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Greetings and best wishes to all of those who plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special someone.

There really was a Saint Valentine who inspired this special day of love. Actually, there were three. Read more about about Valentine of Rome, Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Genoa below:

A bit of history about Valentine’s Day

This next post describes how Valentine’s Day evolved through the ages:

More history about Valentine’s Day

I hope that everyone celebrating this day dedicated to love has a wonderful time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Leader of the House of Commons and a prominent Roman Catholic.

I will post more about him in due course. He is a kind and gentle man as well as a principled politician. His wife and children are blessed to have him as husband and father, respectively.

On Sunday, October 13, 2019, The Express published an article of his about the canonisation of St John Newman, which took place that day.

Excerpts from ‘The canonisation of a new British saint is a historic moment, says JACOB REES-MOGG’ follow, emphases mine.

The most historic fact is that St John Newman is the first British saint since 1401 who did not die as a martyr:

The last one was John of Bridlington, in 1401.

Rees-Mogg explains that, prior to the Reformation, nearly everyone in England revered the saints, although sometimes became angry with them. He offers the Catholic perception of sainthood:

Almost every individual would have had a particular saint to whom he or she prayed. Villages, towns, guilds – even the whole country – had saints who could be called upon. St George is the most famous now but St Edward the Confessor was much venerated, as were men such as St Thomas à Becket.

These saints would intercede for the individual or group, asking God to answer their prayers. They do not act individually but as a conduit between fallen Man and the inestimable divine.

It gives people a personal connection to God of an understandable and human kind, although in the Middle Ages the faithful sometimes took this a little far and could become cross if a saint’s intercession did not work. They might even throw the saint’s relics on to the floor

Not surprisingly, the Blessed Virgin is the most venerated and, historically, England had a particular devotion to her and was seen as “Our Lady’s Dowry”.

That said, the Prince of Wales, an Anglican, was among those who attended the canonisation ceremony at the Vatican.

Rees-Mogg tells us about John Newman’s life. He was the son of a banker and had a comfortable upbringing, yet one that involved Bible study at home:

Newman was born into a conventional Anglican family in 1801 where, as he said, he was “brought up from a child to take a great delight in reading the Bible”. This was a time before Catholic Emancipation, which came in 1829. When, aged just 16, he went to Trinity College, Oxford, it was not yet open to Catholics to study there.

He loved and was happy both at Trinity and later at Oriel College, where he became a fellow at the age of 21.

His incredible intellect led him to secular success and he won honour because of his spiritual virtue.

In the 19th century the Church of England was able to bring worldly as well as religious benefit to its leading figures. However Newman, after a period of intense struggle, gave all this up.

He had to resign his fellowship and office in the Church of England, which must have been especially difficult as it removed his income in middle age – as had happened to his own father when his bank had failed.

Rees-Mogg does not go into much detail about the years between 1822 and 1825, so here is a bit from the saint’s Wikipedia entry. Whilst at university, Newman was at the forefront of the Oxford Movement, which created High Church Anglicanism. The High Church revived pre-Reformation vestments and rituals. It was highly controversial at the time. Interestingly, Newman came to the Oxford Movement with strongly Calvinist leanings and held that the Pope was the Antichrist.

Newman’s father died in 1824, the same year that the young man was ordained an Anglican deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The following year, he was ordained an Anglican priest in the same cathedral. His first assignment was as curate at St Clement’s Church in Oxford.

Then, between 1825 and 1847, through his work both as a clergyman and fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, supplemented by his own writing and study, which involved travels to southern Europe, especially Italy, he began to shift theologically. In 1839, he began thinking about leaving Oxford and setting up a religious community. In 1842, he and a few friends left the city for the nearby town of Littlemore. They acquired a set of buildings in town and lived semi-monastic lives, writing and studying. The buildings later became Newman College.

In 1843, Newman took out an ad in the Oxford Conservative Journal, publishing an anonymous statement in which he renounced everything negative he had ever pronounced against the Catholic Church.

In 1845, he was received into the Catholic Church by an Italian priest in a rite held at Littlemore.

In 1846, Newman went to Rome. There he was ordained a Catholic priest, and Pius IX awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree.

In 1847, Newman returned to England as part of the Oratorian community. He is responsible for founding the famous London Oratory as well as the Oratory in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, in the Midlands.

Newman lost many friends and family members from his immediate circle during these years.

