An Account of How Catechumens Were Prepared for Baptism in the Fourth Century

Fascinating. The season of Lent has always been a time when the Church prepared new converts to become full members by instructing them in matters of the faith and preparing them for baptism. Here is a description from how this was done in the 4th century in Jerusalem. Clearly it is no light thing to prepare for baptism and be instructed in matters of the Christian faith.

I must also describe how those who are baptized at Easter are instructed. Those who give their names do so the day before Lent, and the priest notes down all their names; and this is before those eight weeks during which, as I have said, Lent is observed here. When the priest has noted down everyone’s name, then on the following day, the first day of Lent, on which the eight weeks begin, a throne is set up for the bishop in the center of the major church, the Martyrium. The priests sit on stools on both sides, and all the clergy stand around. One by one the candidates are led forward, in such a Way that the men come with their godfathers and the women with their godmothers.

Then the bishop questions individually the neighbors of the one who has come up, inquiring; “Does this person lead a good life? Obey parents? Is this person a drunkard or a liar?” And the bishop seeks out in the candidate other vices which are more serious. If the person proves to be guiltless in all these matters concerning which the bishop has questioned the witnesses who are present, the bishop notes down the candidate’s name. If, however, the candidate is accused of anything, the bishop orders the person to go out and says: “Let such a one amend their life, and when this is done, then approach the baptismal font.” He makes the same inquiry of both men and women.  If, however, some are strangers, such people cannot easily receive baptism, unless they have witnesses who know them.

Ladies, my sisters, I must describe this, lest you think that it is done without explanation. It is the custom here, throughout the forty days on which there is fasting, for those who are preparing for baptism to be exorcised by the clergy early in the morning, as soon as the dismissal from the morning service has been given at the Anastasis. Immediately a throne is placed for the bishop in the major church, the Martyrium. All those who are to be baptized, both men and women, sit closely around the bishop, while the godmothers and godfathers stand there; and indeed all of the people who wish to listen may enter and sit down, provided they are of the faithful. A catechumen, however, may not enter at the time when the bishop is teaching them the law. The bishop does so in this way: beginning with Genesis and going through the whole of Scripture during these forty days, expounding first its literal meaning and then explaining the spiritual meaning.  In the course of these days everything is taught not only about the Resurrection but concerning the body of faith. This is called catechetics.

When five weeks or instruction have been completed, they then receive the Creed The bishop explains the meaning of each of the phrases of the Creed in the same way as Holy Scripture was explained, expounding first the literal and then the spiritual sense. ln this fashion the Creed is taught.

And thus it is that in these places all the faithful are able to follow the Scriptures when they are read in the churches, because all are taught through these forty days, that is, from the first to the third hours, for during the three hours instruction is given. God knows, ladies, my sisters,  that the voices of the faithful who have come to catechetics to hear instruction on those things being said or explained by the bishop are louder than when the bishop sits down in church to preach about each of those matters which are explained in this fashion. The dismissal from catechetics is given at the third hour, and immediately, singing hymns, they lead the bishop to the Anastasis [the cross], and the office of the third hour takes place. And thus they are taught for three hours a day for seven weeks. During the eighth week, the one which is called the Great Week, there remains no more time for them to be taught, because what has been mentioned above must be carried out.

Now when seven weeks have gone by and there remains only Holy Week, which is here called the Great Week, then the bishop comes in the morning to the major church, the Martyrium. To the rear, at the apse behind the altar, a throne is placed for the bishop, and one by one they come forth, the men with their godfathers, the women with their godmothers. And each one recites the Creed back to the bishop. After the Creed has been recited back to the bishop, the bishop delivers a homily to them all, and says: “During these seven weeks you have been instructed in the whole law of the Scriptures, and you have heard about the faith. You have also heard of the resurrection of the flesh. But as for the whole explanation of the Creed, you have heard only that which you are able to know while you are still catechumens. Because you are still catechumens, you are not able to the those things which belong to a higher mystery, that of baptism. But that you may not think that anything would be done without explanation, once you have been baptized in the name of God, you will hear of them during the eight days of Easter in the Anastasis following the dismissal from church. Because you are still catechumens, the most secret of the divine mysteries cannot be told to you.”

—Egeria, Abbess (late 4th century), The Pilgrimage of Egeria, 45-46

An Account of Polycarp’s Martyrdom on His Festival Day

From here.

