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"The Age of the Martyrs is Now Upon Us" by James Kushiner

{From friends at "The Fellowship of St. James" and "Touchstone Magazine". A hugely important reminder}
The Age of the Martyrs 
is Now Upon Us

All Christians, in every place and at all times, are instructed by the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body." 13:3)

Writing in the Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers wonders why Christians seem either unaware or complacent about thepersecution of Christians TODAY in the Middle East. She writes:

In Syria, Christians are under attack by Islamist rebels and fear extinction if Bashar al-Assad falls. This month, rebels overran the historic Christian town of Maalula, where many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The AFP reported that a resident of Maalula called her fiancĂ©'s cell and was told by member [sic] of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused. So they slit his throat.

Syria is joined by Pakistan, where at least 78 Christians recently were killed in an attack on All Saints Church. These countries are not alone as the 21st century is proving to be another Age of Martyrs. Post 9-11, the persecution of Christians has become a force driving Christians out of the Middle East, beginning in Iraq, as Powers notes:

Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and expert on religious persecution, testified in 2011 before Congress regarding the fate of Iraqi Christians, two-thirds of whom have vanished from the country. They have either been murdered or fled in fear for their lives. Said Shea: "[I]n August 2004 ... five churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. On a single day in July 2009, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad ... The archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed in early 2008. A bus convoy of Christian students were violently assaulted. Christians ... have been raped, tortured, kidnapped, beheaded, and evicted from their homes ..."

This would explain why the majority of native Arabic speakers in the US are Christians, not Muslim.

The example above of the young man who was given a choice to convert to Islam or die is hardly unique, not in the 21st century or in modern times. As a reader of the Lives of the Saints, whenever I come across the term "new martyr" (which is often), I know there is a good chance I will be reading about another Greek executed by Ottoman Turks in the 18th or 19th centuries after refusing to convert to Islam.

So why are not Western Christians paying much attention? Actually, many conservative Christians are at least aware of persecution and report on it. You can find many sources on Christian persecution. Morning Star News is one that we use in Touchstone. Some Christians send relief, also, and recommend other actions, such asOpen Doors and Voice of the Martyrs.

But why no protests? Is that just not our style? What is our style? It should be our style, minimally, to "Remember those who are in prison...and those who are ill-treated..." So how do we "remember" them? Daily, beseeching God on their behalf. In our homes, in our churches, early, often, lest we forget. Paul ended his letter to the Christians to Colossae, "Remember my fetters." Let us pray, then, to God untiringly for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not forget!

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
JMK sig blue
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

PS. In case you didn't know, Touchstone has published regular updates, "The Suffering Church," for more than 20 years now, and while I wish we could stop for lack of news, that doesn't seem very likely. Alas.

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (with the Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity) - 2013

Saint Michael and All Angels
{29 September}

Psalm 113
Laudate, pueri
PRAISE the Lord, ye servants : O praise the Name of the Lord.
2. Blessed be the Name of the Lord : from this time forth for evermore.251 The Book of Common Prayer
3. The Lord’s Name is praised : from the rising up of the sun unto the going down of the same.
4. The Lord is high above all heathen and his glory above the heavens.
5. Who is like unto the Lord our God, that hath his dwelling so high : and yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth?
6. He taketh up the simple out of the dust : and lifteth the poor out of the mire;
7. That he may set him with the princes : even with the princes of his people.
8. He maketh the barren woman to keep house : and to be a joyful mother of children.

Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Daniel 12.1-3
Psalter: Psalm 103
Epistle Reading: Revelation 12.7-12
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 18.1-10

The Feast of St. Michael is the 10th anniversary of our Order:

In a double way, because the Feast of St. Michael is on the Lord’s Day, it is a good time to prayerfully reflect on our Vow we have taken:

Finally, here is the Prayer of the Order:

Almighty God, our sovereign Lord, who called Cornelius the Centurion to be the first Christian among the Gentiles, who healed the servant at Capernaum in accordance with the Centurion's great faith, and who inspired the Centurion at Calvary to glorify Jesus; strengthen us in our faith that we might follow their example to love, serve, and glorify you as faithful members of the Church Militant, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.
LORD, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Amos 8.4-12
Psalter: Psalm 111, 112 | 106, 69
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 1.4-8(9)

Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 22.34-46


Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity - 2013

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity.
Psalm 119.129-136

129. THY testimonies are wonderful : therefore doth my soul keep them.
130. When thy word goeth forth : it giveth light and understanding unto the simple.
131. I opened my mouth, and drew in my breath : for my delight was in thy commandments.
132. O look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me : as thou usest to do unto those that love thy Name.
133. Order my steps in thy word : and so shall no wickedness have dominion over me.
134. O deliver me from the wrongful dealings of men : and so shall I keep thy commandments.
135. Shew the light of thy countenance upon thy servant : and teach me thy statutes.
136. Mine eyes gush out with water : because men keep not thy law.

