OREMUS: 2 May 2008

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Thu May 1 17:00:00 GMT 2008

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OREMUS for Friday, May 2, 2008
Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith, 373

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

Blessed are you, almighty God,
through Jesus Christ the King of glory.
Born of a woman,
he came to our rescue.
Dying for us,
he trampled death and conquered sin.
By the glory of his resurrection
he opened the way to life eternal
and by his ascension,
gave us the sure hope
that where he is we may also be.
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 20

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble,*
 the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
Send you help from his holy place*
 and strengthen you out of Zion;
Remember all your offerings*
 and accept your burnt sacrifice;
Grant you your heart's desire*
 and prosper all your plans.
We will shout for joy at your victory
   and triumph in the name of our God;*
 may the Lord grant all your requests.
Now I know that the Lord gives victory
   to his anointed;*
 he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
   with the victorious strength of his right hand.
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,*
 but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall down,*
 but we will arise and stand upright.
O Lord, give victory to the king*
 and answer us when we call.

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, you gods,*
 ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;*
 worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
   the God of glory thunders;*
 the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice;*
 the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendour.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees;*
 the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,*
 and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
   the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;*
 the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe*
 and strips the forests bare.
And in the temple of the Lord*
 all are crying, 'Glory!'
The Lord sits enthroned above the flood;*
 the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;*
 the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

A Song of God's Children (Romans 8.2,14,15b-19)

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus  
has set us free from the law of sin and death. 
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God;  
for we have received the Spirit that enables us to cry, 'Abba, Father'. 
The Spirit himself bears witness that we are children of God  
and if God's children, then heirs of God; 
If heirs of God, then fellow-heirs with Christ;  
since we suffer with him now, that we may be glorified with him. 
These sufferings that we now endure  
are not worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed. 
For the creation waits with eager longing  
for the revealing of the children of God.

Psalm 149

   Sing to the Lord a new song;*
 sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in his maker;*
 let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance;*
 let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people*
 and adorns the poor with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;*
 let them be joyful on their beds.
Let the praises of God be in their throat*
 and a two-edged sword in their hand;
To wreak vengeance on the nations*
 and punishment on the peoples;
To bind their kings in chains*
 and their nobles with links of iron;
To inflict on them the judgement decreed;*
 this is glory for all his faithful people.

FIRST READING [Isaiah 12]:

You will say on that day:
I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
   for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
   and you comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation;
   I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
   he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 
And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
   call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
   proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
   let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
   for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. 

Words: Lauda Sion salvatorem Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274)
tr Alexander R.Thompson (1817-1895)

Zion, to thy Saviour singing,
To thy Prince and Shepherd bringing
Sweetest hymns of love and praise,
Yet thou shalt not reach the measure
Of his worth, by all the treasure
Of thy most ecstatic lays!

Fill thy lips to overflowing
With sweet praise, his mercy showing,
Who this heavenly table spread;
On this day so glad and holy,
To each hungering spirit lowly
Giveth he the living bread.

O Good Shepherd, bread life-giving,
Us, thy grace and life receiving,
Feed and shelter evermore!
Thou on earth our weakness guiding,
We in heaven with thee abiding,
With all saints will thee adore.

SECOND READING [Acts 1:12-end]:

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near
Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to
the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew,
Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the
Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,
together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about
one hundred and twenty people) and said, 'Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled,
which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for
those who arrested Jesus  for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in
this ministry.' (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and
falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became
known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language
Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 'For it is written in the book of Psalms,
"Let his homestead become desolate,
   and let there be no one to live in it";
"Let another take his position of overseer."
So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus
went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he
was taken up from us one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.'
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and
Matthias. Then they prayed and said, 'Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which
one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from
which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.' And they cast lots for them, and the
lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. 

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

We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit.

Generous God, we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit.
We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to make us wise to understand your will.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to keep us confident of your love,
wherever you call us.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness
where there is division, sickness and sorrow.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to equip us for the work
which you have given us.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit,
given by the risen Lord.
We ask you to keep the whole Church,
living and departed,
in the joy of eternal life.
Lord, come to bless us.
Fill us with your Spirit.

Open our ears to hear you, O God,
and our mouths to proclaim your glory
and the beauty of your holiness
as revealed to us in your Son,
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. 

Looking for the coming of the kingdom,
let us pray as our King has taught us:

- The Lord's Prayer

May Christ, our ascended King,
pour upon us the abundance of his gifts
and bring us to reign with him in glory. Amen.

The psalms 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
_Common WorshipServices and Prayers for the Church of
England_, material from which is included in this service is copyright
(c) The Archbishops' Council, 2000.

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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