THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
28 SEPTEMBER 08
Morning Prayer: Psalm 72; Job 24:1-17; Titus 2
Holy Eucharist: Ephesians 4:17-32; St. Matthew 9:1-8
Evening Prayer: Psalm 80; Jeremiah 5:7-19; 2 Corinthians 13
As bees will never settle down in an unclean vessel,--and this is the reason why those who are skilled in these matters sprinkle the spot with perfumes, and scented ointments, and sweet odors; and the wicker baskets also, in which they will have to settle as soon as they come out of the hives they sprinkle with fragrant wines, and all other sweets, that there may be no noisome smell to annoy them, and drive them away again,--so in truth is it also with the Holy Spirit. Our soul is a sort of vessel or basket, capable of receiving the swarms of spiritual gifts; but if there shall be within it gall, and "bitterness, and wrath," the swarms will fly away. Hence this blessed and wise husbandman well and thoroughly cleanses our vessels, withholding neither knife nor any other instrument of iron, and invites us to this spiritual swarm; and as he gathers it, he cleanses us with prayers, and labors, and all the rest. Mark then how he cleanses out our heart. He has banished lying, he has banished anger. Now, again, he is pointing out how that evil may be yet more entirely eradicated; if we be not, saith he, "bitter" in spirit. For it is as is wont to happen with our bile, if there chance to be but little of it, there will be but little disturbance if the receptacle should burst: but if ever the strength and acridness of this quality becomes excessive, the vessel which before held it, containing it no longer, is as if it were eaten through by a scorching fire, and it is no longer able to hold it and contain it within its appointed bounds, but, rent asunder by its intense sharpness, it lets it escape and injure the whole body. And it is like some very fierce and frightful wild beast, that has been brought into a city; as long as it is confined in the cages made for it, however it may rage, however it may roar, it will be unable to do harm to any one; but if it is overcome by rage, and breaks through the intervening bars, and is able to leap out, it fills the city with all sorts of confusion and disturbance, and puts everybody to flight. Such indeed is the nature also of bile. As long as it is kept within its proper limits, it will do us no great mischief; but as soon as ever the membrane that incloses it bursts, and there is nothing to hinder its being at once dispersed over the whole system, then, I say, at that moment, though it be so very trifling in quantity, yet by reason of the inordinate strength of its quality it taints all the other elements of our nature with its own peculiar virulence. For finding the blood, for instance, near to it, alike in place and in quality, and rendering the heat which is in that blood more acrid, and everything else in fact which is near it; passing from its just temperature it overflows its bounds, turns all into gall, and therewith at once attacks likewise the other parts of the body; and thus infusing into all its own poisonous quality, it renders the man speechless, and causes him to expire, expelling life. Now, why have I stated all these things with such minuteness? It is in order that, understanding from this bitterness which is of the body the intolerable evil of that bitterness which is of the soul, and how entirely it destroys first of all the very soul that engenders it, making everything bitter, we may escape experience of it. For as the one inflames the whole constitution, so does the other the thoughts, and carries away its captive to the abyss of hell. In order then that by carefully examining these matters we may escape this evil, and bridle the monster, or rather utterly root it out, let us hearken to what Paul saith, "Let all bitterness be" (not destroyed, but) "put away" from you. For what need have I of trouble to restrain it, what necessity is there to keep watch on a monster, when it is in my power to expel him from my soul, to remove him and drive him out, as it were, into banishment? Let us hearken then to Paul when he saith, "Let all bitterness be put away from you." But, ah, the perversity that possesses us! Though we ought to do everything to effect this, yet are there some so truly senseless as to congratulate themselves upon this evil, and to pride themselves upon it, and to glory in it, and who are envied by others. "Such a one," say they, "is a bitter man, he is a scorpion, a serpent, a viper." They look upon him as one to be feared. But wherefore, good man, dost thou fear the bitter person? "I fear," you say, "lest he injure me, lest he destroy me; I am not proof against his malice, I am afraid lest he should take me who am a simple man, and unable to foresee any of his schemes, and throw me into his snares, and entangle us in the toils which he has set to deceive us." Now I cannot but smile. And why forsooth? Because these are the arguments of children, who fear things which are not to be feared. Surely there is nothing we ought so to despise, nothing we ought so to laugh to scorn, as a bitter and malicious man. For there is nothing so powerless as bitterness. It makes men fools and senseless.
***from Homily XV in Vol. VIII from St. John Chrysostom on the Epistles***
THE COLLECT FOR THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Wenceslas, Prince and Martyr (907-935)
Duke of Bohemia (now, approximately, the Czech Republic) he was born in 902 and succeeded to the title at the age of 20. A devout Christian, he worked in harmony with the Church to bring religious and educational benefit to his people. He sought contacts with Christians elsewhere, including the neighbouring German Empire, whose political claims he was prepared to recognise. This brought him the hostility of a number of leading non-Christians in his own land, who gathered round Wenceslas’ own brother, Boleslav. Some henchmen carried out the murder of Wenceslas in 929 as he attended Mass, in a scene reminiscent of the death of St. Thomas Becket. In a fit of remorse, Boleslav tried to make amends by having his brother’s remains transferred to a fine tomb in the Prague church of St. Vitus, where they became a centre of pilgrimage. He was being honoured as a saint from at least 985 and shortly afterwards his head appeared on the country’s currency. The famous Christmas carol dates only from the 19th. century and tells of an event not known in Wenceslas’ biography. It is presumably a pious fiction, written to encourage Christian charity.
THE COLLECT FOR ST. WENCESLAS
THE COLLECT FOR ST. WENCESLAS
O God, who through the victory of martyrdom didst exalt thy blessed Saint Wenceslas from his earthly principality to the glory of thy heavenly kingdom : we pray thee, at his intercession, to defend us against all adversities ; and to suffer us to rejoice in his eternal fellowship. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.