Thought for the Day – 4 August – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
“The opposite extreme of over-superstitious veneration of images must also be avoided. As St Gregory the Great observed, Sacred images should be regarded as a means of impressing, on simple minds, the virtues which they ought to emplant. Sometimes, however, the ignorance or the faithful, in this regard, needs to be corrected.
It is not unusual to enter a Church and to see crowds of people around statues of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints., laying flowers at their feet and lighting innumerable candles. Meanwhile, the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament is deserted! Excessive homage can be paid to particular images, in such a manner, as to suggest that the piety of the worshippers is directed towards the material images themselves, rather than towards the Redeemer or our Divine Mother or the Saints. We must be careful to ensure that our devotion does not become occupied by suspicion,”
Quote/s of the Day – 27 March – The Memorial of St John Damascene (676-749) – Father and Doctor of the Church
“In former times, God, Who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now, when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God Whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter Who became matter, for my sake.”
“The Saints must be honoured as friends of Christ and children and heirs of God. Let us carefully observe the manner of life of all the Apostles, Martyrs, Ascetics and just men, who announced the coming of the Lord. And let us emulate their faith, charity, hope, zeal, life, patience under suffering and perseverance unto death, so that we may also share their crowns of glory.”
St John Damascene (676-749) Father and Doctor of the Church
Bl Aimone of Halberstadt St Amphilochius of Illyria St Alexander of Drizipara St Alexander of Pannonia St Alkeld the Martyr St Amator the Hermit St Augusta of Treviso (Died 5th Century) Virgin Martyr St Claudio Gallo St Cronidas of Illyria St Ensfrid of Cologne Bl Francesco Faà di Bruno Bl Frowin of Engelberg St Gelasius of Armagh
Martyrs of Bardiaboch: A group of Christians who were arrested, tortured and executed together for their faith during the persecutions of Persian King Shapur II. Martyrs. – Abibus, Helias, Lazarus, Mares, Maruthas, Narses, Sabas, Sembeeth and Zanitas. 27 March 326 at Bardiaboch, Persia.
Saint of the Day – 23 February – St Lazarus Zographos (810 -865) surnamed Zographos (Greek for ‘painter’) Priest abd Monk known as “the Painter and the Iconographer.” Born at Mount Caucasus in Armenia on 17 November 810 in Armenia and died in 865 in Rome. Lazarus lived before and during the second period of Byzantine Iconoclasm. Also known as – Lazarus the Painter, the Iconographe, Lazarus of Constantinople, Lazzaro…
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “St Lazarus, a Monk, whom the Iconoclast Emperor Theophilus ordered to be put to torture for having painted holy images. His hand was burned with a hot iron but, being healed by the power of God, he painted anew the holy images which had been defaced and finally rested in peace.”
Lazarus was noted to possess the virtues of love for Christ, asceticism, prayer and rejection of the vanities of the world. He was further recognised for his acts of self-control, discipline and alms-giving He was Ordained a Priest and in his lifetime, he was highly regarded and well-known for his frescos. He used faith and ritual as a means to transcribe his inner contemplation onto the images he painted. Thus, his ability to paint iSacred images was seen as a gift given by God.
During the reign of Theophilus (829–842), an iconoclast Emperor opposed to all Sacred images, Lazarus stubbornly continued his craft of painting and began restoring images defaced by heretics. Theophilus sought out Lazarus, who was then famous for his artworks and intended to make an example of him. After being asked several times to cease painting, Lazarus was brought before the Emperor. Lazarus refused to destroy any of the images he painted. The Emperor soon found that Lazarus was above flattery and bribery. He was then threatened with the death penalty, which at the time was not an uncommon outcome for those who favoured icons (iconodules). However, Lazarus, being a holy man of the cloth, could not be put to death and so, he was instead thrown in prison.
During his imprisonment he was subjected to such “severe torture that flesh melted away along with his blood.” He was left to die of his wounds but miraculously recovered. He then began to paint holy images on panels from his prison cell. Hearing of this, Theophilus gave orders to have “sheets of red hot iron to be applied to the palms of his hands ,where, as a result, he lost consciousness and lay half dead.” It is also said his hands were burned with red-hot horseshoes until his flesh melted to the bone.
