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Current Feasts, Saints and other Holy Days

St Polycarp - February 23

Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr

St Polycarp

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, provides a valuable link between the church of the apostles and the church of the second century. His martyrdom was recorded in detail, and this provides a touching account of his death.

Polycarp was born about 70 CE, probably in Asia Minor. He learned some of his Christian faith from St John, who lived his final years in Ephesus. Polycarp himself taught Irenaeus, who became bishop of Lyons in 177. Polycarp became the leader of the Christian community in Smyrna and was bishop there for many years. In the early second century Asia Minor was the area in which Christianity found the strongest support.

When Ignatius of Antioch passed Smyrna on his way to martyrdom in Rome in 107, he wrote to the church in Smyrna, and a letter of Polycarp to the Philippians about the same time also survives. Polycarp made no pretensions to scholarship and theology, but exhorted the Christians in Philippi to live circumspectly and bring no discredit on the church. He quoted from Paul and from Matthew’s Gospel in support of his comments. The church was still very young and only slowly developing firm theological convictions. Polycarp was particularly anxious about those who deny that Christ was truly human. Some found it easier to believe in a Saviour who was a heavenly visitor rather than one of us.

From about 150 the church in Asia Minor became the centre of public dislike. Pagans and Jews alike sought to have the church crushed. The state was promoting with some zeal the religious oath to the emperor as a sign of loyalty to the state, and the Jews, who lived in an uneasy truce with Rome after the bloody and unsuccessful rebellion twenty years before, regarded the Christians as a destabilising influence. Both groups, therefore, found the Christians a convenient target.

Polycarp himself was arrested, probably in 156, and urged to deny his Christianity and acknowledge the lordship of the emperor. “Swear and I will let you go”, the governor told him, “Curse Christ.” Polycarp replied, “For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme against my king and saviour?”

Source: https://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Worship-Resources-Karakia-ANZPB-HKMOA/For-All-the-Saints-A-Resource-for-the-Commemorations-of-the-Calendar/For-All-the-Saints

The Confession of St Peter - February 22

Confession of St Peter

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). In these words, Simon bar-Jonah confessed his faith in Jesus, who accepted the title with an answering pun: “You are Peter, and on this rock (petra) I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Characteristically, Peter promptly gets things wrong and is denounced as a stumbling block (Matthew 16:22-23).

The rough and impulsive fisherman figures prominently in the New Testament. He and his brother Andrew were the first of the disciples to be called. It was Peter who tried to walk on the water and began to sink; it was he who on the impulse of the moment wanted to build three shelters on the mountain of the transfiguration; it was Peter who rashly boasted his faithfulness to death and within a few hours denied any knowledge of his master.

After the resurrection, however, Peter rapidly grows in importance as a leader of the Twelve, and, after Pentecost, risks imprisonment and death, speaking out boldly in the name of Jesus and proclaiming his belief that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and has been raised from the dead. He was, as Paul says, one of the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9), the rock whose strength and courage sustained the young church as it felt its way beyond the boundaries of the Jewish community. First there was the mission to Samaria. Then, after initial doubts about the admission of Gentile converts, Peter has the humility to accept a change of heart and to baptise the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household (Acts 10).

Even then, Peter had to struggle with his inbred prejudices. Paul, writing to the Galatians, reports how he felt bound to rebuke Peter for giving in to the pressure of Jewish Christians who wanted him to separate himself from the table-fellowship with Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-14).

Except for an oblique reference in the first letter of Peter (1 Peter 5:12) and a possible hint by Paul (Romans 15:20-22), there is no reference in the New Testament to Peter’s presence in Rome, but the reports that he was there are early and well-attested, and the site of his burial under the high altar of St Peter’s Basilica has considerable evidence in its favour. According to tradition he was executed during the Neronian persecution in Rome in 64 CE.

A special observance for “The Confession of St Peter” has been included in several recent Anglican revisions of the Calendar. It provides an observance for Peter similar to “The Conversion of St Paul” (25 January), in contrast to the joint commemoration of their deaths (29 June).

Source: https://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Worship-Resources-Karakia-ANZPB-HKMOA/For-All-the-Saints-A-Resource-for-the-Commemorations-of-the-Calendar/For-All-the-Saints

Janani Luwum - February 17

Archbishop, Martyr of Uganda

Janani Luwum

The Anglican Church in Uganda, founded as the result of Church Missionary Society work in the 1870s, has long been known for its martyrs. Archbishop Janani Luwum, killed on 16 February 1977 - almost certainly on the orders of President Idi Amin himself - joined that long tradition.

Janani Luwum was born in 1922 in the Acholi district of Uganda. He had no early education, spending his youth as a goatherder. He was given a belated opportunity to begin at school and quickly showed his resourcefulness and ability to learn. His conversion to Christ happened while he was a teacher. He became an enthusiastic evangelist, so much so that he had to leave the school where he was teaching. He eventually gave up teaching and from 1949 studied theology at Buwalasi College. After a period as a lay preacher he was ordained in 1956. As Uganda gained independence from Britain, Luwum was noted as a rising indigenous leader in the church.

