|Choosing Between Fear and Faith.
The Seventh Thursday of Easter; the Memorial of Saints Nereus & Achilleus, Martyrs; or, the Memorial of Saint Pancras, Martyr.
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 22: 30; 23: 6-11.
• Psalm 16: 1-2, 5, 7-11.
• John 17: 20-26.
The Third Class Feast of Saints Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla & Pancras, Martyrs.*
First lesson from the common, the rest from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Wisdom 5: 1-5.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• John 4: 46-53.
The Postfestive Thursday of the Ascension; and, the Feast of Our Holy Fathers Epiphanus, Bishop of Cyprus, & Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople.**
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Acts 25: 13-19.
• John 16: 23-33.
8:45 AM 5/12/2016 — I have chosen to observe the Memorial of Saint Pancras today probably because I suspect that very few priests will … or it could just be that I'm tired of wearing the same white vestments. In the old calendar, the martyred soldiers Nereus and Achilleus, who were killed when they left the army to embrace the faith, shared this feast with Pancras; in the new Missal, we have to choose between them. But Saint Pancras isn't a bad choice since his remarkable story dovetails with today's Apostolic lesson, in which the Blessed Apostle to the Gentiles is being hauled again before a tribunal of his fellow Pharisees. Pancras was both converted and martyred at the age of fourteen. His crime, like most of the early Roman martyrs, was refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Fourteen-year-olds are usually scared of not fitting in, and he had only been a Christian for a very short time when he was asked to choose between earthly life and heavenly life; but, faith does that: it takes away fear.
When we make our examination of conscience and reflect on how our response to this or that situation wasn't what it should have been—because it lacked charity or fortitude or gave in to going along with the crowd, or whatever—nine times out of ten we'll find that it's usually because we were unwilling to face the consequences of doing what, in the back of our minds, we knew was right all along. When we are in a group, and that group is speaking uncharitably about someone, we participate to fit in, and because we suspect that, if we don't, then next time they might be talking about us. Chances are they're probably talking about us anyway when we're not around. Or maybe we laugh at an immodest joke or go along with using profane language so no one thinks we're prudish.
These are all trivial things compared to the sacrifice of Saint Pancras, or of Saints Nereus and Achilleus. But fear of the consequences of Christian living and Christian acting is rooted, not so much in a lack of fortitude, but in a lack of faith, just as courage in the face of temptation is grounded in a solid faith. In the collect of the Mass today for Saint Pancras, we prayed that the Church be confident in his intercession, persevere in devotion and stand firm; but, we can translate that to ourselves, and ask our Blessed Lord, with the prayers of His martyrs, to grant us the grace to be confident in His help, persevere in devotion to Him, and stand firm in the faith no matter what the cost.
* Nereus and Achilleus were initially sevants of Flavia Domitilla; she was martyred with them in AD 98.
** Epiphanius, born in Palestine c. 315, was a monk and disciple of Hilarion, remembered mostly for the Panarion or "Medicine Chest" in which he explains the doctrine of the Church and refutes eighty heresies.
Germanus became bishop of Cyzica c. 705, transfered to Constantinople in 715. Unable to convert the Iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian, he retired to his home in 730, and died three years later. He is the author of many prayers and hymns which continue to be used in the liturgies of the Byzantine Churches.