20 January is the Feast of Saint Flavian and Saint Sebastian, two third century martyrs. Anyone with even a casual interest in European painting is probably familiar with Saint Sebastian due to the fact that so many artists depicted him, usually tied to a tree or post and pierced by arrows.
Warning! Typical Father Bragg digression begins here: although almost all of these paintings are known as “The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian,” that is actually a misnomer, since an important part of his story is that although he was left for dead after being shot by archers he was nursed back to health by Saint Irene of Rome. He is then said to have presented himself to the Emperor Diocletian, whom he denounced for his persecution of the Church, and Diocletian had him clubbed to death. Because of his being brought back from the edge of death he was often invoked for protection against the various plagues that beset Europe in the Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance periods. End of digression.
But who was Saint Flavian, and what might his story have to teach us? We know little of his early life, but Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History gives this account of his election as bishop of Rome (Book VI, Chapter 29, verses 1-4):
“Gordianus succeeded Maximinus as Roman emperor; and Pontianus, who had been bishop of the church at Rome for six years, was succeeded by Anteros. After he had held the office for a month, Fabianus succeeded him.
They say that Fabianus having come, after the death of Anteros, with others from the country, was staying at Rome, and that while there he was chosen to the office through a most wonderful manifestation of divine and heavenly grace.
For when all the brethren had assembled to select by vote him who should succeed to the episcopate of the church, several renowned and honorable men were in the minds of many, but Fabianus, although present, was in the mind of none. But they relate that suddenly a dove flying down lighted on his head, resembling the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Saviour in the form of a dove.
Thereupon all the people, as if moved by one Divine Spirit, with all eagerness and unanimity cried out that he was worthy, and without delay they took him and placed him upon the episcopal seat.”
Fabian proved to be a competent and effective bishop both as administrator and pastor. He was the first to send missionaries to Gaul, healed various theological rifts in the Church, and was generally respected and admired as a model of faithful Christian leadership.
After the assassination of the young Emperor Gordianus III in 244, his Praetorian Prefect Philip the Arab was acclaimed Emperor.Philip was notably sympathetic to the Christians and his cordial relationship with Fabian allowed the Church to operate openly without fear of persecution and to considerably enlarge the catacombs where Christian burials took place. Eusebius avers that Philip was in fact a Christian, but few if any modern historians credit this. In any event, he was killed in a battle against Decius, the leader of a military revolt against him, and Decius succeeded him as Emperor.
In January of 250 the new emperor instituted an unprecedentedly thorough and systematic empire-wide persecution of both Jews and Christians. By his decree every citizen in the empire was required to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods in the presence of a magistrate, after which he would be given a libellus, a certificate signed by the magistrate stating that he had offered incense as a sacrifice and eaten a portion of meat from a sacrificed animal. Those who refused were subject to confiscation of their property, imprisonment, torture, and death. Apart from prominent bishops, relatively few Christians were actually killed, though many died in prison. Fabian, though tortured and imprisoned, refused to comply with Decius' edict and died in captivity, possibly executed.
He was buried in the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus and the Greek inscription over his burial place, which was rediscovered in the late nineteenth century, reads, “Fabian Bishop Martyr.”
In reflecting on Flavian's life and death, one truth seems to me to stand out. The Church's relationship to any secular authority, whether monarch, emperor, dictator, republic, or democracy, should always be understood as conditional. It is in the nature of those who hold power to seek to hold and expand their power. Some will attempt to co-opt the Church into supporting them without question, and there will always be Christians who will do so either for the sake of peace or for the rewards that such support may bring. This will inevitably lead to the subordination of the Gospel mission of the Church to the interests of the secular powers. It is intellectual and spiritual corruption.
There will also always be those Christians who resist and even actively oppose secular power when it attempts to coerce them into abandoning Christian truth and practice. They will be reviled as enemies of the state and subject to various forms of persecution ranging from ridicule to execution. Every Christian should take seriously the examples of the martyrs, not merely as heroes of bygone times, but as a sobering reminder of what may be required of those who take seriously to heart the fact that Christ is our King, the one to whom our first, last, and highest allegiance is owed.
-- Father Bragg+
All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee
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Saturday January 21, 8:30 AM, Men's Group in the undercroft (that means basement) with breakfast by Chef Claude Crump and Bible Study with Bob Boyd. Start the year off right with food, fellowship and Bible study with other men of the parish.
Sunday Services: 7:45 AM, 9:00 AM, & 11:15 AM (for online participation for the services go to: https://www.facebook.com/saintsofscotland/ )
Vestry Meeting – Monday, January 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the church undercroft
Wednesday at Noon – Holy Communion and anointing for healing
Annual Parish Meeting – Sunday, January 29, 2023 -- following a combined 10:00 a.m. service. If you will not be able to attend this meeting, it is very important that you fill out a proxy form, copies of which may be found on the narthex table and on top of a cabinet in the undercroft. If you are a communicant member of the parish, you can also respond to this email and indicate that you are giving your proxy for the annual meeting to the Rector, the Senior Warden or another parish member but please specify whom.
Monday, January 30, 12 noon, Feast of Blessed Charles Stuart, King & Martyr
Donations to the Food Bank and Marih Center are greatly needed. Across the country, crisis pregnancy centers have been attacked or vandalized. The needs are great. Please help with either a goods donation or a monetary donation. You can give through the donation button in this newsletter and use the drop down menu to choose "Charity & Mercy." Thank you.
Please help this month with a food donation if you are able. Christ House is very thankful for the food we provide to them each month. Please also buy low sugar cereals (and not the kid's types that have lots of sugar). Current needs include the following:
• canned meats (chicken, corned beef, spam)
• peanut butter
• canned vegetables (corn, green beans - (regular and low sodium)
• individual fruit cups (low sugar)
• canned fruit (low sugar)
• cereal (low sugar)
• pasta (regular and gluten-free)
• instant potatoes
• Macaroni & cheese kits
• Coffee, cooking oil, flour, sugar
Updated List of Needs for MaRIH Center (crisis pregnancy center)
MaRIH Center with its all volunteer staff has been providing help to mothers-to-be and mothers in need. If you can provide some of the items that are needed, please do so. (You can leave the donations where the food for the food bank is collected on the pew in the undercorft.)
Baby wipes* (an ongoing great need)
Diapers (sizes 1*, 2, 3*, 4, 5*, & 6*)
Diaper rash ointment
(Bold and * are a critical need.)
Clothing for boys and girls (0-6 months)
Sleep Sacks: Girls 0-6 mos.
Socks: Boy/Girl 2T
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