Rees-Mogg offers this succinct summary of Newman’s conversion:

Newman’s conversion was not led by any hostility towards the Anglican Church. He argued for as long as he could that it was essentially Catholic, even maintaining that the Thirty-­Nine Articles, a famously Protestant declaration, were not incompat­ible with Catholicism.

However, in the end his studies on the Ancient Church led him to the conviction that “in speaking against the Church of Rome I may be speaking against the Holy Ghost”. This effectively forced him to con­ vert, regardless of the risk to friendship, finances and status.

Once Newman had converted he was freer to devote himself to elucidating and propagating the Faith.

As for the two Oratories:

The success today of the Brompton Oratory, which is full every weekend and benefits from many vocations, derives from Cardinal Newman, whose first Oratory was at Birmingham. This continu­ing benefit of his work shows how the lives of the saints influence others for genera­tions. Newman spent his life searching for the truth and wanted to help others to find it too.

Rees-Mogg has this to say about saints and miracles:

Newman’s canonisation requires two authenticated miracles as proof of his sanc­tity. The first was that through his interces­sion, a man was cured of a spinal disease and the second a woman was healed of unstoppable bleeding.

Miracles are not caused by a saint but because a saint asks God to use His power.

Many people, even Christians, mock belief in miracles but, as Newman said, to anyone who can accept the most stupen­dous of all miracles – the Incarnation and Resurrection – lesser, almost minor mira­cles are easy to believe in.

Not surprisingly, a lot of hostile comments about Catholic belief followed Rees-Mogg’s article.

I offer this article partly for information and partly because my late mother, a lifelong Catholic, had always hoped that John Cardinal Newman would be canonised one day. That day has now arrived.

The following video was made in 2014, but I saw it for the first time last week.

Leonora Hamill filmed this stag, named Chambord, in the Church of Saint-Eustache in Paris, which held Easter Day services for the parishioners of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was devastated by fire during Holy Week on April 15, 2019.

Look how beautifully the stag blends into its surroundings:

It has a respectful look round the altar before leaving.

This is a sublime blending of God’s creation and His gift of aesthetics to mankind.

Some who have seen it recall the pagan deer deity Cernunnos, but, according to the YouTube comments, Ms Hamill filmed it to promote the Church of Saint-Eustache, located near Les Halles in the French capital. It is a church, by the way, and not a cathedral.

It is no coincidence that she chose a deer, as Saint Eustache — or Eustace, in English — was a Roman general named Placidus who saw a vision of a crucifix between a deer’s antlers. This was in the second century AD.

Upon seeing the vision of the deer with the crucifix between his antlers, Placidus changed his name to Eustace, which means ‘upstanding’ and ‘steadfast’.

Eustace wasted no time in converting his family and all were baptised.

Then, they underwent a series of dramatic trials of faith that were reminiscent of Job’s. According to Wikipedia (emphases mine):

A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship’s captain kidnapped Eustace’s wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith.

Although God restored his social standing and reunited him with his family, he died as a martyr for the faith in 118, when he refused to offer a pagan sacrifice:

There is a tradition that when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox,[5] in the year AD 118.

He was part of the General Roman Calendar of saints until 1970, when he was removed from the list, presumably because his life’s story could not be fully authenticated.

Nonetheless, after his death he was venerated in many countries across Europe. He still is today in several of them and, fortunately, remains listed in the Roman Martyrology.

St Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, as is St Blaise. The list of the Fourteen Holy Helpers was devised in Germany during the Black Death in the 14th century. People sought their intercession in times of need. St Eustace was the healer of family troubles. The Catholic Church unceremoniously dumped several of the individual feasts of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in 1969, although Catherine of Alexandria’s optional feast day of November 25 was reinstated in 2004, possibly because Joan of Arc was said to have heard the saint’s voice.

Other individual feasts days of the Fourteen Holy Helpers were dropped, such as those of Saints Christopher, Barbara and Margaret of Antioch.

Back now to Eustace, who is also the patron saint of hunters, firefighters and anyone facing adversity. His feast day is September 20.

There was another saint who had a similar vision of a deer. His name was Hubertus, or Hubert. He lived near Liège and was the eldest son of Bertrand, the Duke of Aquitaine. Hubert was born in 656. Although he was an agreeable character, he loved hunting. He loved it so much that, one Good Friday morning, while everyone went to church, he went hunting.

According to the legend, recounted by Wikipedia:

As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht at the time. Lambert was later canonised, as was Hubert.

Lambert became Hubert’s spiritual director, and the young nobleman renounced his title, gave his worldly goods to the poor, studied for ordination and made his younger brother Odo guardian of his infant son Floribert.

Sadly, Lambert was assassinated and died as a martyr. Hubert brought his mentor’s remains to Liège in great ecclesiastical pomp and circumstance.

One could say that Hubert put Liège on the world map. It was only a small village when he had Lambert’s remains brought there. Not long afterwards, it grew in prominence. Today, it is a renowned city. St Lambert is its patron and St Hubert is considered its founder and was its first bishop.

St Hubert’s feast day is May 30. He died on that day in 727 or 728.

His legacy, in addition to increasing Liège’s prominence, involves God. Hubert evangelised passionately to the pagans of the Ardennes region at the time. He also developed a set of ethics for hunting animals humanely, standards which are still used today among French huntsmen, who venerate him annually during a special ceremony.

His feast day is November 3. He is one of the Four Holy Marshals, another group of saints that also was venerated in the Rhineland. He is the patron saint of those involved in hunting as well as forest workers, trappers, mathematicans, metal workers and smelters. A few ancient chivalrous orders also bear his name.

In closing, those familiar with the German digestif Jägermeister should know that the drink’s logo refers to Eustace and Hubert’s respective visions:

I wonder if that label has ever converted anyone. It would be nice to think so.

July 24 is the feast day of St Boris, a mediaeval Slavic martyr who died for the faith with his brother (or half-brother) Gleb early in the 11th century.

Boris Johnson became Britain’s next Prime Minister on July 24. Let us hope that the association of PM and saint bodes well.

A number of resignations took place prior to his becoming PM.

One was in the Conservative Party …

… other resignations took place in government:

Guido Fawkes says there ‘will be more’ (red and italics in the original):

Officially resigned:

    • Alan Duncan
    • Anne Milton
    • Rory Stewart
    • Philip Hammond
    • David Gauke

There will be more…

And so there were.

This is good. These people were never really on board with Brexit, especially a no deal departure.

Guido was correct in his prediction. David Lidington, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, was the next to tender his resignation:

The second tweet below is interesting. One wonders what he means by ‘relishing the prospect of … speaking freely’:

More followed:

Mordaunt tweeted:

There were more resignations, including that of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond:

Savid Javid succeeds Hammond:

Boris wants to make his Cabinet all-inclusive. He has appointed a female Brexiteer as Home Secretary:

If we want to talk about diversity:

Ex-Labour member — and former actress/Labour MP Glenda Jackson‘s son — tweeted:

Also:

Continuing with the resignations:

Boris’s opponent for Conservative leader is also leaving government:

The Education Secretary has also left:

From this, we can conclude that Boris wishes to wipe a long-standing Conservative cabinet clean:

I repeat: this is likely to be good news.

Since July 23, the day he became Conservative Party leader, Boris has been busy putting his team together. It will be comprised of both Leavers and Remainers in an effort to promote national unity. I hope it works. He has a working majority of just two MPs at present.

That day, Guido Fawkes reported:

Former dairy farmer, MP since 2010, and whip since 2017 Mark Spencer has been confirmed as the first appointment Boris will make to his Cabinet when he become Prime Minister tomorrow. Spencer will take on the unenviable brief of Chief Whip …

Sky’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Griffith has been appointed as a corporate adviser, while May’s Principal Private Secretary Peter Hill is resigning and will be replaced by Boris’s own choice of civil servant …

David Frost is reportedly joining Boris’s team in the Olly Robbins role – Frost is the CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was previously Boris’ SpAd and the boss of the Scotch Whisky Association. The LCCI have arguably been the most pragmatic industry group towards Brexit under his tenure, it’s definitely a boost for Brexit…

SpAd is ‘special adviser’.

But what has really set the cat amongst the pigeons is the appointment of Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings as senior adviser. Remainers are furious:

More to come soon.

stdunstanDo you ever wonder about the origin of displaying ‘lucky’ horseshoes near a door?

I always thought it was pagan superstition.

However, the origin lies in a legend about St Dunstan — whose feast day is on May 19 — and the devil.

