The Lord is the king of martyrs: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: Red.
St Irenaeus (130 - 202)
Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor (now Izmir in Turkey) and emigrated to Lyons, in France, where he eventually became the bishop. It is not known for certain whether he was martyred or died a natural death.
Whenever we take up a Bible we touch Irenaeus’s work, for he played a decisive role in fixing the canon of the New Testament. It is easy for people nowadays to think of Scripture – and the New Testament in particular – as the basis of the Church, but harder to remember that it was the Church itself that had to agree, early on, about what was scriptural and what was not.
Before Irenaeus, there was vague general agreement on what scripture was, but a system based on this kind of common consent was too weak. As people meditated on the intolerable event of the Redemption, dissensions and heresies inevitably arose, and reference to scripture was the obvious way of trying to settle what the truth really was. But in the absence of an agreed canon of scripture it was all too easy to attack one’s opponent’s arguments by saying that his texts were corrupt or unscriptural; and easy, too, to do a little fine-tuning of texts on one’s own behalf.
So Irenaeus went through all the books of the New Testament, and all the candidates (such as the magical pseudo-Gospels, and the entertaining and uplifting novel The Shepherd of Hermas). He did not simply accept or reject each book, because his enemies could have said that he was doing it to bolster his own arguments: he gave reasons for and against the canonicity of each. Irenaeus’s canon of scripture is very nearly the modern one (he does not quote from three of the short universal epistles), but more important is the fact that he started the tradition of biblical scholarship.
Irenaeus had to fight against the Gnostics, who believed that the world was irredeemably wicked, and against the Valentinians, who claimed to be possessors of a secret tradition that had never been written down but passed from master to disciple through the ages. This pessimism and this arcane élitism remain with us even today, and each generation must renew the fight against them. Let us pray for the inspiration of St Irenaeus in our battle.
Liturgical colour: red
Red is the colour of fire and of blood. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit (for instance, at Pentecost) and the blood of the martyrs.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Romans 13:8,10 ©|
Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.
|Noon reading (Sext)||James 1:19-20,26 ©|
Be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper; God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger. Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Peter 1:17,18,19 ©|
You must be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home. Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ.