“Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous.” Psalm 97:12
Since we are still in the Season of Easter, and we are all called to be witnesses, some of you have told me that you enjoy it when I do this, I share with you some snippets of some of the great witnesses of the past. Enjoy this snippets of people of great faith.
May 2nd (for this year, anyway) is Sts. Philip and James, Apostles Day. Philip was one of the first disciples of Jesus, who after following Jesus invited Nathanael to “come and see.” According to tradition, Philip preached in Asia Minor and died as a martyr in Phrygia. James, the son of Alphaeus, is called “the Less” (meaning “short” or “younger”) to distinguish him from another apostle named James who is commemorated on July 25. Philip and James are commemorated together because the remains of these two saints were placed in the Church of the Apostles in Rome on this day in 561.
Also May 2nd, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, died in 373 (you know him because of the creed that is named after him which we will be saying later this month). Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 as a deacon and secretary to the bishop of Alexandria. At the council, and when he himself served as bishop of Alexandria, he defended the full divinity of Christ against the Arian position. One of the oldest and most enduring heresies: that Jesus was just a man, a good man, and God “adopted” him. This position, Arianism, was held by several emperors, magistrates, and some theologians at the time. Because of his defense of the divinity of Christ, he was considered a troublemaker and was banished from Alexandria on five occasions. Once, he escaped in what you would have to call a boat race up the Nile River. If they caught him, they were going to execute him. Because of this, he actually only served about two years in Alexandria. He had to keep escaping. As bishop, one of his paschal letters to surrounding bishops gives a list for books that should be considered canonical scripture. He lists the twenty-seven New Testament books that are recognized today.
May 4th, Monica, mother of Augustine, died 387. Monica was married to a pagan husband who was ill-tempered and unfaithful. She rejoiced greatly when both her husband and his mother became Christian. But it is because she is the mother of Augustine that she is best known. Monica had been a disciple of St. Ambrose, and eventually Augustine came under his influence. Almost everything that we know about Monica comes from Augustine’s Confessions, his autobiography. She died far from her home but said to her son, “Do no fret because I am buried far from our home in Africa. Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that God will not know where to find me, when Christ comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.” Her dying wish was that her son remember her at the altar of the Lord, wherever he was.