Saturday, April 25, 2015

Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist


Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings forth good tidings of good, who published salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Mark the Evangelist brought good tidings which continue to change lives. In the NRSV the
ευανγγελιον Μαρκον opens "The beginning of the Good News of Jesus, Christ, the Son of God" while other English language versions use the English word "Gospel" in place of "Good News." From this beginning all other stories of Jesus' life were called Gospels. The gospel attributed to Mark is the earliest of the canonical gospels.

As is usually the case with these early saints, especially the Apostles and Evangelists, we know very little about St. Mark. According to St. Paul's letters and the earliest accounts taken from the bishops Papias, Hippolytus, and Eusebius, John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas. He actually set out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey but tuned back for some reason. Paul was so upset with Mark's leaving that he wouldn't let him accompany them on another journey, and the disagreement became so sharp that Barnabas left Paul to go with his cousin Mark. The breach between Mark and Paul was healed later, and Mark spent some time with Paul in Rome, where he also spent time with Peter (another person who aggravated Paul). According to tradition, Peter's recollections of his life with Jesus were the basis for Mark's gospel. There is another tradition that Mark was the young man who lost his sheet at Jesus' arrest and ran off naked.

According to tradition, St. Peter sent Mark from Rome to preach the Good News in the areas around the Adriatic. Every where he went he established Christian communities which became churches. St. Peter then consecrated Mark a bishop and sent him to Egypt. After spending some time visiting the coastal cities of Pentapolis, preaching and baptizing and setting up churches, the Holy Spirit led Mark to the city of Alexandria, a very intellectual city, a city with the largest library in the Greco-Roman world. He started several churches in Alexandria and established a catechetical school. This school produced folks like Clement, Dionysius, and Gregory the Wonderworker. My hero, Origen, taught at that school. Many in authority were unhappy with the spread of Christianity in that city, and set out to murder Mark. He heard about the plot and ordained Anianus bishop, then took-off for Pentapolis again. He strengthened the churches he started there and then traveled throughout Northern Africa, bringing the Good News of forgiveness of sins and the coming of the Reign of God to remote parts of Libya and Ammonicia.

The gospel attributed to Mark is my favorite gospel. Many people are very fond of the mysticism of the Gospel of John, or they love Luke's gospel with its angel visitations, or Matthew's use of Hebrew scripture and exegesis, but I love Mark, and not because it's the shortest gospel! Mark gets right to the point: "This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus, Christ, the Son of God." He starts with John the Baptizer preparing the way of the Lord, he moves on to Jesus' baptism and the start of his ministry. In just a few verses he has Jesus calling disciples and healing the sick, casting out demons and proclaiming the coming of the Reign of God. Mark doesn't need angel visitations to prove that Jesus has a divine nature, and he doesn't need the visit of the Magi to prove that Jesus is a king; for Mark, Jesus is both human and divine because he is the Messiah. Jesus performs miracles of healing throughout Mark's story. Jesus turns everything upside down in Mark's gospel but whenever someone realizes Jesus' true nature, he tells them to keep quiet; this is called the "Marcan Secret." Even though Jesus' miracles showed that he was the Messiah, no one was to say it aloud because Jesus' arrest, death and resurrection would prove that he was the Messiah. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals the sick as a sign of the Reign of God, he casts out demons as a sign of the Reign of God, he eats and drinks with sinners and outcasts and proclaims forgiveness of sins as a sign of the Reign of God. Jesus defeats death and rises from the dead as a sign of the Reign of God.

Seeing the Resurrected Christ transformed the lives of the disciples, the life of James, Jesus' brother, and the lives of all who saw him. The witness of these people and the story they told transformed the lives of all who heard it and believed. If Mark was the guy who lost his sheet, he was one of Jesus' early followers and he may have been one of the five hundred who saw the Resurrected Christ at one time. We know that his life was transformed and that he was willing to travel to the Adriatic and Northern Africa to tell the story of Jesus. Mark's life was changed by the Resurrected Christ and he, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote an account which allows people to meet the Resurrected Jesus to this day. Mark's witness, though his gospel, continues to help transform lives, and his account even helped inspire Matthew and Luke, so the glad tidings he brought were passed on to others through the works of the other Evangelists. Mark wasn't writing an historical document as we in our era understand history; he was writing the Good News of Jesus, Christ, the Son of God. He was writing an account of salvation, not an historically accurate, day-by-day reporting of the life and activities of Jesus. St. Mark was telling the people of his time and in the times to come the story of how God intervened in history, how the Creator of the universe decided to come among the creation and bring it hope, renewal, and the defeat of death. Mark wanted to tell the story of how God became a human being, lived and laughed and loved and suffered among us, ultimately suffering death as a common criminal, yet rose again and changed the lives of those who believed.

