One of the notable characteristics of the Liturgy of St. Gregory (and to a lesser degree the Liturgy of St. Tikhon) is the inclusion of a large number of names of saints of the Church (40+) in the Eucharistic Prayer. Many of these Saints are unknown to even the most serious churchgoer – so why are their names a part of the Canon (or prayer of consecration)? In the earliest days only the martyrs were mentioned, specifically local martyrs. This meant that the Church in Jerusalem could claim all of the apostles, while the Church of Rome remembered Peter and Paul. Later, saints who were not martyrs but called “confessors” because of their good profession of faith were commemorated as well. In the 4th century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem began to remember all of the departed bishops of the Jerusalem Church in the eucharistic prayer. Each local Church had its own list which included both the “universal saints” (e.g. the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles) and local saints who were the object of popular devotion. A part of the “canonization” of a saint was inserting his or her name into the Canon of the Mass.
The list in Rome took its current form under the direction of St. Gregory the Great (c. 595) and adds the names of early popes and martyrs, mostly Roman, to the list. Other saints, not in the Roman list, were commemorated elsewhere (e.g. Martin, Hilary, Augustine, Benedict) until the 16th century. The Orthodox Missal adopts the earlier practice of permitting the inclusion of “local saints” through the rubric “here individual saints may be named.” At St. Gregory’s we have kept the old Roman list, as it is the list established by our patron. To increase awareness of the “saints of the Canon,” the next several newsletters will contain a few sentences about each of these Holy men and women. We will not say anything concerning St. Mary, the Mother of God, as we say so much about her life throughout the year, but we will begin with Christ’s Holy Apostles…
Peter, chief of the apostles, first bishop of Antioch, then first bishop of Rome, crucified in Rome by order of Nero about the year 67. Feast day: June 29.
Paul, formerly a persecutor of Christians, a great missionary (sent out by the Church in Antioch). Founder of churches to whom he wrote his epistles. Beheaded by order of Nero about the year 67. Feast day: June 29.
Andrew, first called of the apostles, brought his brother Peter to meet Christ. A missionary throughout Asia Minor and parts of Russia, sometimes called the first bishop of Constantinople, crucified about the year 60 (perhaps in Patras, in Achaia). Feast day: November 30.
James, the Son of Zebedee, together with his brother John and Peter were the “inner circle” among the disciples, present with Christ at the Transfiguration and at other important times. The first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, he was beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa I in the year 44. Feast day: 25 July.
John, brother of James, was the youngest of the disciples. Entrusted with the care of St. Mary at the crucifixion of Christ. Author of a gospel, three letters, and “The Apocalypse.” The only apostle to die of old age, at Ephesus, in the year 100. Feast day: December 27.
Thomas, “the twin.” Slow at first to believe, but then steadfast in the faith. He evangelized the Parthians, then went to India where he was martyred. Feast day: December 21.
James, “the Less, ” the son of Alphaeus. One source identifies him as “James the brother of the Lord”, as the author of the Epistle of James and first bishop of Jerusalem. One source says that he was stoned to death in Jerusalem, another that he was crucified in Egypt. Feast day: May 1.
Philip, brought his friend Nathaniel to meet Christ. A missionary throughout Greece and Syria, crucified at Hierapolis. Feast Day: May 1.
Bartholomew, also called Nathaniel, preached in Syria, India, and throughout Asia Minor. Crucified with Philip but survived, only to be flayed alive in Armenia. Feast day: 24 August.
Matthew, a former tax collector, wrote his gospel for the Church in Antioch. After Pentecost he preached in many places including Macedonia, Syria, Persia, and Ethiopia (where he was martyred). Feast day: September 21.
Simon, the zealot. According to one source, it was his wedding in Cana at which Christ performed his first miracle. Simon preached in Egypt, Libya, by the shores of the Black Sea, and in Persia (where he may have been martyred, although an earlier source – St. Dorotheus of Gaza in 300 AD – places his martyrdom in Britain). Feast day: 28 October.
Thaddaeus, also called “Jude” or “Judas, not Iscariot.” He is identified as the brother of James, a relative of our Lord, and author of the Epistle of Jude. He preached in Syria and Mesopotamia and was martyred in Persia. Feast day: 28 October.
