Archive for the ‘Isaiah 46-48’ Category

Psalms 56-58   2 comments

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POST XXI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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The righteous man will rejoice when he sees revenge;

he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Men will say,

“There is, then, a reward for the righteous;

there is, indeed, divine justice on the earth.”

–Psalm 58:11-12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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So much for loving one’s enemies and praying for one’s enemies!

“You have heard that they were told, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But what I tell you is this:  Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so you can be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on the good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked.  If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Even the tax-collectors do as much as that.  If you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that?  Even the heathen do as much.  There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”

–Matthew 5:43-48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The vengeful tone of Psalm 58 troubles me.  It is inconsistent with the highest ideals of Judaism (such as healing the world) and with the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth, who forgave those who had him crucified and who consented to his crucifixion (Luke 23:24).  I argue with the author of Psalm 58; the righteous man grieves when he sees vengeance and rejoices when he witnesses reconciliation and repentance.  After all, revenge is not justice.  This seems to be a point lost on the upset martyrs in Heaven in Revelation 6:9-11.

Consider, O reader, Psalm 57, allegedly of David after having fled from King Saul, who was trying repeatedly to kill him.  The superscription refers to a story of which two versions–in 1 Samuel 24 and 26–exist, thanks to the reality of multiple sources edited together into one narrative.  In both versions of the story David, who has the opportunity to kill Saul, spares the monarch’s life instead and lets him know it.  David refuses to take revenge, even though his magnanimity continues to place his life at great risk.

A note regarding Psalm 56 in Volume IV (1996) of The New Interpreter’s Bible makes a wonderful point.  J. Clinton McCann, Jr., writes that the author of that psalm

professes that true security is a divine gift rather than a human achievement.  The fundamental mistake of the wicked is their belief that they can make it on their own, that they can find hope in exploiting others (v. 6; see Isa. 47:10).  The psalmist knows better.  Because security is ultimately a gift from God, no human action can take it away.

–Page 902

The true security from God is a form of security that the world does not recognize as security at all.  Indeed, many of the faithful (as in Revelation 6:9-11) have difficulty seeing it for what it is.  Who can blame them?  This is, after all, counter-intuitive.  This true security is the security of the Jew (whose name has not come down to me) who, during the Holocaust, while having to perform a degrading task as a concentration camp guard taunted him with the question,

Where is your God now?,

answered,

He is here beside me, in the muck.

This is inner security, so no outside human source can take it away.

May we, thusly secure, refrain from seeking revenge.  This is a matter of our character, not that of our enemies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part IX   1 comment

icon-of-the-crucifixion

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Nahum 2:1-13 or Isaiah 48:1-22

Psalm 71:15-24

Matthew 27:31b-56 or Mark 15:20b-44 or Luke 23:33-49 or John 19:17-30

Romans 13:1-7; 14:13-23

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Romans 13:1-7 is a troublesome passage.  Should one always submit to government?  Some of my heroes from the past include those who helped slaves escape to freedom in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and sheltered Jews or helped them escape in defiance of the Third Reich.  Besides, merely obeying law is what Kohlberg called Conventional Morality, which is not the highest form of morality on that scale, nor should it be.

Anyhow, reading Romans 13:1-7 on the same day with the crucifixion of Jesus seems ironic.

The readings, taken together, point toward mercy.  Even the judgment of God, as in Nahum 2:1-13, exists in the context of mercy for the rescued.  The mighty acts of God also testify to mercy.  And the death of Jesus does too.  One should, of course, complete that story with the resurrection, or else one will have a dead Jesus perpetually.  Sometimes mercy requires defiance of civil authority; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/devotion-for-proper-27-year-d/

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Missing the Point, Part II   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:1-24 or 59:1-21

Psalm 55

Matthew 15:1-20 or Mark 7:1-20

1 Timothy 4:1-6

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But you, O God, will make them descend to the sludgy Pit.

Let not men of idols and figurines live out their days.

For my part, I trust in you.

–Psalm 55:24, Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II (1968)

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A recurring theme in the Psalms is the sliminess of Sheol.  That is the kind of detail one can learn from Biblical scholars.

Those “men of idols and figurines” missed the point.  All evildoers who think vainly that God does not know their plans have missed the point.  Those who perpetuate social injustice and imagine that God has not noticed have missed the point.  Those who obsess over minor details of ritual purity laws while condoning the practice of denying necessary funds to people have missed the point.  (This is an echo of a theme from certain Hebrew prophets.)  Those who teach deceitful doctrines have missed the point.