Here is an account of the martyrdom of St. Mark, adapted from the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov:
"The approaching celebration of Pascha coincided that year with the festival of the pagan god Serapis, drawing scores of idol-worshippers to the city. As St. Mark was celebrating the divine service, a mob of pagans broke into the church and seized their prey. The holy Apostle was bound with a rope and dragged through the streets of the city, as his captors shouted mockingly, 'We're taking the ox to the stall!' He was thrown into prison, his body lacerated by the sharp stones over which he had been mercilessly dragged. That night an angel strengthened him for his final trial. 'Slave of God, Mark, thy name is written in heaven in the Book of Life. Thou hast been numbered among the holy apostles, and thou wilt be remembered unto ages of ages. Thou wilt rejoice with the powers on high, and on earth thy precious relics will be preserved.' Then the Lord Himself appeared and said to the Saint: 'Peace to thee, Mark, My evangelist.'

In the morning the Saint, a rope tied around his neck, was again led through the streets like some dumb beast, accompanied by a great crowd of jeering pagans. Utterly spent, the meek sufferer eventually collapsed and his soul, released from its earthly tabernacle, ascended to heaven. The pagans, not content with having killed the Saint, wanted to destroy also his lifeless body, but they had scarcely lit the bonfire that was to have consumed the body before there was a mammoth thunderclap; the earth shook and the sky loosed a storm of hailstones. The fire was quenched and the pagans dispersed, allowing the Christians to come and collect the sacred remains of their martyred bishop and father in the Faith. These they placed in a stone coffin in the place where they gathered for common prayer."

As Christians, we still meet the Resurrected Christ, and the Resurrected Christ still transforms lives. And we are able to do this because God the Holy Spirit inspired this young Jew, John Mark, to write down the remembrances of St. Peter. Because Mark wrote down the story of the women's visit to the tomb, because he wrote down the stories of Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and proclaiming the Good News, people are open their lives being transformed by the Resurrected Christ. Mark was a martyr, a witness, and the gospel which bears his name has witnessed to people throughout the centuries.

From Rome St. Mark was sent by St. Peter to preach the Gospel in those regions bordering the Adriatic.  His ministry was fruitful; everywhere churches were established. St. Peter then appointed Mark bishop and sent him to Egypt.

After sojourning for a time in the coastal cities of Pentapolis, and bringing many there out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of faith, the Evangelist was led by the Holy Spirit to sail east to Alexandria.  As he reached the city gates, one of his sandals broke.  A cobbler, in trying to fix it, punctured his hand with his awl.  St. Mark made a paste of some earth mixed with his spittle and applied it to the bleeding wound with the words, "In the name of Jesus Christ Who lives forever, be thou whole!"  Immediately the blood stanched and the wound closed. The grateful cobbler insisted on inviting St. Mark to his home, where he questioned him closely: "Who are you and what is your business, and who is this Jesus Christ?"  St. Mark proceeded to expound the gospel, which so impressed the cobbler that he and his household asked straightway to be baptized. The Apostle took this as an auspicious sign, and he was not mistaken.

There in Alexandria St. Mark established a catechetical school which produced many great apologists for the Faith: Clement, Dionysius (of Alexandria), Gregory the Wonderworker, and others.

The pagan leaders, infuriated by the progressive spread of Christianity in their domain, conspired to kill St. Mark.   On learning of their evil resolve, the Apostle ordained Anianus bishop and fled to Pentapolis.  He strengthened the Church he had established there earlier and brought the Gospel to more remote parts of Libya and to Ammonicia.

Returning to Egypt, St. Mark continued his apostolic labors, rejoicing in spirit at the abundant harvest of souls.   At last, however, the pagan leaders, bitterly resenting his authority, found opportunity to kill him.

The approaching celebration of Pascha coincided that year with the festival of the pagan god Serapis, drawing scores of idol-worshippers to the city.  As St. Mark was celebrating the divine service, a mob of pagans broke into the church and seized their prey.   The holy Apostle was bound with a rope and dragged through the streets of the city, as his captors shouted mockingly, "We're taking the ox to the stall!"  He was thrown into prison, his body lacerated by the sharp stones over which he had been mercilessly dragged.  That night an angel strengthened him for his final trial. "Slave of God, Mark, thy name is written in heaven in the Book of Life.  Thou hast been numbered among the holy apostles, and thou wilt be remembered unto ages of ages.  Thou wilt rejoice with the powers on high, and on earth thy precious relics will be preserved." Then the Lord Himself appeared and said to the Saint: "Peace to thee, Mark, My evangelist."