St Dunstan’s two encounters with the devil are said to have taken place in Mayfield, East Sussex. VillageNet has a detailed description of Mayfield’s history, including the legends about Dunstan (emphases mine):

The saint, formerly a blacksmith, was working at his forge when the Devil paid him a visit, disguised as a beautiful woman, with a view to leading him astray. However St Dunstan spotted the cloven hooves beneath the dress, and grabbed the devil’s nose with his red hot pincers! thus foiling Satan’s evil intentions. According to another legend, Satan returned again as a weary traveller in need of a horseshoe, Dunstan saw through the disguise once again and beat the Devil until he pleaded for mercy, and swore never to enter any house with a horseshoe above the door.

St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Atlanta has this variation on the legends:

He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil.

English literature contains many references to him, for example in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and in this folk rhyme:



St Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull’d the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.

Another story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

In 1871, Edward G Flight wrote a humorous poem about the legends with accompanying text, which is equally amusing. The renowned George Cruikshank provided the illustrations (see one on the right, courtesy of CatholicSaints.Info). The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of Saint Dunstan and the Devil, Showing How the Horse-Shoe Came to Be a Charm Against Witchcraft is worth a look. Here is an excerpt of the text (emphases in the original):

To all good folk in Christendom to whom this instrument shall come the Devil sendeth greeting: Know ye that for himself and heirs said Devil covenants and declares, that never at morn or evening prayers at chapel church or meeting, never where concords of sweet sound sacred or social flow around or harmony is woo’d, nor where the Horse-Shoe meets his sight on land or sea by day or night on lowly sill or lofty pinnacle on bowsprit helm mast boom or binnacle, said Devil will intrude.

Flight’s work includes a letter from ‘a friend’ describing the virtues of the noble horse and how the horseshoe repels the devil (emphases mine):

… In proportion as they developed unblemished honour, with undaunted bravery, graceful bearing, and magnanimous generosity, were they deemed worthy to rank among Christendom’s bright chivalry.

The horse-shoe was, no doubt, regarded as typical of the noble qualities of its wearer. These being so hateful to the ugly, sly, intriguing, slandering, malevolent, ill-conditioned, pettifogging, pitiful arch-enemy, it might well be supposed that the mere apparition of that type would scare him away. To this supposition is ascribable the adoption of the horse-shoe, as an infallible charm against the visits of old Iniquity.”

The Drinks Business has a good page on St Dunstan and provides us with a more recent, although doubtful, story concerning the holy man and the devil. This, they say, was popular during the past two centuries. It concerns the frost that occurs in the West Country in England around St Dunstan’s feast day, May 19:

The tale was apparently particularly popular in Devon in the 19th and 20th centuries and goes thus.

Dunstan had bought some barley and made some beer, which he then hoped to sell for a good price. Seeing this the Devil appeared before him and offered to blight the local apple trees with frost (the tale is presumably set in Somerset, perhaps when Dunstan is Abbot of Glastonbury). This would ensure there was no cider and so drive demand for beer. Dunstan accepted the offer but stipulated that the frost should strike from the 17-19 May.

As stories go this comes close to blackening the good name of the saintly man who tweaked the Devil’s nose and the legend likely arose among disgruntled cidermakers who perhaps thought Dunstan wasn’t doing enough to protect their crop on his feast day.

The article also says that, because Dunstan was not only a blacksmith but also a silversmith and jeweller, the London Assay Office used to start its new hallmark year on his feast day:

He was, reputedly, a skilled blacksmith and jeweller and is generally venerated as a patron saint of smiths.

In his various roles as bishop and archbishop he worked hard to restore monastic life in England and reform the English church.

Dying in 988 he was canonised in 1029 and until Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in 1170 he was considered England’s favourite saint.

His association with silversmithing meant that for a good 600 years the London Assay Office hallmarks ran from 19 May (his feast day) to 18 May the following year. This was only changed in 1660 when Charles II moved it to his own birthday, 29 May.

What a fascinating history to a centuries-old legend about the lucky horseshoe.

This Tuesday of Easter Week is St George’s Day — April 23, 2019.

It is time the English reclaimed their patron saint’s feast day. Other countries are proud to celebrate this special day. How wonderful, therefore, to see a trend for St George’s Day on Twitter, which includes these delightful tweets:

On a contemplative note, the following are by two Catholics from the Archdiocese of Southwark in London:

Returning to Easter, conservative commentator Chuck Woolery’s witness for the faith gives pause for thought, as does the video in the first reply he received:

I also liked this reply to America’s First Lady’s Easter greetings (click on image link to see it in full):

On Easter Sunday, the Trumps attended a morning service at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach. The Daily Caller has photos, especially of First Lady Melania Trump.

While the Trumps posed for photo ops outside the church, back in Washington, things went less well for Robert Mueller, who was accosted by a reporter outside of St John’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC after worship.

I’m hardly a Mueller fan, but this is just plain wrong:

On Easter Monday, the Trumps hosted the traditional Easter Egg Roll at the White House:

This video shows the First Couple returning to the White House from Palm Beach on Sunday. The Easter Egg Roll event begins at 12:50:

Mrs Trump read to the children (fashion notes here) …

… as did Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, mother of four:

As ever, the day was packed with activities. On April 19, the White House announced:

First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald J. Trump invite this year’s Easter Egg Roll attendees to enjoy a variety of activities, including the time-honored Egg Roll and the Trump Administration’s Cards for Troops station. New to the Egg Roll this year: musical eggs and Be Best hopscotch. In recognition of the First Lady’s Be Best campaign, children will also have the opportunity to spread kindness by mailing postcards to anyone they choose – friends, family, members of the military – directly through a United States Postal Service mailbox that will be on the South grounds.

Over 30,000 attendees are expected to walk the historic south grounds of the White House, experiencing all the tradition and fun that comes with the White House Easter Egg Roll.

There were also egg hunts, egg and cookie decorating stations, the military bands, tennis court activities, and a chance for the children to meet costumed characters, such as the Easter Bunny:

Reading stations have been a big part of the Trump Easter Egg Rolls, with members of the president’s advisory team as well as the Cabinet. Imagine hearing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, General Joseph Keith Kellogg, Jr. or Surgeon General Jerome Adams reading a book to a group of children. If past readers of previous years are anything to go by, they no doubt did exceptionally well.

Mrs Trump was delighted with the event and her many guests:

I am so pleased this went well and without incident.

Tomorrow’s post concerns a very sad subject: the attacks on Sri Lankan churches at Easter.

St NicholasSt Nicholas Day is December 6.

In many countries around the world, especially the West, children follow the ancient tradition of putting a shoe or small stocking outside their bedroom door and parents quietly slipping a treat in it during the night.

It’s a beautiful tradition tied to a great saint, an early bishop of the Church, known for his faith, compassion and charity. Find out more below:

St Nicholas Day (much to learn about a man of great faith)

More on St Nicholas — feast day December 6

Some European countries have outdoor celebrations on December 6. The link below describes a festival in Germany that one of my readers attended in the early 1970s:

St Nicholas Day — December 6

St Nicholas is a great role model for children. It is worth telling them about the holy life he lived, how aware he was of others’ plights and how he turned desperation into dreams for many people.

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 18:24-28

Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[a] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s passage was about Paul’s return to Caesarea, probably Jerusalem — although St Luke, the author of Acts, did not say — and then on to the churches in Syria and Asia Minor that he had founded.

Meanwhile, Paul’s friends from Corinth — Priscilla and Aquila — were ministering in Ephesus (Efes in Turkey).

During that time, Apollos, a learned Jew from Alexandria (Egypt) arrived in the port city. He was very well spoken and knew his Scripture equally well (verse 24).

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur state that Alexandria had a large Jewish population. MacArthur says that there were four different Jewish districts in the city.

Henry’s commentary tells us that Alexandria’s Jews numbered greatly because they had been sent into exile:

there were abundance of Jews in that city, since the dispersion of the people, as it was foretold (Deuteronomy 28:68): The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again.

Henry also explains Apollos, the name (emphases mine):

His name was not Apollo, the name of one of the heathen gods, but Apollos, some think the same with Apelles, Romans 16:10.

As for Apollos the man, he tells us:

He was a man of excellent good parts, and well fitted for public service. He was an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures of the Old Testament, in the knowledge of which he was, as a Jew, brought up. (1.) He had a great command of language: he was an eloquent man; he was aner logios–a prudent man, so some; a learned man, so others; historiarum peritus–a good historian, which is an excellent qualification for the ministry: he was one that could speak well, so it properly signifies; he was an oracle of a man; he was famous for speaking pertinently and closely, fully and fluently, upon any subject. (2.) He had a great command of scripture-language, and this was the eloquence he was remarkable for. He came to Ephesus, being mighty in the scriptures, so the words are placed; having an excellent faculty of expounding scripture, he came to Ephesus, which was a public place, to trade with that talent, for the honour of God and the good of many. He was not only ready in the scriptures, able to quote texts off-hand, and repeat them, and tell you where to find themHe understood the sense and meaning of them, he knew how to make use of them and to apply them, how to reason out of the scriptures, and to reason strongly; a convincing, commanding, confirming power went along with all his expositions and applications of the scripture. It is probable he had given proof of his knowledge of the scriptures, and his abilities in them, in many synagogues of the Jews.

Apollos was a Messianic Jew, one who knew of the Messiah’s imminent coming as prophesied by John the Baptist (verse 25). There were many followers of John the Baptist who evangelised his prophecy throughout the ancient world. Whoever taught Apollos did so carefully and accurately. Many of John the Baptist’s followers who evangelised did not know that much about Jesus’s ministry or that He died on the Cross, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. (Had John the Baptist lived, they would have.) Apollos was one of these people.

Note that verse 25’s words, ‘fervent in spirit’, carry an explanatory footnote: ‘Or “in the Spirit”‘. On this point, our two commentators disagree somewhat.

Henry says:

Though he had not the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, as the apostles had, he made use of the gifts he had; for the dispensation of the Spirit, whatever the measure of it is, is given to every man to profit withal. And our Savior, by a parable, designed to teach his ministers that though they had but one talent they must not bury that … He was a lively affectionate preacher; as he had a good head, so he had a good heart; he was fervent in Spirit. He had in him a great deal of divine fire as well as divine light, was burning as well as shining. He was full of zeal for the glory of God, and the salvation of precious souls. This appeared both in his forwardness to preach when he was called to it by the rulers of the synagogue, and in his fervency in his preaching. He preached as one in earnest, and that had his heart in his work. What a happy composition was here! Many are fervent in spirit, but are weak in knowledge, in scripture-knowledge–have far to seek for proper words and are full of improper ones; and, on the other hand, many are eloquent enough, and mighty in the scriptures, and learned, and judicious, but they have no life or fervency. Here was a complete man of God, thoroughly furnished for his work; both eloquent and fervent, full both of divine knowledge and of divine affections.

MacArthur is less generous:

He was a powerful man in terms of teaching. And let me just say at this point that his power at this point was the natural. He was not a Christian at this point, so consequently, did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. So the power in his life was expressed really through his natural abilities, not yet having the Gifts of the Spirit as we know them. Later on, when he comes to Christ and he receives the Holy Spirit and gets the Gift of the Spirit in those areas, I mean, he becomes so devastating … But in this point, in the natural–and by that, I don’t mean that the Spirit didn’t touch his life, because nobody can know anything apart from the Holy Spirit, right, in any dispensation. So, I’m not disqualifying the Spirit. He had the Spirit’s work in his life in a very general sense, not in the specific sense of the Gift and the indwelling that the New Testament Saint knows. But he could, in his own natural ability, speak and communicate and was learned in the Old Testament. And believe me, it didn’t take him long to make an impression.

Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak in the synagogue and understood that he did not have the story of Jesus Christ as Paul had related it to them. So, they took him to one side and explained it to him, as they had been taught (verse 26). MacArthur thinks they might have shared a meal with him followed by a long discussion about the life of Jesus and how He fulfilled Scripture.

The well educated Apollos learned from two tent makers. Henry tells us:

[2.] See an instance of truly Christian charity in Aquila and Priscilla; they did good according to their ability. Aquila, though a man of great knowledge, yet did no undertake to speak in the synagogue, because he had not such gifts for public work as Apollos had; but he furnished Apollos with matter, and then left him to clothe it with acceptable words. Instructing young Christians and young ministers privately in conversation, who mean well, and perform well, as far as they go, is a piece of very good service, both to them and to the church. [3.] See an instance of great humility in Apollos. He was a very bright young man, of great parts and learning, newly come from the university, a popular preacher, and one mightily cried up and followed; and yet, finding that Aquila and Priscilla were judicious serious Christians, that could speak intelligently and experimentally of the things of God, though they were but mechanics, poor tent-makers, he was glad to receive instructions from them, to be shown by them his defects and mistakes, and to have his mistakes rectified by them, and his deficiencies made up. Young scholars may gain a great deal by converse with old Christians, as young students in the law may by old practitioners. Apollos, though he was instructed in the way of the Lord, did not rest in the knowledge he had attained, nor thought he understood Christianity as well as any man (which proud conceited young men are apt to do), but was willing to have it expounded to him more perfectly. Those that know much should covet to know more, and what they know to know it better, pressing forward towards perfection.

