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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athanasius, and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Acts 20:19-35

Psalm 71:1-8

2 Corinthians 4:5-14

St. Matthew 10:23-32

About  Athanasius, Church Father:

  • Athanasius was an Egyptian by birth and a Greek by eduction
  • His parents were both Christians and wealthy and Athanasius received both a solid secular and catholic (Christian) education in the city of  Alexandria, Egypt.  Alexandria was a city noted for it’s learning and it’s martyrs.
  • Athanasius lived during the most horrible of the persecutions of the Church under Diocletius, and then Maximin, from when Athanasius was 5 till he was 14, when it finally  ended in Egypt 311.
  • During the time of the persecution, many Alexandrian Christians fled to the desert and thus some began monasteries.  The most known of the monks was Anthony.  Athanasius knew him and eventually wrote Anthony’s biography.
  • He was a teenager when the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 making Christianity a legal religion in the Empire.
  • But after about six years after the Edict, a bishop, Arius, began teaching that there was a time, “…when Christ was not”, thus denying Biblical, catholic and orthodox doctrine.
  • But before the onslaught of the Arian heresy, Athanasius wrote two small books:  Against the Heathen, in which he refutes contemporary paganism (please note: paganism was in it’s pure form at that time, without heretics mixing in Christianity) and the demonstration of the possibility of the knowledge of God by the human soul.  The second one, On the Incarnation of the Word  of God, was on Word made flesh. “It is not speculative, it is not original…not even controversial”, because Arius had not yet started down the wrong path.  The photo above and the quotes below are from this volume, available at St. Vladimir’s Press.  This edition features an introduction by none other than C. S. Lewis.
  • Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicaea as a non-voting Deacon.
  • He was ordained in 328 as Bishop.
  • Athanasius lived his whole life in Alexandria except for the five times he was forced into exile for his preaching and teaching. He stood alone for the Faith delivered to saints once for all (Jude 1:3). Yet,he was known by his contemporaries as a kind and gentle man, of great education and humility.  He was short of stature.
  • His name is associated with the third creed of the Church, confessed in The Book of Concord, the Athanasian Creed, though most likely he did not write it,  nevertheless the creed is a solid reflection of Christian and orthodox theology as taught by the saint.
  • In 356, Anthony died at the age of 105. The desert monks gave support for their brother, Athanasius, especially when he went into exile.
  • After the fifth exile, Athanasius  had seven years of fruitful peace in his labors as a pastor and theologian.
  • He died on this date in 373 as Patriarch of Alexandria.
The information above and the quotes below are all from On the Incarnation, with Introduction by C. S. Lewis, published by St. Vladimir Press in a new translation.
 
A Reflection from Lewis’ Intro:

St. Athanasius has suffered in popular estimation from a certain sentence in the “Athanasian Creed”….the words “Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly” are the offence. They are commonly misunderstood. The operative word is keep; not acquire, or even believe, but keep. The author, in fact, is  not about unbelievers but  deserters, not about those who have never heard-of Christ, nor even those who have understood and refused to accept Him, but those really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thoughts. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief, however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame…

His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

Quotes from On the Incarnation:

  • “The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching.  Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?  Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?  If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer for his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious?  If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship?  For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it.  This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.
  • “For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?”
  • “….it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.”
  • “How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched?”
  • “He deals with them (“them”=us!  Please note: by this time in his book, Athanasius has portrayed Biblically and correctly man as an idolater, Romans 1, doomed to death on account of sin and disobedience and so the sheer wonder of the Incarnation-Pr. Schroederas a good teacher with his pupils, coming down to their level and using simple means. St. Paul says as much: “Because in the wisdom of God the world in its wisdom knew not God, God. thought fit through the simplicity of the News proclaimed to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1: 23) I Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in , the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway.”

 

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Meditation:  first paragraph by Pr. Scott Murray and the remainder by Leo the Great (c. 391 or 400 – 10 November 461), both from Pr. Murray’s A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year, Concordia Publishing House…

The Church lives from the font and the cup. Even when primarily concerned with the person of Christ and the communication of the two natures in one person, Leo the Great comes back to the great fact of the Means of Grace. What flowed from the Savior’s side gives life to His Bride, the Church, who is cleansed by that flood of water and is nourished by the flow of His blood. Font and cup put us in the death of Christ.

“If anyone receives the Christian faith and does not turn his ears away from the preaching of the Gospel, let him see what nature hung pierced with nails on the wooden cross; and when the side of the Crucified was opened by the soldier’s spear, let him understand from what that blood and water flowed so that the Church of God might be watered from the font and from the cup. Let him hear also the blessed apostle Peter, proclaiming that the sanctification of the Spirit takes place through the sprinkling of Christ’s blood (1 Peter 1:2). And let him not read cursorily the same apostle’s words when he says, ‘Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot’ (1 Peter 1:18-19). Let him not resist also the witness of the blessed apostle John, who says, “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). And again, ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree’ (1 John 5:4-8). The Spirit, that is, of sanctification, and the blood of redemption,and the water of Baptism, because the three are one; they remain undivided, and not one of them is separated from this connection.The Church catholic lives and advances in this faith, that in Christ Jesus we do not believe in the humanity without the true divinity, nor in the divinity without the true humanity” (Leo the Great, The Tome, 5)

Lord God, heavenly Father, Your Son, Jesus Christ, began His ministry through a water Baptism in the Jordan River that led Him to a bloody baptism on the cross. Even now, He saves us through the water of Holy Baptism and the blood of the cup of the new testament. Grant us steadfastness to trust in water and blood as the means by which He continues to offer us His gracious presence; for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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O God, You are the strength of all who trust in You, and without Your aid we can do no good thing. Grant us the help of Your grace that we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Gospel reading appointed for this day in the Daily Lectionary of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is  St. Luke 16: 19-31, The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  The reflection below is by Pr. Scott Murray in his excellent devotional A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.

