MASS SCHEDULE – WEEK IV TRINITY (June 23, 2013)
24, Nativity of St. John Baptist
28, St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons
+ 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. John is the last voice of the Old Covenant, the close of the Age of Law. Jesus is the first voice of the New Covenant, the beginning of the Age of Grace. 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.” (From Biographical Sketches, J.E. Kiefer)
+ Irenaeus (pronounced eye-ren-EE-S) was probably born around 125. As a young man in Smyrna (near Ephesus, in what is now western Turkey) he heard the preaching of Polycarp who as a young man had heard the preaching of the Apostle John. Afterward, probably while still a young man Polycarp moved west to Lyons in southern France. In 177, Pothinus, the bishop of Lyons, sent him on a mission to Rome. During his absence a severe persecution broke out in Lyons, claiming the lives of the bishop and others (see 2 June). When Irenaeus returned to Lyons, he was made bishop. He died around 202. He is thus an important link between the apostolic church and later times, and also an important link between Eastern and Western Christianity.
His principal work is the Refutation of Heresies, a defense of orthodox Christianity against its Gnostic rivals. A shorter work is his Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, a brief summary of Christian teaching, largely concerned with Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. An interesting bit of trivia about this latter book is that it is, as far as I know, the first Christian writing to refer to the earth as a sphere.
One of the earliest heresies to arise in the Christian church was Gnosticism, and Irenaeus was one of its chief early opponents. Not all Gnostics believed exactly the same thing, but the general outlines of the belief are fairly clear. Gnostics were dualists, teaching that there are two great opposing forces: good versus evil, light versus darkness, knowledge versus ignorance, spirit versus matter. Since the world is material, and leaves much room for improvement, they denied that God had made it. “How can the perfect produce the imperfect, the infinite produce the finite, the spiritual produce the material?” they asked. One solution was to say that there were thirty beings called AEons, and that God had made the first AEon, which made the second AEon, which made the third, and so on to the thirtieth AEon, which made the world. (This, Gnostics pointed out to the initiate, was the true inward spiritual meaning of the statement that Jesus was thirty years old when he began to preach.) As Irenaeus pointed out, this did not help at all. Assuming the Gnostic view of the matter, each of the thirty must be either finite or infinite, material or non-material, and somewhere along the line you would have an infinite being producing a finite one, a spiritual being producing a material one.
The Gnostics were Docetists (pronounced do-SEE-tists). This word comes from the Greek word meaning “to seem.” They taught that Christ did not really have a material body, but only seemed to have one. It was an appearance, so that he could communicate with men, but was not really there. (If holograms had been known then, they would certainly have said that the supposed body of Jesus was a hologram.) They went on to say that Jesus was not really born, and did not really suffer or die, but merely appeared to do so. It was in opposition to early Gnostic teachers that the Apostle John wrote (1 John 4:1-3) that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of antichrist.
Irenaeus maintained that the Gospel message is for everyone. He was perhaps the first to speak of the Church as “Catholic” (universal). In using this term, he made three contrasts:
(1) He contrasted the over-all church with the single local congregation, so that one spoke of the Church in Ephesus, but also of the Catholic Church, of which the Churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, Antioch, etc. were local branches or chapters.
(2) He contrasted Christianity with Judaism, in that the task of Judaism was to preserve the knowledge of the one God by establishing a solid national base for it among a single people, but the task of Christianity was to set out from that base to preach the Truth to all nations.
(3) He contrasted Christianity with Gnosticism, in that the Gnostics claimed to have a message only for the few with the right aptitudes and temperaments, whereas the Christian Gospel was to be proclaimed to all men everywhere. (From Biographical Sketches, J.E. Kiefer)
+ All Saints’ Men’s Group will meet Tuesday June 25, 7:00 a.m. in the undercroft.
+ Daily Mass is celebrated at 12:15 p.m. You and your family members are all remembered by name at the Altar of God every week. Please take an All Saints parish prayer list home with you & remember your fellow parishioners in your prayers!
+ Monday Morning Bible Study is taking the summer off! The class will start up again in September. For further information please contact Priscilla King, email@example.com, 540-456-6458.
+ 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.