Biblical Memoir

For today December 26St. Stephen, Martyr. St. Stephen “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministy of the proclomations (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they braught Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for His death, so infuriated them that they dragged him  out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first marytr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).

For today December 27St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. St. John was a son of Zebedee and brother of James the Elder (whose festival day is July 25). John was among the first disciples to be called by Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22) and became known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” as he refers to himself in the Gospel that bears his name (e.g., John 21:20). Of the Twelve, John alone did not forsake Jesus in the hours of His suffering and death. With the faithful women, he stood at the cross, where our Lord made him the guardian of His mother. After Pentecost, john spent his ministry in Jerusalem and at Ephesus, where tradition says he was bishop. He wrote the fourth Gospel, the three Epistles that bear his name, and the Book of Revelation. Especially memorable in his Gospel are the account of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), the “Gospel in a nutshell” (John 3:16), Jesus’ saying about the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11), and Jesus’ encounter with Mary Magdalene on Easter morning (John 20:11-18). According to tradition, John was banished to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia Minor) by the Roman emperor Domitian. John lived to a very old age, surviving all the apostles, and died at Ephesus around AD 100.

 

For today December 28The Holy Innocents, Martyrs. Matthew’s Gospel tells of King Herod’s vicious plot against the infant Jesus after being “tricked” by the Wise Men. Threatened by the “born King of the Jews,” Herod murdered all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2:16-18). These “innocents,” commemorated just three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth, remind us not only of the terrible brutality of which human beings are capable but more significantly of the persecution of Jesus endured from the beginning of His earthly life. Although Jesus’ life was providentially spared at this time, many years later, another ruler, Pontius Pilate, wouls sentence the innocent Jesus to death.

For today December 29David. David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 BC. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel through 1 Kings 2 and in 1 Chronicles 10-29. David was also gifted musically. He was skilled in playing the lyre and the author of no fewer than seventy-three psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example, his defeat of the giant Goliath [1 Samuel 17]). David’s greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to God as Israel’s military and political leader, coupled with his willingness to acknowledge his sins and ask for God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 12; see also Psalm 51). It was under David’s leadership that the people of Israel were united into a single nation with Jerusalem as its capital city.

Biblical Memoir

For today December 24The Nativity of Our Lord–Christman Eve. The exact date of the birth of Jesus is not known, and during the earliest centuries of the Church it seemed to have little significance. This followed the early Church’s tradition of honoring and celebrating a Christian’s death as his or her birth date into eternity and the ongoing presence of Jesus. Likewise the life, work, death, and resurrection of Christ was of much greater importance to early Christians than the earthly details of His life. The earliest nativity feast, Epiphany (January 6), celebrated both the birth and Baptism of Christ. However, in the fourth century great Christological controversies that questioned Christ’s divinity and humanity raced throughout Christianity. By AD 336, Decembere 25 had been established in Rome as the celebration of Christ’s birth, a festival welcomed particularly by orthodox Christians in the West. From Roam, Christ’s natal festival spread throughout the Western Church. In Eastern traditions of the Church, Epiphany remains the principal celebration of the birth of Jesus.

For today December 25The Nativity of Our Lord–Christmas Day. Advent prepared us for the coming of the Savior, the fulfillment of the promise first made in the Garden of Eden in response to the sin of Adam and Eve. Christmas is the day we celebrate that hope fulfilled. Jesus is the only hope of the world , because Jesus is the only one who could set us free from our sins. The commemoration of the Nativity of Our Lord puts before us once again the story of the long-awaited King who left His heavenly throne to enter time and become human like one of us. When God wanted to save you from your sins, He did not send a prophet or even an angel: He sent His own Son into human flesh just like ours.

EXTRA: THE NATIVITY OF 

              OUR LORD AND 

             CHRISTMASTIDE

Invivatory

Lo, to us the Christ is born.

O come, let us worship Him.

Antophons  

   1.   The Lord said to me,

“You are My Son; today I have

begotten you.”                              (Psalm 2:7) 

   2.   [The Lord] sent redemption to His people.

He has commanded His covenant forever.

(Psalm 111:9)

3.   One of the sons of your body

I will set on your throne.     (Psalm 132:11)

4.   Christ the Lord, our Savior, everlasting

God and Mary’s Son,

we praise You evermore.     (Liturgical text)

Responsory 

L:   The Word became flesh and dwelt among

us, full of grace and truth.         (John 1:14

In the beginning was the Word, and the

Word was with God, and the Word

was God.                                         (John 1:1) 

          Glory be to the Father and to the Son and

to the Holy Spirit.

