OREMUS: 2 January 2008

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Tue Jan 1 17:00:00 GMT 2008

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OREMUS for Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops, 379 and 389

O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, loving and merciful God,
you fill our hearts with joy
as we recognize in Christ the revelation of your love.
No eye can see his glory as our God,
yet now he is seen like one of us.
Christ is your Son before all ages,
yet now he is born in time.
He has come to lift up all things to himself,
to restore unity to creation,
and to lead us from exile into your heavenly kingdom.
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 47

Clap your hands, all you peoples;*
 shout to God with a cry of joy.
For the Lord Most High is to be feared;*
 he is the great king over all the earth.
He subdues the peoples under us,*
 and the nations under our feet.
He chooses our inheritance for us,*
 the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
God has gone up with a shout,*
 the Lord with the sound of the ram's-horn.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;*
 sing praises to our king, sing praises.
For God is king of all the earth;*
 sing praises with all your skill.
God reigns over the nations;*
 God sits upon his holy throne.
The nobles of the peoples have gathered together*
 with the people of the God of Abraham.
The rulers of the earth belong to God,*
 and he is highly exalted.

Psalm 53

The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'*
 All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
   there is none who does any good.
God looks down from heaven upon us all,*
 to see if there is any who is wise,
   if there is one who seeks after God.
Every one has proved faithless;
   all alike have turned bad;*
 there is none who does good; no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, those evildoers*
 who eat up my people like bread
   and do not call upon God?
See how greatly they tremble,
   such trembling as never was;*
 for God has scattered the bones of the enemy;
   they are put to shame, because God has rejected them.
O that Israel's deliverance would come out of Zion!*
 when God restores the fortunes of his people
   Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

Psalm 54

Save me, O God, by your name;*
 in your might, defend my cause.
Hear my prayer, O God;*
 give ear to the words of my mouth.
For the arrogant have risen up against me,
   and the ruthless have sought my life,*
 those who have no regard for God.
Behold, God is my helper;*
 it is the Lord who sustains my life.
Render evil to those who spy on me;*
 in your faithfulness, destroy them.
I will offer you a freewill sacrifice*
 and praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For you have rescued me from every trouble,*
 and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

A Song of Redemption (Colossians 1.13-18a,19,20a)
The Father has delivered us from the dominion of darkness,  
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son; 
In whom we have redemption,  
the forgiveness of our sins. 
He is the image of the invisible God,  
the firstborn of all creation. 
For in him all things were created,  
in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. 
All things were created through him and for him,  
he is before all things and in him all things hold together. 
He is the head of the body, the Church,  
he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. 
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell;  
and through him God was pleased to reconcile all things. 

Psalm 147:13-end

Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem;*
 praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;*
 he has blessed your children within you.
He has established peace on your borders;*
 he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth,*
 and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;*
 he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;*
 who can stand against his cold?
He sends forth his word and melts them;*
 he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,*
 his statutes and his judgements to Israel.
He has not done so to any other nation;*
 to them he has not revealed his judgements.

FIRST READING [1 John 2.22 28]:

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist,
the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father;
everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the
beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you
will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal
I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the
anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to
teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie,
and just as it has taught you, abide in him.
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have
confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

Words: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), 1885
Tune: Gartan, Hermitage

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Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, love divine;
love was born at Christmas:
star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
love incarnate, love divine;
worship we our Jesus,
but wherewith the sacred sign?

Love shall be our token;
love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
love for plea and gift and sign.

SECOND READING [John 1.19 28]:

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from
Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed,
'I am not the Messiah.' And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I
am not.' 'Are you the prophet?' He answered, 'No.' Then they said to him, 'Who are
you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?'
He said,
'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
"Make straight the way of the Lord" ',
as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, 'Why then are you
baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' John answered
them, 'I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one
who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.' This took
place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. 

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

Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.
Let us offer our prayers for the needs of the world.

