Severus of Al-Ushmunain: How St Mark Healed and Converted a Cobbler in Alexandria Friday, Apr 25 2014 


April 25th is the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist.

Mark journeyed to the city of Alexandria; and when he entered in at the gate, the strap of his shoe broke.

And when he saw this, he thought: «Now I know that the Lord has made my way easy».

Then he turned, and saw a cobbler there, and went to him and gave him the shoe that he might mend it.

And when the cobbler received it, and took the awl to work upon it, the awl pierced his hand. So he said: «Heis ho Theos»; the interpretation of which is, «God is One».

And. when the holy Mark heard him mention the name of God, he rejoiced greatly, and turned his face to the East and said: «O my Lord Jesus, it is thou that makest my road easy in every place».

Then he spat on the ground and took from it clay, and put it on the place where the awl had pierced the cobbler’s hand, saying:

«In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One living and eternal God, may the hand of this man be healed at this moment, that thy holy name may be glorified».

Then his hand at once became whole.

[…] The cobbler remained astonished at the power of God which descended upon the holy Mark, and said to him: «I pray thee, O man of God, to come to the dwelling of thy servant, to rest and eat bread, for I find that to-day thou hast conferred a benefit upon me».

[…] After they had eaten, the cobbler said to him: «O my father, I beg thee to make known to me who thou art that hast worked this great miracle».

Then the saint answered him: «I serve Jesus Christ, the Son of the ever living God». The cobbler exclaimed: «I would that I could see him».

The holy Mark said to him: «I will cause thee to behold him». Then he began to teach him the gospel of good tidings, and the doctrine of the glory and power and dominion which belong to God from the beginning, and…ended by saying to him:

«The Lord Christ in the last times became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came into the world, and saved us from our sins». And he explained to him what the prophets prophesied of him, passage by passage.

[…] Then when the cobbler had heard wisdom and the words of the Scriptures from the holy Mark, together with the great miracle which he had seen him work upon his hand, his heart inclined towards him, and he believed in the Lord, and was baptized, he and all the people of his house, and all his neighbours.

Severus of Al-Ushmunain (d. 987): History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria.

The image, found at Pravmir, is a Coptic icon of St Mark, the first of the Coptic Patriarchs of Alexandria in the history written by Severus.

John Henry Newman: He is the True Christian whose Secret Life is Hid with Christ in God Monday, Dec 2 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_Millais“If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8).

At first sight, one might be tempted to say, “All who come to church, at least, are in earnest, and have given up sin; they are imperfect indeed, as all Christians are at best, but they do not fall into wilful sin.”

I should be very glad, my Brethren, to believe this were the case, but I cannot indulge so pleasant a hope.

No; I think it quite certain that some persons at least, I do not say how many, to whom I am speaking, have not made up their minds fully to lead a religious life.

They come to church because they think it right, or from other cause. It is very right that they should come; I am glad they do. This is good, as far as it goes; but it is not all.

They are not so far advanced in the kingdom of God, as to resist the devil, or to flee from him. They cannot command themselves. They act rightly one day, and wrongly the next.

They are afraid of being laughed at. They are attracted by bad company. They put off religion to a future day. They think a religious life dull and unpleasant. Yet they have a certain sense of religion; and they come to church in order to satisfy this sense.

Now, I say it is right to come to church; but, O that they could be persuaded of the simple truth of St. Paul’s words, “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2:28, 29);

which may be taken to mean:—He is not a Christian who is one outwardly, who merely comes to church, and professes to desire to be saved by Christ.

It is very right that he should do so, but it is not enough. He is not a Christian who merely has not cast off religion;

but he is the true Christian, who, while he is a Christian outwardly, is one inwardly also; who lives to God; whose secret life is hid with Christ in God;

whose heart is religious; who not only knows and feels that a religious life is true happiness, but loves religion, wishes, tries, prays to be religious, begs God Almighty to give him the will and the power to be religious; and, as time goes on, grows more and more religious, more fit for heaven.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. 7, 13: Love of Religion, a New Nature.