C:    We have seen His glory, glory as of the

only Son from the Father.         (John 1:14

  

Biblical Memoir

Today for December 13Lucia, Martyr. One of the victims of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Lucia met her death at Syracuse on the island of Sicily in A.D. 304. Known for her charity, “Santa Lucia” (as she is called in Italy) gave away her dowry and remained a virgin until her execution by the sword. The name Lucia means “light”, and, because of that, festivals of light commemorating her became popular throughout Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. There her feast day corresponds with the time of year when there is the least amount of daylight. In artistic expression, Lucia is often portrayed in a white baptismal gown, wearing a wreath of candles on her head.

Today for December 17: Daniel the Prophet and the Three Young Men. Daniel the prophet and the three young men–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–were among the leaders of the people of Judah who were taken into captivity in Babylon. Even in that foreign land, they remained faithful to the one true God in their piety, prayer, and life. On account of such steadfast faithfulness in the face of pagan idolatry, the three young men were thrown into a fiery furnace, from which they were saved by the Lord and emerged unharmed (Daniel 3). Similarly, Daniel was thrown into a pit of lions, from which he was also saved (Daniel 6). Blessed in all their endeavors by the Lord–and despite the hostility of some–Daniel and the three young men were promoted to positions of leadership among the Babylonians (Daniel 2:48-49; 3:30; 6;28). To Daniel in particular the Lord revealed the interpretation of dreams and signs that were given to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar (Daniel 2, 4, 5). To Daniel himself, the Lord gave visions of the end times.

For today December 19Adam and Eve. Adam was the first man, made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). Eve was the first woman, formed from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion and helper (Genesis 2:18-24). God placed them in the Garden of Eden to take care of creation as His representatives. But they forsook God’s Word and plunged the world into sin (Genesis 3:1-7). For this disobedience, God drove them from the garden. Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and would chafe at her subjection to Adam; Aam would toil amid thorns and thistles and return to the dust of the ground. Yet God promised that the woman’s seed would crush the serpant’s head (Genesis 3:8-24). Sin had entered God’s perfect creation and changed it until God would restore it again through Christ. Eve is the mother of the human race, while Adam is the representative of all humanity and the fall, as the apostle Paul writes, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

For today December 20Katharina von Bora Luther. Katharina von Bora (1499-1552) was placed in a convent while still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523, she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and braught to Wittenburg. There Martin Luther helped return some of the women to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Kathrina and Martin Luther were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of the reformer’s generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenburg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died as a result of injuries she received in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague.

For today December 21St. Thomas, Apostle. All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question, Jesus replies, ” I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death.

BONUSThe Great “O” Antiphon’s for December 17-23

December 17: O wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervaiding and permeating all creation, mightily ordaining all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18: O Adonai, and ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law of Sinai: Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

December 19: O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings  are mute, to whom the nations will do homage: Come quickly to deliver us.

December 20: O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in the darkness and the shadow of death.

December 21: O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22: O King of the nations, the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people: Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay.

December 23: O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the annoited for the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

 

 

Biblical Memoir

For Today  December 6Nicholas of Myra, Pastor. Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. AD 342) is one of the best known. Vey little is known historically of him, though there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of modern Turkey) in the fourth century. From the coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of the people in distress or need. In commemoration of Sinte Klaas (Dutch for “Saint Nichola,” in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.

For Today December 7Ambrose of Milan, Pastor and Hymnwriter. Born in Trier in AD 340, Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church (with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). He was a profilic author of hymns, the most common of which is Veni, Redemtor Gentium (“Savior of the Nations, Come”). His name is also associated with Ambrosian Chant, a style of chanting the ancient liturgy that took hold in the provence of Milan. While serving as a civil governor, Ambrose sought to bring peace among the Christians in Milan who were divided into quarreling factions. When a new bishop was to be elected in AD 374, Ambrose addressed the crowd, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire gathering gave their support. This acclaim of Ambrose, a thirty-four-year-old catechumen, led to his Baptism on December 7, after which he was consecrated bishop of Milan. A strong defender of faith, Ambrose convinced the Roman emperor Gratian in AD 379 to forbid the Arian heresy in the West. At Ambrose’s urging, Gratian’s successor, Theodosius, also publicly opposed Arianism. Ambrose died on Good Friday, April 4, 397. As a courageous doctor and musician, he upheld the truth of God’s Word.

December 4John of Damascus, Theologian Hymnwriter. John (ca. AD 675-749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theololgian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around AD 716, he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses, he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in AD 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymnwriter (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches . His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom, which was a massive compendium of truth from previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western Churches.