Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Photo of the Week

Wait on the Lord, ye trembling saints,
And keep your courage up;
He'll raise your spirit when it faints,
And far exceed your hope.

- from Isaac Watts' hymnographic rendering of Psalm 27

Monday, March 30, 2020

Quote of the Week



“The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.”

- Elisabeth Elliot, missionary and author

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Almighty God,
We pray that through this season of Lent,
By prayer and study and self-discipline,
We may penetrate more deeply
Into the mystery of Christ's sufferings;
So that following in the way of his cross and passion,
We may come to share in the glory and triumph of his resurrection;
Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Hymn of the Week: Cast into the Depths

This week, I wrote a celebratory hymn about the forgiveness that we have in Christ. It's based on Micah 7:19--"You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." The song is set to the tune of an old hymn called "We Have an Anchor" (which, incidentally, is a marvelous song in its own right, and perfectly fitting for the current time of crisis). 

Cast into the Depths

Come, you hurting ones! Come, all you forlorn!
Come and find rest in our forgiving Lord.
Bring him every wound, for he can restore;
Bring him all your sins, and he'll make you pure.

     (Chorus):
     Sing hallelujah forevermore!
     All praise to Christ, our redeeming Lord,
     For by his compassion, our sins are
     Cast into the depths, and recalled no more!

If you're bowed with sin, he will raise your head;
If you hungry are, he will be your bread;
If you thirst for peace, he's the overflow;
And when you feel hopeless, he will be your hope!

     (Chorus)

Though for all our sins we deserve his wrath,
Though we've wandered off from his loving path,
Yet by his great grace we are not condemned:
He has washed us clean and has called us friends!

     (Chorus)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Ambrose





Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. - Psalm 24:3-5

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. - Ephesians 6:13


Ambrose of Milan: Basic Facts

- Ambrose of Milan (340-397 AD) was one of the leading pastors in the Christian world during the 4th century AD, the “golden age” of the early church fathers.

- Born into an aristocratic family of Roman nobility, Ambrose was well-educated and trained for a career in politics before being thrust into pastoral ministry. His aristocratic social standing and political skills would serve him well even in ministry, because he became the leading voice of the church in several disputes against encroachments and abuses from the imperial state.

- He was known as one of the most eloquent speakers of his generation, and he used his ability to give influential sermons in defense of the orthodox Christian faith in an age when the Arian heresy was threatening to undermine biblical Christianity.

- Ambrose’s ministry attracted a young “seeker,” Augustine of Hippo, who had tried all the available religions of the ancient world after rejecting his childhood Christian faith. It was Ambrose’s influence that brought Augustine back to the church (his baptism is pictured below), and Augustine went on to become the most influential theologian in the entire history of the western Christian world.

Timeline of Ambrose's Life and Ministry:

374 AD – Ambrose, 34 years old, the son of a former prefect of France, Spain, and Britain, has recently been appointed as the supreme civic magistrate of the areas around Milan, one of the most important imperial cities. Although raised as a Christian, he has never been baptized. In the year 374, the previous bishop of Milan dies, and the city is torn apart by rival factions (orthodox Christians and Arian Christians) who each want to appoint their own leader as the next bishop. Ambrose, as civic magistrate, goes to the cathedral to oversee the convocation and make sure no riots break out. As he stands up front, eloquently trying to keep the peace, a child’s voice is heard calling out: “Ambrose for bishop!” Immediately the crowd latches onto Ambrose as a “compromise candidate,” never mind the fact that he has never served in the ministry, much less been baptized! Ambrose tries to resist at first, but eventually submits to being baptized, ordained as a priest, and then elevated to being a bishop. His first official act as bishop is to sell almost all of his wealthy family estates and give the money to the poor.

377 AD – Ambrose has become widely regarded as a powerful defender of the orthodox Christian faith, and the eighteen-year-old emperor Gratian asks him to compose a book on the faith so that Gratian will not be swayed by the arguments of the Arians. Ambrose responds with his greatest theological works, the two books of his De Fide.

