Archive for the ‘March 23’ Category

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Watchtower in Vineyard

Above:  A Watchtower in a Vineyard, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06021

Of Grapes and Fruit

MARCH 23, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 63:1-8

Luke 6:43-45

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O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is not water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)

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That is what a good grape from Isaiah 5:1-7 and a good fruit from Luke 6:43-45 would say.  Unfortunately, the grapes are wild and the fruits are bad in those readings.

The excellent translation of Isaiah 5:7 from TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), attempting to bring the effect of the Hebrew wordplay into English, rings inside my head:

For the vineyard of the LORD of Hosts

Is the House of Israel,

And the seedlings He lovingly tended

Are the men of Judah.

And He hoped for justice,

But beheld, injustice;

For equity,

But behold, iniquity!

Social justice in the context of community, with responsibility of people to and for each other, and with all people accountable to God, is an essential part of the Law of Moses.  I wonder, in fact, why I did not learn this growing up in the church–in a series of parsonages, actually.  I had to learn this truth from a book after joining a Historical Jesus reading group in Athens, Georgia.  In fact, much of my adult spiritual pilgrimage has consisted of abandoning what I learned as a child, for most of it was either wrong or woefully incomplete.

God commands us to live in love, to love each other as we love ourselves.  Love of this variety leaves no room for any form of prejudice or animosity, or for any other obstacle to practicing the Golden Rule.  This is a lesson I understand more intellectually than viscerally, but I continue to struggle with it.  This is progress, at least, in my effort to cooperate with God to be a good grape and a good fruit.

May you, O reader, strive to be a good grape and a good fruit also.  May you succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/of-grapes-and-fruit/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Zerubbabel

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

Sufficiency in God

MARCH 22-24, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Monday)

Isaiah 44:1-8 (Tuesday)

Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 3:4-11 (Monday)

Acts 2:14-24 (Tuesday)

John 12:34-50 (Wednesday)

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How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you

let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart;

that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:9-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, did not condemn Torah piety.  No, he had harsh words for legalism and its proponents.  Religious authorities, our Lord and Savior said, were teaching the Law of Moses wrongly; he was teaching it correctly.  Thus, when I read the translated words of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, I wondered to which Law he objected and why.  Commentaries told me more about the biases of their authors than those of St. Paul, who, according to scholars of the New Testament, did not use that term consistently in his writings.  That fact does not surprise me, for I know from other sources that the Apostle was uncertain in his Trinitarian theology (aren’t most of us?), for he used the Son and the Holy Spirit interchangeably sometimes.  If one seeks consistency where it is does not exist, one sets oneself up for disappointment.

N. T. Wright wrote in Paul in Fresh Perspective (2005) that the contrast was actually between those who heard the Law of Moses and those who trusted in Jesus.  Thus, Wright continued, in Pauline theology, divine holiness was fatal to people with darkened minds and hardened hearts.  Yet those who have the Holy Spirit do not find divine holiness fatal, Wright wrote on page 123.  One might question that perspective or parts thereof, for the Apostle did write negatively of the Law of Moses or at least of a version of it in his head in epistles.

Anyhow, St. Paul was correct in his point that our power/competence/adequacy/sufficiency (all words I found while comparing translations) comes from God alone.  And, if we accept Bishop Wright’s reading of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, we find a match with John 12:34-50, in which many people who witnesses Jesus performing signs still rejected him.  They had hardened hearts and darkened minds.

You are my witnesses,

Yahweh said in Isaiah 43 and 44 to exiles about to return to their ancestral home.  We are God’s witnesses.  Are we paying attention?  And are we plugging into the divine source of power to glorify and enjoy God forever?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/sufficiency-in-god/

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The Death of Dreams and Aspirations   Leave a comment

Death of Dreams and Aspirations

Above:  The Original Text

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Loving God, who loves us, mourns with us, and rejoices with us,

the death of dreams and aspirations is among the most traumatic losses to endure.

It cuts to the emotional core of a person, causing great anguish, grief, and anger.

Regardless if the dream was indeed the one a person should have followed

(assuming that it was not morally wrong, of course),

the pain and disappointment are legitimate, I suppose.

I have known these emotions in this context more than once.

I wish them upon nobody, not even those who inflicted them upon me.

May we, by grace, function as your ministers of comfort

to those experiencing such a death or the aftermath of one

and who are near us or whom you send our way.

And may we, by grace, help others achieve their potential

and refrain from inflicting such pain upon others.

