Monday, January 25, 2016

The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle

Today the church remembers The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle.

Paul has been called by some modern writers "the true founder of the church" and even "the first Christian." Although we may reject such statements as exaggerations, they do reflect the enormous importance of this man in the development of our faith and our community in history.

The occasion of Paul's conversion has long been regarded as a major turning point in Christian history. He had been an enthusiastic Jew, a Pharisee, in fact, and had studied under one of the great rabbis of his day, Gamaliel. Paul advocated and witnessed the stoning of Stephen (see December 26) and was enroute to Damascus to assist in the further persecution of the Christians there when his dramatic conversion took place. 

From then on his life was totally devoted to the service of Christ, and especially to the conversion of non-Jewish people. His letters and the Book of Acts give us a wealth of information regarding his life and work. He founded churches in Philippi, Athens, Thessalonica, Corinth, and many other important cities of his day. He is generally believed to have died with Peter in Rome, a victim of the persecution of Nero.

The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle is a feast celebrated during the liturgical year on January 25, recounting the conversion. This feast is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. This feast is at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an international Christian ecumenical observance that began in 1908, which is an octave (an eight-day observance) spanning from January 18 (observed in Anglican and Lutheran tradition as the Confession of Peter) to January 25. In rural England, the day functioned much like groundhog day does in modern day America. Supposed prophecies ranged from fine days predicting good harvests, to clouds and mists signifying pestilence and war in the coming months.

O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you
through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world.

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Meditation for January 25, 2016

Matthew 10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time.

We’ve all searched for the right words to offer a friend in need of guidance. And most of us have probably found our tongues tied during a passionate exchange over right and wrong. Sometimes, my fear of saying the wrong thing keeps me from speaking up at all.

This verse from Matthew’s Gospel reminds me of a truth I already know: when we speak out of love, saying something is better than remaining silent. This is true when speaking to people we love and when we speak to power. Whether we are offering comfort to a friend or lobbying for change in our community, we will eventually think of the right words to say. They may not always be the most beautiful words, but the fact that we have the courage to speak (and that we do so out of love) is often enough to make a difference.

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.