ISIS doesn’t have anything over these guys. And I love the way Polycarp turned the use of “atheist” back on his enemies. Either the man was a lunatic or there’s a power here that we’d better pay attention to.

UnknownAs a very old man, probably in his 90s, he was burnt to death in front of a frenzied crowd in a sports’ stadium in the city of Smyrna, then in the Roman proconsular province of Asia, now Izmir in western Turkey. He had been Bishop of the Christian church in Smyrna.

The 4th century church historian, Eusebius, reproduced a contemporary Christian account of Polycarp’s martyrdom:

‘As Polycarp was entering the stadium, there came a voice to him from heaven, “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” The speaker indeed no one saw, but the voice was heard by those of our friends present. Then he was brought forward, and great was the din as they heard that Polycarp was arrested. So he was brought before the Proconsul, who…tried to persuade him to deny his faith, urging, “Have respect to your old age…Swear by the genius of Caesar; change your mind and say, ‘Away with the Atheists!’ ”

‘Then Polycarp looked with a stern countenance on the multitude of lawless heathen gathered in the stadium, and waved his hands at them, and looked up to heaven with a groan and said, “Away with the Atheists.” The Proconsul continued insisting and saying, “Swear, and I release you; curse Christ.” And Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?” ’ (New Eusebius, ed. J Stevenson, SPCK, 1957, p21).

Almighty God,
who gave to your servant Polycarp
boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ
before the rulers of this world
and courage to die for his faith:
grant that we also may be ready
to give an answer for the faith that is in us
and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

An Ancient Account of How Lent Was Observed in Fourth Century Jerusalem

When the season of Lent is at hand, it is observed in the following manner. Now whereas with us the forty days preceding Easter are observed, here they observe the eight weeks before Easter. This is the reason why they observe eight weeks: On Sundays and Saturdays they do not fast, except on the one Saturday which is the vigil of Easter; when it is necessary to fast. Except on that day, there is absolutely no fasting here on Saturdays at any time during the year. And so, when eight Sundays and seven Saturdays have been deducted from the eight weeks—for it is necessary, as I have just said, to fast on one Saturday—there remain forty-one days which are spent in fasting, which are called here “eortae,” that is to say, Lent.

This is a summary of the fasting practices here during Lent. There are some who, having eaten on Sunday after the dismissal, that is, at the fifth or the sixth hour [11:00am -noon], do not eat again for the whole week until Saturday, following the dismissal from the Anastasis [the cross]. These are the ones who observe the full week’s fast. Having eaten once in the morning on Saturday, they do not eat again in the evening, but only on the following day, on Sunday, that is, do they eat after the dismissal from the church at the fifth hour or later. Afterwards, they do not eat again until the following Saturday, as I have already said. Such is their fate during the Lenten season that they take no leavened bread (for this cannot be eaten at all), no olive oil, nothing which comes from trees, but only water and a little flour soup. And this is what is done throughout Lent.

—Egeria, Abbess (late 4th century), The Pilgrimage of Egeria, 27-28.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Today is George Washington’s birthday. To our great detriment, Americans are forgetting about our first president. This is sad, in part, because without him, there would not likely be the USA that we know today. Do yourself a favor and learn about this extraordinary man with whom God blessed this country.

To the world’s amazement, Washington had prevailed over the more numerous, better supplied, and fully trained British army, mainly because he was more flexible than his opponents. He learned that it was more important to keep his army intact and to win an occasional victory to rally public support than it was to hold American cities or defeat the British army in an open field. Over the last 200 years revolutionary leaders in every part of the world have employed this insight, but never with a result as startling as Washington’s victory over the British.

On December 23, 1783, Washington presented himself before Congress in Annapolis, Maryland, and resigned his commission. Like Cincinnatus, the hero of Classical antiquity whose conduct he most admired, Washington had the wisdom to give up power when he could have been easily become dictator. He left Annapolis and went home to Mount Vernon with the fixed intention of never again serving in public life. This one act, without precedent in modern history, made him an international hero.

In the years after the Revolutionary War, Washington devoted most of his time to rebuilding Mount Vernon, which had suffered in his absence. He experimented with new crops and fertilizers and bred some of the finest mules in the nation. He also served as president of the Potomac Company, which worked to improve the navigation of the river in order to make it easier for upstream farmers to get their produce to market.

