Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Two Songs, Hannah and Mary

Two songs, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, draw comparisons - with good reason.  “Hannah’s Song” appeared in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, and is regarded in Judaism as the prime model for how to pray.  A thousand years later, “Mary’s Song of Praise” was preserved in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55).

Hannah giving her son Samuel to the priest by Jan Victors, 1645. According to the biblical account, Hannah sang her song when she presented Samuel to Eli the priest. 

Hannah’s Song

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (KJV)

And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.

There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.

They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.

The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.

The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them.

He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Mary’s Song

Madonna del Magnificat, is a painting of circular or tondo form by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). It is now in the galleries of the Uffizi, in Florence.  The work portrays the Virgin Mary crowned by two angels. She is writing the opening of the Magnificat on the right-hand page of a book; on the left page is part of the Benedictus. In her left hand she holds a pomegranate.

This version of the Magnificat, adapted from Luke’s Gospel, appears in the Book of Common Prayer:

My soul doth magnify the Lord.

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden: For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.

He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel:

As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. 


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Celebrating Saint Anastasia, the Deliverer from Potions

Today is the day of celebration for the life and service of Saint Anastasia, the “Deliverer from Potions.”

The holy and most brave martyr Anastasia lived in Rome at the time of the Emperor Diocletian (284-305). She was the daughter of a pagan, by the name of Praetextatus. Her mother, however, whose name was Fausta, was a Christian and so Anastasia was taught the faith in Christ by her. And, moreover, Fausta gave her daughter into the care of Chrysogonos, a godly and devout man, who taught her the Scriptures.

Anastasia married a pagan called Puplius though she felt no uxorial love for him, because he did not believe in Christ. And so she would not agree to conjugal relations with him, but rather pretended to be constantly ill. He did not realize, but Anastasia was secretly doing tasks which were pleasing to God: she wore a tunic that was simple and cheap, would meet with women who had various needs and provide them with all possible assistance. Moreover, accompanied by a single servant, she would go to prisons where Christians were being held, suffering for Christ, and would bring them great relief: she would undo their chains, anoint their wounds and gently sponge away the blood; she would also provide them with appropriate and necessary food.

One day, however, her husband Puplius was told about all this and he had his wife imprisoned. Anastasia was very sad about this, because it interrupted her God-pleasing efforts. Later, however, as Puplius was on a voyage somewhere, his ship foundered and he was drowned during a mighty storm. Free now of all hindrance, Anastasia first of all distributed her belongings among the poor. Then, less fearful than she had been, she offered her services to those who were suffering for Christ: she collected the holy relics of those who had been killed and gave them an orderly burial; she strengthened many in the faith; and she prepared them for martyrdom for Christ.

Because of these activities and her faith in Christ, Anastasia was arrested by the pagans and, after being interrogated and tortured by various local leaders, was thrown into the sea, together with other women. But by the miraculous intervention of God, she was saved and washed up on the coast. The governor who had given the order for her to be drowned was furious when he learned that the saint had come to no harm. He therefore instructed the executioners to tie her to wooden stakes and light a fire all around her, to burn her, an order they carried out to the letter. And so the holy martyr Anastasia ended her life and was crowned by the Lord with the unfading garland of martyrdom.

Dismissal Hymn:

Your lamb cries out to You Jesus in a loud voice: “I long for You, my Bridegroom, and seeking You, I struggle. I am crucified and buried with You in Your baptism. I suffer for You, that I may reign with You and I die for You that I may live in You. Accept me, who am offered to You with longing, as a spotless sacrifice to You”. Through her intercessions, save our souls, by Your mercy.

Rather in the same way as the Dismissal Hymn for Saint Nicholas is used for a number of other hierarchs, this apolytikio is sung for many female martyrs.

It is likely that she was actually martyred in Sirmium, a prosperous imperial city in Serbia (today Sremska Mitrovica in Vojvodina) where she had gone, possibly with her mother, to comfort Christians there. This is entirely probable: between 251 and 285, eight Roman emperors were born in the city or in the surrounding district, and Diocletian himself was from neighbouring Dalmatia. It seems that she went to Sirmium from Aquileia, where she left her mentor Chrysogonos, who was later martyred there.

By a curious coincidence “Sirmium” is derived from the verb “to flow” and means something like “wetlands”; Aquileia was a town at the head of the Adriatic, near lagoons. Some time between 458 and 471, her relics were transferred to a church in Constantinople dedicated to the Resurrection (Anastasis) of Christ, which was then renamed for Saint Anastasia. Later the head and a foot were sent to the Patriarchal Monastery of Saint Anastasia, at Vasilika, near Thessaloniki. On the night of 23 April, 2012, however, they were stolen in a well-planned raid. Some of the miscreants were brought to trial in Thessaloniki in July 2013 and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but the relics have yet to be recovered. Her name “Deliverer from Potions” is connected to her protection from poisons and other harmful substances

Apolytikion of Great Martyr Anastasia of Rome in the Fourth Tone

O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.

Kontakion of Great Martyr Anastasia of Rome in the Second Tone

When they that are found in trials and adversities flee unto thy church O Anastasia, they receive the august and wondrous gifts of divine grace which doth abide in thee; for at all times, O Saint of God, thou pourest forth streams of healings for the world.