Charles Wesley: Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast Sunday, Oct 20 2013 

Charles_wesleySee Luke 14:16-24.

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,
Let every soul be Jesu’s guest;
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bidden all mankind.

Sent by my Lord, on you I call,
The invitation is to all:
Come, all the world; come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.

Come, all ye souls by sin opprest,
Ye restless wanderers after rest,
Ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.

Come, and partake the gospel feast;
Be saved from sin; in Jesus rest;
O taste the goodness of your God,
And eat his flesh, and drink his blood!

Ye vagrant souls, on you I call;
(O that my voice could reach you all!)
Ye all may now be justified,
Ye all may live, for Christ hath died.

My message as from God receive,
Ye all may come to Christ, and live;
O let his love your hearts constrain,
Nor suffer him to die in vain!

His love is mighty to compel;
His conquering love consent to feel,
Yield to his love’s resistless power,
And fight against your God no more.

See him set forth before your eyes,
That precious, bleeding sacrifice!
His offered benefits embrace,
And freely now be saved by grace.

This is the time; no more delay!
This is the acceptable day,
Come in, this moment, at his call,
And live for him who died for all.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 2.

Bede the Venerable: How Saint Wilfrid Converted the Province of the South Saxons to Christ (681 A.D.) Saturday, Oct 12 2013 

icon_bede-October 12th is the feast of St Wilfrid (c. 633-c. 709).

Wilfrid was expelled from his bishopric, and having long travelled in many lands, went to Rome, and afterwards returned to Britain.

Though he could not, by reason of the enmity of the aforesaid king, be received into his own country or diocese, yet he could not be restrained from the ministry of the Gospel;

for, taking his way into the province of the South Saxons, which …  was at that time still in bondage to pagan rites, he administered to them the Word of faith, and the Baptism of salvation.

[…]  The bishop, therefore, with the consent of King Ethelwalch, or rather to his great joy, cleansed in the sacred font the foremost ealdormen and thegns of that country; and the priests…baptized the rest of the people.

The queen, whose name was Eabae, had been baptized in her own country, … but all the province of the South Saxons was ignorant of the Name of God and the faith.

[…] Bishop Wilfrid, while preaching the Gospel to the people, not only delivered them from the misery of eternal damnation, but also from a terrible calamity of temporal death.

For no rain had fallen in that district for three years before his arrival in the province, whereupon a grievous famine fell upon the people and pitilessly destroyed them.

[…] . But on the very day on which the nation received the Baptism of the faith, there fell a soft but plentiful rain; the earth revived, the fields grew green again, and the season was pleasant and fruitful.

Thus the old superstition was cast away, and idolatry renounced, the heart and flesh of all rejoiced in the living God, for they perceived that He Who is the true God had enriched them by His heavenly grace with both inward and outward blessings.

For the bishop, when he came into the province, and found so great misery from famine there, taught them to get their food by fishing; for their sea and rivers abounded in fish, but the people had no skill to take any of them, except eels alone.

The bishop’s men having gathered eel-nets everywhere, cast them into the sea, and by the blessing of God took three hundred fishes of divers sorts, which being divided into three parts, they gave a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those of whom they had the nets, and kept a hundred for their own use.

By this benefit the bishop gained the affections of them all, and they began more readily at his preaching to hope for heavenly blessings, seeing that by his help they had received those which are temporal.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 13.

Patrick: Confessing the Wonders of God Before Every Nation Friday, Jul 12 2013 

PatrickI, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman…had for father the deacon Calpurnius…. He had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age.

I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation.

And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance.

And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity.

For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught;

and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the Spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him.

He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe.

And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds.

And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

Patrick (387?-493?): The Confession of St Patrick, 1-4 @ Fr Luke Dysinger OSB.

