Jean II Restout - Pentecôte.jpg

From "A Treatise Against the Heresies" by St Irenaeus of Lyon (he says it so much better than I can)

When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God. He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a water less tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.  If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.

Lord God,
you sanctify your Church in every race and nation
by the mystery we celebrate on this day.
Pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit on all mankind,
and fulfill now in the hearts of your faithful
what you accomplished when the Gospel 
was first preached on earth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, 14 May 2012

St Matthias, Apostle.

File:Saint Matthias.PNG

Saint he may be, but there is no mention of Matthias in the lists of disciples in the Synoptic Gospels. According to the Acts of the Apostles, after the Ascension of Jesus, the assembled disciples, 120 or so of them, nominated 2 men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and elected Matthias. (Acts 1:23-26).

There is absolutely no further information about Matthias in the New Testament. Even his name is uncertain: the Syriac NT of Eusebius doesn't call him Matthias but "Tolmai", (not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai) who was one of the original Apostles); Clement of Alexandria states that some identified him with Zacchaeus; the Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas; the German Tubigen School theologian Hilgenfeld thought he was the same as Nathanael in the Gospel of John. According to Nicephorus (Historia eccl., 2, 40), Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Aethiopia (believed to be a synonym for  Colchis, in modern-day Georgia) where he was crucified. A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in Georgia claims that Matthias is buried there.

The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition:
"Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbour of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.")
The Coptic Acts of Andrew and Matthias, places his activity similarly in "the city of the cannibals" in Ethiopia.  Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded.  According to Hippolytus of Rome, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.
Clement of Alexandria observed (Stromateis vi.13.):
Not that they became apostles through being chosen for some distinguished peculiarity of nature, since also Judas was chosen along with them. But they were capable of becoming apostles on being chosen by Him who foresees even ultimate issues. Matthias, accordingly, who was not chosen along with them, on showing himself worthy of becoming an apostle, is substituted for Judas.
It is claimed that St Matthias's remains are interred in the abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany, having been brought there by the Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great). According to Greek sources, the remains of the apostle are buried in the castle of Gonio-Apsaros, Georgia.

According to old tradition, the old St. Matthias's Day (February 24) is said to be the luckiest day of the year. This is because Matthias was the saint who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. It has therefore been seen as a good day on which to buy lottery tickets or to participate in activities such as that.  he is the patron Saint of alcoholism (as are St Martin of Tours and St John of God) ; carpenters; Gary, Indiana; Great Falls-Billings, Montana; smallpox & tailors.

So we don't where he worked or how he died or even where his body is today.  But I believe he is with Christ his Master now and continues to pray for us and with us.

Lord God, you chose Saint Matthias by lot
to complete the number of the twelve apostles.
By his prayer, include us among your chosen ones,
since we rejoice to see
that the lot marked out for us is your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A new begininng.

File:Freudenberg Fátima1 01.jpg

No dead politicians today but a nice pikkie of Our Lady of Fatima (Feast 13th May - except on Sundays).  Enjoy your Sunday and pray with all the saints in heaven and on earth - including the ones in your own congregation of whom no one has heard.  And if you've a spare prayer, remember +John Armes of Edinburgh, newly consecrated and beginning his new ministry today and Susan MacDonald who will be Installed as Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh (that's an Archdeacon in England) at Evensong in the Cathedral this evening.  This Fatima prayer seems suitable if you want to use it.

"Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament."

Friday, 11 May 2012

Dead Prime Minister Day 200!

File:Spencer Perceval.jpg

Today is the anniversary of the only time we had (the sense to have?) a Prime Minister assassinated.  And I've said Mass in his memorial - the next door parish to where I was a curate in London ( 200 years ago to the day, Spencer Perceval (see above) was shot by a grumpy merchant who felt HMG owed him compensation for getting nicked in Russia.  Isn't it lucky that Fred the Shred is not the revengeful type, eh, Prime Minister?