In the morning the Saint, a rope tied around his neck, was again led through the streets like some dumb beast, accompanied by a great crowd of jeering pagans.  Utterly spent, the meek sufferer eventually collapsed and his soul, released from its earthly tabernacle, ascended to heaven.  The pagans, not content with having killed the Saint, wanted to destroy also his lifeless body, but they had scarcely lit the bonfire that was to have consumed the body before there was a mammoth thunderclap; the earth shook and the sky loosed a storm of hailstones.  The fire was quenched and the pagans dispersed, allowing the Christians to come and collect the sacred remains of their martyred bishop and father in the Faith.  These they placed in a stone coffin in the place where they gathered for common prayer.  Later, in the ninth century, Islamic incursions caused the relics to be transferred to Venice, where they are preserved to this day in the magnificent basilica dedicated to this holy Apostle and Evangelist. Compiled from The Lives of the Holy Apostles (from the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov), Holy Apostles Convent; the Life of St. Mark by Nun Barbara in Pravoslavnaya Zhizn, Jordanville; and The Prologue of Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, Lazarica Press.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Feast of George, Martyr


Today is the feast of St. George, martyr. George, along with Christopher, was one of the fourteen "Auxiliary" or "Helper Saints", those saints whose prayers were most effective on behalf of humanity. George is the patron saint of several countries, including England, Canada, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Palestine, and Portugal. At one time there was some doubt about his existence but most historians believe he did exist, although the stories about him are obviously apocryphal. What we do know is that he was born the late third century to a Christian family in Cappadocia. His father was an officer in the Roman army and his mother was from Lydda, a city in Palestine. George's father died when he was very young and he returned with his mother to Lydda where he received his education. He followed in his father's footsteps and became a Roman soldier. He was a good soldier and rapidly rose through the ranks. By his late twenties he gained the rank of Tribunus or Tribune (an elected office), and then Comes, or Count (Companion of the Emperor). He earned the rank Comes while stationed in Nicomedia as a member of the personal guard of the Emperor Diocletian. In the year 303, Diocletian initiated a persecution of Christians throughout the Roman empire, a persecution which was continued by Galerius during his own reign as Emperor (305-311 C.E.). Diocletian's decree stated that those who denied Christ would receive royal honors while those who
refused to deny Christ would be executed. When Comes George received these orders, he "came out" as a Christian, even mocking those who were deluded enough to worship idols. George's refusal to follow orders and his criticism of the royal decree enraged Diocletian, who ordered George's arrest, torture, and execution. After being whipped and tortured on a wheel of swords, George was decapitated on April 23, 303 C.E. Tradition states that the Empress Alexandra and a pagan priest, Athanasius, both witnessed George's martyrdom and were converted by his example, which resulted in their martyrdom, too. George's body was eventually returned to Lydda where his tomb became a place of pilgrimage
and many miracles were attributed to his relics. He was canonized by Pope Gelasius I in 494. The Crusaders returned to Europe with the story of St. George and the Dragon. As far as I can tell, the original references to St. George and dragons have their roots in the Passion of St. George, in which the main antagonist, the governor Dadianus, is also referred to as "the dragon" and "the evil dragon of the abyss" several times in the story. The story of St. George was elaborated in The Golden Legend a collection of the lives of the saints from the Medieval era which is not historically accurate but full of great stories. I'm going to re-tell the story of St. George's martyrdom according to The Passion of St. George. WARNING: LONG STORY FOLLOWS!

Long ago, the governors of the world began a persecution against the Church. They arrested many priests and bishops and dragged them to the altars of idols and tried to force them to offer sacrifice to devils. The governor Dadianus, who had acquired dominion over the four corners of the earth, sent a decree throughout the world stating: "A rumor has come to my ears that He to whom Mary gave birth is the God who alone is to be worshipped and that Apollo and Poseidon and Hermes and Astarte and Zeus and Uranus and Herakles and Scamandros and all the other gods are not to be worshipped at all, only this Jesus. Therefore I call all the governors of the world to come to me to learn the decision of my power in this matter. We will be putting this rumor to rest!" So the seventy governors of the world and their entourages came before Dadianus. Dadianus demanded that all the instruments of the torture chamber be brought before the governors: the brazen bed, the bone smashing choppers, the iron rods, the wheels with knives fixed to them, the wooden horses, the iron gloves, the wooden gloves, the tongue-slitting knives, the tools for pulling out teeth, the iron bone-borers, the sharp saws, and all other implements of Cruel Torture (they forgot the Water Boards). And Dadianus swore an oath, saying: "Anyone who refuses to worship the gods will be tortured and killed. I will break in the towers of their hearts, I will smash their heads, I will cut out their brains with sharp knives, I will saw off their shin bones, I will tear open their bodies and I will cut their limbs from their bodies." This frightened everyone, of course, and even those who had considered becoming martyrs had second thoughts, and a whole three years went by without anyone daring to say "I am a Christian."