One might miss the point for any one of a set of reasons.  One might be one of the blind led by other blind people and worse, leading other blind people, to borrow and expand upon a figure of speech from the Gospels.  One might be defending tradition as one understands God to have handed it down, as in 1 Timothy 4.  One might not care about not missing the point.  Or one might be self-serving and prone to interpreting morality through that distorted lens.

Heresies are legion, as they have been for a very long time.  A few generalizations regarding them are worth pondering:

  1. Objective religious truth exists.  For lack of a better name, let us call it God.
  2. The degree to which we can know doctrinal truth is restricted, due to the fact that we are mere mortals.
  3. The definition of orthodoxy changes over time, even within any given ecclesiastical institution.  Consider, for example, O reader, the evolution of theology in Roman Catholicism.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, who were orthodox in their time, became heretics ex post facto.
  4. Objective truth does not change.
  5. Many heresies began as attempts to pronounce orthodoxy in specific circumstances.
  6. Every person is somebody’s heretic.
  7. Every person is somewhat heretical.

We are left to do our best, trusting in God’s grace and commanded to love one another.  Christ is our Savior and exemplar.  The historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity, however that worked.  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who not only spoke of loving one’s neighbors but modeled that behavior, even unto death.

Jesus did not miss the point.

By grace, may we not miss it either.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-7-year-d/

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How Long, O Lord?   1 comment

Herodian Temple with Antonia Fortress

Above:  The Herodian Temple and the Antonia Fortress

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 47:1-9 (Friday)

Isaiah 47:10-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 91:9-16 (Both Days)

Revelation 17:1-18 (Friday)

Luke 22:24-30 (Saturday)

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In the Life of Brian (1979), a brilliant spoof of organized religion and of old-school Biblical movies, but not of Jesus or the Bible, Jewish Palestinian rebels meet to discuss how little the Roman Empire has done for them.  The partisans come up with a long list, however.  The scene is funny, but it does not constitute a defense of imperialism.  The fact is that imperialism can bring many benefits to the conquered and occupied populations, but a host of indignities and abuses accompanies the benefits.  For all the roads, schools, bridges, and aqueducts, living under occupation comes with a psychological burden.  This reality indicates that the main beneficiary of imperialism is the imperial power.

On a literal level Isaiah 47 condemns the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and Revelation 17 does the same with regard to the Roman Empire.  In a broader sense, however, they condemn all authorities based on violence, oppression, and hubris.  Such authorities exist, as some always have at any given time.  Names, locations, and ideological foundations change, but such tyranny has never ceased to exist since the dawn of human governments.

Our Lord and Savior rejected the standards of these authorities.  They claim to be benefactors, he said, but they are not.  Jesus went on to propose a different standard of greatness:  service.

But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.

–Luke 22:25-27, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Psalm 91 seems too optimistic to me, for it speaks of the faithful finding deliverance (via God) from peril.  This happens sometimes and has occurred often, of course, but many of the faithful have become martyrs instead.  I think of the martyrs in Heaven in the Revelation of John asking “how long?”  Nevertheless, I affirm that God provides justice for the faithful eventually and that all violent regimes collapse in time–frequently too late for my taste, however.  That is an issue to take up with God faithfully, in the tradition of other Psalms and those martyrs from the Apocalypse of John.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-24-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Idolatry and Legalism   1 comment

Jesus Healing the Man with a Withered Hand

Above:  Jesus Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 46:1-13

Psalm 147:1-11, 20

Matthew 12:9-14

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Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

–Psalm 147:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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An idol is anything (tangible or otherwise) which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol can be a doctrine, an activity, an object, or a figment of one’s imagination.  It need not necessarily be bad; it can be inherently neutral, in fact, for how we think of it makes it an idol.  I am convinced that the Bible is frequently an idol, given how many people put it in the place of God.  The sacred anthology ought, of course, to function as an icon–something through which one sees God.

We read of two different types of idols in the lessons for today.  There are old school false deities and images thereof in Isaiah 46.  Monotheism took a long time to take hold among the Hebrews, hence the many condemnations of idolatry in the Old Testament.  Our Lord and Savior confronted the idol of legalism in Matthew 12:9-14, for he healed on the Sabbath.  Rules said that he should have done that on another day.  To save a life and to provide the most minimal first aid on the Sabbath were “legal,” but healing was not.  Yet, as Jesus demonstrated every day is a good day to perform a good deed.

I suspect that legalists think of themselves as righteous seekers after God.  They are simply following the rules, I think they tell themselves.  Yet they mistake the means for the end.  And, as a result, they often oppose compassionate deeds on a technicality.  As I wrote in the previous post, alleged orthodoxy means far less than sound orthopraxy.  And, if God is love, is not compassion sound orthopraxy?

May we reject all idols, including those which seem to be of God.

DECEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 6, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 46-48, Matthew 12, Psalm 147

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Judgment and Mercy, Part V   1 comment

Cyrus II

Above:  King Cyrus II of Persia

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 48:1-5 (Thursday)

Isaiah 49:6-11 (Friday)

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13 (Both Days)

Romans 2:12-16 (Thursday)

Romans 15:14-21 (Friday)

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You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

–Psalm 65:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I recall a hypothetical situation I heard while growing up:  There is a man whom God is drawing to God’s self.  This man responds positively to these summons, but he dies before he can make a profession of Christian faith, much less accept baptism.  Where does he spend his afterlife?

One’s answer reveals quite a bit about one’s theology.  I, unlike, certain others, refuse to relegate the man to Hell.  He was, after all, responding faithfully to God.  The man might not have been able to provide their proper answers according to a catechism, but he was not rebelling against God.  Would not God be faithful to the man who had obeyed him each step along the way?  And, as the author of the Letter of James would confirm, not everybody who can give the correct catechetical answer will make the heavenly cut.  I recall that from Matthew 25:31-46 also.

In God abide both judgment and mercy.  The combined reading from Isaiah 48 makes this point succinctly.  St. Paul the Apostle agrees.  And, regarding the centrality of Christ to salvation for Gentiles, I agree while being reluctant to make sweeping and probably inaccurate judgments.  No, I prefer to err on the side of mercy if I must be wrong.  Besides, that decision rests with God alone, not with any of us, mere mortals.

I find, as is so often true in my experience, that The Book of Common Prayer (1979) provides helpful prayers and theology.  The Good Friday service includes this on page 279 of the Prayer Book:

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;

For those who have never heard the word of salvation

For those who have lost their faith

For those hardened by sin or indifference

For the contemptuous and the scornful

For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and persecutors of his disciples

For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others

That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience.

Then, on the next page, we find this:

Let us commit ourselves to our God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world and have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection.

May we, without mistaking Universalism for reality, never give short shrift to divine mercy.  Likewise, may we avoid the same error regarding divine judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-10-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Old and the New   1 comment

restless-weaver

Above:  The Copyright Information for “Restless Weaver,” an Excellent 1988 and 1993 Hymn, Number 658 in Chalice Hymnal (1995)

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 48:12-21

Psalm 40:6-17

Matthew 9:14-17

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 48:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/thirteenth-day-of-advent/

Matthew 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/week-of-proper-8-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad;

let those who love your salvation say always, “The Lord is great.”

–Psalm 40:17, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The words of a dying church, I have heard, are

We’ve never done it that way before.

The Bible speaks again and again of God doing new things and provides examples–the main one being the Incarnation and all that flowed from it.  The tension between the traditional and the innovative is an old story.  One can find both gold and dross among both the old and the new.  Yet how can one distinguish between the dross and the gold?

That is a difficult question, one worth wrestling with over time.  My study of the past tells me that hindsight proves useful.  Traditional interpretations of the Bible in the Antebellum U.S. South affirmed chattel slavery.  Thus, according to that standard, abolitionists were heretics.  Yet the alleged heretics were really the orthodox and the alleged orthodox were really the heretics.  The new was superior to the old.   Yet hindsight does not exist in the moment.  That is a problem.

Here is another example:  I like hymns with theologically deep words.  These hymns might be old or new.  Their value does not depend on their age.  But “seven-eleven songs”–songs with seven words one sings eleven times–are dross.  Thus I despise praise songs and choruses, heaping upon them a great amount of undying contempt for their shallowness.

Striking the proper balance between the old and the new can prove difficult.  I propose a standard from Philip H. Pfatteicher, an expert on Lutheran liturgy.  He wrote:

…the new is not always found in opposition to the old but arises from the old as its natural growth and development.  Stability and continuity are essential elements of catholic Christianity.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), page 10

It is good to remember that our traditions began as innovations.  They became traditions only with the passage of time.  And neither theology nor liturgy should function as museums.  Yet neither ought the faddish displace the tried-and-true, as my studies of liturgical development have revealed.  (Some 1970-1972 liturgies have not aged well.)

Furthermore, some issues are questions purely of taste, with no right or wrong involved.  One ought to recall that also.

Isaiah 48:12-21 condemns the faithlessness of both Chaldea and Judah yet ends with the promise of the redemption of the latter.

If you had only listened to my commands,

verse 18a reads in The Revised English Bible (1989).  The commands of God are old sometimes and new on other occasions, from our temporal perspectives.  May we, by grace, identify these commands and follow them, separating the new and worthy from the new and faddish and the old and worthy from the old and erroneous.  So, with the worthy old and the worthy new, may we rejoice in the Lord.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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