Of the many saints mentioned in the Canon of the Gregorian Liturgy, after the Holy Apostles follows a list of early martyrs held in veneration in Rome (only martyrs were venerated in those days, the exception being the Blessed Virgin Mary). Other than the fact of their martyrdoms and that they were remembered by the faithful in Rome as holy and devout men, little is known about many of them.
Linus, second bishop of Rome, after St. Peter, from c. 67-76. St. Paul sends greetings from a Christian of this name in II Timothy 4:21 and both St. Irenaeus and Eusebius of Caesarea say this was the Linus who became bishop after Peter. Feast day: 23 September.
Cletus, third bishop of Rome, from c. 76-88. Sometimes called “Anacletus” (from the Greek for “blameless”). The division of Rome into 25 parishes is attributed to him. Feast day: 26 April
Clement, fourth bishop of Rome, from c. 88-97. May have been a slave to a family related to the Emperor Domitian. St. Paul mentions him in Philippians 4:3. As bishop of Rome, Clement wrote to the Church in Corinth to address some of their continuing problems. Legend describes how he was banished during the reign of Trajan and forced to work in the mines (where he continued to preach the Christian gospel). He was tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea. Feast day: 23 November.
Sixtus, also spelled “Xystus,” two early popes held this name, Sixtus I the seventh pope (bishop from c. 117-127, Feast day: 6 April) and Sixtus II the 24th pope (bishop from 257-258, Feast day: 6 August). Sixtus II was one of the most highly venerated early martyrs. He helped restore relations with the Church in Africa which had been damaged over the controversy of rebaptism for heretics when entering the Church. Buried in the Catacombs of St. Callistus.
Cornelius, the 21st pope, from 251-253, following the fierce persecution of the Emperor Decius. Faced opposition from those objecting to his relatively lenient policy towards those who had lapsed during the persecutions. Died in exile at Civitavecchia. Buried in the Catacombs of St. Callistus. Feast Day: 16 September.
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in N. Africa (248-258). Survived the persecutions of Decius, then allowed the lapsed back into the Church following confession and suitable penance. Gave himself up to martyrdom during the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian. Left several important theological writings. Feast Day: 16 September.
Laurence, died in 258, one of the seven deacons of the city of Rome during the pontificate of Sixtus II. St. Ambrose tells us that during the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian, the Prefect of the City ordered Laurence to bring forth the treasures of the Church. In reply, Laurence gathered the poor who had received the alms of the Church and said “These are the treasure of the Church.” For this response Laurence was slowly roasted to death on a gridiron. Feast Day: 10 August.
Chrysogonus, died during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian (c. 304). The spiritual director of St. Anastasia, with whom he corresponded concerning the duties and behavior of Christians towards their pagan husbands and wives. Feast Day: 24 November.
John and Paul, Roman martyrs of the 4th century, about whom little is known. Legend has them serving the daughter of Constantine, converting a General to Christianity, and being killed by order of the Emperor Julian. Feast Day: 26 June
Cosmas and Damian, patron saints of physicians, and called wonderworkers and unmercenaries (because they gave their assistance without accepting payment). Witnessed to Christ before the Emperor Galerius. Died in 284. Feast Day: 26 September in the West, 1 July in the East.
In addition to the first list of apostles and martyrs near the beginning of the Gregorian Canon, another list occurs near the end when the celebrant prays that we too may be admitted into the company of the Saints. This second list complements the first, making mention of additional apostles and martyrs. As the first list began with the Mother of God in a place of special honor, so this list begins with St. John the Baptist, then continues with seven men and seven women. This list also was definitively established by St. Gregory the Great.
John – the Baptist, son of Ss. Elizabeth and Zechariah, cousin of the Lord, called “the Forerunner”. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and proclaimed “Behold, the Lamb of God…” For denouncing Herod’s marriage, John was imprisoned and then beheaded. Honored by the Church on the day of his Nativity (June 24) and his death (August 29).