385-386 AD – Justina, the mother of the new emperor, Valentinian II, begins championing the Arian group in Milan, and is determined to secure one of the two churches in the city for their use. Ambrose resists all of these attempts, often by staging sit-in protests in the church while Justina surrounds the building with soldiers. Ambrose uses these opportunities to preach to the gathered soldiers and to have his congregations sing some of the many hymns he composed (these gatherings helped launch a whole new style of worship music across the western Christian world). Ambrose wins the stand-off after Justina and Valentinian II realize that most of their soldiers are fonder of Ambrose than of them. The imperial leaders then try to force Ambrose into a staged debate against a popular Arian speaker, and when Ambrose refuses, the imperials prepare to evict him from the city. But his congregation saves him by staging their own sit-in protest, surrounding him night and day until the imperials relent.

390 AD – A new imperial ruler has now taken over, the great emperor Theodosius, and Ambrose mentors him in a number of important political decisions. However, a mob riot breaks out in the northern Greek city of Thessalonica, leading to the deaths of the garrison commander and two officers. Emperor Theodosius responds by ordering a massacre of more than 7000 people. Ambrose, on hearing this news, refuses to admit the Emperor to worship in Milan cathedral, and the Emperor, at this rebuke, publicly repents and performs penance in the streets of Milan with groans and tears.


Quotes:

“When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.”

“In Christ we have everything. If you want to heal your wound, he is the doctor. If you are in need of help, he is strength. If you are in dread of death, he is life. If you are fleeing the darkness, he is light. If you are hungry, he is food: O taste and see that the Lord is good!”

“It is not enough just to wish well; we must also do well.”

“I do not fear to die, because we have a good Lord.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Evangeliad (14:37-44)


Section 14:37-44 (corresponding to Lk. 12:54-56; Mt. 12:22-23; Mk. 6:30-31)

When in the west you see clouds appear,
You know straightaway that rain will be here;
The south wind brings heat, red evenings turn fair,
At a crimson dawn you know to beware.

You hypocrites, tell me, how can it be
That the signs of earth and sky you can read,
But you can't interpret the clearest signs
To help you recognize the present time?"

The multitudes heard, saw the signs he would do--
As in healing a man both sightless and mute--
And they asked each other, "Could he be the One?
Messiah-king, David's long-promised son?"

Then back from their journeys the disciples came, 
Having healed the sick and the kingdom proclaimed.
They told Christ their stories, the things they had done,
The works God had wrought while their labors went on.

The place around them was thick with the crowds,
With no place to eat or even sit down;
Christ said, "Come with me to a place all alone,
There to find rest for your body and soul."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Photo of the Week

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

- Romans 8:34b-35, 37

Monday, March 23, 2020

Quote of the Week

- Julian of Norwich's vision of the frailty of all created things, and of God's commitment to carry them through with his unchanging love:

"At the same time, He showed me something small, about the size of a hazelnut, that seemed to lie in the palm of my hand, as round as a tiny ball. I tried to understand the sight of it, wondering what it could possibly mean. The answer came: 'This is all that is made.' I felt it was so small that it could easily fade to nothing, but again I was told, 'This lasts, and it will go on lasting forever, because God loves it.'"

- from Revelations of Divine Love

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Synaxis




Lord Jesus Christ, in the days of your flesh the sick were brought to you for healing: hear us as we now bring to you in our prayers those who are ill, in body or in mind. May your presence be with them to relieve suffering and distress and to restore them to fullness of life, for your great love's sake. Amen.