A young tribune from Cappadocia named George had come to the city to be made a count, but when he saw the governors worshipping idols he decided to become a soldier for Jesus the Christ and resigned his commission, sold all he had and gave the proceeds to the poor, and then came before the governors and said "I will only worship the One God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!" Dadianus said, "Everyone must sacrifice to Apollo, the saviour of the world, and to the gods, or they will be punished. Who are you and where do you come from?" George said, "The chief name I bear is 'Christian,' I am a Cappadocian by birth and was a soldier in a famous company. I performed my duties as tribune satisfactorily in Palestine. Who are the gods you would force me to worship, O king?" Dadianus replied, "Apollo and Poseidon." George responded, "I will speak for the righteous ones and against your dead gods, not for your sake, O Evil Dragon, or for the sake of your fellow governors, but for the sake of all the people here present who need to hear the truth. Whom would you have me honor, O king; Peter, the chosen one of the Apostles, or Apollo, who corrupts the whole world? Elijah the Tishbite who was an angel on the earth and was taken up to the gates of heaven, or Scamandros the sorcerer who led people astray and committed adultery with Demeter? Tell me, O king, to which of these would you give judgment: Samuel, who prayed to God and obeyed his commandments, or to Poseidon the destroyer of the ships of the sea? Shall I honor Antaeus and Herakles, or the martyrs and prophets who wear crowns? Would you give judgment to Jezebel the slayer of prophets, or to Mary the Virgin Mother of my Lord, Jesus, Christ? Be ashamed, O king, for the things which you worship are not gods but deaf idols!"

Well, this was not what Dadianus wanted to hear, and, true to his word, he demanded that George be arrested. He commanded that George be hung on the wooden horse and tortured until his "bowels flowed out upon the ground." Then the soldiers laid him out and beat him with leather whips until the flesh of his body was torn in shreds, then they sprinkled salt upon his wounds. THEN they excoriated his body with hair sacks until his blood ran like water, but George was patient under these sufferings.

That night the Lord appeared to George and said, "Be strong and of good cheer, beloved George, for I will give you the strength to bear all these sufferings. I have made you lord over these seventy governors, and what ever you say shall happen to them. Look: you will die three times and I will raise you up again, but after the fourth time I myself will come upon a cloud and take you away to a place I have prepared for you. So be strong and do not be afraid for I am with you." Then Jesus embraced George and he and the angels returned to heaven.

The next morning Dadianus demanded that George be brought before him. George was singing "O God make speed to save us; O Lord make haste to help us!" He looked at the governor and said, "Governor, my Lord, Jesus Christ, and I have come before you and your stone Apollo." The soldiers didn't like his attitude and grabbed George, whipped him with leather straps and threw him back into prison. Dadianus could see that he had a challenge on his hands, so he put out a call for a sorcerer strong enough to fight George. A sorcerer named Athanasius came and answered the call and said, "O king, live forever! There is nothing I am not able to do!" As proof, he had an ox brought before him. He whispered a few words into the ears of the ox, and the ox was split in two! Scales were brought in and the parts of the ox weighed, and they were exactly equal in weight. Dadianus called for George and said, "George, you must vanquish Athanasius or he will vanquish you. You must kill him or he will kill you." George said to Athanasius, "Hurry brother, and do what ever you plan to do to me, because I see grace drawing near to you." Athanasius had an interesting technique: he took a cup, washed his face over it,
invoked the names of demons over the cup and handed it to George to drink. George drank from the cup and nothing happened. Athanasius said to Dadianus, "Let me try again, and if I fail, I will become a Christian." He took another cup, washed his face over it, and invoked the name of demons even more evil than the first, gave the cup to George, who drank it without anything evil taking place (well, it probably didn't taste very good). Athanasius said, "George, you have the cross of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners; have mercy on my soul and give me the seal of Christ." When Dadianus heard that, he had Athanasius taken out and martyred, and threw George back in prison. This would become a pattern for the next few days.