In the name of Jesus, who identified with us, suffered, died, and rose again.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

HOLY SATURDAY, YEAR A

Posted April 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 2020, 2021, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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Devotion for the Twenty-Ninth and Thirtieth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Paul_raiseth_Eutychus_to_life

Above:  Paul Raiseth Eutychus to Life, 1728

Image in the Public Domain

Raised to New Life in Christ

MARCH 22 and 23, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives  and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:17-24 (29th Day)

2 Kings 4:18-37 (30th Day)

Psalm 143 (Both Days)

Acts 20:7-12 (29th Day)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (30th Day)

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My spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

–Psalm 143:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to death and restoration to life.  Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead.  So did Elisha.  These deeds benefited the mothers in that society, making them less vulnerable economically.  Acts 20 tells us that St. Paul the Apostle, who probably spoke for too long into the night, restored young Eutychus, who had fallen asleep and fallen from a third-story window, to life.  Certainly the young man was important to his faith community.

The metaphor coexists with the literal fact in Ephesians 2:1-10.  Through Jesus, the text tells us, we who die in our trespasses find spiritual rebirth.  Although the Apostle does not say so in this passage, we then carry a mandate to bless others—to pass it on, to pay it forward.  We are responsible to and for each other.

May we act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/raised-to-new-life-in-christ/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Third and Twenty-Fourth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

01950v

Above:  Design Drawing for a Stained-Glass Window Showing the Conversion of Paul

Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios

Image Source = Library of Congress

A Life Worthy of the Lord

MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2020, and TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 2020

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The Collect:

Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us.

By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness

of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign

with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 59:9-19 (23rd Day)

Isaiah 42:14-21 (24th Day)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Acts 9:1-20 (23rd Day)

Colossians 1:9-24 (24th Day)

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A Related Post:

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (January 25):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-conversion-of-st-paul-the-apostle-january-25/

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Judgment and mercy go hand-in-hand in the Bible.  The assigned readings for today demonstrate this well.  Psalm 146:5-9 reads:

Happy is he whose helper is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is the LORD his God,

maker of heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who maintains faithfulness for ever

and deals out justice to the oppressed.

The LORD feeds the hungry

and sets the prisoner free.

The LORD raises those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and protects the stranger in the land;

the LORD gives support to the fatherless and the widow,

but thwarts the course of the wicked.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Deliverance of the faithful and destruction of the wicked occurs in the readings from Isaiah.  In the Bible justice and righteousness are the same thing; our English-language words “justice” and “righteousness” are translations of the same term.  Thus corruption and economic exploitation are both unrighteous and unjust.

Sometimes, however, God grants persecutors opportunities to repent and convert.  If they refuse, that is solely their responsibility.  St. Paul the Apostle, with human guidance sent by God, accepted.  He, in the Letter to the Colossians, wrote eloquently in terms he drew from his life:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

–1:11-14, Revised Standard Version—Second Edition (1971)

Some people have dramatic experiences.  Others of us do not.  Contrary to what some say, being able to document when one came to God is not requisite.  Yet being of God is necessary for salvation.  God, who works in more than one way, is the arbiter of these matters.

So, regardless of how we came to God—gradually and quietly (as I did) or dramatically (as St. Paul did)—may we honor God daily by keeping our Lord and Savior’s commandments (

If you love me, keep my commandments.

—Jesus) and following the Apostle’s advice

to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

–Colossians 1:10, Revised Standard Version—Second Edition (1971)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/a-life-worthy-of-the-lord/

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Prayers of the People for Easter–Second Order   Leave a comment

DSC08019

Above:  Easter Vigil, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, April 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/EasterVigilStPatrickS?noredirect=1#5729171578836326034)

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The congregational response to “We pray to God” is “Lord, hear our prayer.”

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, we bring our thanksgivings and concerns to the throne of grace.

We pray for

  • Justin, the Archbishop of Canterbury;
  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops;
  • Beth, our Rector;

and all lay and clergy members of the the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for economic justice, environmental stewardship, good government, and a better society.  We pray especially for

  • those who struggle with financial, career, job, and/or vocational issues;
  • those who suffer because of tyrants and violence; and
  • those who suffer because of the apathy or prejudices of their neighbors.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for shalom among people everywhere.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for everything which causes God to rejoice, especially

  • the beauty of the natural world;
  • the beauty which people have created;
  • [the birth of G, son/daughter of H and I;]
  • loving relationships;
  • X, Y, and Z, who celebrate their birthdays this week; and
  • A and B, C and D, and E and F, who celebrate their anniversaries this week.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for all military personnel, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for others for whom we care, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who have died, that they will have eternal rest.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

[The celebrant concludes with a Collect.]

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT KATHARINE DREXEL, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CUNEGOND OF LUXEMBOURG, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS THEN NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERVINUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN AND CHARLES WESLEY, ANGLICAN PRIESTS