OREMUS: 7 March 2012

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Tue Mar 6 17:00:00 GMT 2012

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OREMUS for March 7
Perpetua, Felicity and their Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 203

The moving, contemporary account of these early third-century, African martyrs proved to be of great significance in the life of the early Church. Vibia Perpetua was a young, married noblewoman of Carthage and Felicity was her personal slave. Saturas was possibly a priest and there were two other men, Saturninus and Revocatus, the latter also a slave. Felicity was pregnant. It seems most of them were catechumens when arrested and only baptised later in prison. They were condemned as Christians by the Roman authorities and dispatched to the public arena, there to be mauled by wild animals. They all survived and were then taken to be executed by the sword. Before this, they all exchanged the Kiss of Peace and affirmed their faith in Christ, the Son of God. The contemporary account was much circulated secretly throughout the Christian congregations and proved both to give renown to their courage and to give encouragement to their fellow Christians in the face of adversity. They were martyred for their faith on this day in the year 203. 

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

Let us hold fast
to the confession of our hope without wavering,
for God who has promised is faithful.
Let us worship God.

Blessed are you, God of the covenant,
in the glory of the cross
your Son embraced the power of death
and broke its hold over your people.
In this time of repentance
you draw all people to yourself,
that we who confess Jesus as Lord
may put aside the deeds of death
and accept the life of your 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 35

Fight those who fight me, O Lord;*
 attack those who are attacking me. 
Take up shield and armour*
 and rise up to help me. 
Draw the sword and bar the way
   against those who pursue me;*
 say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.' 
Let those who seek after my life
be shamed and humbled;*
 let those who plot my ruin
 fall back and be dismayed. 
Let them be like chaff before the wind,*
 and let the angel of the Lord 
 drive them away. 
Let their way be dark and slippery,*
 and let the angel of the Lord pursue them. 
For they have secretly spread a net
for me without a cause;*
 without a cause they have dug a pit
 to take me alive. 
Let ruin come upon them unawares;*
 let them be caught in the net they hid;
 let them fall into the pit they dug.
Then I will be joyful in the Lord;*
 I will glory in his victory. 
My very bones will say,
'Lord, who is like you?*
 You deliver the poor from those
 who are too strong for them,
 the poor and needy from those
 who rob them.' 
Malicious witnesses rise up against me;*
 they charge me with matters
 I know nothing about. 
They pay me evil in exchange for good;*
 my soul is full of despair. 
But when they were sick
I dressed in sack-cloth*
 and humbled myself by fasting; 
I prayed with my whole heart,
as one would for a friend or a brother;*
 I behaved like one
 who mourns for his mother,
 bowed down and grieving. 
But when I stumbled,
they were glad and gathered together;
they gathered against me;*
 strangers whom I did not know
 tore me to pieces and would not stop. 
They put me to the test and mocked me;*
 they gnashed at me with their teeth. 
O Lord, how long will you look on?*
 rescue me from the roaring beasts,
 and my life from the young lions. 
I will give you thanks
in the great congregation;*
 I will praise you in the mighty throng. 
Do not let my treacherous foes
rejoice over me,*
 nor let those who hate me without a cause
 wink at each other. 
For they do not plan for peace,*
 but invent deceitful schemes
 against the quiet in the land. 
They opened their mouths at me and said,*
 'Aha! we saw it with our own eyes.' 
You saw it, O Lord; do not be silent;*
 O Lord, be not far from me. 
Awake, arise, to my cause!*
 to my defence, my God and my Lord! 
Give me justice, O Lord my God,
according to your righteousness;*
 do not let them triumph over me. 
Do not let them say in their hearts,
'Aha! just what we want!'*
 Do not let them say,
 'We have swallowed him up.' 
Let all who rejoice at my ruin
be ashamed and disgraced;*
 let those who boast against me
 be clothed with dismay and shame. 
Let those who favour my cause
sing out with joy and be glad;*
 let them say always, 
 'Great is the Lord, who desires
 the prosperity of his servant.' 
And my tongue
shall be talking of your righteousness*
 and of your praise all the day long. 

