Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Macarius of Jerusalem

Saint Macarius of Jerusalem was Bishop of Jerusalem from 312 to shortly before 335, according to Sozomen.
St. Athanasius, in one of his orations against Arianism, refers to St. Macarius as an example of "the honest and simple style of apostolical men." The date 312 for Macarius's accession to the episcopate is found in St. Jerome's version of Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicles; Tillement .
About 325 he accompanied Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine I in her successful search at Jerusalem for the True Cross.
His death must have been before the Council of Tyre, in 335, at which his successor, Maximus, was apparently one of the bishops present.
He also received a long letter from Constantine the Great with reference to the building of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem: "Such is our Saviour's grace, that no power of language seems adequate to describe the wondrous circumstance to which I am about to refer. For, that the monument of his most holy Passion, so long ago buried beneath the ground, should have remained unknown for so long a series of years, until its reappearance to his servants now set free through the removal of him who was the common enemy of all, is a fact which truly surpasses all admiration ... And as to the columns and marbles, whatever you shall judge, after actual inspection of the plan, to be especially precious and serviceable, be diligent to send information to us in writing, in order that whatever quantity or sort of materials we shall esteem from your letter to be needful, may be procured from every quarter, as required, for it is fitting that the most marvelous place in the world should be worthily decorated." (Macarius was one of the bishops to whom St. Alexander of Alexandria wrote warning them against Arius.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Caidoc and Fricor

7th century; they had four feast days at Centula: January 24, March 31, April 1, and May 30. The Irishmen Caidoc and Fricor evangelized the country of the Morini in Picardy, northern France, beginning about 622. Among the souls they won for Christ was the nobleman Riquier (Saint Ricarius), who intervened when some locals to offense to their preaching and took them into his home. Riquier became a fervent Christian, who engaged in penitential austerities and eventually was ordained. In 625, Riquier founded Centula based on the Rule of Columbanus, another Irishman. Their relics are still venerated at the parish church of Saint-Riquier in the diocese of Amiens, although they rested in Centula until the 17th century. Saints Caidoc and Fricor joined Riquier's community and remained there until they were buried in Saint Riquier's church

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem the Syrian (Classical Syriac: ܡܪܝ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ (Mār Aprêm Sûryāyâ); Greek: Ἐφραίμ ὁ Σῦρος; Latin: Ephraem Syrus; ca. 306 – 373) was a deacon and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century from the region of Syria. His works are hailed by Christians throughout the world, and many denominations venerate him as a saint. He has been declared a Doctor of the Church in Roman Catholicism. He is especially beloved in the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as prose biblical exegesis. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the church in troubled times. So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphal works in his name. Ephrem's works witness to an early form of Christianity in which Western ideas take little part. He has been called the most significant of all of the fathers of the Syriac-speaking church tradition.

Ephrem was born around the year 306 in the city of Nisibis (the modern Turkish town of Nusaybin, on the border with Syria, in the Roman province of Mesopotamia, which had come into Roman hands only in 298). Internal evidence from Ephrem's hymnody suggests that both his parents were part of the growing Christian community in the city, although later hagiographers wrote that his father was a pagan priest. Numerous languages were spoken in the Nisibis of Ephrem's day, mostly dialects of Aramaic. The Christian community used the Syriac dialect. The culture included pagan religions, Judaism and early Christian sects.
Jacob, the second bishop of Nisibis, was appointed in 308, and Ephrem grew up under his leadership of the community. Jacob of Nisibis is recorded as a signatory at the First Council of Nicea in 325. Ephrem was baptized as a youth and almost certainly became a son of the covenant, an unusual form of Syrian proto-monasticism. Jacob appointed Ephrem as a teacher (Syriac malp̄ānâ, a title that still carries great respect for Syriac Christians). He was ordained as a deacon either at his baptism or later. He began to compose hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational office. In his hymns, he sometimes refers to himself as a "herdsman" (ܥܠܢܐ, ‘allānâ), to his bishop as the "shepherd" (ܪܥܝܐ, rā‘yâ), and to his community as a 'fold' (ܕܝܪܐ, dayrâ). Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which, in later centuries, was the centre of learning of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

