18 March 2010

Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love)

Saints Faith, Hope and Charity (Latin: Fides, Spes et Caritas, Greek: Πίστις, Ἐλπὶς καὶ Ἀγάπη (Pistis, Elpis, and Agape), Church Slavonic: Вѣра, Надежда, Любы (Věra, Nadežda, Lyubov), Bulgarian: Вяра, Надежда и Любов (Vyara, Nadezhda and Lyubov), are a group of Christian martyred saints. Their mother is said to have been Sophia (Greek for Wisdom); Sapientia (Latin for Wisdom). The names are also the words designating the three key Christian virtues mentioned in Apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the feast of these saints is kept on 17 September.

Although earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology commemorated Saints Faith, Hope and Charity on 1 August and their mother Sophia on 30 September,[1] the present text of this official but professedly incomplete catalogue of saints of the Roman Catholic Church has no feast dedicated to the three saints or their mother: the only Sophia included is an early Christian virgin martyr of Picenum in Italy, commemorated with her companion Vissia on 12 April; another early Christian martyr, Saint Faith (Fides), of Aquitania, France (Latin: Sancta Fides, French: Sainte Foy, Spanish: Santa Fe, Chinese: Shèng Fēi/圣飞), celebrated on 6 October, a Saint Hope (Spes), an abbot of Nursia who died in about 517, is commemorated on 23 May, and no saint Charity (Caritas) is included, although saints with somewhat similar names, Carissa and Carissima, are given, respectively under 16 April and 7 September.[2]

Accurate historical data about the saints is minimal. The cult is very ancient, and the names are found not only in the various early martyrologies of the Western Church, but also in the Menaia and Menologies of the Ancient Greeks. In the preserved documents, there are two groups of references. On the one hand, they mention a band of martyrs, mother and daughters, whose names are always given in Greek, and who are buried on the Aurelian Way. On the other hand, the documents speak of four martyrs, interred on the Via Appia, whose relationship is not indicated and whose names, though the same as those of the martyrs of the Aurelian Way, are yet always given in Latin. This can be interpreted as pointing to distinct groups.

Setting aside the clearly legendary accounts that have come down to us (see Migne, P.G. CXV, 497; Mombritius, Vitae Sanctorum, II, 204), the stories go as follows. In the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD), a matron Sophia (Wisdom), with her three youthful daughters, Pistis, Elpis, and Agape (Greek for Faith, Hope and Charity), became Catholic martyrs, and all three were interred on the Aurelian Way. Their tomb in a crypt beneath the church afterwards erected to Saint Pancratius was long a place of resort for pilgrims, as detailed in various documents of the seventh century, such as an Itinerarium (or guide to the holy places of Rome compiled for the use of pilgrims) still preserved at Salzburg, the list, preserved in the cathedral archives of Monza, of the oils gathered from the tombs of the martyrs and sent to Queen Theodelinda in the time of Gregory the Great, etc.

Later surely than the reign of Hadrian, but at what time is uncertain, a presumably separate band of martyrs, Sapientia (Wisdom) and her three companions, Spes, Fides and Caritas (Latin for Hope, Faith and Charity), suffered death and were buried near the tomb of St Cecilia in the cemetery of St. Callistus on the Appian Way.

The coincidence in names can be explained by the fact that the early Christians often (according to Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista De Rossi) took in baptism mystical names indicative of Christian virtues, etc. Thus Sophia, Sapientia, Fides and the like are common names in early Christian inscriptions and martyrologies.

Saint Sophia the Martyr (d. 137 AD) is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church on September 17. Born in Italy, Sophia had three daughters: Faith (age 12), Hope (age 10) and Love (age 9), who were named after virtues mentioned by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

They are said to have been martyred during the reign of Hadrian (117-138). The guards took Sophia's daughters one by one, from the eldest to the youngest and beat and tortured them to death. Sophia buried her daughters' bodies and remained by their graves for three days until she died herself.

In the year 777 their relics were interred at El'zasa, in the church of Esho.

There is a common misconception that the capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia, is named after Saint Sophia the Martyr, and so the city's holiday is on September 17. Sofia is in fact named after its ancient cathedral church of Saint Sophia, consecrated not to the early Christian martyr but to the Divine Wisdom of God (Aghia Sophia in Greek). There are several icons of St. Sophia the Martyr and her daughters in that church, though.

