minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the month “September, 2012”


Cosmas and Damian in a Letter from an illuminated manuscript.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian are names you may recognize from the Eucharistic Prayers in the Liturgy and the Litany of Saints. They are among a very few that have such an honor, and like the other Saints mentioned, they are from the very earliest years of the faith. They are recorded as being martyred around the year 287 during the persecutions under Diocletian. They were crucified, then beaten and finally beheaded.

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers who were also physicians. They provided their services accepting no payment, which is what the term “Unmercenary” refers to. Not only did this do much to attract people to the Christian faith, but it also landed them as the patron saints of surgeons and physicians. They are also patrons, of dentists, child protectors, barbers and against the plague.

“In communion with the whole Church, they venerate above all others the memory of the glorious ever-virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, then of blessed Joseph, husband of the Virgin, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Laurence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all your Saints: grant through their merits and prayers that in all things we may be defended by the help of your protection.”

From the Communicantes

St. Matthew and the Angel

Mathew and the Angel

St. Matthew was one of the twelve apostles of Christ mentioned in the Gospels. He is noted as being a tax collector an occupation which even then wasn’t a very popular. Matthew was called by Christ to come and follow and so he did. He becomes a disciple, one of the twelve, and along with the others is given authority to bind and loose. He is at the resurrection, ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. But then we lose sight of him except through various traditions and legends.

It is believed that he may have travelled into the east and Persia for a time. It is also thought that he travelled to Ethiopia (Asiatic Ethiopia which was south of the Caspian Sea in Persia) and this may be a possible location for his martyrdom as Matthew is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology; “S. Matthæi, qui in Æthiopia prædicans martyrium passus est”. The popular belief has him preaching in Judea for about fifteen years then to heading out into the east which would be consistent with the martyrdom.

The Gospel Symbol from the book of Kells

Matthew is attributed with writing a gospel during his time in Judea and this sets him as one of the Four Evangelists, along with Mark, Luke and John. The symbol associated with Matthews Gospel is that of an angel or winged man. This can be seen in Iconography and art throughout the centuries. One claim concerning the symbol was that the first story from the gospel is about an Angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. Others that the winged man represents the humanity of Christ, because the gospel contains the genealogy of Christ. It may also signify the Jews as the people Matthew was writing to. The Gospel was claimed to be written by Matthew while in Judea and was reported as being written in Hebrew. The Gospel seems geared to speaking to the Jews in it’s terms and idioms, being careful to not offend by using terms like the Kingdom of Heaven as opposed to the term Kingdom of God which is used in the other Gospels. Modern scholars tend to believe that someone else wrote the gospel, most likely a Jewish Christian, but not the apostle.

The feast of St. Matthew is September 21st. He is the patron saint of: Accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors; Salerno, Italy.


The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated on the 14th of September. It celebrates the discovery of the true cross by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, in Jerusalem.

The story goes that while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, it was found that a temple to Aphrodite had been built at the location of the sepulcher where Jesus was buried. Tearing down the pagan temple they found the tomb, which held three crosses within, and when contact with one healed a woman it was understood to be the true Cross.

The site would soon become the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which was dedicated on the 13th of September. The Cross was brought forth on the 14th for the church to see.

A piece of the The Cross (or Rood, in Old English) was recovered from the Persians in the year 628 and this forms another part of the celebration.

Stories of the True Cross or Holy Rood would play a big part in Christian culture through the middle ages as  legends from Crusades spoke of the Rood among other religious objects such as the Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny.


Birth of Mary

Nativity of Mary

There are three nativity feasts which are celebrated in the church. The most popular and well known is, of course, the Birth of Christ. After all, the center of worship our worship in the church is that of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist also holds a feast day which celebrates his birth and is celebrated six months before that of Christ. The other is the Nativity of Mary, which is also known as the Nativity of the Theotokos.

The Feast is celebrated on September 8th,  9 months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8th), which is the belief that Mary was Full of Grace from the moment of conception. This peculiar belief has caused a lot of grief and drawn much criticism from many post reformation sects, possibly because of a lack of understanding about the churches stance on Mary. Nevertheless, in the church it is another milestone in the liturgical year, reminding us, not only of the woman who would say “yes”, but of the sanctifying grace which would fill all followers of Christ in Baptism.

Tradition holds that Mary’s parents were St. Anne and St. Joachim, and that Mary was born at home, which is demonstrated in the art and iconography depicting her birth.

Our Lady’s Nativitye

Joye in the risinge of our orient starr,
 That shall bringe forth the Sunne that lent her light;
 Joy in the peace that shall conclude our warr,
 And soone rebate the edge of Satan’s spight;
 Load-starr of all engolfd in worldly waves,
 The card and compasse that from shipwracke saves.
 The patriark and prophettes were the floures
 Which Tyme by course of ages did distill,
 And culld into this little cloude the shoures
 Whose gracious droppes the world with joy shall fill;
 Whose moysture suppleth every soule with grace,
 And bringeth life to Adam’s dyinge race.

For God, on Earth, she is the royall throne,
 The chosen cloth to make His mortall weede;
 The quarry to cutt out our Corner-stone,
 Soyle full of fruite, yet free from mortall seede;
 For heavenly floure she is the Jesse rodd
 The childe of man, the parent of God.

