Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio's Conversion of St. Paul


Today marks the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This is a very ancient observance in the Church and it is a day in recent history on which many things have occurred. So, with no further adieu I direct you to two posts that tell you the significance of this day in recent history. I will begin locally by pointing to Gregory Glenn's post on our parish blog The People of St. Mary Magdalene and, then, for the universal Church, link you to Rocco over at Whispers.

Acts 26,9-20 is St. Paul's account before King Agrippa of his conversion. It is worth noting the words of Jesus to Saul, which I have underlined. Notice how our gentle Lord deals with even the most notorious sinner, even one who had the blood of His holy people on his hands, most notably that of the deacon, St. Stephen:

"I myself once thought that I had to do many things against the name of Jesus the Nazorean, and I did so in Jerusalem. I imprisoned many of the holy ones with the authorization I received from the chief priests, and when they were to be put to death I cast my vote against them. Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities. On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.' And I said, 'Who are you, sir?' And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen (of me) and what you will be shown. I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you, to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.' And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance."

Writing about doing "works giving evidence of repentance", with sundown, which occurs at 5:36 pm this evening, comes Friday, our day of abstinence and penance. So, like the wise virgins, think about how you will observe tomorrow while it is still today. Will you abstain the meat of flesh animals (i.e., warm-blooded creatures), which is the traditional way of observing Friday? Or, will you fast, abstain from sweets and/or alcohol? For married couples, by mutual consent, will you abstain from sexual relations? Will you give alms to a charity, perform works of charity, etc.? As I have mentioned in the past, it is entirely up to you whether to observe Friday at all and, if you decide to observe Friday, it is entirely up to you how. I will state that it seems a shame to pass up any opportunity to conform ourselves to Christ.

Sancte Paulus ora pro nobis. Have a happy Feast day.

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