Comforting Words on the Festa di Marco

per san marco sign venice

In the second half of the fourth century AD, a non-Christian emperor took the throne. We Christians call him Julian the Apostate.

The new emperor took delight in the internal strife of the Church, which seethed in factions right before his eyes. He thought Christianity would destroy itself. But St. John Henry Newman notes:

In indulging such anticipations of overthrowing Christianity, Julian but displayed his own ignorance of the foundation on which it was built. It could scarcely be conceived that an unbeliever, educated among heretics, would understand the vigor and indestructibility of the true Christian spirit; and Julian fell into the error, to which in all ages men of the world are exposed, of mistaking whatever shows itself on the surface of the Apostolic Community, its prominences and irregularities, all that is extravagant, and all that is transitory, for the real moving principle and life of the system.

The thousand of silent believers, who worshiped in spirit and in truth, were obscured by the tens and twenties of the various heretical factions, whose clamorous addresses besieged the Imperial Court.

(from The Arians of the Fourth Century, Chapter 5, Section 1)

Today we keep the feast of my beloved evangelist patron. St. Mark founded the See of Alexandria, Egypt.

Three centuries later, St. Athanasius sat as one of St. Mark’s successors in office. Through the Arian controversy, the Church in Alexandria held fast to the orthodox faith, even when Pope Liberius wavered. (The pope succumbed only under threat of physical torture, not willingly.)

…Anyhoo, if you’re like me, when you get stressed, you lose yourself in the speeches of William Shakespeare’s Richard II.

Like Act III, Scene 2…

No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

Here’s the great Derek Jacobi doing the speech:

Feast of St. George

Our Holy Father Pope Francis’ baptismal patron died as a martyr 1,717 years ago today. The emperor Diocletian sentenced George to death, because the saint refused to recant his Christian faith.

The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.

(John 3:35-36, which we read today at Holy Mass.)

During the ensuing century, after St. George’s martyrdom, the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman emperors ceased. In Milan, in AD 313, the emperor Constantine declared Christianity tolerable.

But the fourth century saw tumult within the Church. Tumult the likes of which we could hardly imagine now. The college of bishops convulsed with party factions; the U.S. Senate of today looks like a club of polite, like-minded friends by comparison.

St. John Henry Newman narrated the hugely complicated business in his book, The Arians of the Fourth Century. I highly recommend reading it. To all past, current, and potential seminarians. (Others might find it rough sledding.)

Card Newman
John Henry Newman

The original faith of the Church needed a word to express itself. Homoousion in Greek, consubstantialem in Latin. With that word, we Christians confess the Incarnation and the Trinity, the essential mysteries of our faith.

Eh, Father?

Let me put it like this: The Son of God shares in the God-ness of God. To practice religion honestly, man must always divide everything that exists into one of two categories. 1. God. 2. Things created by God out of nothing. The eternal Son falls into Category 1, not 2.

We think of this question as settled forever at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Council did settle the question, doctrinally. But not Church-politically.

In ten days, we will keep the anniversary of the death of St. Athanasius. He held fast to the Nicene Creed, through all the internal strife the Church faced in of the fourth century. Newman wrote of Athanasius: “he was the principal instrument, after the Apostles, by which the sacred truths of Christianity have been conveyed and secured to the world.”

Athanasius held fast to the Nicene Creed; he confessed the Trinity and the Incarnation. For his pains, he was excommunicated and exiled five times. All of this after the Council of Nicaea.

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church survived the fourth century. She continued, full of life, on Her pilgrimage through time. How? She clung with desperate love to Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

St. George day selfie
St. George Day selfie, with the paschal candle still lit after Mass

Big Anniversaries Coming Up in a Few Short Years

Mount Rushmore

Beautiful sunny day here in Roanoke, so let’s consider some significant sunny-day anniversaries.

Today at Holy Mass we mark the anniversary of the death of St. Athanasius, the hero of the Council of Nicaea. The bishops met in Nicaea on sunny May and June days. And they gave us our Symbol of faith, our creed.

On another sunny day, the Fourth of July, we mark the anniversary of…

Thomas Jefferson and Co. did the signing and declaring in the summer of 1776. In the year 2026, we will mark a significant milestone in the history of our beloved country, the 250th anniversary of Independence Day. For a nation to endure so long, a quarter of a millennium—an inspiring thing to contemplate.

But let’s focus on an anniversary that will come a year earlier, one year before the USA’s 250th birthday. In 2025.

athanasius
St. Athanasius

When Thomas Jefferson and Co. declared independence in the summer of 1776, they did it on a Thursday. On the preceding Sunday, every Roman Catholic priest on earth had recited the Nicene Creed. And every Catholic priest recited it the following Sunday, along with all the faithful who were following along with the Mass. In the summer of 1,776, the Nicene Creed was already 1,451 years old.

In 2025, the Nicene Creed will turn 1700 years old.

And yet it’s still as fresh as the day when St. Athanasius helped to write it. Jesus Christ: God from God; light from light; true God from true God; begotten—not made; consubstantial with the Father.

In these words we find the hope of the world, the foundation for a real spiritual life, the truth about God Almighty, the key to understanding the four gospels, the center of Christian joy.

When we think about the legacy that our Founding Fathers gave us Americans, nearly a quarter-millennium ago, it humbles us.

But, may it please God that our Founding Fathers made it to heaven, when they contemplate what St. Athanasius and the Fathers of Nicaea gave the world almost 1700 years ago, it humbles them.

Easter Letter

of St. Athanasius* for AD 332. A couple of paragraphs:

It is well, my beloved, to proceed from feast to feast; again festal meetings, again holy vigils arouse our minds, and compel our intellect to keep vigil unto contemplation of good things. Let us not fulfill these days like those that mourn, but, by enjoying spiritual food, let us seek to silence our fleshly lusts.

