Florence Nightingale died on this day in 1910. She is honored throughout the world as the founder of the modern profession of nursing.
Trained as a nurse in Germany, she briefly superintended a hospital In London.
In 1854, responding to God’s call and animated by a spirit of service, she volunteered for duty during the Crimean War and recruited 38 nurses to join
her. As they worked in British field hospitals to organize the first modern nursing service, they radically reduced the high death toll and infection rate that had prevailed there. Wounded soldiers called Florence “the Lady with the Lamp” from her late-night rounds to check on them.
After returning to England, Florence Nightingale founded an institution in London for the training of nurses and published her main work, Notes on Nursing. She became a major advocate for public health in India and the role of statistics in medical care.
A lifelong Anglican, her religion sustained her through extended ill health. During her final years, unable to leave home, Florence Nightingale engaged in spiritual conversation with prominent religious leaders and regularly received Holy Communion.
Pray for nurses everywhere.
Today is the feast of St. Laurence, who was martyred in Rome on August 10, AD 258. He was one of the seven deacons of the Church there, assisting the Bishop, Pope Sixtus II. As the senior deacon (“archdeacon”) Lawrence had responsibility for maintenance of the Church’s possessions and for supervision of the distribution of alms.
During the persecution of the Emperor Valerian, immediately after Bishop Sixtus had been killed, the prefect of Rome summoned Laurence to municipal court. By this time Christian congregations were growing, although they were still illegal. They were attracting wealthy converts. There were rumors that the Church in Rome secretly possessed “treasures”—perhaps chalices and patens made with precious metals and jewels. The prefect gave Laurence three days to collect the Church’s treasured goods and surrender them to the court.
After three days Laurence returned to the court with a group of the most vulnerable people who were being cared for by the Church-- the impoverished, those who were crippled or blind, widows and orphans. He said to the prefect, “These are the treasures of our Church.” The prefect most likely replied with the Latin equivalent of “Oh, a smart ass, eh?” We’ll show you!” Having disrespected the court Lawrence was summarily put to death.
Still today we celebrate Laurence’s courage and his witness to true value over false value. He affirmed the preciousness of human life even at its most vulnerable. He showed that his Church’s chief treasure consisted in the mutual love and care that was shared among all Her members.
Today we present a recorded version of the service of Compline from Ascension and St. Agnes. Compline is traditionally the final prayers of the evening before one goes to bed. It is the last hour in the monastic Liturgy of Hours, the times in which monks gather to pray throughout the day. It deals with themes of safety through the night, protection for ourselves and for the world, and the guarding of our souls to everlasting life. The office does not change very much from day to day, like Vespers does, so it can be very easily learned and prayed every day. We’ve attached an order of service for you to be able to follow along. Feel free to listen and pray along with this recording whenever you feel moved to do so. I hope it brings you great comfort and peace.
You can pray Compline by clicking the button below, or by finding the page under "Worship" in our website menu.
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, one of the five turning points in Christ’s journey, it is a turning point. (The five are Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension.)
Christ takes his apostles to a mountain (probably Mount Tabor). Mountains are symbols of revelations in Scripture, and this one certainly is: where human nature meets Jesus. It is a connecting point.
Having journeyed for 7 or 8 days to get there, the disciples are weary. They rest. Jesus prays. As he prays his face changes and his clothes are dazzling white. Light is symbolic; in today’s Old Testament reading, Moses returns from a mountain with the Ten Commandments, and a face shining so much that he wears a veil. Suddenly, the disciplines see two more men with Jesus – Moses, the Giver of the Laws and Elijah, the Restorer of the Laws. The beautiful symbolism is that the old laws are giving way to the new Law of Christ Jesus. Just in case the disciples missed the point, God speaks from a cloud – “This is my Son, the Chosen – (check) listen to him.” What further proof could the disciples need that Jesus was the Messiah?
What further proof do we need? God has shown us that the Way of Jesus is our way – and His. “Listen to him.”
Thanks be to God.
I wrote this prayer some twenty years ago. It appears in Race and Prayer: Collected Voices, Many Dreams edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester Talton.
The first of Africa’s children
my daughter looked at up close
was the strong and cheerful man
who lives as near neighbor to our church.
She, a pale-ivory girl three years old,
was amazed to see,
close before her, human skin
in a different flavor: chocolate.
A father himself,
this man invited her to touch his wrist
(like Jesus with Thomas)
and see that this color was permanent;
she cannot rub it off.
He smiled and laughed,
And so did she.
may it always be so with us,
that like you,
we may rejoice in our unity
and delight in our diversity.
In the Church of England’s first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 Archbishop Cranmer set these words in the Mass immediately after the prayer of general confession and the priest’s absolution: “Hear what comfortable words our Savior Christ saith unto all that truly turn to him. ‘Come unto me, all ye that travail and be heavy laden, and I shall refresh you.’” (Matthew 11. 28) In the Authorized (“King James”) translation of the Bible published in 1611, in words that are repeated in Handel’s oratorio Messiah, the prophet Isaiah says (40. 1-2a) “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem . . .” And in John’s Gospel (14. 26) Jesus in speaking to His disciples calls the Holy Ghost “the Comforter.”
What does this kind of comfort mean? A modern day dictionary definition of “comforter” is (1) a warm quilt, made by sewing two sheets together with feathers in between and (2) a person who provides consolation. But that’s not what Cranmer and the translators of the Bible had in mind. In England during the 16th and early 17th centuries words from Latin were being adapted; “Englished.” One of these was “comfort,” derived from two Latin words, cum fort—with strength. Cranmer was saying, “Hear what strengthening words our Savior Christ saith.” Isaiah in the Authorized Version of the Bible was saying, “Strengthen my people.” And the Holy Ghost who was promised to the disciples by Jesus would breathe into them strength--the power to discern truth and live for it.
All this is akin to the sense of the classic definition of treason as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” It’s not giving a warm quilt or a fuzzy bear or consolation. Treason is giving aid and strength to the enemy.
In our present circumstances we are certainly experiencing travail—painful labor--with medical pandemic and economic and social disruption as heavy burdens. We certainly long for consolation. The Church offers us that, and yet we also need something that reaches beyond consolation. The Good News is that the Church provides us with much more than just solace--not just a warm quilt or a fuzzy bear, but the strength of the Holy Spirit, given to us today. We receive that Spirit in order to be able to live and to discern truth in the midst of confusion and danger--to question taken for granted assumptions and to respond to our difficulties with courage and perseverance, loving God and our neighbor. Cranmer’s words in introducing Jesus’s words are more than an expression of consolation. They proclaim encouragement and hope; an assurance of the gift of God’s strengthening power for us and within us, individually and together.
“Hear what strengthening words our Savior Christ saith unto all that truly turn to him. ‘Come unto me all ye that travail and be heavy laden, and I shall refresh you.’”
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington