The First Christmas Sermon Ever Preached

As a Christmas tradition, I repost this, the first Christmas sermon ever recorded:

John “Golden Mouth” Chrysostom preached the first known Christmas sermon in AD 386 (the same year that Augustine converted to Christianity — what a year!).  In this case, the first is the best.  It both beautifully written and theologically profound. How I would have loved to have heard him deliver it!  I commend it for your reading in the next couple of days.

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.  The Angels sing.  The Archangels blend their voice in harmony.  The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise.  The Seraphim exalt His glory.  All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven.  He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice.  And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields.  For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God.  This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not.  For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His.  Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

Read the rest: The First Christmas Sermon.

Women Priests in the Early Church?

A fresco inside the catacomb of Priscilla’a “Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman” room showing a woman with outstretched arms like those of a priest saying Mass. In Rome November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

From Reuters:

Proponents of a female priesthood say frescoes in the newly restored Catacombs of Priscilla prove there were women priests in early Christianity. The Vatican says such assertions are sensationalist “fairy tales”.

The catacombs, on Rome’s Via Salaria, have been fully reopened after a five-year project that included laser technology to clean some of the ancient frescoes and a new museum to house restored marble fragments of sarcophagi. Art lovers and the curious around the world who cannot get to Rome can join the debate by using a virtual visit to the underground labyrinth by Google Maps, a first-time venture mixing antiquity and modern high technology.

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St. Francis: “I Know What the Fox Says”

The Hermitage of St. Francis (c) Courtney Perry

We’re in Assisi, home of St. Francis. Today Courtney and I hiked up the mountain outside of town to Francis’s hermitage. Built into the side of the mountain, it’s an amazing complex of cells and chapels and doorways I could barely squeeze through. I’m guessing that Francis was a small man — most Umbrians are.

Like Mother Teresa, Francis was recognized as a very special and holy person during his own lifetime. Only two years after his death, he was canonized, and the basilica in his honor was started in Assisi. That basilica, which we also visited today, is breathtaking, with frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, and others. In the crypt below the lower basilica, Francis is buried in a simple stone sarcophagus. Fronted by a small chapel, about a dozen pilgrims sat today in the presence of the saints tomb. Several openly wept.

There’s more myth than fact about Francis’s life. Some scholars think that he didn’t actually write the “Canticle to the Sun,” and all agree that he didn’t compose the “Prayer of St. Francis.” Nevertheless, the life — and myth — of St. Francis still moves people to tears. Nikos Kazantzankis addresses this wonderfully in the prologue to his historical novel, Saint Francis:

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What Is It about Rome?

Sunset over the Roman Forum (c) Courtney Perry

Yesterday morning, Courtney and I arrived in Rome for our honeymoon. By my count, this is my 13th trip to caput mundi. I first came to Rome in 1989 as a senior in college, and the trip changed my life. I came because my beloved professor, Edward Bradley, nearly shouted at me, “Dammit, man, you must come to Rome with me. We’ll walk in the footsteps of the saints!” (Read about it here (PDF).)

I’ve come back many times since. A couple times with Edward, a couple times with friends, a couple times leading tours, and now with my beloved Courtney. Yesterday, we wandered. We saw the Forum, we drank Campari, we saw the Campo dei Fiori, we drank cappuccino, we saw the Piazza di Spagna, we drank Limoncello. We also drank wine and Cynar and Prosecco. You get the picture.

Sometimes you hear people who’ve been to Italy complain that Rome is the least favorite of the cities they visited. It’s too dirty, they complain, and too noisy. Florence is more their speed, where everyone speaks English, and all the restaurant menus are, too. Well, they can have Florence. I’ll take urbs sacra. Last night we went, on a recommendation from our dear friend Annie of scooteroma, to a small hosteria tucked in a back alley off the Via del Corso. The waiters spoke little English, the owner spoke none. The menu was only in Italian. And it was, quite possible, the best carbonara I’ve ever tasted.

What will we do today? See more churches, eat more amazing food, drink some more as well.

Ciao!


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