Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Two Saints

One of the great gifts of our Anglican tradition is the keeping of a church year calendar. We mark seasons, commemorate saints days, feasts, fasts, and Christian brothers and sisters whose lives have been exemplary. There are two significant commemorations this week. On Tuesday, May 8th, we remember Dame Julian of Norwich (1342-1417) and, on May 9th, St. Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) . Below follows a bit of information about each of them.

The Lady Julian (or Juliana) was born about 1342, and when she was thirty years old, she became gravely ill and was expected to die. Then, on the seventh day, the medical crisis passed, and she had a series of fifteen visions, or "showings," in which she was led to contemplate the Passion of Christ. These brought her great peace and joy. She became an anchoress, living in a small hut near to the church in Norwich, where she devoted the rest of her life to prayer and contemplation of the meaning of her visions. The results of her meditations she wrote in a book called Revelations of Divine Love, available in modern English in a Penguin Paperback edition. During her lifetime, she became known as a counselor, whose advice combined spiritual insight with common sense, and many persons came to speak with her. Since her death, many more have found help in her writings.The precise date of her death is uncertain.Her book is a tender meditation on God's eternal and all-embracing love, as expressed to us in the Passion of Christ.She describes seeing God holding a tiny thing in his hand, like a small brown nut, which seemed so fragile and insignificant that she wondered why it did not crumble before her eyes. She understood that the thing was the entire created universe, which is as nothing compared to its Creator, and she was told, "God made it, God loves it, God keeps it."She was concerned that sometimes when we are faced wiith a difficult moral decision, it seems that no matter which way we decide, we will have acted from motives that are less then completely pure, so that neither decision is defensible. She finally wrote: "It is enough to be sure of the deed. Our courteous Lord will deign to redeem the motive." Source: James Kiefer writing here. For additional information about Dame Julian, visit here and here.

Although the room where Julian lived and received visitors was destroyed during WW II,
it has been faithfully recreated.

The Second Commemoration of the Week (May 9) is Saint Gregory of Nazianzus
who, with Saints Athanasius, Basil, and John Chrysostom, is a Father of the Church and one of the four Eastern Doctors of the Church. He is known especially for his contributions to the theological definition of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. He, Basil, and Gregory of Nyssa are called the Cappadocian Fathers. Brought up in the Cappadocian town of Nazianzus (present-day Bekar, Turkey), where his father was bishop, Gregory as a young man was reluctant to take a position of responsibility in the church, retiring instead to a monastic community started by Basil in Pontus. He explained this action in his Defense of the Flight to Pontus, which became the basis for works on the priesthood by Saint John Chrysostom and Pope Gregory I. Gregory was consecrated a bishop in 371 but did not become actively involved in ecclesiastical affairs until he assumed leadership (379) of the orthodox community in Constantinople, at a time when the city was divided by controversy between rival Christian groups. He played a leading role at the first Council of Constantinople (381), which continued the definition of Christian teaching begun at the councils of Nicaea, but opposition at the council to Gregory's claim to the bishopric of Constantinople made him decide to return to Nazianzus. In 384 he again retired to monastic life, and died a few years later.

More about Gregory can be learned at here and here.

from ORATION 31

"To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceedeth from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons. For one is not more and another less God; nor is One before and another after; nor are They divided in will or parted in power; nor can you find here any of the qualities of divisible things; but the Godhead is, to speak concisely, undivided in separate Persons; and there is one mingling of Light, as it were of three suns joined to each other. When then we look at the Godhead, or the First Cause, or the Monarchia, that which we conceive is One; but when we look at the Persons in Whom the Godhead dwells, and at Those Who timelessly and with equal glory have their Being from the First Cause--there are Three Whom we worship."

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