Troparion of St. Sophia and her 3 daughters (Tone 5):
Thou didst blossom in the courts of the Lord as a fruitful olive tree, O holy Martyr Sophia; in thy contest thou didst offer to Christ the sweet fruit of thy womb, Love, Hope and Faith. With them intercede for us all.

     [1]Catholic Encyclopedia
     [2]Martyrologium Romanum

08 March 2010

Christ the Eternal TAO... Now in Chinese!

Tonight I received a personal email from Father Damascene, author of "Christ the Eternal TAO", which is more than a book for converting those from Eastern Religions to Orthodox Christianity, but  great Catechesis or Faith-Invigorator for a cradle or long time Convert, needing a spiritual boost. Recently I read it thoroughly and it connected a lot of dots I needed connected recently. It is probably one of my favorite books of all time! The book would be great for catechizing Chinese who know of The Way/Tao, and how it can very easily lead them to realize who The Way/Tao truly is.
Anyway, if you know someone who is Chinese, the book can be found at http://LogosTao.CN. But for native-English speakers, you can buy the book here.
Here is the product description from AmaZon.com:
Not until now has the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu been presented alongside the otherworldly revelation of Jesus Christ in a way that encompasses the full significance of both. Christ the Eternal Tao presents the Tao Teh Ching as a foreshadowing of what would be revealed by Christ, and Lao Tzu himself as a Far-Eastern prophet of Christ the incarnate God.

Through heretofore unpublished translations and teachings of Gi-ming Shien  -- perhaps the greatest Chinese philosopher to have ever come to the West -- this book uncovers the esoteric core of the Tao Teh Ching. Then, through the transmission of mystics of the ancient Christian East, Lao Tzu's teaching is brought into a new dimension, exploding with new meanings. Christ, in turn, is seen in a unique light, His pure image shining in the clarity of Lao Tzu's intuitive vision.

With its practical, time-tested advice on how to unite oneself with the incarnate Tao and acquire uncreated Teh, this is both a philosophical source-book and a spiritual manual, touching the heart and leading one to profound inward transformation. It is a long-awaited Answer to those who, having turned away from modern Western "churchianity," are drawn to the freshness, directness and simplicity of Lao Tzu, and at the same time are strangely, inexplicably drawn back to the all-compelling reality of Jesus Christ.

The book is adorned with Chinese calligraphy and seals (created especially for it by well-known Chinese artists), and with traditional Chinese paintings of the life of Christ.

06 March 2010

Saint Daniel the Prophet

Daniel (Hebrew: דָּנִיֵּאל, Tiberian Dāniyyêl ; Irish or Gaelic Language Dainéal or Domhnall; Syriac: ܕܢܝܐܝܠ, Daniyel; Arabic: دانيال,Persian: دانيال, Dâniyal or Danial, also Dani, داني ; Danyal; Greek: Δανιήλ, Dhanil; Russian: Даниил, Daniil; Chinese: 丹尼尔, Dānníěr) is the central protagonist of the Book of Daniel. The name "Daniel" means "God is my judge": Dan means "judgment" or "he judged", "i" is the hiriq compaginis meaning "of" (not to be confused with the modern Hebrew first person possessive suffix -i), and "El" means God.

According to the Biblical book of Daniel, at a young age Daniel was carried off to Babylon where he was trained in the service of the court under the authority of Ashpenaz. It is also written that Daniel became famous for interpreting dreams and rose to become one of the most important figures in the court and lived well into the reign of the Persian conquerors.

Christianity regards Daniel as a saint and as prophet. Judaism considers the Book of Daniel a part of its canon (Jewish Law), but does not regard Daniel as a prophet. Islam also regards Daniel as a prophet, though he is not mentioned explicitly in the Qur'an.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (BC 606), Daniel and three other youths named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the Jewish young nobility carried off to Babylon, along with some of the vessels of the first temple. Daniel and his three Jewish companions were subsequently evaluated and chosen for their intellect and beauty, to be trained as Chaldeans, who constituted the ranks of the advisors to the Babylonian court. (Daniel 1)

There Daniel was obliged to enter into the service of the king of Babylon, and in accordance with the custom of the age, received the Chaldean name of Belteshazzar, i.e., prince of Bel, or Bel protect the king (not to be confused with the neo-Babylonian king, Belshazzar). His residence in Babylon was very probably in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, now identified with a mass of mounds called the Kasr, on the right bank of the river. However, Daniel and his three companions remained fiercely loyal to their Jewish religious and cultural identity, an identity which would sooner or later come into conflict with the paganism of the Babylonian court.

