Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,  that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,  that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

These 35 words are the second statement of the Declaration of Independence and formed the cornerstone of an idea of a free and independent democracy, whose government would be comprised of the people instead of those born to title and privilege. 

Perhaps on this Sunday preceding the 4th of July we as a people need to pause in prayerful reflection on the importance of our Declaration of Independence.

What prompted these men to risk their lives, property and reputations?  Any such action on their part smacked of treachery to the crown and was punishable by hanging with confiscation of their property and assets.

In his book Justifying America, author Stephen Lucas called these words "one of the best-known sentences in the English language," while history professor and author Joseph Ellis said they were some of the "most potent and consequential words in American history." 

Today in light of the rampant disregard of the Constitution of these United States by those now serving in the Executive branch of our government as a citizenry we need to stop and reflect on those precious liberties that are now in jeopardy. .

While the Declaration of Independence is woven into the fabric of America's story, some may be surprised to learn this historical document has a tale all its own. 

The History 
The First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia's Carpenters Hall on September 5, 1774. The idea of such a meeting was advanced a year earlier by Benjamin Franklin, but failed to gain much support until after the Port of Boston was closed in response to the Boston Tea Party.

Twelve of the 13 colonies sent delegates. Georgia decided against roiling the waters; they were facing attacks from the restive Creek Indians on their borders and desperately needed the support of the regular British soldiers.

The Congress, which continued in session until late October, did not advocate independence; it sought rather to right the wrongs that had been inflicted on the colonies and hoped that perhaps  a unified voice would gain them a hearing in London.

Some of the most prominent figures of the era were among the 55 delegates in attendance, including George Washington, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, John Jay and John Dickinson.

They were mostly people of social standing and made their livings from trade, farming and the law. Many were initially unknown to one another and vast differences existed on some of the issues facing them, but important friendships flourished. Frequent dinners and gatherings were held and were attended by all except the spartan Sam Adams.

Major actions taken by the Congress included the following:

Galloway Plan of Union.
The first order of business was consideration of Pennsylvania conservative Joseph Galloway's plan of union, which urged creation of an American parliament to act in concert with the existing British body.  On matters relating to America, each was to have veto power over the other's actions. Galloway was attempting to reconcile the simmering differences held by England and America. Opinion on this proposal was sharply divided.

 Before the Galloway proposal could be decided, Paul Revere rode into town bearing the Suffolk Resolves, which were a series of political statements that had been forwarded to Philadelphia by a number of Boston-area communities.  

The Suffolk document denounced the Intolerable Acts, or Coercive Acts, that had recently been passed by the British Parliament, and specifically resolved to:

1.    boycott British imports, curtail exports, and refuse to use British products;

2.    pay "no obedience" to the Massachusetts Government Act or the Boston Port Bill;

3.    demand resignations from those appointed to positions under the Massachusetts Government Act;

4.    refuse payment of taxes until the Massachusetts Government Act was repealed;

5.    support a colonial government in Massachusetts free of royal authority until the Intolerable Acts were repealed;

6.    urge the colonies to raise militia of their own people.

The resulting discussion further polarized the Congress. The radical elements eventually gained the upper hand; a majority of the colonies voted to endorse the Resolves and against Galloway's plan.

Up to this point it had all started out as our forefathers had all of the taxation with out representation they could handle. Much like today’s political situation concerning the Health Care Act of today which in colonial times meant more unwanted taxes.  There had been some minor skirmishes back and forth but never a really organized stand against the British.

Fighting really began in the Revolutionary War in April 1775 at the battle of Lexington and Concord in what were then the British American colonies. Shortly after this engagement was the now famous Battle of Bunker Hill, which was a tactical victory for the British, but an extremely costly one due to the amount of casualties the untrained colonists using skills of cover and concealment which were learned from fighting the Indians consequently caused large numbers of causalities on Great Britain's professional army. 

After Bunker Hill, the colonial delegates met again at the Second Continental Congress in July 1775 and sent the Olive Branch Petition, a document attempting to seek peace with Britain, to the King of England. 

As you can easily guess it was summarily rejected and the fighting continued. 

Finally, on June 7, 1776, an aggressive colonial delegate from Virginia named Richard Henry Lee, who was great-uncle to the later famous Robert Everett Lee, made the resolution many were afraid to hear, and some had tried to avoid. 

"Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved," Mr. Lee said, to the assembled congressional delegates. 

The assembled Continental Congress tabled the resolution for approximately three weeks until it could be debated again. Meanwhile, a committee was formed to draft a document explaining the colonists rationale behind their independence should Lee's resolution pass. 

The resolution was debated again until July 2. 
Finally, the assembled Congress voted for independence and John Adams, according to historical documents, predicted July 2 would be a day celebrated forever in America. 

July 2?  But isn't July 4 celebrated as Independence Day? 

Yes and here's why. 

