Monday, July 20, 2009

Today (7/20) is the feast of Saint Apollonaris.

Today (7/20) is the feast of Saint Apollonaris. Tradition has it that Peter, himself, ordained him bishop of Ravenna. He was sent a missionary bishop there during the reign of Claudius. He had a great reputatution as a healer for Christ. He suffered torture, exiles, and ultimately death. An evangelist, as any true missionary must be, his tortures at one point culminated in their beading his mouth with stones to shut him up. They sent him to Greece where his presences caused the oracles to cease. You could say he made Christ's enemies dumb. In the words of today's Proper, "This holy man fought to the death for the law of his God, never cowed by the threats of the wicked; his house was built on solid rock."

You see pictured the aspe of S.Apollinare en Classe. Revenna was a major port in Late antiquity. Ravenna was the capital of the Western Empire from 402 A.D. and the imperial capital in Italy when Justinian reclaimed it for the new Rome. This basilica and S.Apollinare Nuovo are what churches should be. They were built fifteen hundred years ago and have hardly been renovated since. You can see them as they were. The martyr is shown as a shepherd surrounded by his sheep. Jesus reigns above him.

Note the altar comes out from the wall. This allows the celebrant to walk around the altar, but it is clear that the mass is said to the east, the direction of the rising Sun/Son. I suspect this better in keeping with the General Instruction than the turn around altars of the last forty years when the Western liturgy has wandered in the desert.

The nave is lined with mosaics of the saints, martyrs, and angels, our coparticipants in the divine liturgy. They are less spectacular than those in S.Apollinare Nuovo. (The latter is marred by turn around altar in the nave.) There is a remarkable amount of light in these buildings, a reminder of the importance of creating interior light in the world before electricity. We do not feel older eras' awe of Christ who is the Light of the World.

Again from today's Proper: "Lord, may the mysteries we reeive give us spiritual courage which made your martyr, Saint Apollinaris, faithful in your service and victorious in his suffering. Grant this in the name of Jesu the Lord."

Saint Apollinaris pray for us.

Professor Tolkien join us in praying for the liturgy.