Today in the church year

The Lutheran Church, like many other historic churches, has a sanctoral calendar that assigns remembrances of important saints and figures in the history and life of the Church to particular dates.  Learn more about these figures and heroes of the faith here!

  •  November 23

    + Clement of Rome, Pastor +

    "Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church's worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr's death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God's redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone." (LC--MS Commemoration Biographies)

     

    Clement is best known for the "Epistula ad Corinthios I," also known as "First Clement," a letter ascribed to him to the congregations at Corinth circa AD 100. Clement's epistle deals with the persecutions under Nero and Domitian, and also contains the first recorded reference to the deaths of Sts. Peter and Paul:


    "But to leave the ancient examples, let us come to the champions who lived nearest our times; let us take the noble examples of our generation. On account of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church were persecuted and contended even unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good Apostles: Peter, who on account of unrighteous jealousy endured not one nor two, but many sufferings, and so, having borne his testimony, went to his deserved place of glory. on account of jealousy and strife Paul pointed out the prize of endurance. After he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had been a preacher in the East and in the West, he received the noble reward of his faith; having taught righteousness unto the whole world, and having come to the farthest bounds of the West, and having borne witness before rulers, he thus departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having become a notable pattern of patient endurance" (Ep. ad. Corinthios, I, 5; Funk, Patres Apostolici, 1901, published in Cullen Ayer, J., A Source Book for Ancient Church History from the Apostolic Age to the Close of the Conciliar Period, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930:7-8).

     

    A prayer for the commemoration of Clement:

    "Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." (1113)

     

    (Image: 11th Century mosaic of St. Clement I with 18th painted restorations, St. Sofia of Kiev, Public Domain.)

  • November 19

    + st. Elizabeth of Hungary +

    "Born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given as a bride in an arranged political marriage, Elizabeth became the wife of Louis of Thuringia in Germany at the age of 14. She had a spirit of Christian generosity and charity, and the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was known for its hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy and even gave up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at the age of 20, she made provisions for her children and entered into an austere life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world." (A Year with the Church Fathers, p.362).


    A prayer for the Commemoration of Elizabeth of Hungary:

    "Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary. She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the thorned one her Savior donned for her sake and ours, that we, too, might live a life of sacrifice, pleasing in your sight and worthy of the name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom." Amen (1111)


    (Illustration: "St. Elizabeth of Hungary" (ca. 1516), from the "Sebastian Altar" by Hans Holbein the Elder (1465-1524). Alte Pinakothek, Munchen. Image by Yelkrokoyade, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

     

  • November 14

    + Commemoration of Emperor Justinian, Christian Ruler and Confessor of Christ +

    "Justinian was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565 when the Roman Empire was in decline. With his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored splendor and majesty to the Byzantine court. During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions. Justinian also attempted to bring unity to a divided church. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity and sought agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day who were disputing the relation between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in A.D. 533 was held during his reign and addressed this dispute. Justinian died in his eighties, not accomplishing his desire for an empire that was firmly Christian and orthodox." (A Year with the Church Fathers, p.357.)

     

    Justinian managed to recover a large part of the former western Roman Empire during his reign, including the Italian peninsula (which had been under the reign of the Ostrogothic kings of Italy), Vandal-controlled North Africa, and parts of Visigothic Spain. Much of this land was lost to the Byzantines during the Muslim conquest in the century following Justinian's death.

    Justinian is also known for his law code, which compiled all Roman and Byzantine law into one large body of law. Justinian's Code has served as the basis for law in Europe for centuries.

     

    A prayer for the commemoration of Justinian:

    "Lord God, heavenly Father, through the governance of Christian leaders such as the Emperor Justinian, Your name is freely confessed in our nation and throughout the world. Grant that we may continue to choose trustworthy leaders who serve You faithfully in our generation and make wise decisions that contribute to the general welfare of Your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (1108)

     

    Image: "Emperor Iustinianus [center] and his suite" ca. 547 AD. Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Photo by Roger Culos, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

  • November 11

    + St. Martin of Tours, Pastor +

    "Born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary around the year A.D. 316, Martin grew up in Lombardy (Italy). Coming to the Christian faith as a young person, he began a career in the Roman army. But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was 'Christ's soldier.' Eventually, Martin was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France). He is remembered for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul. Incidentally, on St. Martin's Day in 1483, the one-day-old son of Hans and Margarette Luther was baptized and given the name 'Martin' Luther" (Treasury of Daily Prayer, p.903.)


