A calendar of other commemorations (with biographical notes)

Jan Hus & Peter Waldo reformers of the Church

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6 Jan Hus & Peter Waldo reformers of the Church
These two men were 'reformers before the Reformation', and the 16th century European Reformers entered into their tradition. Waldo of Lyons, a merchant, was converted ca 1170 and began preaching in the streets, calling his considerable audiences to a faith and life of evangelical simplicity. His movement was one of lay people, and spread into Europe until settling in the Alpine Valleys and around the River Po in northern Italy where the Waldensian Church of today is still centred. They applied to Calvin in 1732 to join his reform. Throughout their history, they have been a persecuted community in a country dominated by the Roman Catholic Church (Pope Francis apologised for this in 2015) and now form a 'double Synod' with the Methodist Church of Italy.

Jan Hus (or John Hus) was born ca 1369. He was a bright student and graduated from the University of Prague; soon after his ordination in 1400 he became the University's Vice-Chancellor. He was known for his public criticism of the morals of the clergy, bishops and the papacy, but the influence on him of the English divine John Wyclif (ca 1331-1384), regarded also as an early reformer, brought him to attention of the papal powers, who had issued a decree against Wyclif, especially over his views on the eucharist. Ironically, the criticism of the papacy occurred at the time when a schism occurred which produced two rival popes. It was a low point in Catholic history, and Wyclif and Hus were both condemned by the Council of Constance; Wyclif had already died, but Hus was burned at the stake and died on this day in 1415. These reformers were part of a movement in Bohemia for frequent communion, and the regular offer of the chalice to the laity, a century before Luther. Hus's death encouraged this movement further, until the revolution in his name in 1419 was defeated by the king and they were forced underground. Their views emerged again in the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), the spiritual ancestors of the Moravian church, who also influenced John Wesley.

It is now ecumenically agreed that the Church is semper reformanda, always being reformed. This principle is at the heart of the Uniting Church, which, like Waldo and Hus, insists that reform is led by the Holy Spirit, and soundly based in a reading of the Holy Scriptures (Basis of Union, para. 10-11).
8 Priscilla & Aquila faithful servants
Priscilla/Prisca and Aquila
Priscilla (used by Luke in Acts) is a diminutive of Prisca (used by Paul), derived from priscus, Latin for “old or venerable”, a family or clan name. Aquila, more common, is Latin for “eagle”.
There are tantalisingly few references in the New Testament to Prisc(ill)a and Aquila. Paul knew both personally and refers to them twice. Writing to Corinth from Ephesus in the mid 50s CE, Paul includes them among the greetings: “The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord” (1 Cor 16:19). From this we glean that they are a couple, almost certainly married, who have a house in Ephesus of sufficient proportions to be able to host a congregation. A few years later in Corinth Paul writes to the Romans: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom 16:3). The couple had moved to Rome in the interim and presumably hosted a house church there, too. They had been his co-workers putting their lives at risk for him in some unspecified danger. Here he reverses the order of names from the usual pattern of naming the husband first, a reversal also present in the brief greeting found in a later letter written in Paul’s name (2 Tim 4:19).

For writing Acts, possibly in the 80s CE, Luke appears to have had access to further information. He refers to Aquila in Corinth as “a Jew ... a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla”, a tentmaker- or leatherworker like Paul, and who offered Paul hospitality and worked with him also in advocating the faith to local Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:2-4). Aquila had at some stage moved with Priscilla from Pontus in northern Turkey to Rome. Along with many other Jews they had been expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius, in 42 CE or 49 CE. One source, Suetonius, gives the reason as disturbances related to a “Chrestus”, a common misspelling of “Christus”. Aquila and Prisc(ill)a may well have been converted in Rome. After 18 months Paul left Corinth for Ephesus and they went with him (Acts 18:18). They gave Apollos instruction with additional information, who thereafter left for Corinth (Acts 18:26; 1 Cor 1:12). Here in Acts 18:18 and 26 Luke also reverses the names, listing Prisc(ill)a first, possibly reflecting her higher social status. Was she also more active (or effective)? Was Aquila ageing? We can never know. Clearly both achieved recognition. Hosting house churches inevitably gave key roles to women, who traditionally looked after what occurred at home, but in addition Prisc(ill)a was engaged in mission and teaching, a role later not open to women.

Later tradition identifies Aquila as one of the first bishops of Asia Minor and reports the martyrdom of both Aquila and Priscilla.
William Loader
11 Benedict of Nursia person of prayer
Benedict of Nursia was born around the year 480CE in Umbria, Italy. Four years before his birth the Roman Empire had fallen, and the world into which Benedict was born was one of violence, turmoil, uncertainty and insecurity. Around the age of 19-20 he travelled to Rome to study the liberal arts. However, he found life in the city dissolute and immoral, not to his liking at all. So around the year 500CE he abandoned his studies and went to live in an isolated place near Effide (modern Affile). After living here for about two years he sought deeper solitude. He took up residence in a cave at Subiaco. Romanus, a monk who lived nearby, encouraged him to live the hermit life, supplied him with a habit and on occasions brought him food. Over time he gradually became known for his piety.
When the abbot of a nearby monastery died the monks asked Benedict, even though he was only about 25 years old, to come and be their abbot. Knowing of their way of life, and being unimpressed by it, Benedict was reluctant to go. Eventually he went and unfortunately found his misgivings were confirmed. Their way of life was very different from Benedict’s and they were in no mood to be reformed by him. After two attempts to poison him failed, Benedict returned to his solitude. But he was by now well known and people would come to him for spiritual guidance. It was at this point he began the monastic life that would later flourish. In the valley of Subiaco he established 12 small monasteries each with 12 monks and a superior. This success was not received well by the nearby priest who tried to undermine Benedict’s efforts. Eventually this opposition got the better of him and he moved the monk’s to the famous Monte Cassino, which became and has remained the central home of the Benedictine family. It was here he wrote his famous rule and it was where he died on March 21st 543. Benedict’s feast day is July 11th.
Benedict is known mostly for the rule of monastic life that he wrote and which has been the most influential document on Western monasticism. It is very short, about 9000 words, but renowned for its moderation, balance and gentleness, containing as Benedict said, ‘nothing harsh, nothing burdensome”. His aim in writing the Rule was that it should be a guide to living the Gospels. Thus it is saturated with Biblical references and images. The best known parts of the Rule are Chapter 7 on humility and Chapter 53 on welcoming guests to the monastery as Christ.
In our world, which perhaps reflects something of Benedict’s with the violence and uncertainty, the voice of this monk is speaking in a fresh way in our time. He calls us to a balance of prayer and work, of seeking to be aware of God’s presence everywhere and seeing in all others the presence of Christ. In a world where we can feel life is out of balance, where our environment is in a perilous state and where human divisions abound, perhaps it’s a good time to learn the wisdom of Benedict again.

Contributed by Gary Stuckey

12 Desiderius Erasmus reformer of the Church
The illegitimate son of a priest, Erasmus was possibly born in Rotterdam. He attended school in Gouda and Deventer and was strongly influence by the Brethren of the Common Life.
He gave Jesus a central place in his devotions. In 1486 he became an Augustinian canon. Ordained in 1492, he left the Augustinians to study at the College De Montaigu, Paris, in 1495. Travel to England from 1499 - 1500 led to a close friendship with the notable scholar John Colet and careful study of the New Testament in Greek. His publications grew in number and variety, as did his fascination with the challenge of translating the Bible. Between 1506-1521, his spent time in Paris, Louvain and Italy, as well as making a return to England, and developing a fruitful friendship with Thomas More, celebrated in his book Enconium Moriae. As well as becoming the first teacher of Greek at Cambridge. His prestige was not only academic and pastoral. He was made a royal councillor in Brussels during 1516.

Between 1515 - 1525 Erasmus produced the second earliest Greek New Testament and this went through at least 4 editions. One of these editions was used by Luther in his translation of the New Testament. Erasmus's NT also played a part in the King James translation of the NT. His work on the Greek was not without critics. Since Erasmus's work older Greek versions of the whole or parts of the NT have been found and these finds have corrected the many mistakes in Erasmus's texts.

From 1521, he lived in Basel with J. Froben, the noted printer. There he could write with fewer interruptions. When the city became Protestant, he moved to Freiburg from 1529 - 1535 before returning to Basel, where he died while editing the works of Origen. Advocacy of social, political, educational and religious reform made him an influential leader in the Europe of his day. He corresponded widely with people in a wide range of positions and status. An English edition of his letters is currently being prepared. He was strongly opposed to the corruption of traditional Catholicism and the Papacy, which he saw as indispensable of the European heritage. He sought to clarify their central emphases. Seeking to correct abuses in the church, he wrote a variety of popular and scholarly books, ranging from devotional works, such as his Enchiridion (1504) to editions of the Fathers. Initially, he welcomed Luther’s teaching and writing as complementary to his own. He, however, grew disturbed at its increasingly polemical nature and potential to undermine Catholic unity. That was made plain in De Libero Abitrio, to which Luther replied in De Servo Abitrio. Erasmus replied with Hyperaspistes. It was clear that they were far apart on many theological issues and reflected wider divisions in popular and scholarly Catholicism. Erasmus was convinced of the importance of education and that return to the sources was vital for authentic reform. He could be a cutting critic, as well as an inspirer of devotion. He provided reliable editions of some of the leading Fathers, as well as writing popular books on basic Christian belief and behaviour. Though he cherished the Catholic heritage, some more traditional Catholics regarded him as a corrupter of the faith. His work was censured by the University of Paris and his books were totally banned by Sixtus V in 1590. The Roman Index banned some books, but permitted others, when they were carefully edited. His importance has been widely recognized in the 20th century.
17 Daniel Thambyrajah (D. T.) Niles faithful servant
Daniel Thambyrajah Niles (1908–1972)
Daniel Thambyrajah Niles (affectionately known as “D.T.”) was a gifted Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) Methodist minister who became internationally famous as an ecumenical leader, prolific author and public speaker. He delivered the keynote address at the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Amsterdam in 1948 and also spoke at the Second Assembly held at Evanston (USA) in 1954 and the Fourth in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968. Niles was a giant of the ecumenical movement, holding high offices in the World Council, the National Christian Council of Ceylon and the East Asian Christian Conference (EACC). Though an ecumenist of global significance, he firmly believed that those involved in ecumenical work should maintain firm roots in the local church. At the time of his death when he was both a President of the WCC and the Chairman of EACC, he was also the Superintendent minister of St Peter’s Methodist Church (Jaffna) and Principal of Jaffna Central College.
Niles is probably best known today for the large number of hymns that he wrote, including the popular, “The great love of God is revealed in the Son” and “Father in heaven, grant to your children”, both of which are included in the Australian Hymn Book and Together in Song. Perhaps it is less well known that he was the author of many popular aphorisms: “Evangelism is witness. It is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.” And then there is his startling challenge to complacent congregations: “The answer to the problems of our world is the answer that Jesus Christ provided, which is the Church.”
Niles lived simply and always considered his primary calling to be that of an evangelist and preacher—a witness to the living Christ as saviour. He challenged those who doubted that evangelism by the spoken word could still find a response and insisted that those who minister must judge their success not by how much service they have rendered but by how many have been led to God. He was explicitly Christocentric in faith and practice, insisting that those who speak about Jesus must learn to keep quiet about themselves. “The object of evangelism is conversion”, Niles declared, “conversion to Christ and personal discipleship to him.” Also involved in Niles’ understanding of conversion, was conversion to the Christian community and conversion to Christian ideas and ideals. The normal order of mission priorities, he explained, was threefold: a welcome to community, an invitation to discipleship and a transformation of values. “The pilgrimage of the individual Christian”, he insisted, “is held within and nurtured by the pilgrimage of the Christian community.” It is not surprising, therefore, that Niles quoted approvingly Karl Barth’s familiar pronouncement, “One cannot hold the Christian faith without holding it in the church and with the church.”
In one of Niles’s first books which he titled, Whose I Am and Whom I Serve (1939) he wrote “One of the primary needs of the Church today is to rediscover this mood [of hopefulness], not merely to rediscover our faith as such, but to re-discover it in its original mood of exhilaration, of challenge and high adventure, of expectant hope and triumphant deed.” Niles lived such a life of joyous commitment. In one of the last sentences he penned before his death in his memoir, The Testament of Faith (1972), Niles expressed this fundamental characteristic of the Christian life, “I rejoice in the Holy Spirit, His power, His assurance, His guarantees, His teachings, His fellowship, His guidance and His mission; we live by His gifts.” Perhaps the real measure of the man was his humility. It is best expressed in his book, Preaching the Gospel of the Resurrection (1953), “The work we do, during our life on earth is always that which somebody else has done. We begin where they have left off…There is a placard with the sign, ‘Move on’ which hangs over all our work.”

William W. Emilsen

18 Macrina of Nyssa person of prayer
Macrina was the sister of the holy hierarchs Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, and was born in Cappadocia in the early fourth century. Her mother, Emilia, saw an angel in a dream and named her unborn child, Thekla, in honour of the holy Protomartyr Thekla. Another daughter was named Macrina, in honour of a grandmother, who suffered during the persecutions under Emperor Maximian Galerius.

Besides Macrina, there were nine other children. St. Emilia became responsible for the upbringing and education of her elder daughter. She taught her reading and writing from the Scriptural books and Psalms of David, selecting examples from the sacred books which spoke of a pious and God-pleasing life. St. Emilia taught her daughter to pray and to attend church services. Macrina was also taught how to run a household and learned various handicrafts. She was never left idle and did not participate in childish games or amusements.

When Macrina was a teenager, her parents betrothed her to a pious young man, but the bridegroom soon died. Many young men wished to marry her, but Macrina refused them all, having chosen the life of a virgin and not wanting to be unfaithful to the memory of her dead fiancée. Macrina continued to live in the home of her parents, assisting the servants with household tasks, as well as helping with the upbringing of her younger brothers and sisters. After the death of her father, she became the chief support for the family.

After her other siblings grew up and left home, Macrina convinced her mother to settle in a women's monastery. Several of the servants followed their example. Having taken monastic vows, they lived together as one family – they prayed together, worked together, and possessed everything in common.

After the death of her mother, St. Macrina guided the sisters of the monastery. She enjoyed the deep respect of all who knew her. Strictness towards herself and temperance in everything were characteristic of the saint all her life. She slept on boards and had no possessions.

She was also granted the gift of wonderworking. There was an instance (told by the sisters of the monastery to St. Gregory of Nyssa after the death of St. Macrina) when she healed a girl of an eye-affliction. Through her prayers, there was no shortage of wheat at her monastery in times of famine.

St. Macrina died in 380, after a final prayer of thanks to the Lord for having received His blessings over all the course of her life. She was buried in the same grave with her parents.

Troparion (Tone 8) –
The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother, 
For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. 
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away, 
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. 
Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Macrina, rejoices with the Angels! 

The Orthodox Church in America 
22 Mary Magdalene witness to Jesus

25 James the Great apostle

29 Mary & Martha of Bethany witnesses to Jesus

30 William Wilberforce renewer of society
Born on 24 August, 1759 in Hull, he was the son of a wealthy merchant, who died in 1768. Brought up by an aunt, he attended Hull Grammar and then St John’s College Cambridge in 1776.. In 1780, he became member for Kingston upon Hull. He was a close friend of William Pitt and an important independent, because of his eloquence and membership of networks. In 1784 he moved to the influential constituency of Yorkshire and travelled round Europe during 1784-85 in the company of Isaac Milner, who guided him into a deeper commitment to Christ and persuaded him to see a parliamentary career as a Christian vocation. He had two priorities - the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners, setting up a society for that purpose in 1787.
He married Barbara Spooner in 1797. They had two daughters and four sons, brought up in Clapham, where he was part of an influential network of Christian activists. Concerned about the nominal commitment of many Christians, he wrote a best- selling book of 500 pages in 1797 to challenge their limitations. Entitled A practical view of the prevailing religious system of professed Christians of the higher and middle classes of this country contrasted with real Christianity, it went through many editions.

Wilberforce wrote passionately about the need for recognition of humanity’s sinful nature, the need for redemption and the importance of holiness, based on total commitment to the crucified and risen Lord. He thus outlined the main features of 19th century British Evangelicalism and its implications.

In addition, Wilberforce actively supported bodies such as the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society, as well as assisting Hannah Moore’s work. He worked with Thomas Clarkson to achieve the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807, after a wide-ranging combination of debate and publication. Initially supportive of Catholic Emancipation, he became more cautious on this after observing the results of the French Revolution. He helped to open India to Christian missions and was a strong ally of those working for comprehensive Sunday observance.
From 1823, he and his allies worked diligently for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, a goal achieved just three days before his death, 29 July, 1833.

Not always sensitive to social injustice in Britain and becoming more conservative in his later years, he nevertheless contributed to many changes which benefited the poor. His example continues to inspire Evangelicals worldwide to work for spiritual renewal and social justice.

J.Pollock, Wilberforce, 1977; J. Wolffe, The expansion of Evangelicalism, 2007
by Rev Dr Ian Breward
31 Ignatius Loyola person of prayer
Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491 in the Basque region of northern Spain. He lived in a time that was characterised by both the violent and bewildered imagery of the medieval age and the bright and enthusiastic expectations of the Renaissance. He grew up in a society that was structured around the principles of knightly chivalry, and served as a courtier to the Duke of Najera. In this service he was seriously wounded during the defense of Pamplona in 1521. Until his early years, he was a practicing Catholic though with little intensity in his spirituality. While he was convalescing, however, he yearned to read books of chivalric romance, but the only books available were a Life of Christ and a book of the Lives of the Saints. The more he read of these books, the more there developed in him a desire to reflect on that reading. This reflection led to him making a commitment to serve Christ as his only Captain.
For a time, Ignatius supposed that he would live out this service though pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he could live in the footsteps of Christ and serve the poor. When this course was closed to him, and because of a sanction from the Inquisition, Ignatius became a student at a number of educational institutions, including the University of Paris. It was during this time that Ignatius began to formalise his own experiences into a program he called The Spiritual Exercises. At the same time, there gathered around Ignatius a group of people who recognised his spiritual leadership, and together they formed the Society of Jesus. The Spiritual Exercises continue to be a source of blessing for many people, being offered as a means by which the will of God may be discerned, and Christ’s presence better experienced.
Divided into 4 “weeks” of reflection, the Exercises provide opportunity for reflection on our relationship with God, on our experience of the presence and power of Jesus, with an invitation to use imagination to enter into the experiences of the Gospels, and on different ways of prayer through which we can wait more patiently, listen more effectively, and respond more fully to the Word God speaks to us.
Ignatius rightly holds a place in the Calendar of Commemorations as a person of prayer, both from the example of his own life and from the legacy by which he continues to provide guidance to people as we seek to discern the Spirit of Christ in our own living.
A prayer of Ignatius is given us in the “Treasury of Prayers” in Uniting in Worship 2:

Teach us, good Lord,

to serve you as you deserve:

to give, and not to count the cost;

to fight, and not to heed the wounds;

to toil, and not to seek for rest;

to labour, and not to ask for any reward,

except that of knowing that we do your holy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Contributed by Graham Vawser

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