The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness: come, let us adore him.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: Green.
|Pope St Callistus I (- 222)|
Most of what we know of Callistus comes from attacks by his contemporaries, notably Tertullian and the antipope Hippolytus.
As a young slave Callistus was put in charge of a bank by his master Carpophorus, in which the brethren and widows lodged money. Callistus lost it all, and fled. When his master caught up with his ship Callistus jumped overboard to escape capture but was saved from drowning. He was given the punishment reserved for slaves, that of turning the pistrinum or hand-mill. His creditors got him released in the hope that he could retrieve some of their money, but when he tried to get back some of the money he had lent to Jews the result was a fight for which he was re-arrested. He was denounced as a Christian and was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia (thus, incidentally, ceasing to be the slave of Carpophorus). Marcia, a mistress of the Emperor Commodus, obtained the release of the Christians including Callistus. His health was so weakened that he was sent to Antium to recuperate and was given a pension by Pope Victor I.
Somehow, from a weakened ex-slave in receipt of a invalidity pension, Callistus rose to be archdeacon, had charge of the Roman catacomb which now bears his name, and ended up as Pope. The oppressed Church of the early third century had more important things to do than keep detailed archives of its decision-making processes, but we can be sure that Tertullian’s story that Callistus obtained influence over the ignorant, illiterate and grasping Pope Zephyrinus through bribes is just polemical fiction.
What so irritated Tertullian and Hippolytus and made them so keen to vilify Callistus is what made him such an important figure in the history of the Church. The question of what to do about repentant sinners was a matter of intense debate and dissension, and many of the violent splits in the Church of the early centuries hinged on this very point. What were you to do if someone committed a serious sin? The rigorists – we might call them the “slip once and you’re damned” school – held that once you had done such evil acts you were for ever separated from the true, the pure Church, and there was no way back. Callistus decreed that sinners – for example, fornicators and adulterers – could be readmitted to communion if they repented and did penance for their sin. Callistus based the theology of his decree on the power that Christ gave to Peter and his successors, both to bind and to loose. Tertullian and Hippolytus argued that this power had been given to Peter personally and could not be passed on, so that Callistus’ decree was an innovation, and invalid. They similarly accused him of reprehensible laxity in other matters of Church discipline.
Callistus’ gift to the Church was crucial in the arguments of the fourth century, where the Donatist schism in Africa arose precisely over the question of what should be done about those who, during the persecutions of Diocletian, had given up the sacred Scriptures to the authorities – or, conversely, about those who had flaunted their Christianity so as to attract prosecution, imprisonment, and consequently notoriety and admiration among the Christians. The calm good sense shown by orthodox bishops (sometimes patchily but ultimately successfully) has its roots in this manifestation of charity and mercy by Callistus.
Not much is known about how Callistus died. He is the earliest pope found in a fourth-century martyrology, but details are scarce. Since he lived in a time of peace under the emperor Alexander Severus, whose mother was a Christian, he may have been killed in a riot.
|Saturday memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary|
‘On Saturdays in Ordinary Time when there is no obligatory memorial, an optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary is allowed.
‘Saturdays stand out among those days dedicated to the Virgin Mary. These are designated as memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This memorial derives from Carolingian times (9th century), but the reasons for having chosen Saturday for its observance are unknown. While many explanations of this choice have been advanced, none is completely satisfactory from the point of view of the history of popular piety.
‘Whatever its historical origins may be, today the memorial rightly emphasizes certain values to which contemporary spirituality is more sensitive. It is a remembrance of the maternal example and discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, strengthened by faith and hope, on that “great Saturday” on which Our Lord lay in the tomb, was the only one of the disciples to hold vigil in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection. It is a prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of Christ. It is a sign that the Virgin Mary is continuously present and operative in the life of the Church.’
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001), §188
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: Pope St Gregory the Great (540 - 604)|
Gregory was born in Rome and followed the career of public service that was usual for the son of an aristocratic family, finally becoming Prefect of the City of Rome, a post he held for some years.
He founded a monastery in Rome and some others in Sicily, then became a monk himself. He was ordained deacon and sent as an envoy to Constantinople, on a mission that lasted five years.
He was elected Pope on 3 September 590, the first monk to be elected to this office. He reformed the administration of the Church’s estates and devoted the resulting surplus to the assistance of the poor and the ransoming of prisoners. He negotiated treaties with the Lombard tribes who were ravaging northern Italy, and by cultivating good relations with these and other barbarians he was able to keep the Church’s position secure in areas where Roman rule had broken down. His works for the propagation of the faith include the sending of Augustine and his monks as missionaries to England in 596, providing them with continuing advice and support and (in 601) sending reinforcements. He wrote extensively on pastoral care, spirituality, and morals, and designated himself “servant of the servants of God.”
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the season in which we are being neither especially penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Samuel 15:22 ©|
Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Galatians 5:26,6:2 ©|
We must stop being conceited, provocative and envious. You should carry each other’s troubles and fulfil the law of Christ.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Micah 6:8 ©|
What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.
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Office of Readings for Saturday of week 27
Morning Prayer for Saturday of week 27
Evening Prayer 1 for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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