Christ the Lord has promised us the Holy Spirit: come, let us adore him, alleluia.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
Other saints: St Simon Stock (c.1165 - 1265)
He became a Carmelite, and in 1245 or 1247 was elected the sixth general of the order. The order was in a delicate position: founded on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, it needed to adapt its Rule to European conditions and to obtain the toleration of the clergy. As a result of Simon’s work, Pope Innocent IV confirmed the Rule and placed the order under the special protection of the Holy See. After this the order grew greatly, especially in England.
Other saints: Saint Brendan (486 - 578)
He was born in Munster, in south-west Ireland, and became a monk and a priest. He founded a number of monasteries and travelled to Wales, to Iona, and on a three-year missionary journey to Britain.
He is famous for his voyage to the New World, which has become so accreted with traditional and legendary elements that it is impossible to discern what truth there is in it (rather the way that the life of Alexander the Great attracted mythical elements that made him, among other things, the son of the last Pharaoh of Egypt). That there is some truth in the story of the voyage is likely. Ireland at this time was the centre of a high Christian culture at a time when much of Europe had collapsed into chaos and paganism, and Irishmen regularly went on missionary journeys to bring the Gospel to distant lands. It would have been natural to expand this to the far West, where lands might well exist, and where, if they did exist, they were waiting to hear the Gospel. Whether Brendan ever reached the New World may be doubted, and his journey is unlikely to have lasted seven years; but the story is evidence of a tradition of voyaging that involved many more people than Brendan. Certain aspects of Aztec mythology, for example, can be most easily interpreted as a way of preserving teaching of an actual shipwrecked priest by encoding it as myth.
Other saints: St John Stone (?-1539)
16 May (where celebrated)
John Stone was a Doctor of Theology, living in the Augustinian friary at Canterbury. The place where the Augustinian friary once stood on St George’s Street is still called Whitefriars. During the time of the Reformation Parliament, Stone publicly denounced the behaviour of King Henry VIII from the pulpit of the Austin Friars and stated his approval of the status of monarch’s first marriage — clearly opposing the monarch’s wish to gain a divorce. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 declared the king to be the only supreme head of the Church in England. This was followed by the Treasons Act which enjoined the penalty of high treason on anyone who might maliciously desire to deprive the king of his title of supreme head of the Church. All bishops, priests and religious were required to acknowledge his title. On 14 December 1538 the Bishop of Dover Richard Ingworth visited Canterbury and called on the Augustinian friary with an order to close it down as part of the dissolution of monasteries in England. Every friar was forced to sign a formal document agreeing to the Act of Supremacy; Stone refused to sign. After being held in the Tower of London for some time he was sent back to Canterbury to be tried under the Treasons Act. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Before his execution at the Dane John (Dungeon Hill), Canterbury he said: “I close my apostolate in my blood. In my death I shall find life, for I die for a holy cause, the defence of the Church of God, infallible and immaculate”. Stone was hanged, drawn and quartered; his head and body were placed on display to dishonour his corpse as a traitor.
Other saints: St Simon Stock (c.1212-c.1265)
16 May (where celebrated)
Simon is likely one of the first Carmelites in England in the 1240s. An accurate factual history is difficult to piece together amidst the many stories and legends that arise about him from that time. What the many legends tell us is that he was a memorable and significant figure in the foundations of the Carmelites in England and the Order during a time of great change. Historians would agree that Simon was an Englishman, who spent his early life as a hermit. During this time he is said to have lived in the trunk or ‘stock’ of a tree, thereafter being named Simon Stock. It is also likely that he would have participated in the important chapter of 1247 at Aylesford in Kent, that worked to adapt the lifestyle of the hermits from the Mount Carmel to a more acceptable way of life in medieval Europe. Simon would later serve as the Carmelite Prior General sometime between 1254 to 1265. He died around 1265 whilst visiting monasteries in Bordeaux, France.
Simon’s devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is captured in the tale of the ‘scapular vision,’ the first written account of which is found recorded about 150 years after his death. The clothing of Simon with the scapular by Mary is best understood in the context of the medieval times of feudal Europe. Simon, as a devotee of Mary (who was known as patroness and protector of Carmelites), was clothed by her as a sign of the exchange of promises of service offered by the Carmelite and Mary’s promise of spiritual protection. Later in the 14th century the Carmelite brown scapular became for many this outward sign of a reciprocal agreement of dedicated service and protection between the wearer and Mary whose protection pointed the way to Christ.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Gregory of Nyssa (335 - 395)
Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of St Basil of Caesarea (“St Basil the Great”). He, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, “Gregory of Nazianzus”, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. They were active after the Council of Nicaea, working to formulate Trinitarian doctrine precisely and, in particular, to pin down the meaning and role of the least humanly comprehensible member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Basil was the leader and organizer; Gregory of Nazianzus was the thinker, the orator, the poet, pushed into administrative and episcopal roles by circumstances and by Basil; and Gregory of Nyssa, although not a great stylist, was the most gifted of the three as a philosopher and theologian. Together, the Cappadocian Fathers hammered out the doctrine of the Trinity like blacksmiths forging a piece of metal by hammer-blows into its perfect, destined shape. They were champions – and successful champions – of orthodoxy against Arianism, a battle that had to be conducted as much on the worldly and political plane as on the philosophical and theological one.
The works of Gregory of Nyssa whose extracts appear as Second Readings are not as rhetorically beautiful as those of Gregory of Nazianzus, who was an acclaimed orator; but they are helpful and clear. Most of them are commentaries on Scripture passages. They involve the mind and deepen the understanding.
Liturgical colour: white
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||(1 Corinthians 15:3-5) ©|
Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; he was buried; and he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures. He appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Ephesians 2:4-6 ©|
God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Romans 6:4 ©|
When we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.