- Frank Colquhoun

Friday, March 20, 2020

Hymn of the Week: Priesthood Prayer

As with many of us, I've been praying a lot for the world this week, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to strike closer and closer to home. It's made me think about our calling as God's "kingdom of priests." We Protestants talk a lot about "the priesthood of all believers," but we tend to focus on the "all believers" part, using it as an explanation of why we don't have an official priesthood (as, say, the Catholics do). But we don't give enough thought to "the priesthood of all believers." What does it mean that we're all priests? Well, one of the major pieces of that role, if we extrapolate from what Hebrews says about Christ's ministry as the Great High Priest in the heavenly courts (as well as Paul's statements in Rom. 8), is the holy task of offering intercessory prayer. So I've written a little hymn that incorporates those ideas, using the tune of "More Love to Thee."

Priesthood Prayer

Here as your priests we stand,
Raising this prayer,
Bearing this broken world
Into your care.
For those in need of grace,
Healing, and strength, and peace,
We lift our prayer,
We lift our prayer.

Christ, as the Great High Priest,
Still intercedes,
And, as his Body here,
So too do we.
Grant that our prayer may be
Sweet service unto thee:
Lord, hear our prayer,
Lord, hear our prayer.

We were designed to be
Caretakers of
All of your works, and to
Guard them with love.
So, as your servant-kings,
We our petitions bring,
Steadfast in prayer,
Steadfast in prayer.

Here as your priests we stand,
Raising this prayer,
Bearing this broken world
Into your care.
For those in need of grace,
Healing, and strength, and peace,
We lift our prayer,
Lord, hear our prayer.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Gregory of Nyssa





We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  – 2 Corinthians 3:18
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence….But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”  – Exodus 33:18-20
Gregory of Nyssa: Basic Facts
- Gregory of Nyssa (c.335-395) was one of the three great “Cappadocian Fathers,” along with his older brother, Basil, and their mutual friend, Gregory of Nazianzus. Though overshadowed by the other two during his own lifetime, modern theologians now see him as the most original theologian of the three. He was a defender of the doctrine of the Trinity at a crucial period in church history.
- Gregory was not active in church leadership until Basil thrust him forward to be bishop of the small town of Nyssa, but he did not prove to be good at church administration. His contribution to the Christian tradition comes by way of his theological ideas and his writing. He framed the classical idea of the infinity of God and laid the groundwork for every subsequent theology of the Christian life. His most prominent work today is his allegorical study, The Life of Moses.
Theological Themes of Gregory of Nyssa:
- The Trinity: Gregory defended the orthodox view of the Trinity as being one God in three persons. The three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are exactly identical in all respects (power, infinitude, character, etc.) and can be distinguished only in their relations with each other.
- God is Infinite: Gregory’s work was a landmark moment when Christian philosophy started to come into its own vis-à-vis the dominant Platonian philosophies of the classical world. While Gregory followed Neoplatonic thought in some respects, he contradicted classical philosophy in several important ways. Against the great Christian thinker Origen, he asserted that God is infinite—not only in time and space, but in attributes of character as well. Since God’s goodness is without measure, God himself must be without measure. This implies that God can never be fully known, and that humanity’s perfection is not in achieving a “stasis” of perfect knowledge of God (as in other philosophical systems), but in the continual upward pursuit of God.
- Human Nature: Gregory used the biblical language of humans as the Image of God. However, because of sin we have lost our likeness to that Image. Gregory compares humans to mirrors—we were made to reflect God, but because of our nature as “mirrors” we will reflect whatever we are looking at, good or evil. Thus humans must use their free will to turn themselves away from evil and toward good, so they can reflect the likeness of God again. This is a continuous process.
- The Spiritual Life: Gregory was the first to offer a systematic foundation for under-standing the spiritual journey as a continual, upward adventure into the knowledge of God. However, for Gregory, this is a journey “into darkness”—we must lay down the pride of our intellect and seek God with the understanding that he is too great to be ever fully known. There are three stages of this journey: a darkness of ignorance; a spiritual illumination; and then another darkness—the experience of God as he is: beyond every capacity of ours to understand.
Quotes:
“The one who is going to associate intimately with God must go beyond all that is visible and…believe that the Divine is there where the understanding does not reach.”
“If, then, one should withdraw from those who seduce him to evil and by the use of his reason turn to the better, putting evil behind him, it is as if he places his own soul, like a mirror, face-to-face with the hope of good things, with the result that the images and impressions of virtue, as it is shown to him by God, are imprinted on the purity of his soul.”
“The knowledge of God is a mountain steep indeed and difficult to climb—the majority of people do not progress beyond the base of the mountain.”
“The true sight of God consists in this, that the one who looks up to God never ceases in that desire.”
“God did not make the heavens in His image, nor the moon, the sun, the beauty of the stars, nor anything else which you can see in the created universe. You alone are made in the likeness of that nature which surpasses all understanding; you alone are a similitude of eternal beauty, a receptacle of happiness, an image of the true Light; and if you look up to Him, you will become what He is, imitating Him who shines within you, whose glory is reflected in your purity. Nothing in all creation can equal your grandeur.”
“[The mind], by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding, gains access to the invisible and the incomprehensible, and there it sees God. This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Evangeliad (14:28-36)