The next morning George was brought before Dadianus. The governor had a huge wheel equipped with sharp nails and stakes. The upper part of it was like the edge of a knife while the bottom part was like a sharp two-edged sword. George looked at the wheel and thought, "Well, I'm not coming out of this alive!" Then he thought, "George, why did you let that fear enter your mind? Remember what Jesus said, that he is with you!" He looked up towards heaven and prayed one of those long prayers which are actually sermons for which the saints in these stories are famous. As soon as he finished his prayer and said "amen!" the soldiers threw him on the wheel, which went straight to work and broke his body into ten pieces. Dadianus turned to the governors and said, "Remember, guys, there is no god other than our gods: Apollo and Hermes and Zeus and Athene and Scamandros and Hephaistos and Herakles and Poseidon, from whose hands kings receive power. Where is the God of George? Where is this Jesus? Why hasn't he come and delivered him from my hands?" And he commanded that George's bones be taken outside of the city and thrown into a dry pit so that the Christians couldn't find them and build a martyrium over the spot, therefore attaching the guilt of the murder on the governors' hands. It was time for dinner and the seventy governors all gathered to eat. While they were in the banquet hall there was a great earthquake and the sky became dark and storms were on the sea. The archangel Michael blew his trumpet, and the Lord Jesus appeared on his Chariot of Cherubim and stood at the edge of the pit. Jesus sent Michael down into the pit, where Michael reassembled George's body. Jesus took George by the hand and filled him with life. He then embraced George and returned to heaven with his holy angels.
George went straight to the banquet hall and stood before the governors. "Do you know who I am?" he asked. Dadianus said, "I don't know. Who are you, then?" He responded, "I am George whom you had slain yesterday because you despise my God, the God who could destroy you in a moment!" Dadianus looked at George and said, "You aren't George; you are his ghost or shade or something." But general Anatolius, who knew George, said, "This really is George, who has risen from the dead!" He and his entire company, some three thousand and nine men,
(and one woman from the multitude) were converted and believed in Christ. Of course, they did not make any points Dadianus, who had them all martyred. Then, angry that his dinner had been disturbed and that he had been shamed with George returning from the dead, he had George tied to an iron bed, poured molten lead down his throat, drove sixty nails into his head into the bed. THEN he had a great stone chiseled out to fit over his head, fastened it with lead, and rolled him from a high place, which severed his bones one from another. George bore these tortures with fortitude. Dadianus had the soldiers remove the stone, hang George upside down with a large stone tied to him, and then had a huge fire lit under him. THEN they threw him into a bronze bull full of nails which revolved and crushed his body but didn't kill him. The evening's dinner theatre being finished, George was tossed back into prison while Dadianus decided what to do next.

That night Jesus and the angels appeared once again to George. Jesus reminded George that he had already died once and that Jesus had raised him, and that he was to die two more times and Jesus would raise him two more times, but the fourth time Jesus would come and take him to the place he made for him. He told George that the governors would torture him for seven years, but to be strong and of good cheer. Then he and the angels returned to heaven. George, of course, was inspired by the Lord's visit.

The next morning George was brought before the governors again. A governor named Magnentius said, "George my boy, we governors need a sign which will prove that your God is the true God" (I guess George's resurrection wasn't enough!). He continued, "If you are able to do what we ask, we will all believe and become Christians." George asked what he wanted him to do. Magnentius said, "You see we have seventy thrones here, all with wooden legs; some made of the wood of fruit trees and others from trees with leaves. If you can cause the legs to bud, those from fruit trees with fruit and the others with leaves, we will believe you."
So George got down on his knees and prayed one of those long prayers for which he was getting known. When he said "Amen," the chair legs began to bear fruit and leaves. Magnentius, being a jerk, said, "Herakles is a great god! He can manifest his power in dry wood!" George said, "How can you compare this blind and dumb idol Herakles with the God who made the heavens and the earth, who created all that exists and could destroy you in a moment?" Then Dadianus appeared and said, "Okay George, I've got it worked out; I know how I will destroy you!" And he had George sawed in two with a great saw(!). Well, George died instantly. Then, being the extremist he was, Dadianus had George's body thrown into a cauldron full of hot, molten lead, pitch, bitumen, and animal fat and had it all heated to a high heat until it all melted together, including George's body. Then he had his soldiers break the cauldron into pieces and the pieces taken outside the city and buried
so that the Christians couldn't find any remains and build a martyrium. While the soldiers were walking away there was a great trembling in the air and an earthquake and Jesus and the angels came down from heaven and stood over the place where the cauldron was buried. Jesus said to the angel Zalathiel "Bring up the cauldron." Zalathiel laid the cauldron pieces on the ground and Jesus said, "O George, my chosen one, arise! For I am he that raised up Lazarus from the dead, and now I command you to arise and come forth from the cauldron and stand upon your feet, for I am the Lord your God!" And immediately George arose as if he had suffered no pain at all, and Jesus said, "George, be strong and of good cheer. There will be great joy in heaven because of your contest. Remember, I am with you. You're going to die two more times!" And Jesus and the angels returned to heaven.

George headed back to town and went about the city teaching about Jesus, and he even performed quite a few miracles, which we can discuss another time, as this is going on and on. Of course, once Dadianus heard George was alive again AND that he was teaching and performing miracles, he had George arrested and flogged without mercy until his flesh was in pieces AND had a fire lit under him AND placed vessels of fire on his head and THEN hung him over iron pots of fire until he died. THEN he had his attendants take what was left of George's body to Mount Siris where the birds would devour his flesh. As the attendants were walking down from the mountain, there was thunder and lightening and the whole mountain shook, and Jesus and the holy angels came on a cloud, and Jesus said, "O excellent and chosen one, rise up from where you lie!" George rose up, dusted himself off, and chased after the attendants saying, "Hey, wait for me and I'll go back with you!" When the attendants saw George coming up behind them, they were astounded and fell to their knees and asked for forgiveness and for the seal of Christ. George baptized them all, and when they came before the governor they all said, "We are Christians!" to which Dadianus responded by having them all tortured and killed. Once again, Dadianus had George arrested. George decided to trick Dadianus and the governors, and he told them that, after being killed three times and tortured for the past seven years, he would finally do what they wanted.
They said, "We want you to worship Apollo and Herakles." George said, "Okay, I will." Dadianus was overjoyed and kissed George and brought him back to the palace and introduced George to his wife, Alexandra, the Queen. Then he went off and left the two alone (?!?). George spent time talking with her and converted her. Then George asked to be taken to the idol of Apollo. He challenged the demon which inhabited the idol. The demon made the idol get up off its pedestal and walk down the steps to confront George. They had a bit of a theological tiff, and then George stamped the ground with his foot and the abyss opened up and the idol and demon were cast into the pit.