In 337, Emperor Constantine I, who had legalised and promoted the practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire, died. Seizing on this opportunity, Shapur II of Persia began a series of attacks into Roman North Mesopotamia. Nisibis was besieged in 338, 346 and 350. During the first siege, Ephrem credits Bishop Jacob as defending the city with his prayers. In the third siege, of 350, Shapur rerouted the River Mygdonius to undermine the walls of Nisibis. The Nisibenes quickly repaired the walls while the Persian elephant cavalry became bogged down in the wet ground. Ephrem celebrated what he saw as the miraculous salvation of the city in a hymn that portrayed Nisibis as being like Noah's Ark, floating to safety on the flood.
One important physical link to Ephrem's lifetime is the baptistery of Nisibis. The inscription tells that it was constructed under Bishop Vologeses in 359. In that year, Shapur attacked again. The cities around Nisibis were destroyed one by one, and their citizens killed or deported. Constantius II was unable to respond; the campaign of Julian in 363 ended with his death in battle. His army elected Jovian as the new emperor, and to rescue his army, he was forced to surrender Nisibis to Persia (also in 363) and to permit the expulsion of the entire Christian population.
Ephrem, with the others, went first to Amida (Diyarbakır), eventually settling in Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa) in 363. Ephrem, in his late fifties, applied himself to ministry in his new church and seems to have continued his work as a teacher, perhaps in the School of Edessa. Edessa had always been at the heart of the Syriac-speaking world, and the city was full of rival philosophies and religions. Ephrem comments that orthodox Nicene Christians were simply called "Palutians" in Edessa, after a former bishop. Arians, Marcionites, Manichees, Bardaisanites and various gnostic sects proclaimed themselves as the true church. In this confusion, Ephrem wrote a great number of hymns defending Nicene orthodoxy. A later Syriac writer, Jacob of Serugh, wrote that Ephrem rehearsed all-female choirs to sing his hymns set to Syriac folk tunes in the forum of Edessa. After a ten-year residency in Edessa, in his sixties, Ephrem succumbed to the plague as he ministered to its victims. The most reliable date for his death is 9 June 373

Saturday, April 5, 2014

St. Mamertinus of Auxerre

Bishop and convert of St. Germanus. He also served as abbot of Sts. Damien and Cosmas monastery at Auxerre, France.
Saint Mamertinus of Auxerre (French: Saint Mamert) (d. ~462 AD) was a monk and abbot. He was converted by Germanus of Auxerre and became a monk at the monastery of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Auxerre. He later served as its abbot.

Friday, April 4, 2014

St. Achatius

Achatius, also known as Acacius; the facts of his life are uncertain. He may have been bishop of Antioch or of Militene and may not have been a bishop at all. He was prominent in Christian circles in Antioch and when summoned to appear before the local Roman official, Martian, a dialogue on Christianity and it's teachings as compared to other religions ensued, which has come down to us. Achatius refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, and when he would not supply the names of his fellow Christians, was sent to prison. Supposedly when Emperor Decius received Martian's report of the trial he was so impressed by both men that he promoted Martian and pardoned Achatius. Though listed as a martyr there is no evidence he died for the faith.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Saint Bercharius

Saint Bercharius (Bererus; French: Berchaire) (636 – March 28, 696) was abbot of Hautvillers in Champagne. Descended from a distinguished Aquitanian family, he received his instruction from Saint Nivard (Nivo), Archbishop of Reims.

Bercharius entered the monastery of Luxeuil under Saint Walbert, and soon stood out from the rest of his fellow-novices. Upon his return to Reims he persuaded Saint Nivard to establish the monastery of Hautvillers. Bercharius himself became the first abbot. Entirely given up to prayer and meditation he also instructed his brethren to lead a contemplative life.

He founded two religious houses in the Diocese of Châlons-sur-Marne, the one (Puisye or Montier-en-Der Abbey) for men, the other (Pellmoutier or Puellarum Monasterium) for women. These institutions he enriched by donations of valuable relics, procured on a journey to Rome and the Holy Land.

The monk Daguin, provoked by a reprimand from Bercharius, stabbed him during the night. According to one account, Bercharius did not condemn or complain about the injury he received, but instead asked Daguin to perform penance and to make a pilgrimage to Rome to obtain pardon and absolution. Daguin left the monastery never to return. After two days of severe suffering, the saint succumbed to his wound, and was considered a martyr.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bl. Benvenuto of Gubbio

Benvenuto, a knight of Gubbio, Italy, was so moved by the preaching of Saint Francis of Assisi that afterwards he presented himself to the saint, dressed in his military uniform, begging admission to his order as a lay brother. Francis welcomed the new recruit. As a Franciscan, Benvenuto excelled in the virtues of humility, purity, obedience, and self-denial. Having volunteered for work in a leper-hospital, he carried out the most unpleasant tasks and attended to the patients’ needs with great cheerfulness, in the hope that his joyful demeanor would comfort the invalids. As a man of prayer, Benvenuto spent whole nights praying before the Blessed Sacrament for the conversion of sinners. At Mass he experienced visions of the Christ Child. He also exhibited a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Toward the end of his life, he was stricken with a grave illness, which he bore with great patience.