As Lazarus lay on his deathbed, the Empress Theodora, an iconodule, convinced Theophilus to release Lazarus from prison. Lazarus found refuge at Tou Phoberou, a secluded Church of St John the Baptist. The Church is believed to have functioned as an Monastery which housed as many as one-hundred and seventy Monks.
After the death of Theophilus in 842, his wife, Theodora asked Lazarus to forgive her husband’s actions, to which he replied “God is not so unjust, O, Empress, as to forget our love and labours on His behalf.” Lazarus served as a model of perseverance for those who had suffered from iconoclast persecution.
After the restoration of the icons in 843, Lazarus was again free to pursue his painting. Despite his previous wounds which the Almighty had completely healed, Lazarus was said to have painted a large fresco of St John at the Phoberos Monastery. The painted fresco was known to have the power to perform cures and miracles. That same year, he also famously restored a portrait of Christ known as the Christ of the Chalke, over the Chalke Gate, a ceremonial entrance of the Great Palace of Constantinople. Neither of these two works survive today.
Lazarus was also accredited with the mosaic decoration of the apse of the Hagia Sophia, within the pilgrim accounts of Antony, Archbishop of Novgorod during a visit to Constantinople. Antony described the mosaic as depicting the Mother of God holding a Child Christ flanked by two angels, which was noted to have been seen by both Emperor Basil l and Michael III (842–867) before his death the same year. However, these accounts are dated several centuries later in c. 1200.
In 856, Lazarus was sent as a diplomat for Michael III, Theophilos and Theodora’s son, who sent him as an Emissary to visit Pope Benedict III, to discuss the possibility of reconciliation between the Catholic Church of Rome and the Eastern Church of Constantinople, who at this time, had very strained relations. In 865, during his second mission to the Pope, Lazarus died at Rome on 28 September, although others dispute this date. He was buried in the Monastery of Evanderes, near Constantinople.
Saint of the Day – 28 November – Saint Pope Gregory III (Died 741) Bishop of Rome 11 February 731 until his death on 28 November 741. Born in Syria and died on 28 November 741 of natural causes.
The Roman Martyrology states: “St Rome, the blessed Pope Gregory III, who departed for Heaven with a reputation for great sanctity and miracles.“
Beside the fact that Gregory was a Priest at Saint Crisogono Church in Rome and that he was the son of a Syrian named John nothing else is known about his life prior to being elected the 90th pope. He was elected by popular acclamation in 731, during the funeral procession of his predecessor, because of his reputation for virtue and learninge.
Gregory’s Pontificate, like that of his predecessor, was troubled by the iconoclastic controversy (the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols) in the Byzantine Empire.
Upon his accession as Pope, Gregory immediately appealed to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III, to moderate his position on the Iconoclastic controversy. When Pope Gregory’s representative was arrested on the orders of the Emperor, Gregory called a Synod in November 731, which condemned Iconoclasm outright. Leo responded by trying to bring the Pope under control, although the fleet he sent to enforce the imperial will, was shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea. Failing, he appropriated Papal territories in Sicily and Calabria, transferring ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the former Praetorian Prefect, to the Patriarch of Constantinople. His attempt to force the Duke of Naples to enforce an imperial decree to confiscate [apal territory in the duchy failed, as the Duke was supportive of the Pope’s stand.
Pope Gregory demonstrated his opposition to Iconoclasm by emphasising his veneration of icons and relics. He repaired numerous beautiful Churches, adorning them with icons and images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and many Saints. He ordered, in the heart of St. Peter’s Basilica and Iconostasis, (an iconostasis is a wall of artworks and religious paintings, used to separate the Nave from the Sanctuary) situated between six onyx and marble columns. He also built a new oratory in St. Peter’s Basilica, which housed relics of several Saints. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of monasticism – he established the Monastery of S. Chrysogonus and rebuilt the Hospice of Saints Sergius and Bacchus near St Peter’s.
Pope Gregory also promoted the Church in northern Europe. He supported the continuing mission of St. Boniface in Germany, elevating him to the rank of Archbishop in 732. In 732, Gregory banned the consumption of horsemeat, both domestic and wild, comparing it as an “abomination” since it was associated with pagan ritual feastings. He was very conscious of the ongoing Lombard threat but was unsuccessful at stopping their advance. He also undertook and completed, the restoration of the Walls of Rome.