Daniel's training (Daniel 1:4) was to fit him for service to the empire. Daniel became distinguished during this period for his piety, and for his strict observance of the Torah (Daniel 1:8-16), and gained the confidence and esteem of those who were over him.

At the close of his three years of discipline and training in the royal schools, Daniel was distinguished for his knowledge and proficiency in the pagan practices of his day, and was brought out into public life. He soon became known for his skill in the interpretation of dreams (Daniel 1:17; Daniel 2:14). Daniel made known and interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream; as well as a later dream preceding the king's descent into animal behaviour, and many years afterwards, when he was now an old man, amid the alarm and consternation of the terrible night of Belshazzar's impious feast (in which Belshazzar and his concubines drank wine out of the royal Jewish ceremonial goblets of the Temple), Daniel was called in at the suggestion of the queen-mother to interpret the mysterious handwriting on the wall. For successfully reading the cryptic handwriting by an angel of God, Daniel was rewarded by the Babylonians with a purple robe and elevation to the rank of "third ruler" of the kingdom. It is believed that the place of "second ruler" was held by Belshazzar as associated with his father, Nabonidus, on the throne (Daniel 5:16), though no where in the book of Daniel is Nabonidus mentioned by name and according to the book of Daniel Nebuchadnezzar was the father of Belshazzar. Daniel interpreted the handwriting, and "in that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain" by his own sons, who later fled.

After the Persian conquest of Babylon, Daniel held the office of the first of the "three presidents" of the empire under the reign of the obscure figure of Darius the Mede, and was thus practically at the head of state affairs, with the ability to influence the prospects of the captive Jews (Daniel 9), whom he had at last the happiness of seeing restored to their own land; although he did not return with them, but remained still in Babylon.

Daniel's fidelity to God exposed him to persecution by jealous rivals within the king's administration. The fact that he had just interpreted the emperors' dream had resulted in his promotion and that of his companions. Being favored by the King, Cyrus the Great, he was untouchable. His companions were vulnerable to the accusation that had them thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar as a god; but they were miraculously saved, and Daniel would years later be cast into a den of lions (for continuing to practice his faith in YHWH), but was miraculously delivered; after which Cyrus issued a decree enjoining reverence for "the God of Daniel" (Daniel 6:26). He "prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Great," whom he probably greatly influenced in the matter of the decree which put an end to the Jewish Captivity (BC 536).

Daniel's ministry as a prophet began late in life. Whereas his early exploits were a matter of common knowledge within his community, these same events, with his pious reputation, serve as the basis for his prophetic ministry. The recognition for his prophetic message is that of other prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel whose backgrounds are the basis for their revelations.

The time and circumstances of Daniel's death have not been recorded. However, tradition maintains that Daniel was still alive in the third year of Cyrus according to the Tanakh (Daniel 10:1). He would have been almost 100 years old at that point, having been brought to Babylon when he was in his teens, more than 80 years previously. Many posit that he possibly died at Susa in Iran. Tradition holds that his tomb is located in Susa at a site known as Shush-e Daniyal. Other locations have been claimed as the site of his burial, including Daniel's Tomb in Kirkuk, Iraq, as well as Babylon, Egypt, Tarsus and, notably, Samarkand, which claims a tomb of Daniel in the Ruins of Afrasiab, with some traditions suggesting that his remains were removed, perhaps by Tamerlane, from Susa to Samarkand (see, for instance, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, section 153).

