Why is this day unique in the annals of Lent Madness 2017? It is the ONLY non-weekday battle of the season. Yes, we’re amazing at math. Thus the first Saturday of every season includes the one and only weekend battle of Lent Madness (trust us – we’ve done the math).
Yesterday Henry Beard Delany romped to a first round victory over Aelred of Rievaulx 78% to 22%. He’ll go on to face the winner of Anselm of Canterbury vs. Florence Nightingale in the Saintly Sixteen.
Enjoy your Sunday devotions on the First Sunday in Lent (make sure to tell everybody at coffee hour just how much you love Lent Madness) and we’ll get back to voting first thing Monday Morning as John Wycliffe takes on Moses the Black!
Isaac the Syrian
Isaac the Syrian, also know as Isaac of Nineveh, was born around 630 in eastern Arabia. At a young age he entered a monastery, where he dedicated himself to asceticism—a practice of withdrawing from the world in order to build a deeper spiritual life. Having spent countless hours studying in the monastery’s library, he became a renowned theologian.
After spending years as a monk, Isaac was consecrated Bishop of Nineveh, but he didn’t enjoy his new office and abdicated five months later. He then relocated to the wilderness of Mount Matout, where he lived as a hermit in solitude for many years. It is said that he ate only three loaves of bread and some uncooked vegetables each week. Old and blind, he eventually retired to the Assyrian monastery of Shabar in Mesopotamia, where he died and was buried.
Isaac was a prolific writer whose sermons about the inner spiritual life and the work of the Holy Spirit are considered key to understanding asceticism in the early church. His manuscripts in Syrian Arabic have survived for many centuries in Greek, Arabic, and Russian translations. His teachings about God’s providence, faith, prayer, obedience, and neighborly love have inspired generations of Christians and continue to be translated and published in many languages.
Because he avoided weighing in on the theological debates of his day, he is venerated and appreciated in many different Christian traditions, including the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the (non-Chalcedonian) Oriental churches. His feast is celebrated on January 28.
Collect for Isaac the Syrian
God of unsearchable wisdom, we thank you for the spirited life of our brother Isaac the Syrian, who wrote and prayed in companionship with you alone. Help us, like Isaac, relentlessly seek your wisdom and adore your face as you show it to us in the faces of our neighbors, family, friends, and all those who may be different from us. Amen.
Mechtild of Magdeburg
Born to a wealthy Saxon family around 1210, Mechtild of Magdeburg received the first of the daily visions that would come to her for the rest of her life at the tender age of 12. She called these her divine “greetings” from the Holy Spirit.
Leaving her family in 1230 “in order to dwell in the love of God,” she joined a Beguine community in Magdeburg, Germany. These intentional communities of the faithful stressed imitation of Christ’s life through religious devotion, voluntary poverty, and care of the poor and sick.
Dwelling in community in Magdeburg for forty years, Mechtild received spiritual instruction from the Dominicans. Mechtild’s confessor, Heinrich von Halle, encouraged her to write down her spiritual experiences and visions. From about 1250 until 1270, she wrote six of her seven volumes series, Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of the Godhead).
Mechtild’s descriptions of her daily visions are filled with passion. Besides being written by a woman when most women were neither literate nor educated, Mechtild composed her work in middle-low German while most religious literature was being written in Latin.
Mechtild’s devotional poetry is reminiscent of both love poetry and folk songs. Her books offer an account of the ecstatic, passionate experience of personal daily greetings from the Holy Spirit, in addition to her courageous condemnation of vices practiced by the clergy of her day. Mechtild’s writings were distributed widely during her lifetime and brought her much criticism— but her work was also deeply admired by and influential for other medieval mystics. Her writings indicate that Mechtild’s life was complicated by serious illnesses. In approximately 1270, blind and living alone, she was taken in by the convent of Helfta near Eisleben for the final years of her life. While in this community, the nuns cared for her, and she dictated her seventh book.
The exact date of her death in the late 1200s is unknown. Around 1290, Dominican friars of the Halle community translated the first six of her books into Latin. The feast of Mechtild of Magdeburg is November 19.
Collect for Mechtild of Magdeburg
Almighty God, we praise you for your servant, Mechtild of Magdeburg, through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life. Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Isaac the Syrian vs. Mechtild of Magdeburg
- Mechtild of Magdeburg (77%, 5,394 Votes)
- Isaac the Syrian (23%, 1,570 Votes)
Total Voters: 6,964