After making a major donation, the rich often have the privilege of naming rights. For example, if they are giving the founding donation, the foundation bears their name. Their name is remembered in connection with the donation as long as the foundation exists. The name of a rich person is used much in the world. He or she is known and remembered for any number of reasons, some good and some not so good. In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, God reverses the world’s order. Lazarus is named. The rich man is not. Our Father has written the name of Lazarus in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8). While the rich man’s name was known in the world, tossed about by everyone who wanted to seem to be someone, Lazarus was unknown. He was “that beggar.”

How God turns the tables! He names the beggar and sends away the rich empty (Luke1:53). Here God has the naming rights, not us. He has named us with deep affection and with full result. When He calls us by name,

we are His (Isaiah 43:1). We are what He says we are. He never goes back on His word to us. We are not like the local sports arena that is named this one day and that the next. His naming rights are an absolute commitment to us. The world looks at us as spiritual beggars and incompetents, because our name is not thrown about in the marketplace. We may plead the truth of the world’s name. “We are beggars. This is true,” as Martin Luther confessed on his deathbed. But we are beggars in the hands of a gracious God for the sake of Christ. This poverty cannot be any richer. This beggary cannot be any better fed. This naming cannot be any more illustrious. Our names have been given and written by God.

Post-Script:  We buy into the fame of the name and are drawn to names like Buffet, Gates, Obama, etc., etc. ad nauseum.  This is as old as Babel: “…let us make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11: 4)    In the next chapter in Genesis, the LORD calls a  pagan, Abram and said to him:  “I will bless you and make your name great…”  (Genesis 12: 2) The LORD God has the naming rights!  “How God turns the tables!” Indeed!

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Note:  The following is from A Year With the Church Fathers by Scott Murray, published by Concordia Publishing House.  I think this is an excellent devotional which covers each of the days of the Church Year with the lessons, prayer of the day, a meditation by Rev. Murray and a quote from one of the Church Fathers.  Below is today’s excerpt:  the Meditation is by Rev. Murray followed by a quote from Cyril chosen for this day. I have done the formatting.  Pr. Schroeder

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You show those in error the light of Your truth so that they may return to the way of righteousness. Grant faithfulness to all who areadmitted into the fellowship of Christ’s Church that they may avoid whatever is contrary to their confession and follow all I such things as are pleasing to You;through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalmody:   Psalm 145:1-9

Additional Psalm: Psalm 94

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 18:5-27

New Testament Reading: Hebrews 12:1-24

Meditation

Christ bore His cross, despising its shame (Hebrews 12:2). He never apologizes for the cross or acts embarrassed about its suffering and weakness. Instead, He boldly proclaims ignorant those who know not that the Messiah would come to suffer and die. Such persons should never be teachers in Israel (John 3:10). We, too, ought boldly to proclaim our allegiance to the cross of the suffering Lord without any shuffling evasions. We should never be embarrassed by His weakness, because it is the greatest strength through which our salvation is won.

Even the angel, who attends the resurrected Lord at His triumph on the third day, calls Him the crucified One. He who is the head over all things ever remains the crucified. His headship is displayed at the Place of a Skull (Matthew 27:33), where the death’s head gives life to those who are His Body by faith. Golgotha is the place for the Christ to be enthroned upon the tree.

“We can never be tired of hearing about the crowning of our Lord, and least of all in this most holy Golgotha…. Let none be weary. Take your armor against the adversaries in the cause of the cross itself; set up the faith of the cross as a trophy against our opponents. For when you are going to dispute with unbelievers concerning the cross of Christ, first make with your hand the sign of Christ’s cross, and the gainsayer will be silenced. Don’t be ashamed to confess the cross, for angels glory in it, saying, ‘I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified’ (Matthew 28:5)….

“Now Golgotha means ‘the place of a skull.’ Who prophetically named this spot Golgotha, where Christ the true head endured the cross? As the apostle says,

  • ‘He is the image of the invisible God’; and a little after, ‘He is the head of the body, the church’ (Colossians 1:15, 18).
  • And again, ‘the head of every man is Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:3);
  • and again, ‘who is the head of all rule and authority’ (Colossians 2:10).

The head suffered at ‘the place of a skull: O wondrous prophetic name! The very name also reminds you, saying, ‘Do not think of the Crucified as of a mere man. He is the head of all principality and power. He who was crucified is the head of all power and has for His head the Father, for “the head of every man is Christ…. and the head of Christ is God” ‘ (1 Corinthians 11:3)” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.22-23).

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