Just in Case.
The Twenty-First Friday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Thessalonians 4: 1-8.
• Psalm 97: 2, 5-6, 10-12.
• Matthew 25: 1-13.
The Twelfth Friday after Pentecost; the Commemoration of Saint Giles, Abbot; and, the Commemoration of the Twelve Holy Brothers, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Corinthians 3: 4-9.
• Psalm 33: 2-3.
• Luke 10: 23-37.
If a Mass for the commemoration of the Abbot is taken, lessons from the common "Os justi…" of a Holy Abbot:
• Ecclesiasticus 45: 1-6.
• Psalm 20: 4-5.
• Matthew 19: 27-29.
If a Mass for the commemoration of the Martyrs is taken, lessons from the Mass Clamavérunt…," as on the commemoration of St. Symphorosa & Her Sons, of July 18th:
• Hebrews 11: 33-39.
• Psalm 132: 1-2.
• Luke 12: 1-8.
The Twelfth Friday after Pentecost; the Beginning of the Church Year, 7526 in the Byzantine Rockoning; the Feast of Our Venerable Father Simeon the Stylite & His Mother; the Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God of Miasena; the Feast of the Holy Martyr Aeithalas; the Feast of the Holy Women Martyred with Their Instructor, Ammon the Deacon; the Feast of the Holy Martyr Callista & Her Two Brothers, Evod & Hermogenes; and, the Feast of the Just Joshua, Son of Nun.**
First & fourth lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fifth from the menaion for the New Year, third & sixth from the menaion for the Stylite, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• II Corinthians 11: 5-21.
• I Timothy 2: 1-7.
• Colossians 3: 12-16.
• Mark 4: 1-9.
• Luke 4: 16-22.
• Matthew 11: 27-30.
10:37 AM 9/1/2017 — It’s hard to believe that it’s already the First Friday of September;—the summer seems to have slipped by so quickly—and, because it’s First Friday, we will observe our usual custom of exposing the Blessed Sacrament after Holy Communion, praying together the Litany of the Most Sacred Heart, then observing some quiet time in conversation with our Blessed Lord until one-thirty, when we shall have Benediction, and I will also be available in the confessional during that time.
In the Byzantine Tradition, in which I served for many years, September first is the first day of the liturgical year. This date was chosen in the year 312 because it was Emperor Constantine’s birthday. Today, in fact, is the year 7526 in the Byzantine reckoning, based on a literal Biblical calculation of the creation of the world, and not too far from when Saint Augustine estimated the world to have been created.
In today’s Gospel lesson, our Lord continues the theme He was going on about yesterday about staying awake and keeping watch, keeping our eyes fixed firmly on the goal of eternal salvation and not allowing ourselves to be distracted or derailed by temporal concerns that have little to do with salvation. He used a parable about a servant who’s left in charge while his master is away, and who wisely resists the temptation to nap or allow himself to be distracted away from his duties because he doesn’t know when his master will return. His instruction to us is that we should always keep our souls prepared for judgment because none of us know the day or the hour we might be called to stand before God’s throne.
In today’s lesson he gives us another parable, and it’s based on an ancient Jewish wedding custom very different from our own. Mostly, when people get married in this country, the bride and groom do not see each other before the wedding, and she walks down the isle with her father and is met at the foot of the altar by her groom. But in our Lord’s time, the groom always went to the bride’s house to collect her, and they went together to his house where the wedding was to take place. The bridesmaids would wait for him outside with lighted lamps. Interestingly enough, this custom is still observed in the Byzantine Tradition, at least in the Ruthenian Catholic Church in which I served. In the Ruthenian Church, the wedding of a Ruthenian Catholic, by law, must take place in the parish church of the groom—it may not take place in the church of the bride—and the groom goes to her house and picks her up with her bridesmaids and brings her to the church, where they are met at the doors of the Church by the priest, who leads them together down the isle to the Royal Doors of the sanctuary, while the cantor chants the Invitatory Psalm (since there is no instrumental music in any of the Eastern Churches).