Robert Southwell (1560-1595)

A Trinity

Hilaire Belloc

A Trinity

Of three in One and One in three

My narrow mind would doubting be

Till Beauty, Grace and Kindness met

And all at once were Juliet.

a short poem by: Hilaire Belloc

Gregorius Magnus

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (Sanctus Gregorius Magnus Papa), bishop and doctor of the church, was born around 540 AD and died in 604 after serving 14 years as pope. He is the first pope to come from the monastic tradition, which is assumed to be of the Benedictine. He viewed the life of a monk as  the “ardent quest for the vision of our Creator”. Such mysticism may seem at odds with the calling to the bishopric and the seat of Peter, a calling he did not look forward to, and yet Gregory brought these two aspects of ministry together effectively. This of course wasn’t some cosmic conjunction or happenstance.

In the years before he became pope, he served as apocrisiarius under the former pope, Pelagius II. As apocrisiarius, an ambassador, to the emperor in Byzantine, Gregory sought help from the east in dealing with the Lombards, who were the inheritors of the Arian heresy and still a powerful force in the western empire. Byzantium offered no help, having to deal with Persia and barbarians to the north, and this may be the reason for Gregory’s greatness as a pope. He knows already the situation of the western empire, being separate from the east as the Roman empire is crashing down. The Roman east, while still stable, is also beset with new challenges from the north and from Persia. Gregory comes to the Chair of Peter with no hope of help. And so takes responsibility himself.

I guess here is where my opinions my very, and I may assume that this is where the opinions of all may shoot in different directions. It is concerning the popular title of Great, which is used of Gregory. A rare moniker, only used in reference to one other pope (Leo the Great). In truth the term really applies to all of what Gregory accomplished, as monk, abbot, priest, pope, ambassador and leader, but for me I think his greatness is completely bound up in his accepting a life he did not want and then watching that calling go beyond into a world he wanted no part in.

Gregory, it is said, had no interest in becoming pope. Rather he wanted to return to the contemplative life of quiet and solitude, but he was elected to the papacy and stood fast in his calling. He challenged the church, pushing for reform, in the clergy, monasteries and liturgy. He stood against heresy and is one of two popes to hold the title of doctor (teacher) of the church (Leo again). He pushed for reform in the music of the church and centuries later his name would be attached to the great music of the church, the Gregorian Chant. But it is, as pope, on top of all this that an even greater call is placed on Gregory. And that is as a military leader.

As the Roman empire collapsed in the west, an event that was occurring during the time of Gregory and in fact was probably not rightly known by those who lived during this time, the power of the government was too distant in the east. As mentioned, Gregory sought help in matters of heresy and the Lombards, but the east had it’s own problems to work out. Gregory, truly understood the difference between the church and state, as two circles of influence, each with supreme authority to govern itself. But given the lack of one, his position as Pope was really the only authority that set about to do anything. And he did. When the Lombards invaded he organized Romes defense and would in the end work out a treaty with them. When food was lacking he worked out the process of importing supplies as well as distribution. The political did not diminish the spiritual. Gregory as mentioned was a man of reform, but he was also a man about missions. He pushed the missionary efforts in the direction of England, sending Augustine of Canterbury, and in the end England which has been practically lost to the empire for a century, was eventually regained.

Gregory died in March of the year 604, and was declared a Saint by popular acclaim. In Iconography he is sometimes seen with a dove, probably to emphasize the contemplative nature which was part of the Popes life. He is the first to refer to the papacy as the Servant of the Servants of God, a title that has been used by most popes since.


September from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

September is the first month which, in English, is still spelled exactly like it was in Latin. September comes from the Latin for seven, Septem, and was the seventh month before January and February were added to the calendar, which pushed to to the ninth. In the northeast where I grew up September meant the beginning of a new school year and usually by the third week of the month signs of autumn would begin to appear. In Alaska, where I spent most of my adult life, fall was usually over by the third week of September and sign of winter would begin to appear as termination dust, the first snows, would begin to appear on mountain peaks.

The Château de Saumur

In the calendar page for September in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry we find a beautiful castle, The Château de Saumur, which still stands today. Peasants are in the fields harvesting grapes, and in the picture of the Château as it stands today you can see that vinyards are still active.

Wine making in Europe during the middle ages owes a lot to the Church. In fact it was the church’s use of wine in it’s sacramental life that helped bolster the winemaking industry in europe during these years. In Spain where there was a stronger influence of Islam, winemaking suffered. The Catholic countries all continued to make wine and, like beer making in the middle ages, the making of wine finds some of it’s greatest artisans in the monastic communities.

The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of September are:

2. Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
3. Gregory the Great, Memorial
8. Birth of Mary, Feast
9. Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
12. Most Holy Name of Mary, Opt. Mem.
13. John Chrysostom, Memorial
14. Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Feast
15. Our Lady of Sorrows, Memorial
16. Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
17. Robert Bellarmine, Opt. Mem.
19. Januarius, Opt. Mem.
20. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, Memorial
21. Matthew, Feast
23. Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
26. Cosmas and Damian, Opt. Mem.
27. Vincent de Paul, Memorial
28. Wenceslaus; Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Opt. Mem.
29. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Feast
30. Twenty-Six Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday

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