St. Polycarp of Alexandria

Martyr of Egypt. He was put to death at Alexandria, Egypt, during the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian. Polycarp was cruelly tortured and then beheaded.

Polycarp (Greek: Πολύκαρπος, Polýkarpos; AD 69–155) was a 2nd-century Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him. Polycarp is regarded as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.
It is recorded by Irenaeus, who heard him speak in his youth, and by Tertullian, that he had been a disciple of John the Apostle. Saint Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a disciple of John and that John had ordained him bishop of Smyrna.
The early tradition that expanded upon the Martyrdom to link Polycarp in competition and contrast with John the Apostle who, though many people had tried to kill him, was not martyred but died of old age after being exiled to the island of Patmos, is embodied in the Coptic language fragmentary papyri (the "Harris fragments") dating to the 3rd to 6th centuries. Frederick Weidmann, their editor, interprets the "Harris fragments" as Smyrnan hagiography addressing Smyrna-Ephesus church rivalries, which "develops the association of Polycarp and John to a degree unwitnessed, so far as we know, either before or since".The fragments echo the Martyrology, and diverge from it.
With Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers. The sole surviving work attributed to his authorship is his Letter to the Philippians; it is first recorded by Irenaeus of Lyons.

The sole surviving work attributed to him is Polycarp's letter to the Philippians, a mosaic of references to the Greek Scriptures, preserved in Irenaeus' account of Polycarp's life. It, and an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp that takes the form of a circular letter from the church of Smyrna to the churches of Pontus, form part of the collection of writings Roman Catholics term "The Apostolic Fathers" to emphasize their particular closeness to the apostles in Church traditions. Outside of the Book of Acts which contains the death of Saint Stephen, the Martyrdom is considered one of the earliest genuine accounts of a Christian martyrdom, and is one of the very few genuine accounts from the actual age of the persecutions.
Life

There are two chief sources of information concerning the life of Polycarp: the letter of the Smyrnaeans recounting the martyrdom of Polycarp and the passages in Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses. Other sources are the epistles of Ignatius, which include one to Polycarp and another to the Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp's own letter to the Philippians. Other sources, such as Pionius' Life of Polycarp or excerpts from Tertullian and Eusebius of Caesarea are considered largely unhistorical or based on previous material. In 1999, some third to 6th century Coptic fragments about Polycarp were also published.
Papias
According to Irenaeus, Polycarp was a companion of Papias, another "hearer of John" as Irenaeus interprets Papias' testimony, and a correspondent of Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius addressed a letter to him, and mentions him in his letters to the Ephesians and to the Magnesians.
Irenaeus regarded the memory of Polycarp as a link to the apostolic past. He relates how and when he became a Christian, and in his letter to Florinus stated that he saw and heard Polycarp personally in lower Asia. In particular, he heard the account of Polycarp's discussion with John and with others who had seen Jesus. Irenaeus also reports that Polycarp was converted to Christianity by apostles, was consecrated a bishop, and communicated with many who had seen Jesus. He repeatedly emphasizes the very great age of Polycarp.
Visit to Anicetus
According to Irenaeus, during the time his fellow Syrian, Anicetus, was the Pope, or Bishop of Rome, in the 150s or 160, Polycarp visited Rome to discuss the differences that existed between Asia and Rome "with regard to certain things" and especially about the time of the Easter festivals. Irenaeus said that on certain things the two bishops speedily came to an understanding, while as to the time of Easter, each adhered to his own custom, without breaking off communion with the other. Pope Anicetus—the Roman sources offering it as a mark of special honor—allowed Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his own church. They might have found their customs for observing the Christian Passover differed, Polycarp following the eastern practice of celebrating the feast on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week it fell.
Date of martyrdom


Polycarp miraculously extinguishing the fire burning the city of Smyrna
In the Martyrdom, Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong", which could indicate that he was then eighty-six years old or that he may have lived eighty-six years after his conversion. Polycarp goes on to say, "How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt." Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. The date of Polycarp's death is in dispute. Eusebius dates it to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, c. 166–167. However, a post-Eusebian addition to the Martyrdom of Polycarp dates his death to Saturday, February 23, in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus—which works out to be 155 or 156. These earlier dates better fit the tradition of his association with Ignatius and John the Evangelist. However, the addition to the Martyrdom cannot be considered reliable on only its own merits. Lightfoot would argue for the earlier date of Polycarp's death, with which Killen would strongly disagree. In addition, some have proposed a date in 177. However the earlier date of 156 is generally accepted.
Great Sabbath