MacArthur says that learning from Priscilla and Aquila was the moment of conversion for Apollos:

They told him the fullness of the facts regarding Christ. Oh, man, there’s the conversion of Apollos right there in those verses. And the Spirit doesn’t say much about it. Why? Because it wasn’t much of a change. He was already a saint.

Henry had good words for Priscilla:

Here is an instance of a good woman, though not permitted to speak in the church or in the synagogue, yet doing good with the knowledge God had given her in private converse. Paul will have the aged women to be teachers of good things Titus 2:3,4.

It is thought that Priscilla had more spiritual depth than her husband Aquila, which is probably why Luke put her name before his so often.

Apollos decided to go to Achaia, so the men from the church in Ephesus sent a letter of introduction (verse 27). Achaia was the province where Corinth was located. Corinth was the centre of government for Achaia. Paul appeared before Achaia’s proconsul, Gallio.

Luke did not state why Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, however, a few possibilities spring to mind. First, the Jews in Ephesus were largely receptive to Paul’s teaching, and Priscilla and Aquila were building a solid congregation there. Secondly, Corinth might have resembled Alexandria with regard to intellectual life. Thirdly, and most importantly, Apollos might have wanted to finish the job that Paul had started. Corinth still had Jews who were hostile to the Gospel message.

When Apollos arrived in Achaia, his eloquence and precision reassured the converts (verse 27). Furthermore, he was also able to powerfully refute the errors of the Jews in scripturally demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah (verse 28).

Henry explains verse 28:

Unbelievers were greatly mortified. Their objections were fully answered, the folly and sophistry of their arguments were discovered, so that they had nothing to say in defence of the opposition they made to the gospel; their mouths were stopped, and their faces filled with shame (Acts 18:28): He mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, before the people; he did it, eutonos–earnestly, and with a great deal of vehemence; he took pains to do it; his heart was upon it, as one that was truly desirous both to serve the cause of Christ and to save the souls of men. He did it effectually and to universal satisfaction. He did it levi negotio–with facility. The case was so plain, and the arguments were so strong on Christ’s side, that it was an easy matter to baffle all that the Jews could say against it. Though they were so fierce, yet their cause was so weak that he made nothing of their opposition. Now that which he aimed to convince them of was that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Messiah promised to the fathers, who should come, and they were to look for not other. If the Jews were but convinced of this–that Jesus is Christ, even their own law would teach them to hear him.

Apollos was a highly important church leader in Corinth, as Paul readily acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 3:6:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

MacArthur also says he was a better public speaker than Paul and had a better physical presence:

He was probably without equal as a speaker. You say, “Was he greater than Paul?” Well, very possibly. He was a greater preacher than Paul. Paul said to the Corinthians, in I Corinthians 2:1, “I, Brethren, when I came to you came not with excellency of speech.” Paul never did really value his preaching ability. Interesting. I don’t know if you ever read this verse. Interesting. II Corinthians 10:10, it says, “His letters say they are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible.” So he’s a lot better writer than he was a body, and he was an even better body than he was a speaker. Now, that’s a interesting little insight into the possibility that Paul perhaps was not as great an orator as was Apollos, and I’m only making the comparison because I want you to know the stature of this man. He was without peer, as far as we could see in the New Testament, as a preacher, as a speaker.

Shortly after Apollos arrived in Corinth, a church schism arose. Wikipedia has a simple explanation about the purpose of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Paul’s Epistle refers to a schism between four parties in the Corinthian church, of which two attached themselves to Paul and Apollos respectively, using their names[9] (the third and fourth were Peter, identified as Cephas, and Jesus Christ himself).[10] It is possible, though, that, as Msgr. Ronald Knox suggests, the parties were actually two, one claiming to follow Paul, the other claiming to follow Apollos. “It is surely probable that the adherents of St. Paul […] alleged in defence of his orthodoxy the fact that he was in full agreement with, and in some sense commissioned by, the Apostolic College. Hence ‘I am for Cephas’. […] What reply was the faction of Apollos to make? It devised an expedient which has been imitated by sectaries more than once in later times; appealed behind the Apostolic College itself to him from whom the Apostolic College derived its dignity; ‘I am for Christ.'”[11] Paul states that the schism arose because of the Corinthians’ immaturity in faith.[12]

MacArthur says that Apollos left Corinth for a time because the schism distressed him:

And such a holy man was he that later on when he saw the factions in Corinth, it so grieved his heart that in I Corinthians 16:12, Paul had asked him to go back and he wouldn’t go back to Corinth. The factions that came in Corinth weren’t Apollos’ fault any more than they were Peter’s fault, Paul’s fault or Christ’s fault. But they grieved him.