Read it all or pick up this book and really get to know the Father of our Country.

Columbus Dispatch: Iwo Jima Images Still with Veteran

One hell of a battle. Be inspired by this story. God bless the Greatest Generation.

iwo-jima-70th-0220-art-ggq10hpim-1war-5-3-jpgThe conflict there was made all the more famous by an iconic photograph of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the Stars and Stripes on the fourth day of the engagement on the summit of Mount Suribachi, an extinct, 550-foot volcano at the island’s southwestern tip.

“Many thought it was over, but they hadn’t gotten to the really heavy fighting at that point,” said Sherrill, who went ashore on the island with K Company in the Third Marines, Ninth Battalion, a week after the initial assault.

His unit was there to reinforce two Marine divisions that had taken heavy losses in earlier fighting, and he was among more than 70,000 Marines, Navy corpsmen and Army Air Forces airmen who participated in the five-week assault. The battle eventually claimed more than 6,000 American lives and wounded 19,000. Most of the Japanese on the island died in the conflict.

Four days after Sherrill and his comrades landed on Iwo Jima’s beaches, mortar barrages wiped out two-thirds of his 245-man company.

The survivors spent days dodging grenade attacks and sniper fire. A week after landing, Sherrill, a corporal, was walking near an unfinished airfield, waving his men along, when he locked eyes with a Japanese rifleman.

“The minute I saw him, he fired,” Sherrill said.

There was a sting, and his arm “just dropped.”

A rifleman who was with him shot the Japanese soldier before he had a chance to finish off Sherrill or kill other Americans.

Read it all.

On Presidents’ Day, We Honor…Someone

From Fox News:

NEW YORK —  Question: Who is honored on Presidents Day?

Answer: Not Ronald Reagan. Or Franklin D. Roosevelt. Or Grover Cleveland or Martin Van Buren.

FoxNews.com conducted an informal and very unscientific poll in midtown Manhattan on Monday and found there are a lot of people who think Presidents Day honors a lot of presidents — with responses ranging from George Washington (No. 1) to Barack Obama (No. 44), with many others in between.

Given the increasing historical illiteracy of this nation, why am I not surprised? So now I need to put on my old history teacher hat. Before you look at the article, do you know which presidents are honored on Presidents’ Day and why it is in February?

Read it all.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Abraham Lincoln pictureToday is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He would be 206 years old! The president is one of my heroes, primarily because of the role he played in saving this country. Mr. Lincoln had a wonderful spirit about him and his humility, compassion, and willingness to forgive his enemies arguably saved this country from a terrible aftermath following our Civil War. Reconstruction was hard enough as it was, but at least we did not have guerrilla warfare to contend with, something that would have probably done us in as a country forever.

We healed as well as any country could following a civil war. If you don’t believe me, check out other countries who have suffered through a civil war. Most of the time it didn’t turn out well. The reason our country’s reconstruction went relatively well is because of president Lincoln. He set the tone for U.S. Grant and the other Union commanders by insisting that they treat the vanquished with dignity and respect. Lincoln insisted that the rebels would not be treated harshly or punitively and as a result, everyone else followed suit, including the Confederate commanders.

Of course, this wasn’t all Lincoln’s doing, but as president he set the tone for others to follow. It would have been just as easy to hang all the rebel commanders and make life miserable for the vanquished. But Lincoln knew better. He knew how that would turn out. It would have been interesting to see how much more quickly we would have healed as a nation had Lincoln lived to serve a full second term. Instead, the zealots and self-righteous decided to “fix” Lincoln’s initial proposals for reconstruction and nearly managed to destroy all that president Lincoln had sought to establish in the process.

I am convinced God put Abraham Lincoln in our history for a reason. His presidency is more evidence that God has blessed this country. Whether that blessing continues today is debatable.  But that’s a different story for a different day. Today, it is fitting that all Americans honor our 16th president and give thanks to God for placing the right man in the right situation at the right time. Happy birthday, Mr. President, and thank you for your service to our country.

Fox News: A Survivor Looks Back on Auschwitz 70 Years Later

660-Auschwitz-API, too, visited Auschwitz as a teenager. In 1944, my family and I stood in line before Dr. Joseph Mengele—the Nazi physician known as the “Angel of Death”—as my mother, grandparents, two sisters, and baby brother were all sent to the left to be burned in Hitler’s ovens. My father and I were sent to the right.

