Vol. 2, Issue 20
December 10, 2007
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) COGITEM -- Quit You Like Men
2) DE ASTRIS -- The Return of the Winter Constellations
3) ANNO DOMINI -- The Collects of Advent
4) SIC LOCUTUS -- Clyde Pharr
COGITEM -- Quit You Like Men
Aias, the huge Achaian (Greek) warrior in Homer's Iliad, stands on the decks of the Achaian ships at the end of book 15 when the Trojans have surrounded the Achaians and are about to destroy them. He keeps up a roar of defiance against the Trojans and fends them off with a gigantic sea pike; at the same time he shouts encouragement to his despairing comrades, "aneres este, philoi!" That is, "Be men, dear friends!" Homer uses this phrase, or close variants, a number of other times in the Iliad but Aias's cry here is particularly poignant because he continues to shout and fight even though, as Homer tells us, he believes he is about to die.
The apostle Paul says to the Corinthian Christians, near the end of the first letter to their church, "watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." The single Greek word translated into the four English words "quit you like men" is "andrizesthe", which means exactly the same thing as Aias said: "be men!" or "show yourselves men!" Now, that word is common in classical Greek and the Septuagint (the 3rd century B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament used heavily by the New Testament writers). But Homer's poems were far and away the most profoundly influential and well-known works in the ancient world and so it's very difficult to imagine that the Corinthian Greek Christians did not hear echoes of Homer when they heard Paul. They were to defend the faith as the Achaian or Trojan warriors defended their camps, their homes, their lives, and their friends; they were to be like Aias as he defended his ships, standing fast, watching every movement of the enemy, showing strength in the face of nearly certain death, never giving up, being a true man.
DE ASTRIS -- The Return of the Winter Constellations
On any clear night now, step outside between ten and eleven o'clock. In almost any location, even in a city, you should be able to see Orion high in the southeast. If the skies are dark enough, following a line through his belt to the right and up will lead you to the bright star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus, and continuing the line will lead you to the Pleiades, a faint jewel-like cluster of stars nearly overhead. Following the line in the opposite direction, down and to the left from the belt, you'll find Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. Low in the sky, it scintillates, flashing every color of the spectrum as you watch. If you have clear skies and can see down to the horizon you'll see Leo, the Lion, rising in the east, rearing head and forepaws up; and you'll see the Northern Cross setting, standing upright as it sinks gracefully into the northwestern horizon.
ANNO DOMINI -- The Collects of Advent
Before the eighth century after Christ, Christmas was considered to be the beginning of the Christian year. But since that century (the age of Bede) the Advent season has been considered the beginning of the Christian year in the West (for the Eastern Orthodox Church the Church year begins September 1). And from that time to the present, the basic outline of the services of daily Morning and Evening Prayers and of the Sunday service in the Book of Common Prayer (and all its variants throughout the English-speaking world) has remained unchanged, though there have been countless changes in details. (And since the Book of Common Prayer has had a profound influence on the Protestant world I refer to it regularly in these discussions of the Church calendar.)
The Collects are short general prayers for each Sunday and are also used all the following week in daily Morning and Evening Prayers. (The word is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable in this usage.) Many of the collects in the year date from late Roman times or the early middle ages, but the collects for the first three Sundays in Advent were written in the Reformation by Thomas Cranmer (the Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII). He revised the terribly complicated system of Medieval English liturgy books in the Middle Ages into the single service book used from his time to the present, the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican and Episcopalian communions, and gave it the Reformational emphasis it now has.
The Collect for the first Sunday in Advent is to be repeated all season after the other weekly Collects, because it contains the theme of the season, Christ's first and second comings. If you've subscribed to Scholegium since last Advent, go to Schola's homepage and click on the link for Scholegium's Archives, then read last year's article on "The Spirit of Advent" and then the one on "Bible Sunday", the second Sunday in Advent, and the collect for it which focuses on reading and knowing Scripture.
"In the whole circle of Greek literature the two authors most important for the student of the New Testament are Homer and Plato. Herodotus informs us that Homer and Hesiod were the chief sources of the Greek popular religion; and certainly one cannot obtain a clear grasp of the forces opposed to Christianity without a good knowledge of Homer and of the hold that Homer had upon the popular mind. If one is to read intelligently the works of the early church fathers, he must be well acquainted at first hand with Homer. It is Homer, Homer's religion, and Homer's gods wich recur constantly in their works and which are attacked over and over again as being the bulwarks of the heathen faith which they are striving to supplant. Homer and the ideas he represents are infinitely more important for the student of the New Testament and of the early church ..."
--Clyde Pharr, Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners
(COGITEM -- "Let me think"; DE ASTRIS = "Concerning the Stars"; ANNO DOMINI = "In the year of our Lord"; SIC LOCUTUS = "As he has said")