The Congress voted for independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. But, the final version of Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence wasn't approved until July 4. Therefore, July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day. 

Other Declaration of Independence facts: 

· According to Harvard history professor David Armitage, the final approved copy of the declaration was sent to a nearby printing press owned by John Dunlap. Two-hundred copies were made, distributed to colonial cities, newspapers and one was sent directly to George Washington. Twenty-five exist today. George Washington had it read to his assembled troops on July 9th in New York, while they awaited the combined British fleet and army. This historical copy now resides in the Libary of Congress. His personal copy of the constitution was recently purchased at auction by the Mt Vernon Ladies Association Library for a price in excess of 9 nine million dollars.

· After a public reading of the declaration, a statue of King George was torn down in New York City, melted, and manufactured into musket balls. 

· Historian Julian Boyd pointed out there isn't a single document that can technically be regarded as the original Declaration of Independence. Historians know of at least five legitimately signed "original" copies. 

· Copies of the declaration were not published in British newspapers until mid-August 1776. 

· The signers of the declaration were not listed for public view until January 18, 1777.

· John Hancock's famous signature in the center of the document measures approximately five-inches long.  When he signed the document Hancock stated he wanted his signature to be large enough that King George could read it without his spectacles.

· There is actually writing on the back of the declaration. It reads, "Original Declaration of Independence, dated 4th July, 1776," and is on the bottom of the parchment and upside down. 

· Some historians believe the original document was not officially signed by all of the Congressional delegates until at least August 2, 1776. This remains in dispute today. 

The Declaration of Independence remains one of the most important and iconic documents that served as a springboard for a novel idea: a free and independent nation governed by its own citizens. 

Today we assemble here together as a fulfillment of the dedication of our forefathers in defending our religious and civil liberty. Let us never forget from whence we came and the faith of our fathers. AMEN


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Feast of St Peter and St Paul


This feast day commemorates the martyrdom of the two great Apostles, assigned by tradition to the same day of June in the year 67. They had been imprisoned in the famous Mamertine Prison of Rome and both had foreseen their approaching death. Saint Peter was crucified; Saint Paul, a Roman citizen, was slain by the sword. Tomorrow the Church commemorates the Apostle of the Gentiles; today is dedicated primarily to Saint Peter.

The Chief of the Apostles was a native of Galilee like Our Lord. As he was fishing on its large lake he was called by Our Lord to be one of His apostles. Peter was poor and unlearned, but candid, eager, and loving. In his heart, first of all, his conviction grew, and then from his lips came the spontaneous confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Our Lord chose him and prepared him to be the Rock on which He would build His Church, His Vicar on earth, the Head and Prince of His Apostles, the center and indispensable bond of the Church’s unity, the unique channel of all spiritual powers, the guardian and unerring teacher of His truth.

All Scripture is alive with Saint Peter; his name appears no fewer than 160 times in the New Testament. But it is after Pentecost that he stands out in the full grandeur of his office. He sees to the replacement of the fallen disciple; he admits the Jews by thousands into the fold and in the person of Cornelius, opens it to the Gentiles; he founds and for a time rules the Church at Antioch.

Ten years after the Ascension Saint Peter transferred his apostolic capital to Rome, going in person to the center of the majestic Roman Empire, where were gathered the glories and riches of the earth, along with all the powers of evil. From there he sent Saint Mark, his valued secretary, to establish the Church of Alexandria in Egypt. In Rome Saint Peter’s Chair was placed; there for twenty-five years he labored at building up the great Roman Church. He was crucified by order of Nero and buried on the Vatican Hill, where now the Basilica stands which bears his name.

Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

About St. Irenaeus

What’s in a Name? – About the saint with the strange name.
Irenaeus (pronounced ir-ruh-Nay-us) is a Greek name, meaning “man of peace.”

St. Irenaeus was one of the key figures of early Orthodox Church history.

 St. Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor around the year 140. It is not known when he came to Gaul. He was a priest of the Church of Lyons during the persecution of 177 when St. Pothinus, first bishop of the city and the first martyr of Lyons, was put to death. Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop and twenty-five years later was martyred in his turn during a fresh persecution.

At a time when Gnostic sects threatened to undermine Christianity by a perversion of Christian thought, St. Irenaeus vigorously denounced all heresies and safeguarded unity of belief by laying down the principles of the doctrinal tradition of the Church. Born and raised in the Greek East, in the Roman province of Asia, he came to the West, where he became the great second century missionary bishop. Standard bearer for orthodox faith and life and tireless defender against all heresies and divisions, he is called the “Father of Catholic Theology.”

A man of passionate pastoral concern, in his own life and ministry he was true to his name and a model of the Church's unbroken chain of Living Tradition. For St. Irenaeus faithfully testified to the truth which he had received from his mentor, St. Polycarp, who had been taught by the holy Apostle John, who had been taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, himself. What a chain of faith and life!