Stephen – One of the seven deacons appointed in Acts 6:5 to assist in the distribution of alms and preaching. After preaching in defense of Christianity (recorded in Acts 7), he was stoned to death by the Jews, as he had a vision of Christ. Saul (later Paul) of Tarsus looked on as Stephen became the first martyr of the Church. His feast day is December 26.
Matthias – Chosen (by lot) by the eleven to replace the traitorous Judas, Matthias met the requirements of having been a follower of Christ from the beginning of his earthly ministry and a witness of the Resurrection (Acts 1). After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, his ministry probably began in Judaea and may have taken him to Cappadocia and Ethiopia. He was martyred and is honored by the church on February 24.
Barnabas – an early disciple of Jesus, Barnabas introduced Paul to the other apostles and went with Paul on the first missionary journey, sent out by the church in Antioch. Barnabas later returned to Cyprus, his homeland, to evangelize it. He is mentioned throughout the Acts of the Apostles, in Galatians 2 and in 1st Corinthians 9. His feast day is June 11.
Ignatius – Syrian by birth, Ignatius is believed to be the young child which Jesus held in Matthew 18:2. He became the third bishop of the church in Antioch around the year 69. As an old man, during the persecutions by the Emperor Trajan, he was sentenced to death and was taken, on foot, on the long journey to Rome for execution. During this journey, he wrote seven letters to various Christian communities which tell us much about the church in the generation after the death of the twelve apostles. He was thrown to the lions in the Colosseum and died in 107. Feast Day: February 1 in the West, December 20 in the East.
Alexander, – 6th Bishop of Rome, from c. 109-119. Martyred under the Emperor Hadrian after converting many of the Roman nobility to Christ. According to legend, it was Alexander who began both the practice of mixing some water with the wine in the chalice and the custom of keeping Holy Water in churches and in homes for protection against evil. Feast Day: May 3.
Marcellinus and Peter – Martyrs in Rome around the year 304; Marcellinus was a priest and Peter an exorcist. They were buried in the catacomb of Tiburtius over which a church was later built. Feast day together, 2 June.
Perpetua and Felicitas – Martyrs in Carthage around 203 in the persecution of Septimius Severus, who had forbidden new conversions to Christianity. The story of the imprisonment and martyrdom of the two women was recorded by eye-witnesses: Perpetua, a young mother, and her slave Felicitas (who was pregnant) were both catechumens, and were arrested and sent to prison (where Felicitas gave birth to a daughter) before being taken to the Roman “Games” for execution. There they were thrown to a wild heifer, but were not killed until the gladiator’s knife ended their ordeal. Their feast day is March 6.
Agatha – A young virgin who was martyred in Sicily. She was reportedly pursued by the local consul, whose advances she refused. She was arrested for being a Christian, cruelly tortured and eventually died in prison as a result of her ordeal. Feast day, February 5.
Lucy – Another young virgin who was severely tortured before her martyrdom at Syracuse in the Diocletian persecutions, in 304. Her name is included in calendars of the saints from an early time all over the Christian world – from Greece, to Italy, to England. Her feast day is December 13.
Agnes – Also a virgin who had refused marriage and consecrated herself to Christ, she was killed by the sword in 350 in Rome, and four years later, her name was included in a list of martyrs and a church was built over her tomb. We celebrate her feast day on January 21.
Cecilia – Another Roman martyr of the 3rd century. According to legend, she was betrothed to a pagan, who was converted (along with his brother) on their wedding day. All were arrested for being Christian and were subjected to several kinds of torture before being killed. Since the 16th century she has been the patron saint of musicians. Feast day: November 22.
Anastasia – With a pagan father who was a senator and a Christian mother, Anastasia was taught the Christian faith by St. Chrysogonus. Pressured by her father, she married a wealthy pagan, who abused her when he discovered that she was visiting the prisons and ministering to the Christian martyrs at night. After her husband’s death, Anastasia became widely known for her charity as well as other acts of mercy to the Christians in Rome. After the martyrdom of St. Chrysogonus, Anastasia went to Macedonia where, after arrest and numerous tortures, she was put to death in 304. Her feast day in the West is December 25 and so is rarely commemorated.