When I was pastor of a Ruthenian Catholic parish—which I was for nearly twenty years—and one of my parishioners married a Roman Catholic girl, she would want to come in and talk about the ceremony, but there was really nothing to talk about: the readings for a Byzantine Rite wedding are always the same, so there are no readings to choose; the music is always the same, so there are no songs to choose; there are no petitions to distribute to family members and friends, since the litany after the Gospel is always the same and is chanted by the priest or deacon; the vows—if they are recited—must include the promise of the bride to be obedient to her husband; the rings are placed on their fingers by the priest, not by each other; a veil is ill-advised because of the Imperial Margarine crowns that need to be placed on the heads of the bride and groom; in fact, the Sacrament of Matrimony is made valid by the act of the Crowning and the prayer afterward by the priest, so the exchange of vows is optional in the Byzantine ceremony, and is done simply for symbolic reasons if it is done at all (in all the Eastern Churches, the priest is the minister of the sacrament, not the couple). But by far the most traumatic revelation for most of these girls was the fact that they weren’t going to be marching down the isle on Daddy’s arm to some triumphal organ music, or something played on the harp by one of her high school friends, since musical instruments are not allowed in a Byzantine Rite church.
So, there you have a cultural context to understand our Lord’s parable a bit better. The bridesmaids wait outside the bride’s house with lighted lamps for the groom to arrive and collect his bride. In the specific case presented by our Lord in the parable, the groom is late. Call me irreverent, but I like to think maybe he was having a bit too much fun at his bachelor party, and lost track of time. In any case, he’s late, and the bridesmaids waiting for him have fallen asleep. Some of them had the foresight to bring extra oil for their lamps, but some of them didn’t, and they got shut out.
What our Lord is teaching us today is that it’s not enough just to have started out on the path that leads to Christ; we have to remain on it, ever alert, because the natural tendency of every person is to lower the level of self-giving that the Christian vocation requires. Little by little, almost without realizing it, the soul gives in to the tendency to make Christ’s call compatible with a comfortable existence. We have to be eternally on our guard against the pressure of an environment whose guiding principle is the insatiable search for comfort and the easy way. If not, we end up like the foolish bridesmaids of our Lord’s parable: at first they are full of good will and the passion of religion, but they quickly get tired of waiting, and fall asleep.
Just so. You know well the theme that has permeated my preaching all summer long: “Our one purpose on earth is to work out our salvation. Everything else is just window dressing.” Don’t yet carve it on my headstone, since I think I still have a few more years left. But it is never a bad thing to continually remind ourselves that we have no more important a duty as Christians than to see to it that our souls are ready right now to meet our final judgment, just in case.
* Giles, an Athenian by birth, lived most of his life in the south of France as a hermit in a vast forest. He was persuaded by King Theodoric to found a monastery, and became so famous for his miracles that a great number of churches were dedicated to him after his death, which occured in sixth century.
Not much is known of the "Twelve Holy Brothers" except that they were natives of Africa who were all martyred together in Beneventura, Italy, under the Emperor Valerian in the year 258.
Various editions of the Missal of St. John XXIII are in disagreement as to how the multiple commemorations on this day should be handled. Some clearly indicate that the commemoration of the Abbot is taken only by an additional Collect, Secret and Postcommunion added to the ferial day Mass, but (for some unexplained reason) allowing a Mass for the commemoration of the Martyrs; however, this web site conforms to the general rubrics of that Missal, in which a Mass for either commemoration could be taken outside of any privileged season.
** Sept. 1st constitutes the most convoluted assemblage of feasts on the calendar of the Byzantine Churches. The typicon of the Ruthenian Church of the USA, in a lingering bow to Latinization, allows for one to be chosen among them, but this web site conforms to the more traditional Byzantine practice of observing all of them.
In Constantinople, the New Year began originally on September 1st. Called the “Indiction,” it began a cycle of fifteen years which began in 312 under Constantine the Great, the date for the beginning of the liturgical year being the Emperor’s birthday.
Simeon the Stylite was born near Antioch. He was a shepherd in his youth, then entered a monastery where he spent ten years as a holy monk. In order to enjoy complete silence and solitude for the sake of contemplation, he embraced the heremitical life, spending the rest of his days in worship and prayer on top of an isolated tower, hence the title “Stylite,” which means “of the column.” He went on to eternal life in the year 459. A monastery was built close to the column or tower, whose walls my still be seen near Aleppo, Syria, where it is known as the “Fortress of St. Simeon.”
The Synaxis on this day is in honor of a particular icon of the Theotokos which is said to be miraculous. In the days of the Iconoclasts, it was thrown into a river and recovered several years later. It was then transferred to the monastery of Miasenes, near Melitene in Armenia, where is is still venerated.
Aeithalas was martyred in Persia in the year 355.
The Forty Holy Women were martyred in Greece in the year 321 or 323 under Emperor Licinus. Ammon was their instructor in the faith.
Joshua was Moses’ companion, and succeeded him in leading the people of Israel into the promised land after taking the town of Jericho, dividing this land among the twelve tribes of Israel, thus setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament and creating the Holy Land known to our Blessed Lord.