Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Commemorations this week

There are a whole bunch of church commemorations this week. I think it’s interesting to read/hear about these ancestors in faith. "May their faith and witness inspire us to see the things prepared for those who answer God’s call" and "May our faith be invigorated by the witness of all who followed Christ."

Sunday, January 15
Martin Luther King Jr., renewer of society, martyr (1929-1968)
Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as an American prophet of justice among races and nations, a Christian whose faith undergirded his advocacy of vigorous yet nonviolent action for racial equality. A pastor of churches in Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia, his witness was taken to the streets in such other places as Birmingham, Alabama, where he was arrested and jailed while protesting against segregation. He preached nonviolence and demanded that love be returned for hate. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he was killed by an assassin on April 4, 1968. Though most commemorations are held on the date of the person’s death, many churches hold commemorations near Dr. King’s birth date of January 15, in conjunction with the American civil holiday honouring him. An alternate date for the commemoration would be his death date, April 4.

Tuesday, January 17
Antony of Egypt, renewer of the church (251-356)
Antony was born in Qemen-al-Arous, Upper Egypt, and was one of the earliest Egyptian desert fathers. Born to Christian parents from whom he inherited a large estate, he took personally Jesus’ message to sell all that you have, give to the poor, and follow Christ. After making arrangements to provide for the care of his sister, he gave away his inheritance and became a hermit. Later, he became the head of a group of monks that lived in a cluster of huts and devoted themselves to communal prayer, worship, and manual labour under Antony’s direction. The money they earned from their work was distributed as alms. Antony and his monks also preached and counseled those who sought them out. Antony and the desert fathers serve as a reminder that certain times and circumstances call Christians to stand apart from the surrounding culture and renounce the world in service to Christ.

Tuesday, January 17
Pachomius, renewer of the church (c. 290-346)
Another of the desert fathers, Pachomius (puh-KOME-ee-us) was born in Egypt about 290. He became a Christian during his service as a soldier. In 320 he went to live as a hermit in Upper Egypt, where other hermits lived nearby. Pachomius organized them into a religious community in which the members prayed together and held their goods in common. His rule for monasteries influenced both Eastern and Western monasticism through the Rule of Basil and the Rule of Benedict, respectively.

Wednesday, January 18
Confession of Peter
Beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is framed by two commemorations, the Confession of Peter (a relatively recent addition to the calendar) and the older Conversion of Paul. Both are remembered together on June 29, but these two days give us an opportunity to focus on key events in each of their lives. Today we remember that Peter was led by God’s grace to acknowledge Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). This confession is the common confession that unites us with Peter and with all Christians of every time and place.

Saturday, January 21
Agnes, martyr (c. 291-304)
Agnes was a girl of about thirteen living in Rome who had chosen a life of service to Christ as a virgin, despite the Roman emperor Diocletian’s ruling that had outlawed all Christian activity. The details of her martyrdom are not clear, but she gave witness to her faith and was put to death as a result, most likely by the sword. Since her death, the church has honoured her as one of the chief martyrs of her time.

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