MONDAY THE TWENTY-SECOND OF JANUARY 2018
Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
( Thomas Aquinas )
Abide with us, our Saviour,
nor let your mercy cease;
from Satan’s might defend us,
and grant our souls release.
Abide with us, our Saviour,
sustain us by your word,
that we may, now and ever,
find peace in you, O Lord.
Abide with us, our Saviour,
O light of endless light;
increase to us your blessings,
and save us by your might.
( Joshua Stegmann )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Agnes of Rome: too young to die, but fearless in death
Yesterday was the ancient feast day of Agnes, a Christian martyr who died at Rome around 304 AD in the persecution of Diocletian: the last and fiercest of the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman emperors. Her name means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin. She is said to have been only about twelve or thirteen when she died, and the remains preserved in Saint Agnes' Church in Rome are in agreement with this.
Agnes was born into nobility. Her family was Christian. Christians were still outlawed in Diocletian’s Empire, but the fact of her parentage shows how far Christianity had spread within the Roman Empire. In the Roman culture, daughters of nobility were often wed by the age of fourteen. And there were many who sought to marry Agnes. But she steadfastly refused them all.
Someone reported to the government that she was a Christian.
The Roman empire had grown corrupt, it’s bureaucracy bloated. There was a feeling that the ancient gods had turned against Rome. In such times, Christians often became subject to blame, since they rejected the ancient gods, and refused to take part in public worship. In order to gain the favour of the gods, Diocletian began the last and greatest persecution against Christians, and Agnes was caught up in it. She was ordered to be put to death, though only a youth. It is said that her execution shocked many Romans and helped bring an end to the persecutions.
Some said, “It is contrary to Roman law to put a virgin to death. Our leaders say that it is necessary to kill Christians in order to preserve the old Roman ways: but they are themselves scorning those ways in the process.”
Others asked, “Do young girls constitute such a threat to Rome that it is necessary to kill them?”
Many legends grew up around the manner of her death. We do not know whether she was stabbed to death or beheaded. Bystanders were amazed that such a young woman could be so fearless in facing death.
One of the dangers of religious fanaticism is the killing of children in the name of a god. Agnes gains new relevance for twenty-first century people when we see so many children killed to perpetuate some religious ideology.
Scripture. In the thirty-first chapter of "Jeremiah," at the fifteenth verse, we read:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.
... for peace in the world.
... for persecuted Christians; for Christians who may face violence and even death because of their faith in Jesus; in particular we pray for children caught up in the violence of religious hatred.
... for those undergoing invasive medical tests.
... for those who will be affected adversely by the government shutdown in the United States.
... for prison guards and all who routinely face physical attack at work.
... for those killed or injured during protests in the Democratic Republic of Congo DETAILS; for those killed or injured when police fired on a crowd of Christians attending a religious festival in Waldiya, northern Ethiopia DETAILS.
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
From "Is Theology Poetry?" by C. S. Lewis:
Theology, while saying that a special illumination has been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men. The divine light, we are told, “lighteneth every man.” We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story, the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth. And the differences between the pagan Christs (Balder, Osiris, etc.) and the Christ himself is much what we should expect to find.
The pagan stories are all about someone dying and rising, either every year, or else nobody knows where and nobody knows when. The Christian story is about a historical personage, whose execution can be dated pretty accurately, under a named Roman magistrate, and with whom the society that he founded is in a continuous relation down to the present day. It is not the difference between falsehood and truth. It is the difference between a real event on the one hand and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other. It is like watching something come gradually into focus; first it hangs in the clouds of myth and ritual, vast and vague, then it condenses, grows hard and in a sense small, as a historical event in first century Palestine.
Almighty and everlasting God, who choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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