Section 14:28-36 (corresponding to Mk. 3:28-29; Mt. 12:31-36)

Yet whatever sins that you may commit,
Whatever blasphemies fall from your lips,
There is forgiveness, endless and grand,
Even if you're maligning the Son of Man.

But forgiveness, there's none, if you should blaspheme
Against the Spirit at work in my deeds--
God's own Holy Spirit, that's who you malign;
That sin shall remain for now and all time.

For nothing's lost or of no consequence,
Not even a word said in idleness--
All people will give account of such things
On the Judgment Day, before God the King.

The fruit of the tongue is the heart's overflow:
Whether good tree or bad, the fruit will show;
So you will be justified by what you speak,
Or by the same measure, condemned by your speech.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Photo of the Week

O sinners, come and taste his love,
Come, learn his pleasant ways,
And let your own experience prove
The sweetness of his grace.

- from Isaac Watts' hymnographic rendering of Psalm 34

Monday, March 16, 2020

Quote of the Week


"For know, dear ones, that every one of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth, not merely through the general sinfulness of creation, but each one personally for all mankind and every individual man. This knowledge is the crown of life for the monk and for every man. For monks are not a special sort of men, but only what all men ought to be. Only through that knowledge, our heart grows soft with infinite, universal, inexhaustible love."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, from The Brothers Karamazov

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven; grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of our love. Amen.

- Francis of Assisi

Friday, March 13, 2020

Hymn of the Week: Eternal Praise

In the early church tradition, they conceived of their worship services as being directly joined with the eternal worship that forever goes on around the throne of God. I've always loved this notion, so I wrote a Trinitarian hymn of praise based on the idea: the verses refer, respectively, to the worship offered by the angels in heaven, by the church triumphant in heaven (all those who have passed on to their rest in Christ), by Christians here on earth, and then by all of us together. The tune is that of the old hymn "We'll Work Till Jesus Comes." (There's an echo part in the chorus that I wasn't able to sing for my solo recording, so I indicated its place with piano chords.)

Eternal Praise

From endless days, eternal praise
Pours forth from heaven's courts;
From cherubim and seraphim
Comes this exultant roar:

     (Chorus):
     All praise (all praise) to God the Father,
     All praise (all praise) to Christ the Son,
     All praise (all praise) unto the Spirit,
     The blessed Three-in-One!

The church triumphant, gathered there,
Before the Father's throne,
Resound the anthem of their praise
From their eternal home:

     (Chorus)

And we, the church at work below,
Together lift our hearts,
And in our praise, we all cry out,
"Our God, how great you are!"

     (Chorus)

Together in eternity
And here upon the earth,
We all proclaim our Maker's praise
For all his mighty works.