Pope Gregory III died on 28 November 741. He was succeeded by Pope Zachary and was buried in St Peter’s Basilica, in the oratory he had built at the start of his Pontificate.
Saint of the Day – 2 August – Saint Serenus of Marseilles (Died c 606) the 10th Bishop of Marseilles. Died in c 606 near Biandrate, Piedmont, Italy of natural causes. Also known as – Sereno, Clear (translation of his name). Patronages – for good weather, for good harvests, of Biandrate, Italy.
Serenus is known through an exchange of letters with Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). The correspondence between the Pope and the Bishop of Marseilles concerned the position of the Church in regard to the images in the Churches and the journey undertaken by Saint Augustine, the future Archbishop of Canterbury and the Monks who accompanied him to the England.
He would have died near Biandrate in the Diocese of Vercelli on his return from Rome where he had been to discuss his iconoclastic positions regarding the veneration of images. We know little else but this Saint except that he was a zealous and holy Bishop sincerely aiming to foster the faith of his flock and adherence to Holy Mother Church.
He was buried in a field near the Benedictine Abbey of San Nazzaro. His body,was found in the Middle Ages, by a farmer working the field, and his relics were then reenshrined in the St Columba of Biandrate.
The Bishop had destroyed the holy images by strictly applying the commandment given by God to Moses. In 599, the Pope sent Father Cyriaque to Gaul. Having to go through Marseilles, he had given Cyriaque a letter he had written to the Bishop :
“I learned a long time ago that seeing a few people worshiping the pictures of the Church you broke them and threw them out. I praise your zeal to prevent man-made things from being worshiped but I believe you should not shatter these images. Because we put paintings in Churches so that those who cannot read can see, on the walls, what they cannot learn from books. So you had to keep them and divert the people from sinning by worshiping paintings . Serenus replied to the Pope, doubting that this letter was from him. The Pope replied to him the following year:
You must have had no suspicion of Father Cyriaque, who was the bearer of my letters . Then talking about pictures:
Tell me, my brother, what Bishop have you ever heard of who did the same? Should not this consideration only hold you back so as not to appear alone pious and wise, in contempt of your brothers? … It is said that by shattering these images you scandalised your people so much, that most of them broke away from your community. We must remind them of them and show them, that through the Holy Scriptures, that it is not allowed to worship what is made by hand. Then add, that seeing the legitimate use of the images, turned into worship, you were outraged and made them break. You will add – if you want to have images in the Church, for your instruction, for which they were made in the past, I will gladly allow you. So you will soften them and bring them back to union. If someone wants to make images, do not prevent him: only forbid worshiping them. The sight of the stories must excite in them compunction but they must prostrate themselves only to adore the Holy Trinity. I tell you all this only out of my love for the Church, not to weaken your zeal but to encourage you in your duty.“ Saint Gregory the Great, after Basil the Great (329-379), Gregory of Nazianze (330-390), Gregory of Nyssa (335-394) and PaulinE of Nola (353-431), resumes in his letters that the images are useful for those who cannot read books. Gregory the Great sets three roles for images in his two letters to Serenus
1. educate the illiterate, 2. to fix the memory of holy history, 3. arouse a feeling of compunction among the faithful.“ But the Bishop must teach, that pictures cannot be worshiped.
Quote/s of the Day – 12 May – The Memorial of St Germanus of Constantinople (c 640-733) Defender of Sacred Images
“The honour given to an image goes to the original model.”
St Basil the Great (329-379 Father and Doctor of the Church
“When we show reverence to representations of Jesus Christ, we do not worship paint laid on wood – we worship the invisible God, in spirit and in truth.”
St Germanus of Constantinople (c 640-733)
“Previously God, Who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that He has made Himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God… and contemplate the glory of the Lord, His face unveiled.”
“The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.”
St John Damascene (675-749) Father and Doctor of the Church
“… Through these images which we kiss and before which we kneel and uncover our heads, we are adoring Christ and venerating the saints, whose likeness these images bear.”