In the Deuterocanonical portion of Daniel known as Bel and the Dragon, the prophet Habakkuk is miraculously transported by an angel to take a meal to Daniel while he is in the lions' den. In response, Daniel prays, "Thou hast remembered me, O God; neither hast thou forsaken them that seek Thee and love Thee".[1]

Legend holds that many sites throughout the Ancient Near East are the place of his burial. There are six different locations all claiming to be the site of the tomb of the biblical figure Daniel: Babylon, Kirkuk and Muqdadiyah in Iraq, Susa and Malamir in Iran, and Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, the feast days celebrating St. Daniel the Prophet together with the Three Young Men, falls on December 17 (during the Nativity Fast), on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers[2] (the Sunday which falls between 11 and 17 December), and on the Sunday before Nativity[3]. Daniel's prophesy regarding the stone which smashed the idol (Daniel 2:34-35) is often used in Orthodox hymns as a metaphor for the Incarnation: the "stone cut out" being symbolic of the Logos (Christ), and the fact that it was cut "without hands" being symbolic of the virgin birth. Thus the hymns will refer to the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) as the "uncut mountain".

In the West, the Roman Catholic Church commemorates Daniel on July 21.[4]

He is commemorated as a prophet in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod together with the Three Young Men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), on December 17.[5]

He is commemorated as a prophet in the Coptic Church on the 23rd day of the Coptic month of Baramhat.[6]
  1. Dixon, Henry Lancelot (1903) (in English). "Saying Grace" "Saying Grace" Historically Considered: And Numerous Forms of Grace Taken from Ancient and Modern Sources; with Appendices. Oxford and London: James Parker and Co.. pp. 11.
  2. Sergei Bulgakov, Manual for Church Servers, 2nd ed. (Kharkov, 1900) pp. 453-5. December 11-17: Sunday of the Holy Forefathers Translation: Archpriest Eugene D. Tarris
  3. Bulgakov, op. cit., pp. 461-2 December 18-24: Sunday before the Nativity of Christ of the Holy Fathers
  4. Francis E. Gigot (1889). "Daniel". Catholic Encyclopedia on CD-ROM. New Advent.
  5. Today in History - December 17
  6. The Departure of the great prophet Daniel

03 March 2010

Saint Margaret the Virgin of Antioch

Margaret is derived from the Greek word margarites (wikt:μαργαρίτης) or "beautiful pearl." Alternately, it might be of Persian origin, derived from the Persian language marvârid (مروارید), "a beautiful pearl" or "daughter of light". Marg from Marq or Marka meaning "chicken" (مرغ), probably because pearls looked like small bird eggs.

Margaret the Virgin, also known as Margaret of Antioch (in Pisidia), virgin and martyr, is celebrated as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches on July 20; and on July 17 in the Orthodox Church. She was reputed to have promised very powerful indulgences to those who wrote or read her life, or invoked her intercessions; these no doubt helped the spread of her cultus.[1]

Left is "Saint Margaret and the Dragon", alabaster with traces of gilding, Toulouse, ca 1475 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

According to the Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch, daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. She was scorned by her father for her Christian faith, and lived in the country with a foster-mother keeping sheep. Olybrius, the praeses orientis (Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East), offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards. The Golden Legend, in an atypical moment of scepticism, describes this last incident as "apocryphal and not to be taken seriously" (trans. Ryan, 1.369). She was put to death in A.D. 304.

The Eastern Orthodox Church knows Margaret as Saint Marina, and celebrates her feast day on July 17. She has been identified with Saint Pelagia – "Marina" being the Latin equivalent of the Greek name "Pelagia" – who, according to a legend, was also called Margarita. We possess no historical documents on St Margaret as distinct from St Pelagia. The Greek Marina came from Antioch, Pisidia (as opposed to Antioch of Syria), but this distinction was lost in the West.

The cultus of Saint Margaret became very widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church[2] of the British Houses of Parliament in London. Some consider her a patron saint of pregnancy. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from, or standing above, a dragon.

She is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, being listed as such in the Roman Martyrology for July 20.[3] She was also included from the twelfth to the twentieth century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated.[4][5] Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is supposedly one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.
  1. "Margaret of Antioch" The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. David Hugh Farmer. Oxford University Press 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed 16 June 2007
  2. Westminster Abbey. "St. Margaret's, Westminster Parish details". Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  3. Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  4. See General Roman Calendar as in 1954
  5. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 130

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