     (Chorus)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Gregory of Nazianzus





For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.  – 1 John 5:7 (NKJV)

The Lord said to [Moses], “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  – Exodus 4:11-12

Gregory of Nazianzus: Basic Facts

- Gregory of Nazianzus (c.329-c.390), also called “Gregory the Theologian,” was one of the three Cappadocian Fathers (along with Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa) and is honored as being among the first to explain the definitive doctrine of the Trinity.

- Although he was a classically-trained orator, he would have preferred a life of quiet study to the jobs of church politics and pastoral ministry. However, he obeyed God’s call and served in ministry for much of his life, including a brief stint as the Archbishop of Constantinople and as the president of the Second Ecumenical Council (381).

- His greatest contributions to Christianity have been through his sermons. Oration 2, “In Defense of His Flight to Pontus,” is the foundational patristic treatment of pastoral theology. And his “Five Theological Orations” became the definitive work on how to express what we believe about the Trinity.

Timeline of Gregory's Life and Ministry:

Gregory leaving Constantinople
329Gregory is born into a Christian home. His father had just become the bishop of Nazianzus. 

347 – After studying rhetoric in Caesarea (Cappadocia), Palestine, and Alexandria, he travels to Athens. There he makes a close friendship with Basil, a fellow Cappadocian.

357 – Gregory returns home to Nazianzus. He splits his time between joining his friend Basil in their monastic retreat and caring for his aging parents.

360 – His father stumbles into a bad decision by signing a theologically suspect creed, and the monks in Nazianzus rebel. Gregory returns home to pacify the situation, and earns a reputation as a great peacemaker.

361 – His aging father feels the need for a coadjutor in his duties, so he compels Gregory to become a priest. This was not what Gregory wanted, and he runs away.

362 – After staying with Basil for nearly four months, he returns to Nazianzus and takes up his new position as priest. His second sermon is an apology and defense for his actions, and it immediately becomes a classic—describing in beautiful and powerful terms the high calling of pastoral ministry.

365 – While refusing to take sides in the dispute between Basil and his bishop, Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory works patiently to bring about a reconciliation between them.

370 – After Basil becomes the new bishop of Caesarea, he strongarms Gregory into taking up a position as bishop of Sasima, a tiny but strategic town. Gregory doesn’t want the post, but he goes there, only to be forced out shortly thereafter. This becomes a sore point between the old friends.

374 – Gregory’s father passes away, and Gregory stays on to help run the church until a new bishop can be found. Meanwhile, his speeches and writings are winning him fame as a great theologian.

379 – The struggling orthodox community in Constantinople calls on Gregory to come and be their pastor and to fight the heretical influences in the capital. He feels compelled to accept.

380 – The new emperor Theodosius, an orthodox Christian, kicks the heretical Arian Christians out of the churches of Constantinople and installs Gregory as archbishop in the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia.

381 – Gregory serves as president of the Second Ecumenical Council, which affirms the creed of Nicea (the orthodox creed). But because of church politics, Gregory is soon forced to resign. He returns home and spends the last few years of his life in seclusion.

Quotes from Gregory:

“It is more important to remember God than it is to breathe.” 

“God accepts our desires as though they were of great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God's greatness.”

“The scope of our art is to provide the soul with wings, to rescue it from the world and give it to God, and to watch over that which is in his image: if it abides, to take it by the hand; if it is in danger, to restore it; if ruined, to make Christ to dwell in the heart by the Spirit; and, in short, to deify, and bestow heavenly bliss upon one who belongs to the heavens.”

“Faith, in fact, is what gives fullness to our reasoning.”

“The Son is the concise and simple revelation of the Father’s nature.”

“We have one God because there is a single Godhead. Though there are three objects of belief, they derive from the single whole and have reference to it. They do not have degrees of being God or degrees of priority over against one another…To express it succinctly, the Godhead exists undivided in beings divided. It is as if there were a single intermingling of light, which existed in three mutually connected suns.”

“Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Evangeliad (14:24-27)


Section 14:24-27 (corresponding to Lk. 11:21-23Mt. 12:29-30; Mk. 3:27)

Can anyone enter a strong man's house,
To plunder his goods and safely get out,
Unless the strong man himself they would bind,
To keep him from thwarting what they have in mind?

A strong man, armed, guards his palace in peace,
But suppose one stronger appears on the scene.
Then the stronger will triumph and overcome,
And despoil the first man's armor and home.

Who then has more strength? The demons or I?
Just look at my works, and you can decide.
Those people not with me, against me are,
And those not with me scatter wide and far.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Photo of the Week

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand... 
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—
While the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 
Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb... 
When I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 
When I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; 
Here is where your proud waves halt’?

- Job 38:4, 6-8, 10-11

Monday, March 09, 2020

Quote of the Week




"In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone."

- John of the Cross, 16th-century Christian mystic and author of The Dark Night of the Soul

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Saturday Synaxis


Philip Doddridge, 18th-century Congregationalist minister, expressing in prayer the hope of a Christian author upon the writing of a new book (a sentiment that oft has echoed in my own heart):

Let not my Lord be angry, if I presume to ask, that, however weak and contemptible this work may seem in the eyes of the children of this world, and however imperfect it really be, as well as the author of it unworthy, it may nevertheless live before thee; and, through a divine power, be mighty to produce the rise and progress of religion in the minds of multitudes in distant places, and in generations yet to come! Impute it not, O God, as a culpable ambition, if I desire, that whatever becomes of my name, about which I would not lose one thought before thee, this work to which I am now applying myself in thy strength, may be completed and propagated far abroad; that it may reach to those that are yet unborn, and teach them thy name and thy praise, when the author has long dwelt in the dust: that so when he shall appear before thee in the great day of final account, his joy may be increased, and his crown brightened, by numbers before unknown to each other, and to him! but if this petition be too great to be granted to one, who pretends no claim, but thy sovereign grace, to hope for being favored with the least, give him to be, in thine Almighty hand, the blessed instrument of converting and saving one soul: and if it be but one, and that the weakest and meanest of those who are capable of receiving this address, it shall be most thankfully accepted as a rich recompense for all the thought and labor it may cost, and though it should be amidst a thousand disappointments with respect to others, yet it shall be the subject of immortal songs of praise to thee, O blessed God!

Friday, March 06, 2020

Hymn of the Week: Make Me an Instrument

This week I've written a hymn that uses the famous "St Francis Prayer," which has long been a favorite, not only of songwriters, but of many Christians all over the world. It expresses a spirit of humble service that both inspires and convicts. I set the text, just slightly modified, to a classic tune, that of "Nearer, My God, to Thee." 

Make Me an Instrument

Make me an instrument, Lord, of your peace;
Where there is hatred, I'll sow out love's seeds.
     Granting your pardon to
     Those who have need of you;
Make me an instrument, Lord, of your peace.

Where there is doubt, let me faith's beacon be,
That all in darkness deep your light would see:
     Hope for those in despair,
     Joy when there's sadness there;
Make me an instrument, Lord, of your peace.

Grant, O my Master, that I may not seek
To be consoled as much as consoler be;
     Not loved or understood,
     Yet loving all for you,
Make me an instrument, Lord, of your peace.

For it's in giving that we will receive,
And in forgiving that we will pardoned be;
     And in our dying, we
     Eternal life receive;
Make me an instrument, Lord, of your peace.


Thursday, March 05, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Basil of Caesarea






“I will send [the Holy Spirit] to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment….When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine.”  – John 16:7b-8, 13-15a

Basil of Caesarea: Basic Facts

- Basil the Great (330-379), also known as Basil of Caesarea, was one of the leading lights among the church fathers. He is one of a group of three church leaders known as “the Cappadocian Fathers” (the other two being his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and his best friend, Gregory of Nazianzus), named for the province of Asia Minor (now Turkey) where they lived. Together they were as central to Christianity in the East as Augustine was in the West. Basil’s greatest legacies are his theological triumph of defending the divinity of the Holy Spirit and his work in founding communal monasticism in the East.

