Alleluia! Christ ascends into heaven as Lord. Come, let us adore him. Alleluia!
Liturgical Colour: White.
|In other years: Saints Marcellinus and Peter (- 304)|
Pope St Damasus I dedicated his life to establishing and strengthening the Church after the great persecutions, and took much care over the restoration of the Roman catacombs and the proper burial of the martyrs there, including Marcellinus and Peter.
As a boy, Damasus had heard the story of these martyrs from their executioner. Marcellinus was a priest, Peter was not. They were beheaded during the emperor Diocletian’s persecution, and buried on the Via Labicana outside Rome.
After the persecutions, a basilica was built over the site of their tomb.
|Other saints: Saints Pothinus and Blandina (- 177)|
All that is known of these martyrs comes from a celebrated letter from the church of Lyon to the church in Asia and reproduced by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History.
Pothinus was the first bishop of Lyon, and thus the first Bishop in Gaul, and was arrested in 177 during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, together with Blandina and forty-five other Christians. Pothinus is known to have been very old: the letter says 90 years old.
Many of the martyrs died in prison or were beheaded, as befitted Roman citizens, but six of them were sentenced to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena, among them Blandina, a slave.
The beasts did not touch Blandina, so she was beaten, then burned, then tossed on the horns of a bull, and finally, after having witnessed the martyrdom of her companions (calmly except in the case of her friend Ponticus, whose faith and perserverance she had doubted) was strangled by the public executioner.
Pothinus was succeeded as bishop by St Irenaeus, one of the great Fathers of the early Church.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)|
Augustine was born in Thagaste in Africa of a Berber family. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church early and spent a great deal of time seriously seeking the truth, first in the Manichaean heresy, which he abandoned on seeing how nonsensical it was, and then in Neoplatonism, until at length, through the prayers of his mother and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he was converted back to Christianity and baptized in 387, shortly before his mother’s death.
Augustine had a brilliant legal and academic career, but after his conversion he returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. He wrote an enormous amount and left a permanent mark on both philosophy and theology. His Confessions, as dazzling in style as they are deep in content, are a landmark of world literature. The Second Readings in the Office of Readings contain extracts from many of his sermons and commentaries and also from the Confessions.
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.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||(Apocalypse 1:17-18) ©|
I saw the Son of Man, and he said to me, ‘Have no fear! I am the First and the Last. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld.’
|Noon reading (Sext)||Hebrews 8:1-3 ©|
Our High Priest has his place at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent of Meeting which the Lord, and not any man, set up. It is the duty of every high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Colossians 3:1-2 ©|
Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth.