Denver, Colo., Apr 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On April 20, Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine tradition honor Saint Anastasius of Sinai, a seventh-century monk and priest known for his scriptural commentaries and defenses of Church teaching.
The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally celebrated St. Anastasius on the following day, April 21, though this memorial is not widely celebrated in modern times. The Eastern Orthodox churches, meanwhile, commemorate him on the same date as their Eastern Catholic counterparts.
Even within the Eastern Christian tradition, St. Anastasius' legacy has been somewhat obscured by the renown of other authors. In his own era, however, the Sianite's writings were acclaimed as the work of a “new Moses.” At least one of his works, the “Hodegos” (or “Guide”), remained in use within the Greek Church for many centuries.
No extensive biography of Anastasius exists, and it is unclear whether he was born in Egypt (as some traditional accounts relate) or in Cyprus. His date of birth is also unknown.
In his own writings, Anastasius speaks of being captivated by the proclamation of the Gospel during church services, and being awestruck by Christ's Eucharistic presence as a young man. He eventually made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and took up residence as a monk on Mount Sinai in Egypt around the middle of the seventh century. He eventually became the abbot of St. Catherine's Monastery.
Anastasius' life was outwardly uneventful in most respects, though he did leave his monastic cell to defend the Church's teachings against heresy and error. He met or learned about many holy men in the course of his travels, and described their lives in writings that survive to this day.
Among Anastasius' doctrinal opponents were the monophysites, who were in error regarding Jesus' divine and human natures; and the monothelites, who professed a related error regarding Christ's human and divine wills. Though he was not the most important opponent of either heresy, Anastasius' contributions earned him a place among the Church Fathers in the Eastern tradition.
The monk of Sinai also defended the Christian faith against Jewish objections. In one of his major works, the “Commentary on the Six Days of Creation” (or “Hexaemeron”), he explained how the first three chapters of Genesis predicted and prefigured the coming of Jesus Christ. Other surviving writings by the saint include his homilies, and a series of “Questions and Answers” addressing pastoral matters.
St. Anastasius is said to have lived to an old age, and attained to great holiness through prayer and asceticism, by the time of his death sometime after the year 700.
Some confusion has resulted from the conjunction of his Eastern feast day, April 20, with that of another saint who was also named Anastasius and associated with Mount Sinai. But this other St. Anastasius, though celebrated on the same date, lived earlier and led the Church of Antioch.
Denver, Colo., Apr 14, 2013 (CNA) -
A group of contemplative Benedictine nuns have recorded an album in honor of the angels and saints, all of the songs of which were selected out of their daily liturgical life.
“We learned a heavenly piece entitled Duo Seraphim by Tomas Luis de Victoria in the fall for the investiture of three novices,” Mother Cecilia, prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, told CNA April 12.
“Since we knew and loved many other songs written in honor of the angels and saints, or written by the saints themselves, we realized we could make another album based on this theme without too much extra practicing,” she laughed.
The album, Angels and Saints at Ephesus, will be released May 7 but can be pre-ordered at benedictinesofmary.org or at www.demontfortmusic.com.
Angels and Saints at Ephesus features 17 songs, and “every selection comes out of the liturgical life here at the Priory.” The Gregorian chants on the album are sung by the sisters during the Divine Office, and the pieces containing harmony are sung during Mass at the offertory or as a recessional.
The album is being released on the De Montfort Music label, which was founded last year by Kevin and Monica Fitzgibbons. Monica told CNA that the album includes songs composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Francis Xavier. “A Rose Unpetalled” is a text by St. Therese of Lisieux for which the nuns wrote accompanying music.
Music is an integral part of the nuns' lives, being “entirely bound up with our Benedictine vocation…most especially in the chanting of the Divine Office,” said Mother Cecilia.
The community is in the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, and their life is marked by obedience, stability, and “continually turning” towards God. They have Mass daily according to the extraordinary form and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office. They also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments.
Singing the Office “takes pride of place” in their spirituality, and they take pains “to make the liturgy as beautiful as possible for God.”
Last year the community recorded “Advent at Ephesus,” a collection of music for the liturgical season which spent six weeks at #1 Billboard's Classical Music Chart.
“This music really uplifted a lot of hearts,” Fitzgibbons said. “It brought a lot of families together, and it got people talking about Advent...I think it really elevated a lot of souls toward heaven.”
De Montfort Music was “pummeled” with requests for an album from the nuns which could be played appropriately throughout the year, and the community came up with the concept of the present album.
Christopher Alder, former executive producer of Deutsche Grammophon and a nine time Grammy-award winning producer heard the Benedictines' Advent album and expressed interest in helping them with a second album.
Alder ended up traveling from Germany to Missouri to produce “Angels and Saints at Ephesus.” He was “really moved, blown away, by their level of expertise” and their quality of singing, Fitzgibbons said.
“Through their beauty, they have turned hearts toward heaven, because when one hears it ... they do have to contemplate something much larger than this world.”
Mother Cecilia continued discussing the place of music in life of her community, explaining that the singing of the Divine Office “truly forms the life-blood of our devotion. St. Benedict calls it 'the Work of God' and says that nothing is to take precedence over it, no matter how important it may seem.”
“The loveliness of the chants are set off by the silence that we keep during the day, but the Office also feeds that silence of prayer. It is a joyful burden the Church asks of us, and we take it up with tremendous love, knowing we are the beneficiaries, along with the entire Church.”
Mother Cecilia mentioned two musical saints important to the Benedictines. One is St. Hildegard, herself a Benedictine abbess and composer of the 12th century.
The prioress called St. Hildegard “a shining example of the liturgical spirituality of Benedictines.”
Yet more important to the community at the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus is St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians.
“We continue to invoke her whenever we have a music practice, knowing that she can help us to sing to God from our hearts with great purity and love, so that we may deserve to sing to Him for all eternity in heaven with the great multitude of angels and saints.”
Vatican City, Apr 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis encouraged the Church to proclaim the Gospel with “frankness and courage” and prayed for persecuted Christians worldwide in his Sunday address at St. Peter’s Square.
In his Regina Caeli address before more than 80,000 people, the Pope summarized a passage from the Acts of the Apostles while explaining that its contents are relevant for everyone, especially for those persecuted for their belief in Christ.
He drew attention to the first reading for Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles. In it, the Apostles “filled the cities with the news that Jesus truly had risen” despite attempts by the authorities to silence them by imprisonment and scourging.
In addition to that opposition, the Apostles, Pope Francis noted, were not well-educated, but rather “simple” men.
Nonetheless, they were successful in witnessing to the Risen Lord because of the Holy Spirit.
“Only the presence of the Risen Lord with them, and the action of the Holy Spirit can explain this. It was the Lord, who was with them, and the Spirit, who moved them to preach,” he said.
He explained that their encounter with Christ was “so powerful and personal” that they did not fear persecution and even saw it as a “badge of honor.”
The Holy Father said that this episode tells us something very important, which applies “to the Church in every age, and so to us.”
The Apostles’ example teaches us that “when a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in him, one experiences his presence and the power of his resurrection in one’s life, and one cannot help but communicate this experience.”
Overall, if a Christian “encounters misunderstanding or adversity, one behaves like Jesus in his Passion: one responds with love and with the power of truth.”
This teaching is especially relevant to the “many Christians who suffer persecution in many, many countries” throughout the world today, he said.
The Pope asked for the Blessed Mother’s intercession that the Church would proclaim the Gospel with “frankness and courage” while bearing witness through “signs of brotherly love.”
He asked the Church to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters “from our heart,” that they could “feel the living and comforting presence of the Risen Lord.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis delved deeper into the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter, highlighting proclamation, witness and worship as essential to the faith, while also recognizing those who suffer for Christ in the world today.
Reflecting on the first reading, Pope Francis said, “what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the Apostles.” He delivered his April 14 homily during Mass at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
He highlighted the fact that although they were ordered to be silent and not teach about the Risen Lord, the Apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Even in the face of violence and imprisonment, they “proclaim courageously, fearlessly” the Gospel of Jesus.
“And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live?” Pope Francis asked.
He explained that, “Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.”
The Pope likened the testimony of faith to a “great fresco” that is made up of “a variety of colors and shades,” all of which are “important, even those which do not stand out.”
“In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships.”
He said that while the world is filled with “hidden” saints in the “middle class of holiness” to which “we can all belong,” many Christians throughout the world are suffering like Peter and the Apostles.
Whichever way we are called to follow Christ, the Holy Father taught, we must remember “one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.”
Indeed, “proclamation and witness” are only possible if we recognize Christ since he is the one who chose us and is calling us out, he said. As Christians, we must live out an intimate and “intense relationship with Jesus” that comes from recognizing and worshiping Jesus as “the Lord.”
Pope Francis then challenged Christians to examine whether or not they worship the Lord.
“Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him?” Or rather, do we “also turn to him to worship him?”
Worshipping God, he explained, “means learning to be with him” and not simply “trying to dialogue with him.” It is “sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all.”
In all of our lives, Pope Francis said, we either consciously or unconsciously “have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important.”
“Worshipping the Lord,” he stated, “means giving him the place that he must have.”
Rather than clinging to the “many small or great idols” in our lives “on which we often seek to base our security,” Christians must strip ourselves of idols, “even the most hidden ones,” and choose God as the “center” or the “highway of our lives,” the Pope underscored.
The Holy Father finished his homily by asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Paul to “help us on this journey.”