Mass Schedule – Trinity 3 (June 21, 2015)
22, St. Alban, Protomartyr of England
24, Nativity of St. John Baptist
+ St. Alban, First Martyr of Britain. There were probably Christians in the British Isles already in the first century. However, Alban is the first recorded Christian martyr. The traditional date of his death is 304, during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian; but many scholars now date it as around 209, during the persecution under the Emperor Septimius Severus. Alban was a pagan, and a soldier in the Roman army. He gave shelter to a Christian priest who was fleeing from arrest, and in the next few days the two talked at length, and Alban became a Christian. When officers came in search of the priest, Alban met them, dressed in the priest’s cloak, and they mistook him for the priest and arrested him. He refused to renounce his new faith, and was beheaded. He thus became the first Christian martyr in Britain. The second was the executioner who was to kill him, but who heard his testimony and was so impressed that he became a Christian on the spot, and refused to kill Alban. The third was the priest, who when he learned that Alban had been arrested in his place, hurried to the court in the hope of saving Alban by turning himself in. The place of their deaths is near the site of St. Alban’s Cathedral today.
+ According to the Jewish historian Josephus (who wrote after 70 Ad), John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher in the time of Pontius Pilate (Ad 26-36). He called the people to repentance and to a renewal of their covenant relation with God. He was imprisoned and eventually put to death by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born) for denouncing Herod’s marriage to Herodias, the wife of his still-living brother Philip. In order to marry Herodias, Herod divorced his first wife, the daughter of King Aretas of Damascus, who subsequently made war on Herod, a war which, Josephus tells us, was regarded by devout Jews as a punishment for Herod’s murder of the prophet John. In the Book of Acts, we find sermons about Jesus which mention His Baptism by John as the beginning of His public ministry (see Acts 10:37; 11:16; 13:24). We also find accounts (see Acts 18:24; 19:3) of devout men in Greece who had received the baptism of John, and who gladly received the full message of the Gospel of Christ when it was told them. Luke begins his Gospel by describing an aged, devout, childless couple, the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. As Zechariah is serving in the Temple, he sees the angel Gabriel, who tells him that he and his wife will have a son who will be a great prophet, and will go before the Lord “like Elijah.” (The Jewish tradition had been that Elijah would herald the coming of the Messiah = Christ = Anointed = Chosen of God.) Zechariah went home, and his wife conceived. About six months later, Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, a kinswoman of Elizabeth, and told her that she was about to bear a son who would be called Son of the Most High, a king whose kingdom would never end. Thus Elizabeth gave birth to John, and Mary gave birth six months later to Jesus. After describing the birth of John, Luke says that he grew, and “was in the wilderness until the day of his showing to Israel.” The people of the Qumran settlement, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometime use the term “living in the wilderness” to refer to residing in their community at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Accordingly, it has been suggested that John spent some of his early years being educated at Qumran. All of the gospels tell us that John preached and baptized beside the Jordan river, in the wilderness of Judea. He called on his hearers to repent of their sins, be baptized, amend their lives, and prepare for the coming of the Kingship of God. He spoke of one greater than himself who was to come after. Jesus came to be baptized, and John told some of his disciples, “This is the man I spoke of.” After His baptism by John, Jesus began to preach, and attracted many followers. In fact, many who had been followers of John left him to follow Jesus. Some of John’s followers resented this, but he told them: “This is as it should be. My mission is to proclaim the Christ. The groomsman, the bridegroom’s friend, who makes the wedding arrangements for the bridegroom, is not jealous of the bridegroom. No more am I of Jesus. He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:22-30) Traditionally, the Birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25 December. That means that the Birth of John is celebrated six months earlier on 24 June. The appearance of Gabriel to Mary, being assumed to be nine months before the birth of Jesus, is celebrated on 25 March and called the Annunciation, and the appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah in the Temple is celebrated by the East Orthodox on 23 September. At least for Christians in the Northern Hemisphere, these dates embody a rich symbolism. John is the last voice of the Old Covenant. Accordingly, John is born to an elderly, barren woman, born when it is really too late for her to be having a child, while Jesus is born to a young virgin, born when it is really too early for her to be having a child. John is announced (and conceived) at the autumnal equinox, when the leaves are dying and falling from the trees. Jesus is announced (and conceived) at the vernal equinox, when the green buds are bursting forth on the trees and there are signs of new life everywhere. John is born when the days are longest, and from his birth on they grow steadily shorter. Jesus is born when the days are shortest, and from his birth on they grow steadily longer. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
+ All Saints Men’s Group will met next on May 19, at 7:00 a.m. in undercroft.
+ The Holy Communion is celebrated this week Monday through Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
+ All Saints parishioner may obtain a Mass card from the Church office. A Mass card is a greeting card given to someone to inform him or her that a deceased loved one or friend was remembered and prayed for at a weekly Mass. It is a specifically Christian way to express one’s love. Call Julie McDermott at the Church office (434-979-2842) and she will help you fill out the form. The celebrant will sign the card and we will mail it from the Church to the family of the loved one.