When Dadianus heard that George had converted the Queen, and had destroyed the idol of Apollo, he had George condemned to death once again (novel idea!). George came rejoicing to site of his impending execution. The seventy governors and their entourages were gathered there to watch. George said to the soldiers who were holding him, "Brothers, let me pray for the seventy governors who have tortured me for the past seven years." George looked into heaven and said, "O God, who sent fire from heaven to Elijah to devour the prophets of Baal, I pray that you will send the same fire and devour these governors and those around them that none will be left alive. Thine is the glory for ever and ever, Amen." And fire came from heaven and burned up the seventy governors AND all their armies and attendants, the entire entourage, some five thousand people! Then George prayed that his name would heal all those inflicted by unclean spirits. When he was finished with his prayer, the Lord Jesus and the holy angels appeared to him and said, "Come up now into heaven and rest yourself in the dwelling which I have prepared for you in the kingdom of my Father. O excellent George, I will fulfill every thing which you have requested and many other things even greater than these." Then George said to the executioners, "Come and do what you have been commanded to do" and he stretched out his neck and they chopped off his head, and water and milk flowed forth (which is pretty weird!). And Jesus took George's soul and embraced it and took it up to heaven.

So, there you go! That's the story of the Passion of St. George, somewhat abbreviated, as you don't have all day to be reading blogs!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Feast of the Resurrection

Happy Easter!

Mark 16:1-8

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; --it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Great Vigil of Easter


Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
This sermon was written by St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch or Arch-bishop of Constantinople in the fifth century. He gave this sermon at Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral of Constantinople at the Easter Vigil in the year 400. This is the sermon I gave tonight (in español) at the Great Vigil of Easter

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever.
Amen!

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday/Sábado Santo


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 27:57-66
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise again.'
Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, "He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first."
Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.


Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday/Viernes Santo


FIRST STATION
Jesus is condemned to death


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And they all condemned him and said, "He deserves to die." When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. Then he handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

V. God did not spare his own Son:
R. But delivered him up for us all.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



SEGUNDA ESTACIÓN
Jesús toma su cruz


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Jesús salió, cargando su cruz, al lugar llamado de la Calavera, y en hebreo, Gólgota. Y aunque era Hijo, por lo que padeció aprendió obediencia. Como cordero fue llevado al matadero; y como oveja delante de sus trasquiladores, enmudeció, y no abrió su boca. El Cordero que fue inmolado es digno de tomar el poder, las riquezas, la sabiduría, la fortaleza, la honra, la gloria, la alabanza.

V. El Señor cargó en él el pecado de todos:
R. Por las transgresiones de mi pueblo fue muerto.

Oremos:

Dios todopoderoso, cuyo amado Hijo sufrió voluntariamente la agonía y el oprobio de la cruz por nuestra redención: Danos valor para tomar nuestra cruz y seguirle; quien vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



THIRD STATION
Jesus falls the first time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is the Lord our God.

V. Surely he has borne our griefs:
R. And carried our sorrows.

Let us pray:

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



CUARTA ESTACIÓN
Jesús encuentra a su afligida madre


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

¿A quién te haré semejante, hija de Jerusalén? ¿A quién te compararé para consolarte, oh virgen hija de Sión? Porque grande como el mar es tu quebrantamiento. Bienaventurados los que lloran, porque ellos recibirán consolación. El Señor será tu luz eterna, y tus días de duelo terminarán.

V. Una espada traspasará tu misma alma:
R. Y llenará tu corazón de amargo dolor.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que quisiste que en la pasión de tu Hijo una espada de aflicción traspasara el alma de la bendita Virgen María, su madre: Concede misericordiosamente que tu Iglesia, habiendo participado con ella en su pasión, sea hecha digna de participar en el gozo de su resurrección; quien vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



FIFTH STATION
The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As they led Jesus away, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

V. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me:
R. Cannot be my disciple.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



SEXTA ESTACIÓN
Una mujer enjuga el rostro de Jesús


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Lo hemos visto sin belleza ni esplendor, su aspecto no era nada atrayente; fue despreciado y rebajado. Era un hombre lleno de dolor, acostumbrado al sufrimiento. Lo despreciamos como a alguien que no merece ser visto, no lo tuvimos en cuenta y sin embargo él estaba cansado con nuestros sufrimientos, estaba soportando nuestros propios dolores. Mas él fue herido por nuestras rebeliones, molido por nuestros pecados; el castigo de nuestra paz cayó sobre él, y por su llaga hemos sido sanados.

