March 31: John Donne, Priest, 1631

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“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for thee.”

These words are familiar to many; their author, John Donne, though less well known, is one of the greatest of English poets. In his own time, he was the best-known preacher in the Church of England. He came to that eminence by a tortuous path. Born into a wealthy and pious Roman Catholic family in 1573, he was educated at both Oxford and Cambridge, and studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. Some time later he conformed to the Established Church and embarked upon a promising political career of service to the State. The revelation of his secret marriage in 1601 to the niece of his employer, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, brought his public career to an end. In 1615, he was persuaded by King James I and others to receive ordination.

Following several brief cures, Donne rose rapidly in popularity as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, from 1622 until his death. He drew great throngs to the Cathedral and to Paul’s Cross, a nearby open-air pulpit. His sermons reflect the wide learning of the scholar, the passionate intensity of the poet, and the profound devotion of one struggling in his own life to relate the freedom and demands of the Gospel to the concerns of a common humanity, on every level, and in all its complexities.

In one of his poems, he wrote:

We thinke that Paradise and Calvarie,

Christs Crosse, and Adams tree, stood in one place;

Looke, Lord, and finde both Adams met in me;

As the first Adams sweat surrounds my face

May the last Adams blood my soule embrace.

 

So, in his purple wrapp’d receive mee Lord,

By these his thornes give me his other Crowne;

And as to others soules I preach’d thy word,

Be this my Text, my Sermon to my owne.

Therefore that he may raise the Lord throws down.

Collects

I     Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II     Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Wisdom 7:24-8:1

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

John 5:19-24

Psalm 27:5-11

Preface of the Epiphany

 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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March 30: Innocent of Alaska, Bishop, 1879

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Innocent, whose secular name was John Veniaminov, was born in 1797 in the village of Anginskoye, Verkholensk District, in the Irkutsk province of Russia.

In 1823, Michael, the Bishop of Irkutsk, was instructed by the Holy Synod to send a priest to the island of Unalaska in the Aleutians. Following only two years of service as a parish priest, John Veniaminov volunteered for the mission to the Aleutian islands. In May of 1823, John, his wife, his infant son, and his brother Stefan set forth on their long and arduous journey, which took more than a year.

He immediately began the work of evangelism and conversion that would last nearly fifty years and would lead to his being called “The Apostle of North America.” He taught the islanders to be carpenters, blacksmiths, and bricklayers, and with their help, he built a church for the local people.

John Veniaminov’s parish included not only the island of Unalaska, but also the Fox Islands and Pribilof Islands, whose inhabitants had been converted to Christianity before his arrival. He became familiar with the language and dialects of the people he served, traveling the icy waters between the islands in a canoe. Choosing the most widespread of these dialects, the Aleut language of the Fox Islands, he devised a Cyrillic alphabet for it, and translated into it the Gospel of Matthew and many of the most used hymns and prayers.

In 1829, with the blessing of the Bishop of Irkutsk, he traveled to Nushagak on the American mainland, where he preached the Gospel to the peoples of the Bering seacoast. In 1834 he was transferred to Sitka Island where he began his mission work with the Tlingit people. Despite their faithful adherence to their own customs and traditions, he learned their language and converted many of them to Christ.

Innocent of Alaska, as he came to be known, was loved and respected by the peoples he served, and his work laid the foundation for a continuing mission to the people of the Aleutian Islands.

Collects

I     Holy Immortal One, who didst bless thy people by calling Innocent from leading thy Church in Russia to be an apostle and light to the people of Alaska, and to proclaim the dispensation and grace of God: Guide our steps, that as he did labor humbly in danger and hardship, we may witness to the Gospel of Christ wherever we are led, and serve thee as gladly in privation as in power; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, to the ages of ages.  Amen.

II     Holy Immortal One, you blessed your people by calling Innocent from leading your Church in Russia to be an apostle and light to the people of Alaska, and to proclaim the dispensation and grace of God: Guide our steps, that as he labored humbly in danger and hardship, we may witness to the Gospel of Christ wherever we are led, and serve you as gladly in privation as in power; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, to the ages of ages.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 41: 17-20

Philippians 1:3-11

Mark 3: 7-15

Psalm 148: 7-13

Preface of Pentecost

 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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March 29: John Keble, Priest, 1866

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New ev’ry morning is the love

Our wakening and uprising prove:

Through sleep and darkness safely brought,

Restored to life and power and thought.