- Basil benefited from a tremendous family of faith. Both sets of grandparents were Christians who had undergone severe persecutions for the faith (one grandmother was a martyr), and Basil’s parents were faithful believers as well. Of the ten children in the family, five are now honored as saints. The influence of Basil’s oldest sister, Macrina, was particularly strong in his life.


Timeline of Basil's Life and Ministry


349-355 – As a young man, Basil is sent to study philosophy, theology, and rhetoric in Constantinople and Athens. While studying, he meets a fellow Cappadocian, Gregory, and they become lifelong friends. He also becomes friends with Julian, a member of the royal family.

356 – Back in his hometown of Caesarea (in Cappadocia), he works as a teacher of rhetoric. But under the influence of his sister Macrina, he decides to devote himself to the religious life.

357 – He travels to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia to study under the desert fathers.

358 – Basil founds a semi-monastic retreat near his old family estate and begins living a life of voluntary poverty. He gives all he has to the poor, and takes in orphans and the sick whenever they come to him. He starts traveling with a group of friends and founds monasteries, hospitals, and houses of refuge all over Asia Minor.

359 – Attends a church council in Constantinople, but is dissatisfied with the creed it produces. He leaves without signing the new statement of faith.

361 – Julian, his old college friend, becomes emperor and invites Basil to join him at the royal court. But Julian has announced that he is no longer a Christian, so Basil declines.

362 – Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea, forces Basil to become a priest.

365 – Another new emperor, Valens, ascends the throne. He is a Christian, but is devoted to the heretical Arian sect (which didn’t believe that Jesus was co-equal in divinity with God the Father). Basil returns to Caesarea to engage in public debates against Arianism, and he triumphs.

368 – A massive drought and famine strikes; Basil devotes himself to the care of the needy.

370 – Bishop Eusebius dies and Basil is elected, by the narrowest of margins, to replace him. He is already the leading voice of orthodoxy in the East, but he faces daily opposition from his fellow bishops in Asia Minor, many of whom wanted an Arian.

371-372 – Basil and Emperor Valens have a showdown and Basil stands his ground. Valens finds that even he cannot restrain the popular and brilliant bishop. This marks the beginning of the end for the Arian heresy within Christianity—Basil finishes the fight that Athanasius began a generation before.

374-379 – Basil continues fighting until his death against other heresies that deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He appeals regularly for help from the Western churches, but they refuse to listen. He faces opposition and libel from every corner, including fellow bishops and former friends, but he doesn’t back down. He reforms the priesthood in his area (which had become exceedingly lax), oversees the beginnings of communal monasticism, writes a liturgy which is still in use, and issues numerous theological writings.


Quotes from Basil

“O human, you are a ruling being. Why do you serve the passions as a slave?” 

“What is Christianity? Likeness to God as far as is possible for human nature.”

“Glorify your Creator. For you came to be for the sake of no other thing except that you be an instrument fit for the glory of God.”

“Troubles are usually brooms and shovels that smooth the road to the good man's fortune; and many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away hunger.”

“We glorify the Holy Ghost together with the Father and the Son, from the conviction that He is not separated from the divine nature; for that which is foreign by nature does not share in the same honors….[Scripture is clear that the Spirit is not a created being]: The creature is a slave, but the Spirit sets free (Rom. 8:2). The creature needs life; the Spirit is the Giver of life (John 6:63). The creature requires teaching; it is the Spirit that teaches (John 14:26). The creature is sanctified; it is the Spirit that sanctifies (Rom. 15:16). [All things] receive their sanctification through the Spirit, but the Spirit Himself has His holiness by nature, not received by favor, but essentially His; from which He has received the distinctive name of ‘Holy’. What then is by nature holy, as the Father is by nature holy, and the Son by nature holy, we do not allow to be separated from the divine Trinity.”