Bede the Venerable: Augustine, Coming into Britain, Preached to the King of Kent Monday, May 27 2013 

icon_bede-Augustine, thus strengthened by the encouragement of the blessed Father Gregory, returned to the work of the Word of God, with the servants of Christ who were with him, and arrived in Britain. The powerful Ethelbert was at that time king of Kent

[…] They…signified that they were come from Rome, and brought a joyful message, which most undoubtedly assured to those that hearkened to it everlasting joys in heaven, and a kingdom that would never end, with the living and true God.

The king hearing this, gave orders that they, should stay in the island where they had landed, and be furnished with necessaries, till he should consider what to do with them.

For he had before heard of the Christian religion, having a Christian wife of the royal family of the Franks, called Bertha; whom he had received from her parents, upon condition that she should be permitted to preserve inviolate the rites of her religion with the Bishop Liudhard, who was sent with her to support her in the faith.

Some days after, the king came into the island, and sitting in the open air, ordered Augustine and his companions to come and hold a conference with him.

For he had taken precaution that they should not come to him in any house, lest, by so coming, according to an ancient superstition, if they practised any magical arts, they might impose upon him, and so get the better of him.

But they came endued with Divine, not with magic power, bearing a silver cross for their banner, and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a board; and chanting litanies, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal salvation both of themselves and of those to whom and for whom they had come.

[…] The king…gave them an abode in the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis of all his dominions, and, as he had promised, besides supplying them with sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach.

It is told that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy cross, and the image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they sang in concert this litany:

“We beseech thee, Lord, for Thy great mercy, that Thy wrath and anger be turned away from this city, and from Thy holy house, for we have sinned. Hallelujah.”

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 2, 25.

Gregory of Nyssa: Baptism in the Jordan (2) – Regeneration, Transformation and Adoption according to Grace Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaBut do ye all, as many as are made glad, by the gift of regeneration, and make your boast of that saving renewal, show me, after the sacramental grace, the change in your ways that should follow it, and make known by the purity of your conversation the difference effected by your transformation for the better.

[…] But there is certainly need of some manifest proof, by which we may recognize the new-born man, discerning by clear tokens the new from the old.

And these I think are to be found in the intentional motions of the soul, whereby it separates itself from its old customary life, and enters on a newer way of conversation, and will clearly teach those acquainted with it that it has become something different from its former self, bearing in it no token by which the old self was recognized.

[…] The man that was before Baptism was wanton, covetous, grasping at the goods of others, a reviler, a liar, a slanderer, and all that is kindred with these things, and consequent from them…:

Let him now become orderly, sober, content with his own possessions, and imparting from them to those in poverty, truthful, courteous, affable—in a word, following every laudable course of conduct.

For as darkness is dispelled by light…, so the old man also disappears when adorned with the works of righteousness.

You see how Zacchæus also by the change of his life slew the publican, making fourfold restitution to those whom he had unjustly damaged, and the rest he divided with the poor—the treasure which he had before got by ill means from the poor whom he oppressed.

[…] Such ought you to be in your regeneration: so ought you to blot out your habits that tend to sin; so ought the sons of God to have their conversation: for after the grace bestowed we are called His children.

And therefore we ought narrowly to scrutinize our Father’s characteristics, that by fashioning and framing ourselves to the likeness of our Father, we may appear true children of Him Who calls us to the adoption according to grace.

[…] The Lord, laying down for us in the Gospels the rules of our life, uses these words to His disciples, “Do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven….”

For then He says they are sons when in their own modes of thought they are fashioned in loving kindness towards their kindred, after the likeness of the Father’s goodness.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Sermon for the Day of Lights.

Jerome: Do Not Despair of His Mercy, for Great Mercy Will Take Away Great Sins Friday, Aug 26 2011 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumReturn to me with all your heart and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation.

It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments…. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord.

After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins.

For the Lord is gracious and merciful and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance.

So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed.

[…]  In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing?

In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities.

“But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent?”

[…] To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and tribulations for the Lord our God. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Joel, from the Office of Readings for Friday in the 21st week of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory the Great: They Abandoned the Errors of Darkness and were Bathed with the Light of Holy Faith Friday, May 27 2011 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistGlory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth, because the grain of wheat has fallen into the earth and has died.