Wikipedia has more interesting information about St Apollos, venerated by the Orthodox churches, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

Apollos’ origin in Alexandria has led to speculations that he would have preached in the allegorical style of Philo. Theologian Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, for example, commented: “It is difficult to imagine that an Alexandrian Jew … could have escaped the influence of Philo, the great intellectual leader … particularly since the latter seems to have been especially concerned with education and preaching.”[14] Pope Benedict suggest there were those in Corinth “…fascinated by his way of speaking….[13]

Apollos is mentioned one more time in the New Testament. In the Epistle to Titus, the recipient is exhorted to “speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way”.[16]

Jerome states that Apollos was so dissatisfied with the division at Corinth that he retired to Crete with Zenas; and that once the schism had been healed by Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, Apollos returned to the city and became one of its elders.[17] Less probable traditions assign to him the bishop of Duras, or of Iconium in Phrygia, or of Caesarea.[9]

Martin Luther and some modern scholars have proposed Apollos as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, rather than Paul or Barnabas.[9] Both Apollos and Barnabas were Jewish Christians with sufficient intellectual authority.[18] The Pulpit Commentary treats Apollos’ authorship of Hebrews as “generally believed”.[19] Other than this, there are no known surviving texts attributed to Apollos.

Hebrews is one of my favourite books in the New Testament. If Apollos wrote it, you will see — if you don’t already know — how persuasive and clear he was.

Next time — Acts 19:1-7

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the romantics out there! Have a LOVE-ly day! ❤

Lent starts on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

(Graphics credit: webdesignhot.com)

What follows are my past posts about February 14. The first is about the two Saints Valentine and the second discusses the traditions surrounding this day:

A bit of history about Valentine’s Day  (2015)

More history about Valentine’s Day (2016)

The third is about the totalitarian — secular and religious — rejection of love and romance:

Valentine’s Day ‘shameful’ to totalitarians (2017)

As we begin Lent, these past posts of mine explain why traditional Catholics and some Protestants, especially Anglicans and Lutherans, observe this 40-day season:

Ash Wednesday reflections

Lent, denominational differences and freedom in Christ

Ideas for Lent

Lutheran reflections for Lent

It is also worth noting that, centuries ago, Lent started earlier than it does now:

St Athanasius and the Lenten practices of the early Church

Lent in the early Church — not a pagan practice

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

May those of us observing this season have a spiritually enriched Lent.

St NicholasHappy St Nicholas Day!

If you had a celebration today, I hope it was a pleasant treat before Christmas.

My 2014 post has much detail on this famous bishop of the 4th century. There is much we can learn about — and from — this great man:

St Nicholas Day

My 2016 post discusses the customs and celebrations observed on this day:

More on St Nicholas — feast day December 6

In commenting on that post, one of my readers, sunnydaysall, shared her experience of living in Germany and being able to join in the festivities:

Wow! I had no idea St Nicholas was so many things to so many different cultures.

When I lived in Berlin Germany, I lived in the heart of the population… On the “economy” as it was called by military dependents! I loved the German people and their customs, and Christmas was a real treat for my family! We put our shoes out on the stoop for St Nicholas to stuff our shoes with sweet treats and trinkets, and sometimes there was a simple exchanging of gifts! But it was the neighborhood celebrations that we all enjoyed so much!

The European Christmas with St Nicholas was so very different from our American Santa Claus, and Christmas was celebrated with neighbors, family, and friends! The cobblestone streets were filled with carolers and snow! Being from the South, it was the first time I had lived where it truly snowed!! Large beer wagons were filled with hay and people hopped aboard and caroled from the wagons as well! The “huge” horses were draped in jingle bells and they were braided in their mane and tails! The kids would get so excited when they heard them coming!

There were also people in the streets singing and the neighborhood pubs, where everyone gathered, stayed open almost all night! But you had to be ready for Church the next morning! 🙂

For a country with a dwindling population, 40 years ago, Germany was all about celebrating the “family”… But now I hear it is so very different now.

Thanks, sunnydaysall, for documenting a lovely memory — and for letting me share it here.

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