V. Restáuranos, oh Señor Dios de los ejércitos:
R. Muestra la luz de tu rostro, y seremos salvos.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que antes de la pasión de tu unigénito Hijo, revelaste su gloria en el monte santo: Concede que, al contemplar por fe la luz de su rostro, seamos fortalecidos para llevar nuestra cruz y ser transformados a su imagen de gloria en gloria; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



SEVENTH STATION
Jesus falls a second time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

V. But as for me, I am a worm and no man:
R. Scorned by all and despised by the people.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



OCTAVA ESTACIÓN
Jesús encuentra a las mujeres de Jerusalén


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Y seguía a Jesús gran multitud del pueblo, entre ellos mujeres que lloraban y se lamentaban por él. Pero Jesús, vuelto hacia ellas, les dijo: "Hijas de Jerusalén, no lloren por mí, sino lloren por ustedes mismas y por sus hijos".

V. Los que sembraron con lágrimas:
R. Con regocijo segarán.

Oremos:

Enseña a tu Iglesia, oh Señor, a llorar por los pecados de que es culpable, y a arrepentirse y olvidarlos; para que, por medio de tu gracia indulgente, el resultado de nuestras iniquidades no recaiga sobre nuestros hijos ni los hijos de nuestros hijos; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



NINTH STATION
Jesus falls a third time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. He has besieged me and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes. "Remember, O Lord, my affliction and bitterness, the wormwood and the gall!"

V. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter:
R. And like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.

Let us pray:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DÉCIMA ESTACIÓN
Jesús es despojado de sus vestiduras


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando llegaron a un lugar llamado Gólgota, que significa de la Calavera, le dieron a beber vinagre mezclado con hiel; pero después de haberlo probado, no quiso beberlo. Y repartieron entre sí sus vestiduras, echando suertes. Esto fue para que se cumpliese la Escritura, que dice: "Repartieron entre sí mis vestiduras, y sobre mi ropa echaron suertes".

V. Hiel me dieron a comer:
V. Y cuando tuve sed me dieron a beber vinagre.

Oremos:

Señor Dios, cuyo bendito Hijo nuestro Salvador entregó su cuerpo a los azotes y su rostro al esputo: Otórganos tu gracia para soportar gozosamente los sufrimientos de esta vida temporal, confiados en la gloria que ha de ser revelada; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



ELEVENTH STATION
Jesus is nailed to the Cross


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him; and with him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was numbered with the transgressors."

V. They pierce my hands and my feet:
R. They stare and gloat over me.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DUODÉCIMA ESTACIÓN
Jesús muere en la cruz


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando vio Jesús a su madre, y al discípulo a quien él amaba, que estaba presente, dijo a su madre: "Mujer, he ahí tu hijo". Después dijo al discípulo: "He ahí tu madre". Cuando Jesús hubo tomado el vinagre, dijo: "Consumado es". Y entonces clamando a gran voz dijo: "Padre, en tus manos encomiendo mi espíritu". Y habiendo inclinado la cabeza, entregó el espíritu.

V. Por nosotros Cristo se hizo obediente hasta la muerte:
R. Y muerte de cruz.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que por nuestra redención entregaste a tu unigénito Hijo a muerte de cruz, y por su resurrección gloriosa nos libraste del poder de nuestro enemigo: Concédenos morir diariamente al pecado, de tal manera que vivamos siempre con él, en el gozo de su resurrección; quien vive y reina ahora y por siempre. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



THIRTEENTH STATION
The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

All you who pass by, behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people. "Do not call me Naomi (which means Pleasant), call me Mara (which means Bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."

V. Her tears run down her cheeks:
R. And she has none to comfort her.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies' sake. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DÉCIMACUARTA ESTACIÓN
Jesús es puesto en la tumba


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando llegó la noche, vino un hombre rico de Arimatea, llamado José, quien también era un discípulo de Jesús. Este fue a Pilato y pidió el cuerpo de Jesús. Entonces Pilato mandó que se le diese. Y tomando José el cuerpo, lo envolvió en una sábana limpia, y lo puso en su sepulcro nuevo, que había labrado en la peña; y rodó una gran piedra a la entrada del sepulcro.

V. No me abandonarás en el sepulcro:
R. Ni permitirás que tu Santo vea corrupción.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, tu bendito Hijo fue puesto en la tumba en un huerto, y descansó en el día del sábado: Concede que nosotros, los que hemos sido sepultados con él en las aguas del bautismo, encontremos nuestro perfecto descanso en su eterno y glorioso reino; donde él vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.