Psalm 36

There is a voice of rebellion
deep in the heart of the wicked;*
 there is no fear of God before their eyes.
They flatter themselves in their own eyes*
 that their hateful sin will not be found out.
The words of their mouths
are wicked and deceitful;*
 they have left off acting wisely
 and doing good.
They think up wickedness upon their beds
and have set themselves in no good way;*
 they do not abhor that which is evil.
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,*
 and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;*
 you save both human and beast, O Lord.
How priceless is your love, O God!*
 your people take refuge
 under the shadow of your wings.
They feast upon the abundance of your house;*
 you give them drink
 from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life,*
 and in your light we see light.
Continue your lovingkindness
to those who know you,*
 and your favour to those
who are true of heart.
Let not the foot of the proud come near me,*
 nor the hand of the wicked push me aside.
See how they are fallen,
those who work wickedness!*
 they are cast down
 and shall not be able to rise.

FIRST READING [Ezekiel 13:1-16]:

The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying; say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: 'Hear the word of the Lord!' Thus says the Lord God, Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or repaired a wall for the house of Israel, so that it might stand in battle on the day of the Lord. They have prophesied falsehood and lying divination; they say, 'Says the Lord', when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they wait for the fulfilment of their word! Have you not seen a false vision or uttered a lying divination, when you have said, 'Says the Lord', even though I did not speak? 

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have uttered falsehood and prophesied lies, I am against you, says the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; they shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying, 'Peace', when there is no peace; and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear whitewash on it. Say to those who smear whitewash on it that it shall fall. There will be a deluge of rain, great hailstones will fall, and a stormy wind will break out. When the wall falls, will it not be said to you, 'Where is the whitewash you smeared on it?' Therefore thus says the Lord God: In my wrath I will make a stormy wind break out, and in my anger there shall be a deluge of rain, and hailstones in wrath to destroy it. I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare; when it falls, you shall perish within it; and you shall know that I am the Lord. Thus I will spend my wrath upon the wall, and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash; and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it— the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for it, when there was no peace, says the Lord God. 

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Tune: Harts

Come, and let us sweetly join
Christ to praise in hymns divine;
Give we all with one accord
Glory to our common Lord,

Hands and hearts and voices raise,
Sing as in the ancient days,
Antedate the joys above,
Celebrate the feast of love.
Strive we, in affection strive;
Let the purer flame revive,
Such as in the martyrs glowed,
Dying champions for their God.

We, like them, may live and love;
Called we are their joys to prove,
Saved with them from future wrath,
Partners of like precious faith.

Sing we then in Jesu's name,
Now as yesterday the same;
One in every time and place,
Full for all of truth and grace.

We for Christ, our Master, stand,
Lights in a benighted land:
We our dying Lord confess;
We are Jesus's witnesses.

Winesses that Christ hath died,
We with Him are crucified;
Christ hath burst the bands of death,
We His quickening Spirit breathe.

Christ is now gone up on high,
Thither all our wishes fly;
Sits at God's right hand above,
There with Him we reign in love.

SECOND READING [Romans 3:21-31]:

But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 

Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. 

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

We seek salvation through our power; 
yet you hang your useless bow in the clouds.
We seek salvation through our progeny;
yet your lineage follows lines of faithfulness.
We seek salvation through our independence;
yet your commandments plead for accountability.
We seek salvation through our denial;
yet you hold forth the serpent and beckon us to look.
We seek salvation through our intellect; y
yet your wisdom is written on our hearts.
We seek salvation through our heritage; 
yet you invite us to make a journey of faith.
May your invitation to journey
overcome our comfort with the familiar. Amen. 

God of our salvation,
come quickly to free the poor
from their oppressors,
and establish your reign of justice on earth,
that your people may sing out with joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, our Hope and Redeemer,
your holy martyr Perpetua
and her companions
renounced all loves that bound them to earth
and embraced your heavenly promises
through the shedding of their blood.
Grant us so to cherish their memory
that in every trial of our faith
we may neither fear nor doubt
but know you as our guide;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Trusting in God's compassion,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us.

- The Lord's Prayer

Guide us by the hand of your mercy
that we may offer no other service
but that which is pleasing in your sight. Amen.
The psalms are from _Celebrating Common Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission. 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 biography is from Exciting Holiness © European Province of the Society of Saint Francis, 1997. The opening sentence is Hebrews 10:23. The opening prayer of thanksgiving is reprinted from _Revised Common Lectionary Prayers_, copyright (c) 2002 Consultation on Common Texts. The intercession is by Katherine Hawker http://liturgyoutside.net/Lent2B.html.  The second collect and closing sentence are from _For All the Saints_, Anglican Church of Canada

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