These familiar words of John Keble are from his cycle of poems entitled The Christian Year (1827), which he wrote to restore among Anglicans a deep feeling for the Church Year. The work went through ninety-five editions, but this was not the fame he sought: his consuming desire was to be a faithful pastor, who finds his fulfillment in daily services, confirmation classes, visits to village schools, and a voluminous correspondence with those seeking spiritual counsel.

Keble, born in 1792, received his early education in his father’s vicarage. At fourteen, he won a scholarship to Oxford and graduated in 1811 with highest honors. He served the University in several capacities, including ten years as Professor of Poetry. After ordination in 1816 he had a series of rural curacies, and finally settled in 1836 into a thirty-year pastorate at the village of Hursley, near Winchester.

England was going through a turbulent change from a rural to an industrial and urban society. Among the reforms of the 1830’s, Parliament acted to abolish ten Anglican bishoprics in Ireland. Keble vigorously attacked this action as undermining the independence of the Church.

His Assize Sermon of 1833 was the spark that ignited the Oxford Movement. Those drawn to the Movement began to publish a series of “Tracts for the Times” (hence the popular name “Tractarians”)— which sought to recall the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage. John Henry Newman was the intellectual leader of the Movement, Edward Bouverie Pusey was the prophet of its devotional life, and John Keble was its pastoral inspiration.

Though bitterly attacked, his loyalty to his Church was unwavering. Within three years of his death at age 74, a college bearing his name was established at Oxford “to give an education in strict fidelity to the Church of England.” For Keble, this would have meant dedication to learning in order “to live more nearly as we pray.”

Collects

I     Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know thy presence and obey thy will; that, following the example of thy servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage that which thou givest us to do, and endure that which thou givest us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II     Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Romans 12: 9-21

Matthew 5:1-12

Psalm 26: 1-8

Preface of a Saint (I)

 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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March 27: Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York, 1929

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Charles Henry Brent was born in Canada in 1862 and was educated at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Ordained in Canada, he came to the United States where, in 1901, he was elected by the House of Bishops as Missionary Bishop of the Philippines. In the Philippines, he began a crusade against the opium traffic, a campaign he later expanded to the continent of Asia. He became President of the Opium Conference in Shanghai in 1909, and represented the United States on the League of Nations Narcotics Committee. He also established cordial relations with the Philippine Independent Church, which led, ultimately, to intercommunion with that Church.

Bishop Brent served as Senior Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, and in 1918 he accepted election as Bishop of Western New York, having declined three previous elections in order to remain at his post in the Philippines.

Brent was the outstanding figure of the Episcopal Church on the world scene for two decades. The central focus of his life and ministry was the cause of Christian unity. After attending the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910, he led the Episcopal Church in the movement that culminated in the first World Conference on Faith and Order, which was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1927, and over which he presided. He died in 1929.

James Thayer Addison, the historian, described Brent as “a saint of disciplined mental vigor, one whom soldiers were proud to salute and whom children were happy to play with, who could dominate a parliament and minister to an invalid, a priest and bishop who gloried in the heritage of his Church, yet who stood among all Christian brothers as one who served … He was everywhere an ambassador of Christ.”

Brent was also a man of prayer. One of his prayers for the mission of the Church has been included in the Book of Common Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us with your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.”

Collects

I     Heavenly Father, whose Son did pray that we all might be one: Deliver us, we beseech thee, from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following thy servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II     Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one: Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 56:6-8

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Matthew 9:35-38

Psalm 122

Preface of Pentecost

 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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March 26: Richard Allen First Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1831

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Richard Allen was born into slavery in 1760 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Allen, his parents, and his siblings were eventually sold to owner Stokely Sturgis, whose plantation was in Delaware. The Methodists were already active in Delaware, and Sturgis allowed Allen to attend church. At the age of 17, Richard underwent a classic conversion experience: “I cried to the Lord both day and night,” Allen said. “All of a sudden my dungeon shook, my chains flew off, and, glory to God, I cried.”

Allen brought members of the Methodist Church into his master’s home, where Sturgis heard a sermon by the great Methodist preacher Freeborn Garrettson. Sturgis was himself converted, and he allowed Allen to hire himself out and purchase his freedom; five years later, Richard Allen was a free man.