Because the Smyrnaean letter known as the Martyrdom of Polycarp states that Polycarp was taken on the day of the Sabbath and killed on the Great Sabbath, some believe that this is evidence that the Smyrnaeans under Polycarp observed the seventh day Sabbath.
William Cave wrote "... the Sabbath or 'Saturday' (for so the word sabbatum is constantly used in the writings of the fathers, when speaking of it as it relates to Christians) was held by them in great veneration, and especially in the Eastern parts honoured with all the public solemnities of religion. This is plain, not only from some passages in Ignatius and Clemens's Constitutions, but from writers of more unquestionable credit and authority. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, tells us that they assembled on Saturdays... to worship Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath."
Some feel that the expression the Great Sabbath refers to the Christian Passover or another annual holy day. If so, then Polycarp's martyrdom would have had to occur at least a month after the traditional February 23 dating since according to the Hebrew calendar the earliest time Nisan 14, the date of the Passover, can fall on in any given year is late March. Other "Great Sabbaths" (if this is referring to what are commonly considered to be Jewish holy days, though observed by many early professors of Christ) come in the spring, late summer, and the fall. None occur in winter.
It is claimed that the "Great Sabbath" is alluded to in John 7:37. Here it is referred to as "the last day, that great day of the feast" and is a separate annual holy day immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles. Others argue that the gospel writer is referring to the seventh day of the Feast and later refers to the Eighth Day or annual Sabbath in John 9:14. It is more likely that the "Great Sabbath," as referred to in the Martyrdom of Polycarp is alluded to in John 19:31 which points out "that [weekly] Sabbath day" following the "[day of the] preparation" was a "high day" or "great." In any event, however, it is disputable whether such biblical references imply a common practice or just onetime events.
Importance

Polycarp occupies an important place in the history of the early Christian Church. He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive. Saint Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a "disciple of the apostle John and by him ordained bishop of Smyrna". He was an elder of an important congregation which was a large contributor to the founding of the Christian Church. He is from an era whose orthodoxy is widely accepted by Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Church of God groups, Sabbatarian groups, mainstream Protestants and Catholics alike. According to David Trobisch, Polycarp may have been the one who compiled, edited, and published the New Testament. All of this makes his writings of great interest.
Irenaeus, who had heard him preach in his youth, said of him: "a man who was of much greater weight, and a more steadfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics". Polycarp lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John: "a high value was attached to the witness Polycarp could give as to the genuine tradition of old apostolic doctrine", Wace commented, "his testimony condemning as offensive novelties the figments of the heretical teachers". Irenaeus states (iii. 3) that on Polycarp's visit to Rome, his testimony converted many disciples of Marcion and Valentinus.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Saint Benno

St. Benno, (1010-1106) bishop. Born in Hildesheim, Germany and educated in the abey of St. Michael, he bacame a canon at Gozlar in Hanover, chaplain to Emperor Henry III and in 1066 bishop of Meissen. He was imprisoned for a year for backing the nobility againsty Henry IV supported Pope Gregory VII was desposed by the bishops who sold out to the emperor shifted his allegiance to the antipope Guibert and appears to have been heavily enmeshed in contemporary pollitics. Sources however are untrustworthy. In his last years he was a missioner to the Wends. He was canonized in 1523. Feast day June 16.

St. Melito of Sardis

Little is known about the life of St. Melito of Sardis, a II Century exegete and apologist who served as bishop of Sardis near Lydia, Asia Minor (near modern Izmir, ancient Smyrna). Thought to have been a hermit and a eunuch, he travelled in Palestine, but the reasons for his journey and the details of his itinerary are lost. Most of his work is also lost. What little survives exists in quotations in the works of others or in fragments. Eusebius preserves Melito's list of Old Testament scriptures, the first such list known to scholars, and fragments of his discourse recommending that Marcus Aurelius adopt Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Melito's best-known work is the Peri-Pascha, a Holy (Good) Friday sermon pieced together from manuscript fragments in the XX Century which shows parallels between Easter (the new passover) and the Passover haggadah. Melito's contemporaries praise his skill in exegesis and comment on his ability to demonstrate parallels between the Old and New Testaments. His contemporaries also called Melito a prophet or a beacon, but his rhetorical style caused later writers to question the soundness of his theology, some of which seems to akin to the philosophy of the Stoics. Melito's work, which fell out of favor in the IV Century, influenced the thinking of Irenæus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian.