“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. . . Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
St. Mary of Egypt lived in the fourth century. According to her biographers, she became a prostitute at a young age, a job which she greatly enjoyed. Around age 30, she went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the sole purpose of finding more clients there and along the journey.
In Jerusalem she was suddenly confronted by the realization of her sinfulness, when a force stopped her from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. She prayed for forgiveness and crossed the Jordan, becoming a hermit. After many years of solitude, she met a monk named St. Zosimus of Palestine. After sharing stories, he left, and returned the next year to share Communion with her. She died the next day, and Zosimus told her story to the other monks at the monastery.
Many traditions celebrate her life on different days. April 3 is her feast day in the Catholic church.
Saint Barbatus, also called Barbas, was a bishop in the Italian city of Benevento in the seventh century. He was known for preaching about the Christian life and against sin and idolatry – preaching that made his hearers very uncomfortable. As a result he was alternately ignored and slandered until he prophesied that the East Roman Emperor Constans II would attack.
To whom can I speak and give warning?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed
so they cannot hear.
The word of the LORD is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the LORD,
and I cannot hold it in.
Jeremiah 6:10 & 11a
When Constans II laid siege to the city, the people destroyed their idols and used material from the temple of Isis to repair the city wall. Eventually Constans II left, and Barbatus was honored as the city’s bishop. His feast day is celebrated every year on the anniversary of his death, February 19, 682.
National Battery Day can be celebrated every February 18, on the birthday of Alessandro Volta. Volta invented a battery in the early 1800s, and gave his name to the way we measure electric potential – the volt.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
February 18 is also the feast day for Pope Leo I in the Eastern Orthodox Church. This is the pope famous for stopping Attila the Hun just before he sacked Rome. Attila and his army were headed directly toward Rome, when Pope Leo I met with him. No one knows what was said or done in the meeting or why Attila left, but we do know that shortly after that meeting, the entire Hun army left Italy. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation?
In the middle of the ninth century, a layman named Photios was named Patriarch of Constantinople. Although his new position scandalized much of the known world, Photios was instrumental in the conversion of the Slavs and was known as a great intellectual. Eventually his political enemies removed him from power, but Photios continued to make a difference through writing.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. n the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
People gather to celebrate Timket in Gondor, Ethiopia. Photo by Jialiang Gao
Eastern, Oriental, and Ethiopian Orthodox churches celebrate Theophany, Epiphany, or Timkat on January 19. In this tradition, Theophany (the appearance of God) marks the baptism of Jesus.
In the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, this festival is known as Timkat, which means baptism. During Timkat, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, called a Tabot, is wrapped in cloth and taken to river or pool. The service is celebrated by the river in the early morning, and the day is spent in celebrating with songs, dancing, and feasting.
An Ethiopian Orthodox priest holds a Tabot during a Timket ceremony. Photo by Jialiang Gao
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
This January 19 celebration should not be confused with the Epiphany (when the Magi found the child Jesus) celebrated on January 6 by Catholics, Anglicans, and many Protestant traditions.
January 18 kicks of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This great week is just what its name implies — a time of designated prayer “for the unity of the Church as Christ wills it, and in accordance with the means he wills” according to Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, France. Many groups participate including most
In the northern hemisphere it is celebrated from January 18, the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, to January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In the southern hemisphere, many churches celebrate this week during Pentecost.
The theme for 2012 is “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” from 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.
Please take a moment to pray for the unity of the believers, remembering Jesus’ words in John 17:20-23:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
The Catholic, Coptic, and some Orthodox churches, celebrate January 17 as the feast day of Anthony the Great, aka St. Anthony of the Desert.
In the late third century, Anthony became one of the first Christian ascetics to seek solitude in the desert, where he wrestled with a great many temptations. Many years later, other men joined him in the Sahara Desert, forming a monastery of sorts, where the men kept spent their time praying and doing manual labor.
Although Jesus spent much of his life crowded by “tax collectors and sinners,” in Mark 1:35 we see Jesus seeking a time of solitude to pray. Perhaps we need to do the same, and find time both to spend with people, ministering to them, and time to be alone with our Maker.
O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.