In 1786, Allen became a preacher at St. George’s United Methodist Church, but he was restricted to preaching at early morning services. Eventually, as black membership increased, the vestry decided to build a segregated section for black worshippers. Allen, along with his friend Absalom Jones, resented the segregation of his fellow black Christians, and in 1787, Allen and Jones led black worshippers out of St. George’s in protest.

While Jones and many of those associated with him joined the Episcopal Church, Allen wanted to continue in his Methodist religion. He had been cooperating with Bishop Francis Asbury to spread Methodism among African Americans, and in 1794 he founded Bethel Church in Philadelphia. When the newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church declared its independence, Allen became its first Bishop.

Throughout his life, Richard Allen remained an advocate of freedom for all people, even operating a station on the underground railroad for escaped slaves. His ardent belief in the brotherhood of all who belonged to Christ is best expressed in one of the many hymns he wrote:

Why do they then appear so mean

And why so much despised?

Because of their rich robes unseen

The world is not appriz’d.

Collects

I     Loving God, whose servant Richard Allen was born a slave but in thee learned that he was thy beloved child by adoption in Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit was led to proclaim liberty to his captive people: Give us strength to proclaim thy freedom to the captives of our world; through Jesus Christ, Savior of all, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II     Loving God, your servant Richard Allen was born a slave, but in you he learned that he was your beloved child by adoption in Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit was led to proclaim liberty to his captive people: Give us strength to proclaim your freedom to the captives of our world; through Jesus Christ, Savior of all, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Exodus 6:1-11

Acts 12:1-11

John 7:25-31

Psalm 136:1-2, 10-16

Preface of Baptism

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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March 24: Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980

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Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdémez was born on August 15, 1917, in San Salvador. At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a carpenter, but was later able to attend seminary. His family’s economic circumstances forced him to withdraw to work in a gold mine. Ultimately he entered another seminary and was eventually sent to the Gregorian University in Rome to study theology. After his ordination to the priesthood, he returned to his native land, where he worked among the poor, served as an administrator for the Church, and started an Alcoholics Anonymous group in San Miguel.

When he was appointed a bishop, radicals distrusted his conservative sympathies. However, after his appointment as Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, a progressive Jesuit friend of his, Rutilio Grande, was assassinated, and Romero began protesting the government’s injustice to the poor and its policies of torture. He met with Pope John Paul II in 1980 and complained that the leaders of El Salvador engaged in terror and assassinations. He also pleaded with the American government to stop military aid to his country, but this request was ignored.

Romero was shot to death while celebrating Mass at a small chapel near his cathedral on March 24, 1980. The previous day, he preached a sermon calling on soldiers to disobey orders that violated human rights. He had said, “A bishop will die, but the Church of God which is the people will never perish.” The Roman Catholic Church declared him “a servant of God,” and he is honored as a martyr by many Christian denominations worldwide.

Almost nine months after Romero’s assassination, four Maryknoll nuns were also killed in the course of their duties by the El Salvadoran army. Nine Jesuit priests were similarly murdered in November of 1989. A statue of Romero stands at the door of Westminster Abbey as part of a commemoration of twentieth-century martyrs.

Collects

I     Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Óscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

II     Almighty God, you called your servant Óscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 2:5-7

Revelation 7:13-17

John 12:23-32

Psalm 31: 15-24

Preface of a Saint (3)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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March 23: Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332

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Armenia was the first nation-state to become officially Christian, and this set a precedent for the adoption of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine. As a buffer state between the more powerful empires of Rome and Persia, Armenia endured many shifts of policy, as first one and then the other empire took it “under protection.”

The accounts of Gregory, known as the Illuminator and as Apostle of the Armenians, are a mixture of legend and fact. He was born about 257. After his father assassinated the Persian King Chosroes I, the infant boy was rescued and taken to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was brought up as a Christian. He married a woman named Mary, who bore him two sons. About 280, he returned to Armenia, and succeeded, after experiencing various fortunes of honor and imprisonment, in converting King Tiridates to his faith. With the help of the King the country was Christianized, and paganism was rooted out. About 300, Gregory was ordained a bishop at Caesarea. He established his cathedral at Valarshapat, with his center of work nearby at Echmiadzin, now in Armenia, and still the spiritual center of Armenian Christianity.

There is no record that Gregory attended the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325, but a tradition records that he sent in his stead his younger son Aristages, whom he ordained as his successor. His last years were spent in solitude, and he died about 332.

Collects

I     Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II     Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lessons

Job 42: 10-12

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 5:11-16

Psalm 119: 153-160

Preface of Apostles

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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