The Collect.
LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent* and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*{In older English: “to be in readiness for (as an occasion)” “to meet and satisfy in advance” “to act ahead of” “to go or arrive before” -}
Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 13.15-21
Psalter: Psalm 91, 92 | 105, 60
Epistle Reading: Ephesians 4.1-6
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 14.1-11

Barbee and Zahl: “Understanding this Collect turns on the simple fact that the verb “prevent” in the older English means “precede” in modern English. The prayer asks God to send His grace (i.e., unmerited favor) before us, in front of us as we travel our road, as well as behind us. It is the “pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night” (Exodus 13:21). ( . . . ) Without God having already gone before us, we would, as human beings in our own strength, face impossible odds. ( . . . ) What lies ahead of us, humanly speaking, is too uncertain, too hostile, too large, too callous, too cool, too hard, too impossible. The Collects emphasize the frailty of our case and the dangers in which we are perpetually set, circling the human being like sharks and vultures. If He were not going before us, not to mention covering our flanks, we would, in general, within ourselves, simply freeze” (103).


Feast of the Holy Cross and the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity - 2013

For the Feast of the Holy Cross - 14 September:

The is a link on that page that will also take you to the history of the feast. Be sure to check it out.

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.
Psalm 119.121-128
Feci judicium

121. I DEAL with the thing that is lawful and right : O give me not over unto mine oppressors.
122. Make thou thy servant to delight in that which is good : that the proud do me no wrong.
123. Mine eyes are wasted away with looking for thy health : and for the word of thy righteousness.
124. O deal with thy servant according unto thy loving mercy : and teach me thy statutes.
125. I am thy servant, O grant me understanding : that I may know thy testimonies.
126. It is time for thee, Lord to lay to thine hand : for they have destroyed thy law.
127. For I love thy commandments : above gold and precious stone.
128. Therefore hold I straight all thy commandments : and all false ways I utterly abhor.

The Collect.
O LORD, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 12
Psalter: Psalm 98, 99 | 89, 59
Epistle Reading: Ephesians 3.8-21
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 7.11-18

Barbee and Zahl: “The point to underline for us is the link between God’s pity and God’s cleansing. ( . . . ) “Pity” here, in the Collect for Trinity XVI, refers to God’s compassion, His disposition and temperament of mercy that is continual, unchanging. The idea is that this compassion has the potency to cleanse. We can liken it to that power of tenderly affectioned empathy for us in our need that is able to reduce us to tears. The empathy of another who truly loves me moves me. Christ’s pity on the Syrophoenician woman, the man born blind, pathetic Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, Bartimaeus at Jericho, me and you: This can touch us where we live. Being moved to tears and the emotional encounter of being loved in our real state cleanses us. Let His continual pity cleanse and defend us evermore” (101).

For those of you who are interested, the is a link on my blog that will take you to a great book that you can now download for free: “The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity” written by an astute Catholic author, Leon Podles. I read this book years ago and found it powerfully convincing, insightful, and truly helpful.

Primus Pilus II


Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity - 2013

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity.
Psalm 119.113-120
Iniquos odio habui
113. I HATE them that imagine evil things : but thy law do I love.
114. Thou art my defence and shield : and my trust is in thy word.
115. Away from me, ye wicked : I will keep the commandments of my God.
116. O stablish me according to thy word, that I may live : and let me not be disappointed of my hope.
117. Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe : yea, my delight shall be ever in thy statutes.
118. Thou hast trodden down all them that depart from thy statutes : for they imagine but deceit.
119. Thou puttest away all the ungodly of the earth like dross : therefore I love thy testimonies.
120. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee : and I am afraid of thy judgements.

The Collect.
KEEP, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 7.6-13
Psalter: Psalm 97, 98 | 79, 80
Epistle Reading: Galatians 6.11-18
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 6.24-34

Barbee and Zahl: “”All things profitable to our salvation”: of what do these consist? ( . . . ) The things that profit us in this particularly Christian sense will be characterized by love, in which what-can-this-do-for-me will play less and less a part. Anything built on self-involvement and self-preoccupation contributes nothing to our salvation, which is our enduring relation to God. On the other hand, anything characterized by outward-seeking love enriches the saved self” (99).

Personal: For last Sunday evening, I wrote a pastoral prayer that reflects some of the sense of the above Collect, especially in light of what is going on in Syria and Egypt, and the church in those countries. You may find the prayer on my blog (follow the link). If you cannot use it in your church, maybe it would be beneficial in your private prayers.