Let us adore the Lord, the King who is to come.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: Violet.
Saint John Damascene, priest, Doctor
He 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. See the article in Wikipedia
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Gregory Nazianzen (329 - 390)
Gregory Nazianzen, “Gregory of Nazianzus”, was the son of Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, a Christian convert. (Nazianzus is a small town in Cappadocia, now the village of Nenizi in the Turkish province of Aksaray).
The culture of the Hellenic world means that a religion is not merely something to be lived: it also has to make sense. It has to work not only in practice, but in theory as well. Despite the passionate anti-Greek reaction of the Reformation, we are still, in this sense, all Greeks today. Take the doctrine of the Trinity, for example. Some people reject it because it sounds like polytheism. Instead, they make Jesus not God but only a man supremely favoured by God: the Arians believed this, and the Koran reflects this idea. Or they make Jesus not man but only God, and relegate the intense humanity of the Passion to the status of a mere performance, a show put on by God through phantoms and angels rather than something utterly real and of eternal significance. Both these responses show a general feature of heresies, which is that they simplify the richness of orthodoxy and flatten it into a shadow of itself. “Simpler” may well mean “more easily acceptable”, but that is not the same as “true”. One could simplify quantum physics and get rid of its paradoxes until there is no metaphysical weirdness for anyone to object to – that might well make more people happy, but it would not be true.
The three men we call “the Cappadocian Fathers” were active after the Council of Nicaea, working to formulate Trinitarian doctrine precisely and, in particular, to pin down the meaning and role of the least humanly comprehensible member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. St Basil of Caesarea, “St Basil the Great”, was the leader and organizer; Gregory of Nazianzus was the thinker, the orator, the poet, pushed into administrative and episcopal roles by circumstances and by Basil; and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil’s younger brother, although not a great stylist, was the most gifted of the three as a philosopher and theologian. Together, the Cappadocian Fathers hammered out the doctrine of the Trinity like blacksmiths forging a piece of metal by hammer-blows into its perfect, destined shape. They were champions – and successful champions – of orthodoxy against Arianism, a battle that had to be conducted as much on the worldly and political plane as on the philosophical and theological one. The sciences ought not to have to work like this, but all of them, at one time or other in their history, do.
It is a relief to us as readers to note, after all this, that St Gregory of Nazianzus, as well as receiving the title of Doctor of the Church, is acknowledged as the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age, and that this “style” does not adopt the over-ripe excesses of some late-imperial rhetoric (Augustine can get carried away in this direction sometimes, and Cassiodorus, in the sixth century, spends altogether too much of his time there). Gregory’s Second Readings do sound almost operatic at times, but the grandeur of the style does not exist for its own sake but comes from the splendour of its subject-matter. It is possible to be carried away by it, and enjoyable, even, to let that happen; but underlying the experience there is always a sense of being carried away in the direction of somewhere definite and somewhere worthwhile.
Liturgical colour: violet
Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’. Liturgically, it is the colour of Advent and Lent, the seasons of penance and preparation.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Jeremiah 23:5 ©|
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practising honesty and integrity in the land.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Jeremiah 23:6 ©|
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence. And this is the name he will be called: ‘The Lord our righteousness.’
|Afternoon reading (None)||(Ezekiel 34:15-16) ©|
I will pasture my sheep, I will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall be a true shepherd to them.