He became bishop of the newly-formed Diocese of Northern Uganda in 1969. Following his consecration, Janani was appointed to the Anglican Consultative Council and served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. In 1974 he was one of the African bishops who made a lasting impression on those attending the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation. He had been elected archbishop of Uganda shortly before this gathering.

In 1971 General Idi Amin came to power in a military coup. A reign of terror followed, and Luwum and the other bishops became prominent among those protesting Amin’s actions. The bishops wrote to Amin to protest about the many arbitrary deaths and the general reign of terror.

On 16 February 1977, after a meeting with President Amin, the archbishop was driven away, along with two government ministers. Uganda Radio announced that the three of them had been arrested, and the following morning it was stated that they had died in a car accident. It was widely known that they had in fact been shot on the orders of the president. A funeral service planned for the following Sunday was forbidden by the government, and the archbishop’s body was not released. Nevertheless 4,500 people gathered at the cathedral on Namirembe Hill, and a service was held. The singing began with the hymn associated with the martyrs of Uganda of 1885-86, “Daily, daily sing the praises”. This was caught up by the crowds, until the hill rang with the sound of the victory song, sung again and again.

Source: https://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Worship-Resources-Karakia-ANZPB-HKMOA/For-All-the-Saints-A-Resource-for-the-Commemorations-of-the-Calendar/For-All-the-Saints

Ash Wednesday & Lent

Ash Wednesday

The development of Ash Wednesday is closely tied to the development of Lent and Holy Week. The earliest observances of Easter were preceded by a few days of fasting, the actual number of days varying from place to place. Quite independently of the pre-Easter fast, there grew up in Egypt in the late fourth century a custom of keeping a forty day fast. This originally had nothing to do with Easter and was in imitation of Jesus’ own fasting. There was a wide-spread custom in the early church of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays around the year. Lent was an extension of this to the other days of the week, except Sunday, for the forty day period. The development of the catechumenate by the fourth century meant that Lent became an ideal time for instruction in the faith, for sharing in the prayer of the church, and for the reconciliation of penitents, as well as for fasting. The desire to prepare thoroughly for the Easter festival met up with the observance of Lent to produce the Lenten season as we now have it.

In the fourth century in Rome, Lent began on the fortieth day before the Easter sequence. By including the fast days of the Easter preparation, and by counting only actual days of fasting, it became the custom to begin the fast on the Wednesday before the sixth Sunday before Easter Day to give exactly forty days. Thus, by the early sixth century, Lent began on this Wednesday. Accounts of the observance of Ash Wednesday in Rome in the eighth century point to a spiritualised interpretation of putting on sackcloth and ashes. Ashes were a very ancient sign of repentance or mourning and were quite common in private use among early Christians. It was in the Rhine valley that the liturgical rite of the imposition of ashes developed. The custom spread, and was prescribed for all Christians at the Council of Benevento in 1091. It is common for the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday to be used to make the ashes.

By a process of further extension of the preparation for Lent, there developed in the sixth century the three Sundays before Lent, Quinquagesima, Sexagesima and Septuagesima, being (approximately) fifty, sixty and seventy days before Easter respectively.

Lent is a long period of fasting. In the western church there grew up the custom of some relaxation of the fast, particularly in connection with the fourth Sunday in Lent. It has had various titles. In England it was often called Mothering Sunday. Several reasons have been offered for this: that it comes from the custom of visiting one’s mother on this day; that it comes from the practice of visiting the mother church of the diocese (the cathedral) on this day; that it comes from the traditional Epistle reading with its reference to “Jerusalem . . . which is the mother of us all.” Not all revised Anglican Prayer Books have retained the observance. The custom of eating simnel cakes on this day (a rich fruit cake with almonds), comes from one of the other names for the day: Refreshment Sunday.

Customs associated with the last week of Lent, Holy Week, owe their origin to the liturgical developments in Jerusalem. Egeria in the late fourth century testified to the custom developed in Jerusalem of acting out liturgically the events of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, beginning with his triumphal entry to the city. This is the origin of the Palm Sunday procession. The custom gradually spread throughout the church. In some places, other specific events from that week are associated with particular days. In A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, the Monday of Holy Week is associated with the Cleansing of the Temple, Tuesday with Teaching in the Temple, and Wednesday with the Anointing at Bethany (pp. 582 - 584).

Source: https://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Worship-Resources-Karakia-ANZPB-HKMOA/For-All-the-Saints-A-Resource-for-the-Commemorations-of-the-Calendar/For-All-the-Saints

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Phone: (06) 358 5403

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229 Ruahine Street,
Palmerston North
Email: stpeters@inspire.net.nz
Phone: (06) 358 5403

Office Hours

Tuesday to Friday
9:00am to 12:00pm

Closed on Public Holidays

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