Oh Salvador del mundo, que por tu cruz y preciosa sangre nos has redimido:
Sálvanos y ayúdanos, humildemente te suplicamos, oh Señor.

Oremos:

Te damos gracias, Padre celestial, porque nos has librado del dominio del pecado y de la muerte y nos has traído al reino de tu Hijo; y te rogamos que, así como por su muerte nos ha hecho volver a la vida, por su amor nos exalte a los gozos eternos; quien vive y reina contigo, en la unidad del Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, ahora y por siempre. Amén.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


John 13:1-5
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feast of St. Joseph


As is usually the situation with the members of Jesus' family, we know very little about Joseph. The gospel texts tell us that he was a carpenter, that he was a descendant of David the king, and we know that he had to go to Bethlehem for the census. We know that he was betrothed to Mary and wasn't too sure about things when he learned that she was with child, and we also know that he was still around when Jesus was twelve years old. Everything else is a guess and is usually something someone made up for a theological or dogmatic reason.

One thing we know about Joseph is that he was obedient; even when he had his doubts about the marriage and his young bride, when angels would appear to him in his dreams and give him instructions, he would follow them. He married Mary even though she was pregnant, and he took his young wife and baby son to Egypt when instructed by an angel in order to save them from the wrath of Herod. We know that Joseph was a devout Jew and that he brought his family to Jerusalem to sacrifice at the Temple. These are the only stories we have from the Bible. But many traditions sprang up involving Joseph over the centuries. There is a tradition that Joseph was an elderly man when he wed Mary. This tradition was probably invented as a means of preventing some from thinking that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus. If Joseph was an elderly man then he probably had lost all interest in sex by the time he and Mary were wed, so he couldn't possibly be Jesus' biological father; plus Mary could remain ever-virgin! There is another tradition that Joseph was a widower and that his marriage to the Blessed Virgin Mary was his second marriage. This idea may have been developed as a means of explaining all those brothers and sisters of Jesus; if Mary was ever-virgin, those other kids must be step-children. Personally, I don't accept those stories; I thin that Joseph was probably in his twenties when he married Mary, and I think that they had at least four sons together and several daughters, too. He isn't mentioned in the texts after the visit of Jesus to his home town because he was no longer important to the story. The Gospels are not histories in the same sense as a book about the building of the Canal is a history; the purpose of the Gospels is to tell the Good News and they are theological documents serving a theological purpose, not an accurate history as we modern people expect in a historic document.

Today's Gospel reading gives us the only story from a canonical source on the childhood of Jesus. There are several non-canonical sources on his childhood and we call them infancy gospels. This story from Luke's gospel is the only story as such in the Bible. In this story Jesus is very precocious, telling his family that he must be about his Father's business. When I head this story as a child, I always liked it because the child Jesus showed-up all the adults, but as a father I have a lot of sympathy for Joseph and Mary, as I know what it is like to raise a precocious child. Raising precocious children can be difficult, but imagine how difficult it must have been to raise the Incarnation! In this story Joseph and Mary noticed that Jesus was missing, they've gone all the way back to Jerusalem to find him sitting in the Temple teaching the Scribes and Pharisees and Teachers, and he doesn't even feel bad about worrying his parents. When his mother scolds him, he says, "Why were you searching for me? Don't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" In the infancy gospels little Jesus turns children who make fun of him into goats and he even raises a child from the dead to clear himself from the accusation that he had pushed the boy off a tower. Raising little Jesus must have been quite a task! Actually, I think that Jesus was probably more like all the other children in the neighborhood; I doubt that he was turning other children into goats and I'm sure he didn't spend his time doing magic tricks. He probably helped his father and learned about carpentry, and he probably helped his mother take care of his younger brothers and sisters. I'm sure that the family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus and his siblings was as normal as all the other families living in Nazareth, a rather typical Galilean family.

Joseph is very important because he gave Jesus and James and Judas and the other children the fatherly influence that they needed to grow up to be the adults God wanted them to be. Joseph must have been a good, loving father, because the image of the father in Jesus' teachings is that of a loving, caring person. There are many people in the world who do not have good fathers; their fathers are uncaring and abusive, and this affects a person's perception of a father and it makes the name "Father" for God a problem, because when these people hear the word "father," they experience fear or loathing. But Jesus understood the word "father" to be a positive word. For Jesus the image of a father is that of a loving, caring, welcoming person and I'm sure that this image had a lot to do with his experience of his earthly father, Joseph.

Joseph was willing to take Mary as his wife even though her condition could bring scandal upon his name. Joseph was willing to pick-up and head for Egypt for a few years in order to protect his wife and infant son. He returned to Galilee, to Nazareth, and there he raised a family and worked as a carpenter and was a model of fatherhood for Jesus and his brothers and sisters. Joseph is a model of dedication and obedience; obedience to God and dedication to his family, and that is why we honor his memory today.

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I See You!

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