Wonderful Counselor,
give your wisdom to the rulers of the nations...
We pray especially for the people of Palestine.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Mighty God,
make the whole world know
that the government is on your shoulders...
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Everlasting Father,
establish your reign of justice and righteousness for ever...
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Prince of Peace,
bring in the endless kingdom of your peace...
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Lord of the Church,
hear our prayer,
and make us one in heart and mind
to serve you with joy for ever.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

God of power and life, 
the glory of all who believe in you: 
Fill the world with your splendor 
and show the nations the light of your truth; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord God, whose servants Basil and Gregory
proclaimed the mystery of your Word made flesh,
to build up your Church in wisdom and strength:
grant that we may rejoice in his presence among us,
and so be brought with them to know the power
of your unending love;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Awaiting his coming in glory,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us:

- The Lord's Prayer

Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,
let us pray in faith and trust:

- The Lord's Prayer

May the Christ who by becoming incarnate gathered into one
things earthly and heavenly,
bestow upon us the fullness of peace and goodwill. 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

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
_The Promise of His Glory_ (Mowbray), (c) The Central
Board of Finance  of the Church of England 1990, 1991, which is used with

The collect is from _The Book of Alternative Services of The
Anglican Church of Canada_.
The second collect is from _Common Worship: Services and Prayers for
the Church of England_, material from which is included in this service is
copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2000.

