OREMUS: 2 May 2005

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Sun May 1 17:00:01 GMT 2005

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OREMUS for Monday, May 2, 2005
Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith, 373

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Blessed are you, strong and faithful God.
All your works, the height and the depth,
echo the silent music of your praise.
In the beginning your Word summoned light,
night withdrew, and creation dawned.
As ages passed unseen,
waters gathered on the face of the earth
and life appeared.
When the times at last had ripened
and the earth grown full in abundance,
you created in your image man and woman,
the stewards of all creation.
You gave us breath and speech,
that all the living
might find a voice to sing your praise,
and to celebrate the creation you call good.
For these and all your mercies, we praise you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever!

An opening canticle may be sung. 


Psalm 104:1-25

Bless the Lord, O my soul;*
 O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
   you are clothed with majesty and splendour.
You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak*
 and spread out the heavens like a curtain.
You lay the beams of your chambers
   in the waters above;*
 you make the clouds your chariot;
   you ride on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds your messengers*
 and flames of fire your servants.
You have set the earth upon its foundations,*
 so that it never shall move at any time.
You covered it with the deep as with a mantle;*
 the waters stood higher than the mountains.
At your rebuke they fled;*
 at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.
They went up into the hills
   and down to the valleys beneath,*
 to the places you had appointed for them.
You set the limits that they should not pass;*
 they shall not again cover the earth.
You send the springs into the valleys;*
 they flow between the mountains.
All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them,*
 and the wild asses quench their thirst.
Beside them the birds of the air make their nests*
 and sing among the branches.
You water the mountains from your dwelling on high;*
 the earth is fully satisfied by the fruit of your works.
You make grass grow for flocks and herds*
 and plants to serve us all;
That they may bring forth food from the earth,*
 and wine to gladden our hearts,
Oil to make a cheerful countenance,*
 and bread to strengthen the heart.
The trees of the Lord are full of sap,*
 the cedars of Lebanon which he planted,
In which the birds build their nests,*
 and in whose tops the stork makes his dwelling.
The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats,*
 and the stony cliffs for the rock badgers.
You appointed the moon to mark the seasons,*
 and the sun knows the time of its setting.
You make darkness that it may be night,*
 in which all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar after their prey*
 and seek their food from God.
The sun rises and they slip away*
 and lay themselves down in their dens.
The labourer goes forth to work*
 and to toil until the evening.
O Lord, how manifold are your works!*
 in wisdom you have made them all;
   the earth is full of your creatures.

A Song of Creation (Song of the Three Young Men

Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord you heavens:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord you angels of the Lord:
bless the Lord all you his hosts;

bless the Lord you waters above the heavens:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord sun and moon:
bless the Lord you stars of heaven;

bless the Lord all rain and dew:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord all winds that blow:
bless the Lord you fire and heat;

bless the Lord scorching wind and bitter cold:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord dews and falling snows:
bless the Lord you nights and days;

bless the Lord light and darkness:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord frost and cold:
bless the Lord you ice and snow;

bless the Lord lightnings and clouds:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit:
sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Psalm 150

   Praise God in his holy temple;*
 praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts;*
 praise him for his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the ram's-horn;*
 praise him with lyre and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance;*
 praise him with strings and pipe.
Praise him with resounding cymbals;*
 praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath*
 praise the Lord.

READING [Deuteronomy 8:1-10]:

This entire commandment that I command you today you must
diligently observe, so that you may live and increase,
and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on
oath to your ancestors. Remember the long way that the
LORD your God has led you these forty years in the
wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know
what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his
commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then
by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor
your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you
understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by
every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. The
clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did
not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that
as a parent disciplines a child so the LORD your God
disciplines you. Therefore keep the commandments of the
LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a
land with flowing streams, with springs and underground
waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat
and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a
land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat
bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a
land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may
mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD
your God for the good land that he has given you.

For another Biblical reading,
Colossians 1:9-14


Words: Carl P. Daw, Jr. (c)
Tune: Mit Freuden zart
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Let all creation bless the Lord,
till heaven with praise is ringing.
Sun, moon, and stars, peal out a chord,
stir up the angels' singing.
Sing, wind and rain! Sing, snow and sleet!
Make music, day, night, cold, and heat:
exalt the God who made you.