A writer for the Orthodox Church in America https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/1999/12/22/103609-greatmartyr-anastasia-the-deliverer-from-potions-her-teacher-mar gives another account of her life:

The Great Martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions, a Roman by birth, suffered for Christ at the time of Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. Her father was a pagan, but her mother was secretly a Christian. Saint Anastasia’s teacher in her youth was an educated and pious Christian named Chrysogonus. After the death of her mother, her father gave Saint Anastasia in marriage to a pagan named Publius, but feigning illness, she preserved her virginity.

Clothing herself in the garb of a beggar, and accompanied by only one servant, she visited the prisons. She fed, doctored and often ransomed captives who were suffering for their faith in Christ. 

When her servant told Publius about everything, he subjected his wife to a beating and locked her up at home. Saint Anastasia then began to correspond secretly with Chrysogonus, who told the saint to be patient, to cleave to the Cross of Christ, and to accept the Lord’s will. He also foretold the impending death of Publius in the sea. After a certain while Publius did indeed drown, as he was setting out with a delegation to Persia. After the death of her husband, Saint Anastasia began to distribute her property to the poor and suffering.

Diocletian was informed that the Christians who filled the prisons of Rome stoically endured tortures. He gave orders to kill them all in a single night, and for Chrysogonus to be sent to him at Aquileia. Saint Anastasia followed her teacher at a distance.

The emperor interrogated Chrysogonus personally, but could not make him renounce his faith. Therefore, he commanded that he be beheaded and thrown into the sea. The body and severed head of the holy martyr were carried to shore by the waves. There by divine Providence, the relics were found by a presbyter named Zoilus who placed them in a coffer, and concealed them at his home.

Saint Chrysogonus appeared to Zoilus and informed him that martyrdom was at hand for Agape, Chione and Irene (April 16), three sisters who lived nearby. He told him to send Saint Anastasia to them to encourage them. Saint Chrysogonus foretold that Zoilus would also die on the same day. Nine days later, the words of Saint Chrysogonus were fulfilled. Zoilus fell asleep in the Lord, and Saint Anastasia visited the three maidens before their tortures. When these three martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord, she buried them.

Having carried out her teacher’s request, the saint went from city to city ministering to Christian prisoners. Proficient in the medical arts of the time, she zealously cared for captives far and wide, healing their wounds and relieving their suffering. Because of her labors, Saint Anastasia received the name Deliverer from Potions (Pharmakolytria), since by her intercessions she has healed many from the effects of potions, poisons, and other harmful substances.

She made the acquaintance of the pious young widow Theodota, finding in her a faithful helper. Theodota was taken for questioning when it was learned that she was a Christian. Meanwhile, Saint Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum. This occurred just after all the Christian captives there had been murdered in a single night by order of Diocletian. Saint Anastasia had come to one of the prisons, and finding no one there, she began to weep loudly. The jailers realized that she was a Christian and took her to the prefect of the district, who tried to persuade her to deny Christ by threatening her with torture. After his unsuccessful attempts to persuade Saint Anastasia to offer sacrifice to idols, he handed her over to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome.

The cunning pagan offered Saint Anastasia the choice between luxury and riches, or grievous sufferings. He set before her gold, precious stones and fine clothing, and also fearsome instruments of torture. The crafty man was put to shame by the bride of Christ. Saint Anastasia refused the riches and chose the tools of torture.

But the Lord prolonged the earthly life of the saint, and Ulpian gave her three days to reconsider. Charmed by Anastasia’s beauty, the pagan priest decided to defile her purity. However, when he tried to touch her he suddenly became blind. His head began to ache so severely that he screamed like a madman. He asked to be taken to a pagan temple to appeal to the idols for help, but on the way he fell down and died.

Saint Anastasia was set free and she and Theodota again devoted themselves to the care of imprisoned Christians. Before long, Saint Theodota and her three sons accepted a martyrdom. Her eldest son, Evodus, stood bravely before the judge and endured beatings without protest. After lengthy torture, they were all thrown into a red-hot oven.

Saint Anastasia was caught again and condemned to death by starvation. She remained in prison without food for sixty days. Saint Theodota appeared to the martyr every night and gave her courage. Seeing that hunger caused Saint Anastasia no harm whatsoever, the judge sentenced her to drowning together with other prisoners. Among them was Eutychianus, who was condemned for his Christian faith.

The prisoners were put into a boat which went out into the open sea. The soldiers bored holes in the boat and got into a galley. Saint Theodota appeared to the captives and steered the ship to shore. When they reached dry land, 120 men believed in Christ and were baptized by Saints Anastasia and Eutychianus. All were captured and received a martyr’s crown. Saint Anastasia was stretched between four pillars and burned alive. A certain pious woman named Apollinaria buried her body, which was unharmed by the fire, in the garden outside her house.

In the fifth century the relics of Saint Anastasia were transferred to Constantinople, where a church was built and dedicated to her. Later the head and a hand of the Great Martyr were transferred to the monastery of Saint Anastasia [Deliverer from Potions], near Mount Athos.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Leftist Utopia Foretold

Drag Queen "Story Hour" at the public library

His crystal ball was working pretty well when Paul Harvey prepared his 1966 commentary, "If I Were the Devil."  And half of America thinks it is just dandy:

If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee.

So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers.

With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.”

To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square.

And the old, I would teach to pray after me, “Our Father, which are in Washington …”

Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting.

I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed.

And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions.

I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and them from the houses of Congress.

In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.

What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be.

And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.