Gregory of Nazianzus, his friend Basil the Great, and Basil's brother Gregory
of Nyssa, are jointly known as the Cappadocian Fathers (Cappadocia is a
region in what is now Central Turkey). Oremus follows the current calendars in the
Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church and celebrates the feasts of the first
two on January 2.
Gregory lived in a turbulent time. In 312, Constantine, having won a battle that
made him Emperor of the West, issued a decree that made it no longer a crime
to be a Christian. In 325 he summoned a council of Bishops at Nicea, across
the straits from Byzantium (Constantinople, Istanbul), to settle the dispute
between those (led by Athanasius) who taught that the Logos (the "Word" of
John 1:1, who "was made flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus of
Nazareth) was completely God, in the same sense in which the Father is God,
and those (led by Arius) who taught that the Logos is a being created by God
the Father. The bishops assembled at Nicea declared that the view of
Athanasius was that which they had received from their predecessors as the
true Faith handed down from the Apostles.
The Arians did not accept defeat quietly. They created a sufficient disturbance
so that Constantine, at first inclined to support the decision of the Council,
decided that peace could best be obtained by adopting a Creed which simply
evaded the issue. After his death in 336, he was succeeded by various of his
relatives, some of whom sided with the Athanasians and some with the Arians,
and one of whom (Julian the Apostate, Emperor 361-363) attempted to restore
paganism as the religion of the Empire. The situation was complicated by the
fact that missionaries to the Goths were first sent out in large numbers during
the reign of an Arian Emperor, with the result that the Goths were converted
to Arian Christianity. Since the professional Army was composed chiefly of
Goth mercenaries, and the Army held the balance of power, this was a real
Gregory of Nazianzus was born about 330. He went to school in Athens with
his friend Basil, and with the aforesaid Julian. He and Basil compiled an
anthology, called the PHILOKALIA, of the works of the great (but somewhat
erratic) Alexandrian theologian, philosopher, and scholar of the previous
century, Origen. Later, he went home to assist his father, a bishop, in his
struggles against Arianism. Meanwhile, his friend Basil had become
Archbishop of (Cappadocian) Caesarea. Faced with a rival Arian bishop at
Tyana, he undertook to consolidate his position by maneuvering Gregory into
the position of Bishop of Sasima, an unhealthy settlement on the border
between the two jurisdictions. Gregory called Sasima "a detestable little place
without water or grass or any mark of civilization." He felt "like a bone flung
to dogs." He refused to reside at Sasima. Basil accused him of shirking his
duty. He accused Basil of making him a pawn in ecclesiastical politics. Their
friendship suffered a severe breach, which took some time to heal. Gregory
suffered a breakdown and retired to recuperate.
In 379, after the death of the Arian Emperor Valens, Gregory was asked to go
to Constantinople to preach there. For thirty years, the city had been controlled
by Arians or pagans, and the orthodox did not even have a church there.
Gregory went. He converted his own house there into a church and held
services in it. There he preached the Five Theological Orations for which he is
best known, a series of five sermons on the Trinity and in defense of the deity
of Christ. People flocked to hear him preach, and the city was largely won over
to the Athanasian (Trinitarian, catholic, orthodox) position by his powers of
persuasion. The following year, he was consecrated bishop of Constantinople.
He presided at the Council of Constantinple in 381, which confirmed the
Athanasian position of the earlier Council of Nicea in 325. Having
accomplished what he believed to be his mission at Constantinople, and heartily
sick of ecclesiastical politics, Gregory resigned and retired to his home town of
Nazianzus, where he died in 389.
Basil was born in Caesarea of Cappadocia, a province in what is now central
Turkey (more or less directly north of the easternmost part of the
Mediterranean, but with no seacoast). He was born in 329, after the
persecution of Christians had ceased, but with parents who could remember
the persecutions and had lived through them. He originally planned to become
a lawyer and orator, and studied at Athens (351-356), where two of his
classmates were Gregory of Nazianzus (who became a close friend) and the
future Emperor Julian the Apostate. When he returned home, the influence and
example of his sister Macrina led him to seek the monastic life instead, and
after making a tour of the monasteries of Egypt in 357, he founded a monastic
settlement near his home. He remained there only five years, but the influence
of his community was enormous. Whereas in the West there are numerous
monastic orders (Benedictines, Carthusians, etc.), in the East all monks are
Basilian monks. His Longer Rules and Shorter Rules for the monastic life
remain the standard. Basil expresses a definite preference for the communal life
of the monastery over the solitary life of the hermit, arguing that the Christian
life of mutual love and service is communal by its nature. In 367-8, when
Cappadocia suffered a severe and widespread famine, Basil sold his family's
very extensive land holdings in order to buy food for the starving, persuading
many others to follow his example, and putting on an apron to work in the
soup kitchen himself. In this crisis, he absolutely refused to allow any
distinction to be made between Jew and Christian, saying that the digestive
systems of the two are indistinguishable. He also built a hospital for the care of
the sick, housing for the poor, and a hospice for travelers.
These were the years between the First Ecumenical Council (Nicea, 325) and
the Second (Constantinople, 381), years in which it was uncertain whether the
Church would stand by the declaration made at Nicea that the Logos (the
"Word" -- see John 1:1) was fully God, equally with the Father, or seek a more
flexible formula in the hope of reconciliation with the Arians, who declared
themselves unalterably opposed to the Nicene wording. Basil had been
ordained priest in 362 in order to assist the new Bishop of Caesarea, whom he
succeeded in 370. (Since Caesarea was the capital, or metropolis, of the
province of Cappadocia, its bishop was automatically the metropolitan of
Cappadocia, which included about fifty dioceses (bishoprics). A metropolitan
was roughly what we would call an archbishop, although in ancient
terminology an "archbishop" was one step above a metropolitan.) By that time,
an Arian emperor, Valens, was ruling. Basil made it his policy to try to unite
the so-called semi-Arians with the Nicene party against the outright Arians,
making use of the formula "three persons (hypostases) in one substance
(ousia)," thus explicitly acknowledging a distinction between the Father and
the Son (a distinction that the Nicene party had been accused of blurring), and
at the same time insisting on their essential unity.
When the emperor Valens passed through Caesarea in 371, he demanded the
theological submission of Basil, who flatly refused. The imperial prefect
expressed astonishment at Basil's defiance, to which Basil replied, "Perhaps
you have never met a real bishop before." Valens retaliated by dividing the
province of Cappadocia into two provinces, with the result that the Arian
Bishop of Tyana became metropolitan of the new province of Western
Cappadocia. Basil responded by going political. He ramrodded his brother
Gregory of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus into bishoprics that they
did not want, and for which they were totally unsuited, so that he would have
the votes of those bishoprics when he needed them. (Neither Gregory ever
quite forgave him for this.) His interests were not exclusively theological: he
denounced and excommunicated those who owned houses of prostitution, he
worked to secure justice for the poor against those who oppressed them, and
he severely disciplined clergy who used their office to accumulate money or to
live too well at the expense of the faithful.
His most famous writings include the Hexaemeron ("The Six Days"), a series
of nine sermons on the days of creation, in which he speaks of the beauties of
the created world as revelations of the splendor of God. His Against Eunomius
defends the deity of Christ against an Arian writer, and his On The Holy Spirit
speaks of the deity of the Third Person of the Trinity, and the rightness of
worshipping Him together with the Father and the Son. In his Address To
Young Men (originally written for his nephews), he urges Christians to make
themselves acquainted with pagan philosophy and literature, arguing that this
will often lead to a deeper understanding of Christian truth. His personality
comes through most clearly in his letters, of which more than three hundred
have been preserved. Some deal with points of theology or ethics, some with
canon law, and many simply with everyday affairs. Ten times a year the Eastern
churches use the Liturgy of St. Basil rather than the more usual Liturgy of St.
John Chrysostom. It differs chiefly in having a more elaborate Anaphora (the
prayer of consecration offered over the bread and wine), expressing some of
his characteristic turns of thought, probably dating back to his time and used by
him, and possibly composed by him personally.
Basil died in 379, shortly after the death in battle of the Arian Valens removed
the chief threat to the Nicene faith to which Basil had devoted his life. He was
mourned by the entire city, and the weeping crowds at his funeral included
Christians, Jews, and pagans. [James Kiefer]

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