All living things upon this earth,
green fertile hills and mountains,
sing to the God who gave you birth;
be joyful, springs and fountains.
Lithe waterlife, bright airborne birds,
wild roving beasts, tame flocks and herds:
exalt the God who made you.

O men and women everywhere,
lift up a hymn of glory;
all you who know God's steadfast care,
tell our salvation's story.
No tongue be silent; sing your part,
you humble souls and meek of heart:
exalt the God who made you.

The Benedictus (Morning), the 
Magnificat (Evening), or 
Nunc dimittis (Night) may follow.

God, Source of all life, how excellent is your name in all the earth.
All people glorify your holy name together.

The majesty and vastness of your creation wraps us round with power and wonder.
We thank you, O God.

For the fertility to nourish cattle and fields, 
for the means allowing persons and families to survive.
We thank you, O God.

God made these great works, the gardens and seas, and all the earth's wonders.
We praise you, O God.

For the joy of being a part of nature throughout all our days.
We praise you, O God.

That the mighty power which made the mountains rise 
and sets forth each morning's challenge
will continue to sustain us.
Hear us, O God.
That your guidance will continue to guide us 
as we live as part of your creation.
We beseech you to hear us, O God.

All that is true, all that is just, 
we have received from your hand.
We praise you, O God, and bless your Holy Name.

O Lord, how manifold are all your works
and the earth is full of your creatures.
Send forth your Spirit again this day
to renew the face of the earth,
that the whole creation may reflect
the majesty of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Everliving God,
whose servant Athanasius testified
   to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation:
help us, with all your saints,
to grow into the likeness of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Rejoicing in God's new creation,
let us pray as our Redeemer has taught us:

- The Lord's Prayer

Come, Lord Jesus, in glory
that at last all peoples will be free,
all divisions healed,
and your whole creation will sing your praise. Amen.

The psalms and the invitation to the Lord's Prayer are from _Celebrating
Common Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The Society of Saint Francis
1992, which is used with permission.

The canticle is from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary
Edition_, copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving and the closing sentence are adapted from
a Eucharistic Prayer in _Book of Common Worship_, (c) 1993
Westminster / John Knox Press. 

Hymn (c) 1989 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL  60188.  
All rights reserved.  Used by permission.
For permission to reproduce this hymn, contact:  Hope Publishing Company,

