‘Let us stand firm in doing what is right and prepare to face temptations, so that we may hope for support from the Lord and be able to say to him: “Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next”.
Let us trust in the one who laid this burden upon us. What we cannot bear on our own, let us bear with the help of the one who is all-powerful and who said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
Let us stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord, because days of distress and anguish have come upon us. Let us die, if God wills, for the sacred laws of our fathers, so that we may be worthy to share an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us not be dumb watch-dogs or silent spectators: let us not be hirelings that flee at the approach of the wolf. Let us be watchful shepherds, guarding the flock of Christ, preaching to great and small alike, to rich and poor, preaching all that God has decreed to men of all degrees and ages, insofar as God gives us the power. Let us preach in season and out of season’.
from the letters of St Boniface, c.675-754
O God, who raised up the holy Bishop and Martyr Saint Boniface from the English nation to enlighten many peoples with the Gospel of Christ: grant, we pray; that we may hold fast in our hearts that faith which he taught with his lips and sealed with his blood; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘On Ascension Day in the fourth century AD at Jerusalem, Christians processed to the Mount of Olives to hear readings about Jesus’ ascension into heaven. But they actually kept the feast at Bethlehem on the same day as Pentecost. The two go together. The ascended Lord has not deserted his people; the great work is to begin with the coming of the spirit.
St Luke records that Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, teaching them about the kingdom of God. He was then taken up out of their sight and appeared no more. St Mark says virtually the same and explains that Jesus went to sit on the right hand of God. St Matthew simply records the last appearance of Jesus to the Eleven, and Jesus’ charge to them to go and make disciples of all nations. We might be tempted to look upon this event as Jesus saying goodbye for the last time. It is Matthew who brings us back to earth with the words of Jesus, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”. As one preacher put it, the Ascension is not the farewell of the risen Lord, but his move “out of the here and into the everywhere”. The localised mission is at an end. Jesus has moved on a fairly small stage, as have the apostles. Now, the whole world is the field of their mission, and the risen Jesus is no more confined to the shores of Galilee or the secret places of Jerusalem but is present in every corner of the earth as he is today’.
John Halliburton, 1935-2004 (Canon Chancellor, St Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1989-2003)
‘“You were darkness once”, Saint Paul told the Ephesians, “but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5: 8). How eloquent were the words of Pope Paul VI in his homily at the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs!
“Who could foresee”, the Pope asked, “that with the great historical figures of African martyrs and confessors like Cyprian, Felicity and Perpetua and the outstanding Augustine, we should one day list the beloved names of Charles Lwanga, Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their twenty companions?” (Paul VI, Homily on the occasion of the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs, 18 October 1964).
Truly the Uganda Martyrs became light in the Lord! Their sacrifice hastened the rebirth of the Church in Africa. In our own days, all Africa is being called to the light of Christ! Africa is being called again to discover her true identity in the light of faith in the Son of God. All that is truly African, all that is true and good and noble in Africa’s traditions and cultures, is meant to find its fulfilment in Christ. The Uganda Martyrs show this clearly: they were the truest of Africans, worthy heirs of the virtues of their ancestors. In embracing Jesus Christ, they opened the door of faith to their own people (Cf. Acts. 14: 27), so that the glory of the Lord could shine on Uganda, on Africa’.
from the homily during his visit to the Shrine of the Holy Ugandan Martyrs, 7 February 1993
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who hast made the blood of Martyrs to be the seed of Christians: mercifully grant that the field which is thy Church, watered down with the blood shed by Saints Charles Lwanga and Companions, may be fertile and always yield thee an abundant harvest; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today marks the sixty-sixth anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which I mark by sharing some words on a spiritual aspect to the coronation - beyond the ceremony and rite itself - in a letter by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, to George V, following the King’s coronation in June 1911; words that are as applicable to our Queen now as they were a hundred years ago.
‘If our Coronation Service means anything, it means the promise of that help [from God], a promise accompanied by the knowledge of the King’s part that his people are in almost every English-speaking home praying for him and expecting that their prayers will be answered, and that God will indeed grant them as their head a “consecrated” man, not in any pedantic or over-wrought sense of the word – but a man who deliberately means, by the help of God, to lead a life of “service”, a life of straightforward devotion to some of the most important duties on Earth, a life of manly purity and justice and truth’.
Randall Davidson, Lord Davidson of Lambeth, GCVO PC, 1848-1930
Archbishop of Canterbury, 1903-1928
O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen; that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Justin, the son of Priscus, was a Greek by race, and was born at Nablus in Palestine. He passed his youth in the study of letters. When he grew to manhood he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a student of philosophy and examined the teaching of all the philosophers. He found in them only deceitful wisdom and error. He received the light of heaven from a venerable old man, who was a stranger to him, and embraced the philosophy of the true Christian faith. Henceforth he had the books of Holy Scripture in his hands by day and night, and his soul was filled with the divine fire enkindled by his meditations. Having thus acquired the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, he devoted his learning to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.
Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defences of the Christian faith. These he offered in the Senate to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons, together with Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, who were cruelly persecuting the followers of Christ. By these Apologies and his vigorous disputations in defence of the faith he obtained a public edict from the government to stay the slaughter of the Christians. But Justin himself did not escape. He had blamed the wicked life led by Crescens the Cynic, who caused him to be accused and arrested. He was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and questioned concerning the doctrine of the Christians. Whereupon he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses: “The right doctrine which we Christian men do keep with godliness is this: that we believe that there is one God, the maker and creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and who is to come to judge all mankind”’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who through the foolishness of the Cross didst wondrously teach blessed Justin Martyr the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ: grant to us by his intercession; that driving away the errors that beset us, we may attain unto steadfastness of faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon