How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
An ancient tradition, already known in the 2nd century, gives these names to the parents of the Virgin Mary. The cult of St Anna became popular in the 6th century in the East, and in the 10th century in the West, where she is the patron saint of Brittany; Joachim was added a long time later – too often the fate of fathers.
Although the information about Mary’s parents is found in an early apocryphal writing that gives many miraculous and highly-coloured stories about the early life of the Virgin Mary, there is no reason to suppose that such a straightforward fact as her parents’ names should be wrong, since there is nothing to be gained from falsifying it. It does not occur in the Gospels simply because the most reliable evangelists (the only ones whom we have allowed into the Bible) felt they had more important things to talk about.
But what, after all, could be more important than the parents who brought up the Virgin Mary to be the woman she was? At the moment of consenting to the Incarnation she took the most important decision ever taken by any human being, and the fact that she took it is, to a great extent, the work of her parents. The Holy Spirit gave her the strength to take the decision; but her parents’ training gave her the wisdom to choose.
Those of us who have children must seek to bring them up to the best of our ability, to meet challenges that, like Anna and Joachim, we have no way of even imagining.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: Saint John Damascene|
John was born of a Christian family in Damascus in the second half of the seventh century, where his father was a high official under the Umayyad caliph; a post which he inherited. When the Iconoclast movement (seeking to prohibit the veneration of icons) gained acceptance in the Byzantine court, John, being under Muslim rather than Byzantine rule, was able to write effective treatises attacking Iconoclasm and attacking the emperor for supporting it. At about this time he retired to the monastery of Saint Sabas near Jerusalem, where he became a monk and was ordained. He died in the middle of the eighth century.
He wrote many theological treatises in a dangerously clear and accessible style which made the issues understandable even by non-experts. His name was reviled and execrated by the imperial Iconoclast party even after his death. Sometimes known as “the last of the Church Fathers,” he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Other notes: Father Jacques Hamel (1930 - 2016)|
Jacques Hamel was born on 30 November 1930 in Normandy and ordained priest in 1958. He was martyred by Islamists as he was celebrating Mass at the parish church of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray on 26 July 2016, the first martyr in France since the French Revolution.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Romans 12:17,19-20,21 ©|
Never repay evil with evil. As scripture says: Vengeance is mine – I will pay them back, says the Lord. But there is more: If your enemy is hungry, you should give him food, and if he is thirsty, let him drink. Resist evil and conquer it with good.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 John 3:16 ©|
This has taught us love – that he gave up his life for us; and we, too, ought to give up our lives for our brothers.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 John 4:9-11 ©|
God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another.