The first night inside Auschwitz my father said we must separate because together we would suffer double. “On your own, you will survive,” he told me. “You are young and strong, and I know you will survive. If you survive by yourself, you must honor us by living, by not feeling sorry for us. This is what you must do.” That was the last time I ever saw my father.

I’m grateful for my father’s words of grace and guidance. They echo in my heart even still. It’s a cruel thing, feeling guilty for surviving. But my father erased any future guilt and replaced it with purpose. It was a gift only a father’s wisdom could give. It gave me a reason to go forward, a reason to be. It does still.

Read it all.

Holocaust Memorial Day

ktma_-_yellow

I was stunned to read an article yesterday that cited a recent survey in which only 54% of the respondents don’t know what the Holocaust is. FIFTY-FOUR PERCENT!! How can the other 46% not know that over SIX MILLION people were exterminated by the Nazis during World War II???? Unbelievable.

Under orders from General Eisenhower at the end of the war, my dad, along with every American soldier in Europe, was ordered to visit a liberated concentration camp closest to where they were stationed. The closest to him at the time was Buchenwald and I have pictures he took of the ovens with their human cremains. He told me dead bodies were stacked “like cordwood.” Eisenhower ordered our troops to witness this spectacle because he was convinced that someday people would forget there ever was a Holocaust and even spread lies claiming it never occurred. General Eisenhower was a prophet.

I made it a point to teach the Holocaust to students in my history classes and didn’t spare them the gory details in film and pictures (and please do click the link to watch the video). Get the word out. Don’t be part of that 46% because these were real human lives that were exterminated. That’s what human hate inevitably leads to if left unchecked.

If you are interested in participating in the Holocaust Memorial Day, tomorrow, January 27, 2105, click the graphic above and see how you can get involved.

A Tale of Contrasting Stories

In a Fox News article, Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) writes about the faith of Louis Zamperini, the ‘Unbroken’ hero. This is a hugely important part of the story because among other things, Mr. Zamperini was eventually able to forgive his Japanese torturers.

iuReturning to life in California after World War II revealed what the Japanese couldn’t do to Louie Zamperini; they couldn’t break this hero. But Louie’s real battle was still ahead.

For a time he enjoyed the celebrity of heroism and hob-knobbing with Hollywood.  He met and married a beautiful woman named Cynthia Applewhite and life was good.  But when all the glitz and glamour faded and reality set in, reoccurring nightmares of war and memories of Louie’s torture by his enemies tormented him.

To escape these horrors, Louie turned to alcohol.  Pent-up anger overcame him.

His wife who genuinely loved him felt she had no choice but to divorce him.  The man who had endured horrific physical and mental abuse, and emerged unbroken from the ravages of war, had succumbed to an enemy that would not let go — himself.

Now compare this story to the story of another survivor of Japanese brutality during WWII, Betsy Heimke. Whereas Zamperini was able to eventually forgive his captors and be truly freed from their influence because of his ability to forgive, Ms. Heimke still remains a prisoner to her captors because she cannot forgive them and that is just heartbreaking.

image-1She watched her mother struggle daily to keep the family together and fed. People died around her. Her father’s ribs stuck out like steel bars.

No one should expect any Louie Zamperini-like absolution from her.

Zamperini was an American bombardier who was held as a POW and tortured by the Japanese after his plane went down in the Pacific. Part of his story, as told in the best-selling book “Unbroken” and now a movie that opened Christmas Day, is that after the war he traveled to Japan and forgave the guards who mistreated him.

When asked whether she could do the same, Heimke lifted her eyes from her scrapbook and locked onto those of her questioner.

image“He’s a better Christian than I am,” she said of Zamperini. “I’m not there and doubt I will ever be.”

 

 

 

Read Graham’s story and then read Betsy Heimke’s sad story.

Remember, Remember the 7th of December

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into the great conflagration known as World War II. Ask anyone who was living that day and they can tell you exactly where they were. It was an act of treachery and it proved to be foolishly short-sighted and ultimately fatal for the Japanese militarists. It was that generation’s 9/11.

Sadly the generation of Pearl Harbor is rapidly fading away. But its lessons remain and remind us that we must constantly be on guard as a nation because there are those out there who hate us and want to destroy us and end our way of life.

From the History Channel:

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

Read it all.