OREMUS: 2 May 2006

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Mon May 1 20:39:27 GMT 2006

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OREMUS for Tuesday, May 2, 2006 
Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith, 373

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

Blessed are you, God of life,
in your risen Son
you reveal your abiding presence among us
and call us in our baptism to lives of worship and service,
that we may be his witnesses 
to the farthest reaches of the earth.
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 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;*
 his mercy endures for ever.
Let Israel now proclaim,*
 'His mercy endures for ever.'
Let the house of Aaron now proclaim,*
 'His mercy endures for ever.'
Let those who fear the Lord now proclaim,*
 'His mercy endures for ever.'
I called to the Lord in my distress;*
 the Lord answered by setting me free.
The Lord is at my side, therefore I will not fear;*
 what can anyone do to me?
The Lord is at my side to help me;*
 I will triumph over those who hate me.
It is better to rely on the Lord*
 than to put any trust in flesh.
It is better to rely on the Lord*
 than to put any trust in rulers.
All the ungodly encompass me;*
 in the name of the Lord I will repel them.
They hem me in, they hem me in on every side;*
 in the name of the Lord I will repel them.
They swarm about me like bees;
   they blaze like a fire of thorns;*
 in the name of the Lord I will repel them.
I was pressed so hard that I almost fell,*
 but the Lord came to my help.
The Lord is my strength and my song,*
 and he has become my salvation.
There is a sound of exultation and victory*
 in the tents of the righteous:
'The right hand of the Lord has triumphed!*
 the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
   the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!'
I shall not die, but live,*
 and declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me sorely,*
 but he did not hand me over to death.
Open for me the gates of righteousness;*
 I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
'This is the gate of the Lord;*
 whoever is righteous may enter.'
I will give thanks to you, for you answered me*
 and have become my salvation.
The same stone which the builders rejected*
 has become the chief corner-stone.
This is the Lord's doing,*
 and it is marvellous in our eyes.
On this day the Lord has acted;*
 we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Hosanna, Lord, hosanna!*
 Lord, send us now success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;*
 we bless you from the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord; he has shined upon us;*
 form a procession with branches
   up to the horns of the altar.
'You are my God and I will thank you;*
 you are my God and I will exalt you.'
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;*
 his mercy endures for ever.

A Song of the New Creation (Isaiah 43:15-21)

'I am the Lord, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your king.'

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,

'Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.

'Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

'I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert,  
to give drink to my chosen people,

'The people whom I formed for myself,
that they might declare my praise.'

Psalm 146

   Praise the Lord, O my soul!*
 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in rulers,
   nor in any child of earth,*
 for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth,*
 and in that day their thoughts perish.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob
   for their help!*
 whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the seas,
   and all that is in them;*
 who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,*
 and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
   the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;*
 the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
   the Lord cares for the stranger;*
 he sustains the orphan and widow,
   but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The Lord shall reign for ever,*
 your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

READING [Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:1-5]:

In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning
of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the
fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that
very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he
brought me there. He brought me, in visions of God, to
the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high
mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the
south. When he brought me there, a man was there, whose
appearance shone like bronze, with a linen cord and a
measuring reed in his hand; and he was standing in the
gateway. The man said to me, 'Mortal, look closely and
listen attentively, and set your mind upon all that I
shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I
might show it to you; declare all that you see to the
house of Israel.'
Then he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. And
there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the
east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and
the earth shone with his glory. The vision I saw was like
the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the
city, and like the vision that I had seen by the river
Chebar; and I fell upon my face. As the glory of the Lord
entered the temple by the gate facing east, the spirit
lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and
the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 

For another Biblical reading,
Luke 9:1-9

Words: Reginald Heber (1783-1826), 1827
Tune: Nicaea    
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Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Holy, holy, holy! All saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

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

On this day that the Lord has made, let us give God the glory
and pray for the people he has redeemed.

That we may live as those who believe
in the triumph of the cross: 
Risen Lord, hear our prayer.

For your Church, we pray, O Lord, especially
the Diocese of Central Zambia, The Rt Revd Derek Kamukwamba, Bishop.

That all people may receive the good news of his victory: 
Risen Lord, hear our prayer.

That those born to new life in the waters of baptism
may know the power of his resurrection:
Risen Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who suffer pain and anguish may find healing and peace
in the wounds of Christ:
Risen Lord, hear our prayer.

That in the undying love of Christ,
we may have union with all who have died:
Risen Lord, hear our prayer.

Let us join our voices with the saints in proclaiming
that Christ has given us the victory:

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

- The Lord's Prayer

Stir up our faith, O God of life,
that our hearts may burn within us
at the sound of Jesus' word,
and our eyes be opened to recognize him
in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

The psalms are from _Celebrating Common Prayer_ (Mowbray),
(c) The Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission.

The canticle, the opening thanksgiving and the invitation to the Lord's Prayer
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 use sentences
from three prayers in _Opening Prayers: Collects in Contemporary

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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