Christ has died in order to reign in heaven.

Not only that: by his death we live; by his weakness we are strengthened; by his passion we are freed from suffering.

Impelled by his love, we are seeking in Britain brothers whom we do not know.

Through his help we have found those for whom we were searching, although we were not acquainted with them.

Who, dear brother, is capable of describing the great joy of believers when they have learned what the grace of Almighty God and your own cooperation achieved among the Angles? They abandoned the errors of darkness and were bathed with the light of holy faith.

With full awareness they trampled on the idols which they had previously adored with savage fear.

They are now committed to Almighty God. The guidelines given them for their preaching restrain them from falling into evil ways.

In their minds they are submissive to the divine precepts and consequently feel uplifted.

They bow down to the ground in prayer lest their minds cling too closely to earthly things.

Whose achievement is this? It is the achievement of him who said: My Father is at work until now and I am at work as well.

God chose illiterate preachers and sent them into the world in order to show the world that conversion is brought about not by men’s wisdom but rather by his own power.

So in like manner God worked through weak instruments and wrought great things among the Angles.

Dear brother, in this heavenly gift there is something which should inspire us with great fear and great joy.
For I know through your love for that people, specially chosen for you, that Almighty God has performed great miracles.

But it is necessary that the same heavenly gift should cause you to rejoice with fear and to fear with gladness.

You should be glad because by means of external miracles the souls of the Angles have been led to interior grace.

But you should tremble, lest on account of these signs, the preacher’s own weak soul be puffed up with presumption; lest, while seeming externally raised aloft in honour, it fall internally as a result of vainglory.

We should remember that when the disciples on their joyous return from their preaching mission said to their heavenly master: Lord, in your name even devils were subjected to us, he immediately retorted: Do not rejoice about this but rather that your names are inscribed in heaven.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): A Letter from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury @ Crossroads Initiative.  

F.W. Faber: Our Hearts Are Enlarged While We Are Magnifying God Thursday, Mar 24 2011 

There is nothing…which so multiplies graces upon us, or causes God to throw the doors of His treasury so wide open, as the devotion of thanksgiving.

[…] Many persons try to advance in spirituality, and are held back, as it were, by some invisible hand.

The fact is, and they do not realize it, they have never been thoroughly converted to God.

They have stayed too short a time in the purgative way of the spiritual life, or they have bargained with God, and kept back some attachment…so as to be spared the pain of conversion.

Now thanksgiving swiftly but imperceptibly turns our religion into a service of love;

It draws us to take God’s view of things, to range ourselves on His side even against ourselves, and to identify ourselves with His interests even when they seem to be in opposition to our own.

Hence we are led to break more effectually with the world, and not to trail its clouds and mists along with us on our road to heaven.

[…] And what is all this but to make our conversion more thorough and complete?

Neither is the effect of thanksgiving less upon our growth than it is upon our conversion.

All growth comes of love; and love is at once both the cause and effect of thanksgiving.

What light and air are to plants, that is the sense of God’s Presence to the virtues; and thanksgiving makes this sensible Presence of God almost a habit in our souls.

For it leads us continually to see mercies which we should not otherwise have perceived, and it enables us far more worthily to appreciate their value, and in some degree to sound the abyss of Divine condescension out of which they come.

Moreover, the practice of thanksgiving in ourselves leads us to be distressed at the absence of it in others; and this keeps our lore of God delicate and sensitive, and breeds in us a spirit of reparation, which is especially congenial to the growth of holiness.

Our hearts are enlarged while we are magnifying God, and when our hearts are enlarged we run the way of His commandments, where we have only walked or crept before.

We feel a secret force in overcoming obstacles and in despising fears, and altogether a liberty in well-doing, which we used not to feel before.

[…] Our hearts are crowned with thanksgiving.

Frederick William Faber (1814—1863): All for Jesus, pp. 288-290.

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