For by these means we shall have strength to overcome our adversaries, like blessed Judith, when having first exercised herself in fastings and prayers, she overcame the enemies, and killed Olophernes. And blessed Esther, when destruction was about to come on all her race, and the nation of Israel was ready to perish, defeated the fury of the tyrant by no other means than by fasting and prayer to God, and changed the ruin of her people into safety.

St. AthanasiusNow as those days are considered feasts for Israel, so also in old time feasts were appointed when an enemy was slain, or a conspiracy against the people broken up, and Israel delivered. Therefore blessed Moses of old time ordained the great feast of the Passover, and our celebration of it, because, namely, Pharaoh was killed, and the people were delivered from bondage. For in those times it was especially when those who tyrannized over the people had been slain, that temporal feasts and holidays were observed in Judæa.

Now, however, that the devil, that tyrant against the whole world, is slain, we do not approach a temporal feast, my beloved, but an eternal and heavenly. Not in shadows do we show it forth, but we come to it in truth. For they being filled with the flesh of a dumb lamb, accomplished the feast, and having anointed their door-posts with the blood, implored aid against the destroyer. But now we, eating of the Word of the Father, and having the lintels of our hearts sealed with the blood of the New Testament, acknowledge the grace given us from the Savior, who said, ‘Behold, I have given unto you to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.’

For no more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life, since our Lord said, ‘I am the life;’ so that everything is filled with joy and gladness; as it is written, ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice.’ For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness. And God is no longer known only in Judæa, but in all the earth, ‘their voice has gone forth, and the knowledge of Him has filled all the earth.’

What follows, my beloved, is obvious; that we should approach such a feast, not with filthy raiment, but having clothed our minds with pure garments. For we need in this to put on our Lord Jesus, that we may be able to celebrate the feast with Him. Now we are clothed with Him when we love virtue, and are enemies to wickedness, when we exercise ourselves in temperance and mortify lasciviousness, when we love righteousness before iniquity, when we have strength of mind, when we do not forget the poor, but open our doors to all men, when we assist humble-mindedness, but hate pride.

—————

St. Athanasius died 1,642 years ago today.

Athanasian Creed

St. Athanasius
St. Athanasius
The hero of the Arian controversy died 1640 years ago today.

Click HERE if you want to read his best Easter letter ever.

Here we present his Creed, one of the official symbols of the Catholic faith.

The Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

Continue reading “Athanasian Creed”

Natural Evil

Jeremy Hazell

The “Intelligent Design Debate” has been going on a long time:

If the movement of the universe were irrational, and the world rolled on in a random fashion, one would be justified in disbelieving what we say.

But if the world is founded on reason, wisdom, and science, and is filled with orderly beauty, then it must owe its origin and order to none other than the Word of God.

–St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, died A.D. 373.

…We are praying hard for everyone in Haiti. May all who are unaccounted-for be found safe.

Port-au-Prince Cathedral, January 14
We pray for the repose of Archbishop Serge Miot and all the dead.

Many souls certainly went to their deaths without proper preparation; may God be merciful.

We pledge ourselves to help everyone in need.

But before we panic and go reeling off into uncharted spiritual territory–losing perspective on ultimate reality because of the incessant buzzing of the television–let’s remind ourselves of the words of the expert demon to the junior tempter in Screwtape Letter #28:

I sometimes wonder if you young fiends are not kept out on temptation duty too long at a time–if you are not in some danger of becoming infected by the sentiments and values of the humans among whom you work.

They, or course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil, and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so.

Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda…Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can…

Capuchin Crypt in Rome
The long, dull years of middle-aged prosperity are excellent campaigning weather for us.

…My dear mom regards my desire to live among skeletons as “extreme.”

If you want extreme, check out the crypt-level chapels of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rome.

…Big Hoya game against Seton Hall this evening.

Chvotkin has the call at 7:00 on AM 980. Jeremy Hazell is a dangerous sharp-shooter. Root hard!

Red-Rose-City Memory & All-Star Week

fandm

Across the street from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., there is a seminary.

My mother grew up with a beloved pastor at her hometown church. When he died in 1997, we went to Lancaster for the funeral.

The pastor’s best friend taught at the seminary across from F&M. He preached the funeral. One of the things he said was:

“Wallace loved his enemies. But to love your enemies, you have to have the courage to make some.”

…We are in the middle of another all-star week of saints:

Pius V in Santa Maria Maggiore
Pius V in Santa Maria Maggiore
On Tuesday, we kept the Memorial of St. Louis de Montfort, author of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Wednesday was the Memorial of St. Catharine of Siena.

Yesterday (April 30) we kept the Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, who gave us the Missal upon which our current Missal is based.

Today we keep the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker.

Pretty soon I will get around to giving you a summary of In Tune with the World by Josef Pieper. He wrote the book in the 1960’s to explain why Communist May-Day celebrations are not truly festive.

(This is also the Pope’s name day. In a week, he will be going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.)

Tomorrow is the Memorial of St. Athanasius, the hero of the Council of Nicea, the champion of our Creed.

And May 3 is the Feast of the Apostles Philip and James the Less (though we do not keep the feast this year, because it falls on Sunday).

…Here is a beautiful place to go to Mass in the “Red Rose City,” St. Mary of the Assumption:

assumption-lancaster

…Three years ago today, we buried my dear dad

…Another question we have to get to the bottom of: Did our Lord carry His cross through the “Genath Gate” in the ancient wall of Jerusalem?

St. Catharine of Siena
St. Catharine of Siena
St. Athanasius
St. Athanasius
Saints Philip and James parish on N. Charles St., Baltimore
Saints Philip and James parish on N. Charles St., Baltimore