Politics doesn't seem to stir the passions today.  Indifference and a certain level of contempt is the general response.  Having dabbled in years of youth in politics (President Aberdeen University Lib Dems, Vice Convener Scottish Young Lib Dems, failed Cooncil candidate in a no hope ward ( the traditional 1st step on the greasy pole leading to obscurity in Holyrood) etc.) I am still interested and generally think those who set out in politics start with generally high ideals and intentions (which may be eroded by expediency or corrupted by self interest - but so is the Sacred Ministry!).  The trouble is that a class of professional politicians has arisen today with little or no experience of life beyond the political cockpit.  Gone are the ex-miners and practising farmers who broadened the experience of the body Politic so usefully.  instead we have "politicians"  - a strange breed of semi-invertebrates who sometimes seem to breathe the same air as the rest of us.  And sometimes don't.  Maybe we need more real people as politicians and less of the pedigree party hacks and insiders?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Counting down!

The best man is now sorted, the organist booked and the papers into the Registrar!!  It's getting closer!  I/We are still not panicking and even I am getting slightly interested in what's getting bought on the wedding list.  How very unexpected!  I just wonder how long the calm will last?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

St Athanasius's Day

The shrine of St Athanasius, St Mark's Coptic Cathedral, Cairo.
O Holy father Athanasius,
like a pillar of orthodoxy
you refuted the heretical nonsense of Arius
by insisting that the Father and the Son are equal in essence.
O venerable father, beg Christ our God to save our souls.
Troparion of St Athanasius 

I am probably one of the few people around in the SEC ever to have sung the entire Athanasian Creed at Mattins on Trinity Sunday (St Peter's Lutton Place Edinburgh 1992).  And he was hailed and lauded in my Systematics lectures in Aberdeen as a great thing.  Our Aussie Church History Prof referred to him as "a pukka theologian" - Arius was in his words "a bit cranky"!  The creed is at least a century later than the saint and Augustinian in phraseology but it explicitly stated the equality of the 3 persons of the Trinity for the 1st time and is of great significance.  Here it is for the unfamiliar.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. 

For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty co eternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. 

So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighty's; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are co eternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

We can cherry pick which bit of God we like - the loving Father, the human Son, the nebulous and more feminine Spirit.  But we need to hold all 3 together is our faith is to be rooted in the totality and reality of God.  Intellectually it is a challenge and spiritually a difficulty - so the words we use carry us and hold us in a continuing relationship of orthopraxis even if we are a bit hazy on the metaphysics.

Everliving God,
whose servant Athanasius testified

to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation:
help us, with all your saints,
to contend for the truth
and to grow into the likeness of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mary's Month

File:OL of Pew.jpg

Our Lady of Pew, Westminster Abbey.

The Anglican theologian Hugh Montefiore, formerly Bishop of Birmingham, wrote of the Blessed Virgin: "Christians rightly honour and venerate her as one of the great saints of God. God had signally honoured her by choosing her to be the mother of Jesus.".  Actually, so does Islam: here's a little list of the tittles of the BVM in the Qu'ran.
  • Qānitah: Mary is so called in LXVI: 12. The term implies, not only constant submission to God, but also absorption in prayer and invocation, meanings that coincides with the Islamic tradition of Mary spending her childhood in the temple of prayer. In this way, Mary personifies prayer and contemplation in Islam.
  • Siddiqah: She who confirms the truth or She who has faith. Mary is called Siddiqah twice in the Quran (V: 73-75 LXVI: 12). The term has also been translated, She who believes sincerely completely.
  • Sājidah: She who prostrates to God in worship. The Quran states: “O Mary! Worship your Lord devoutly: prostrate yourself” (Quran III: 43). While in Sujud, a Muslim is to praise God and glorify Him. In this motion, which Muslims believe to be derived from Marian nature, hands, knees and the forehead touch the ground together.
  • Rāki’ah: She who bows down to God in worship. The Quran states: “O Mary! Bow down in prayer with those men, who bow down.” The command was repeated by angels only to Mary, according to the Muslim view. Ruku' in Muslim prayer during prayer has been derived from Mary’s practise.
  • Tāhirah: She who was purified (Quran III: 42)
  • Mustafia: She who was chosen. The Quran states: “O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you and again he has chosen you above all women of all nations of the worlds” (Quran III:42).
  • Sa’imah: She who fasts. Mary is reported to fast one-half of a year in some Muslim traditions.
Personally, I couldn't disagree with any of those descriptions of Our Lady.  Perhaps she could be a patron of Inter-Faith dialogue?  In that spirit, let us praise her in the Orthodox idiom:

It is truly meet and right to bless you, O Theotokos,
Ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honourable than the Cherubim, 
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you! 
From the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.