The litany is adapted from a litany from an unknown source found on

Outside the pages of the New Testament itself, Athanasius is probably the man
to whom we chiefly owe the preservation of the Christian faith. He was born
around AD 298, and lived in Alexandria, Egypt, the chief center of learning of
the Roman Empire.
In 313 the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which changed
Christianity from a persecuted to an officially favored religion. About six years
later, a presbyter (elder, priest) Arius of Alexandria began to teach concerning
the Word of God (John 1:1) that "God begat him, and before he was begotten,
he did not exist." Athanasius was at that time a newly ordained deacon,
secretary to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, and a member of his household.
His reply to Arius was that the begetting, or uttering, of the Word by the
Father is an eternal relation between Them, and not a temporal event. Arius
was condemned by the bishops of Egypt (with the exceptions of Secundus of
Ptolemais and Theonas of Marmorica), and went to Nicomedia, from which he
wrote letters to bishops throughout the world, stating his position.
The Emperor Constantine undertook to resolve the dispute by calling a council
of bishops from all over the Christian world. This council met in Nicea, just
across the straits from what is now Istanbul, in the year 325, and consisted of
317 bishops. Athanasius accompanied his bishop to the council, and became
recognized as a chief spokesman for the view that the Son was fully God,
co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.
The party of Athanasius was overwhelmingly in the majority. (The western, or
Latin, half of the Empire was very sparsely represented, but it was solidly
Athanasian, so that if its bishops had attended in force, the vote would have
been still more lopsided.) It remained to formulate a creedal statement to
express the consensus. The initial effort was to find a formula from Holy
Scripture that would express the full deity of the Son, equally with the Father.
However, the Arians cheerfully agreed to all such formulations, having
interpreted them already to fit their own views. (Those of you who have
conversed with members of the Watchtower Society, who consider themselves
the spiritual heirs of Arius, will know how this works.) Finally, the Greek word
"homo-ousios" (meaning "of the same substance, or nature, or essence") was
introduced, chiefly because it was one word that could not be understood to
mean what the Arians meant. Some of the bishops present, although in
complete disagreement with Arius, were reluctant to use a term not found in
the Scriptures, but eventually saw that the alternative was a creed that both
sides would sign, each understanding it in its own way, and that the Church
could not afford to leave the question of whether the Son is truly God (the
Arians said "a god") undecided. So the result was that the Council adopted a
creed which is a shorter version of what we now call the Nicene Creed,
declaring the Son to be "of one substance with the Father." At the end, there
were only two holdouts, the aforesaid Secundus and Theonas.
No sooner was the council over than its consensus began to fall apart.
Constantine had expected that the result would be unity, but found that the
Arians would not accept the decision, and that many of the orthodox bishops
were prepared to look for a wording a little softer than that of Nicea,
something that sounded orthodox, but that the Arians would accept. All sorts
of compromise formulas were worked out, with all shades of variation from the
formula of Nicea.
In 328, Alexander died, and Athanasius succeeded him as bishop of
Alexandria. He refused to participate in these negotiations, suspecting
(correctly as it turned out) that once the orthodox party showed a willingness
to make reaching an agreement their highest priority, they would end up giving
away the store. He defended the full deity of Christ against emperors,
magistrates, bishops, and theologians. For this, he was regarded as a
trouble-maker by Constantine and his successors, and was banished from
Alexandria a total of five times by various emperors. (Hence the expression
"Athanasius contra mundum," or, "Athanasius against the world.") Eventually,
Christians who believed in the Deity of Christ came to see that once they were
prepared to abandon the Nicene formulation, they were on a slippery slope that
led to regarding the Logos as simply a high-ranking angel. The more they
experimented with other formulations, the clearer it became that only the
Nicene formulation would preserve the Christian faith in any meaningful sense,
and so they re-affirmed the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople in
381, a final triumph that Athanasius did not live to see.
It was a final triumph as far as councils of bishops were concerned, but the
situation was complicated by the fact that after Constantine there were several
Arian emperors (not counting the Emperor Julian, who was a pagan, but
correctly saw that the most effective way to fight Christianity was to throw all
his weight on the side of the Arians). Under one of them Arian missionaries
were sent to convert the Goths, who became the backbone of the Roman Army
(then composed chiefly of foreign mercenaries) with the result that for many
years Arianism was considered the mark of a good Army man. The conversion
of Clovis, King of the Franks, in 496, to orthodox Christianity either gave the
Athanasian party the military power to crush Arianism or denied the Arian
Goths the military supremacy that would have enabled them to crush
Athanasian Christianity, depending on your point of view.
Since Alexandria had the best astronomers, it was the duty of the Bishop of
Alexandria to write to the other bishops every year and tell them the correct
date for Easter. Naturally, his annual letter on this topic contained other
material as well. One Easter Letter (or Paschal Letter) of Athanasius is well
known for giving a list of the books that ought to be considered part of the
canonical Scriptures, with a supplementary list of books suitable for devotional
Quotations from the writings of Athanasius follow:
    We were made "in the likeness of God." But in course of time that image
has become obscured, like a face on a very old portrait, dimmed with dust and
    When a portrait is spoiled, the only way to renew it is for the subject to
come back to the studio and sit for the artist all over again. That is why Christ
came--to make it possible for the divine image in man to be recreated. We
were made in God's likeness; we are remade in the likeness of his Son.
    To bring about this re-creation, Christ still comes to men and lives among
them. In a special way he comes to his Church, his "body", to show us what
the "image of God" is really like.
    What a responsibility the Church has, to be Christ's "body," showing him to
those who are unwilling or unable to see him in providence, or in creation!
Through the Word of God lived out in the Body of Christ they can come to the
Father, and themselves be made again "in the likeness of God." [James Kiefer,

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