Eudocia later sent a portion of the chains to Rome with her daughter Licinia Eudoxia, the wife
III. Licinia Eudoxia built the church of S. Petrus ad Vincula on the Esquiline
Hill to house the relic. Already in Rome were the chains
with which Peter was bound when he was imprisoned by Nero. These latter chains
were placed together with the chains from Jerusalem. The Western Church
venerates these combined miracle working chains on August 1st.
The chains kept in Constantinople were presumably lost during the fall of that city in 1453, although I believe that portions of these chains had previously been distributed to Mount Athos and others had perhaps found their way to Russia.
I mention this feast primary to reference today's days reading from the
Greek Synaxarion and it's words about the veneration of relics
Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great and king of the Jews, grew wroth
against the Church of Christ, and slew James, the brother of John the
Evangelist. Seeing that this pleased the people, he took Peter also into
custody and locked him up in prison, intending to keep him there until after
the feast of the Passover, so that he could win the favour of the people by
presenting him to them as a victim. But the Apostle was saved when he was
miraculously set free by an Angel (Acts 12:1-19). The chains wherewith the
Apostle was bound received from his most sacred body the grace of
sanctification and healing, which is bestowed upon the faithful who draw nigh
such sacred treasures work wonders and many healings is witnessed by the divine
Scripture, where it speaks concerning Paul, saying that the Christians in Ephesus
had such reverence for him, that his handkerchiefs and aprons, taken up with
much reverence, healed the sick of their maladies: "So that from his body
were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed
from them, and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:12). But not
only the Apostles' clothing (which certainly touched the bodies of the sick),
but even their shadow alone performed healings. On beholding this, people put
their sick on stretchers and beds and brought them out into the streets that,
when Peter passed by, his shadow "might overshadow some of them"(Acts
5:15). From this the Orthodox Catholic Church has learned to show reverence and
piety not only to the relics of their bodies, but also in the clothing of God's
AT THAT time there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six water-pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
After the communion hymn the choir sang a beautiful motet by Luca Marenzio
Tribus Miraculis Ornatum Diem
Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus: hodie stella Magos duxit ad praesepium: hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias: hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos. Alleluia. We celebrate a day sanctified by three miracles: today a star led the Magi to the manger; today water was changed to wine at the marriage feast; today Christ chose to be baptised by John in the Jordan for our salvation. Alleluia.
“I am espoused to Him whom the angels serve; sun and moon stand in
wonder at His glory.”
Today is venerated in the Eastern calendar, St. Agnes of
Rome, virgin and martyr. Her feast in the West is observed on January 21st.
This saint who suffered martyrdom at the age of 13 in 304 under the Emperor Diocletian
has always been extremely popular. She is one of just seven female martyrs commemorated
by name during the Canon of the Mass.
For anyone interested there are many articles concerning her
on-line but here are links to just two;
S. Agnes’ bones, except for her skull which is elsewhere in
the city, are preserved in Rome under the High Altar of the Basilica of Saint Agnes
outside the wall, S. Agnese fuori le mura.
This church is the subject of an excellent book by Margaret Visser, The
Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery and Meaning in an Ordinary Church (2000). Well written and highly readable, I highly
recommend it to anyone interested in ecclesiastical architecture.
Ms. Visser writes that she chose to study the
intricacies, history and architecture of this church because, "it is a
building that feels as if it has been on a very long journey out of the past,
has altered and suffered and gathered accretions, and now it is here with us,
still bearing its cargo of memories and still carrying out the purpose for which
it was built."
I’m not sure I would agree that this beautiful
jewel is an “ordinary church” but Ms. Visser’s loving
yet exhaustively detailed study of this sacred building makes me wish that she
or other like minded writers would take similar pains to record the histories
of just a few of the other innumerable buildings like it.
The Theophany or Epiphany of our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
The 6th of January is
celebrated in the Eastern Church as the Feast of the Theophany and in the West as
the Epiphany. I find very interesting the difference in emphasis placed on this Feast of Our Lord by the Eastern
and Western churches.
In the Eastern Church, Theophany celebrates the baptism
of Jesus by John in the Jordan. It commemorates the public “showing forth” of God,
in His fullness, as The Trinity for the first time in the earthly life of Christ. As is so beautifully stated in the apolytikion of the feast, a hymn repeated at
every service during the season of the Theophany;
When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the
worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare
witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form
of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ our God, Who hast
appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee.
By accepting baptism from his
cousin John, Jesus institutes the seminal Christian sacrament. Baptism is the rite that makes a Christian a Christian. It is the one sacrament that
even laypersons can perform if necessary. The Church honors this event with the
Great Blessing of Waters. As Christ has blessed the River Jordan through his
baptism, the Church ritually blesses water to be used during the year both as
holy water and for baptism. If possible the ritual blessing continues at an
open body of water, such as a pool, lake, river, or sea. This blessing is intended
not only for the water, but also mystically for all of creation. It is a continuance
of the great work of regeneration begun when God took on human flesh.
Theophany is, after Pascha, the most
important feast in the Eastern Church, much more important than Christmas.
Perhaps I am ignorant of the Epiphany’s
full significance, but in the West the Feast seems to be simply a part of the Nativity cycle. Emphasis is placed on the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. Christ's ministry to the gentiles is highlighted as is His fulfillment of the
Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah. Of course this element of Christ’s
nativity plays a role in the Eastern Church, but the story of the Magi's visit is
included on the day of the actual nativity. The apolytikion of the Nativity
Thy birth, O Christ
our God, dawned the light of knowledge upon the earth. For by Thy birth those who adored
stars were taught by a star
to worship Thee, the Sun of Justice, and to know Thee, Orient from on High. O
Lord, glory to Thee.
I wonder if Western discomfort
with the baptismal aspects of the feast is somehow due to the importance that
Jesus’ baptism played in Arian and Adoptionist heresies. In much Adoptionist
thought, Jesus is born simply a man, no different than any other. At his
baptism in the Jordan and through the descent of the Holy Spirit, the man Jesus
is adopted the Son of God, becoming the God-Man Christ. Of course this is totally contrary to the
orthodox understanding of the Nature of Christ as detailed in the Creed. In
fact much of the Creed was developed to directly address this sort of erroneous