    "Christ appears to St. Martin: Accordingly, at a certain period, when he had nothing except his arms and his simple military dress, in the middle of winter, a winter which had shown itself more severe than ordinary, so that the extreme cold was proving fatal to many, he happened to meet at the gate of the city of Amiens a poor man destitute of clothing. He was entreating those that passed by to have compassion upon him, but all passed the wretched man without notice, when Martin, that man full of God, recognized that a being to whom others showed no pity, was, in that respect, left to him. Yet, what should he do? He had nothing except the cloak in which he was clad, for he had already parted with the rest of his garments for similar purposes. Taking, therefore, his sword with which he was girt, he divided his cloak into two equal parts, and gave one part to the poor man, while he again clothed himself with the remainder. Upon this, some of the by-standers laughed, because he was now an unsightly object, and stood out as but partly dressed. Many, however, who were of sounder understanding, groaned deeply because they themselves had done nothing similar. They especially felt this, because, being possessed of more than Martin, they could have clothed the poor man without reducing themselves to nakedness. In the following night, when Martin had resigned himself to sleep, he had a vision of Christ arrayed in that part of his cloak with which he had clothed the poor man. He contemplated the Lord with the greatest attention, and was told to own as his the robe which he had given. Ere long, he heard Jesus saying with a clear voice to the multitude of angels standing round -- "Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe." The Lord, truly mindful of his own words (who had said when on earth -- "Inasmuch as ye have done these things to one of the least of these, ye have done them unto me"), declared that he himself had been clothed in that poor man; and to confirm the testimony he bore to so good a deed, he condescended to show him himself in that very dress which the poor man had received. After this vision the sainted man was not puffed up with human glory, but, acknowledging the goodness of God in what had been done, and being now of the age of twenty years, he hastened to receive baptism. He did not, however, all at once, retire from military service, yielding to the entreaties of his tribune, whom he admitted to be his familiar tent-companion. For the tribune promised that, after the period of his office had expired, he too would retire from the world. Martin, kept back by the expectation of this event, continued, although but in name, to act the part of a soldier, for nearly two years after he had received baptism." (Sulpicius Severus, 'The Life of St. Martin," trans. Alexander Roberts in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume 11, 1894).


    A prayer the Feast of St. Martin:

    "Lord God of hosts, Your servant Martin the soldier embodied the spirit of sacrifice. He became a bishop in Your Church to defend the catholic faith. Give us grace to follow in his steps so that when our Lord returns we may be clothed with the baptismal garment of righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." (1107).


    Image: "St. Martin Dividing His Cloak for a Beggar" by Israhel van Meckenem (ca. 1440 –1503). Cleveland Museum of Art. Public Domain.

     

  • October 9

    + Abraham, Patriarch +

    "Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At the age of 75 and in obedience to God's command, he, his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God  established a covenant with Abraham (15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. At the age of 100 Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man's life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (22:1–19). Abraham died at the age of 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament Patriarchs—and for his “righteousness before God through faith” (Romans 4:1–12)." (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Commemoration Biographies)


    A prayer for the commemoration of Abraham:

    "Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen." (1097)


    (Image: Russian icon, Public Domain.)

  • October 7

    + Commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor +

    "Moving from the Old World to the New, Muhlenberg established the shape of Lutheran parishes for America during a 45-year ministry in Pennsylvania. Born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711, he came to the American colonies in 1742. A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first American Lutheran synod, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, founded in 1748. He valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was also the guiding force in preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy (also in 1748). Muhlenberg is remembered as a church leader, a journalist, a liturgist, and—above all—a pastor to the congregation in his charge. He died in 1787, leaving behind a large extended family and a lasting heritage: American Lutheranism." (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Commemoration Biographies)


    Muhlenberg's influence resounds throughout American Lutheranism, especially in the polity of American Lutheran churches. C.F.W. Walther used Muhlenberg's polity as a template when drafting the constitution of the nascent Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Muhlenberg also fathered an American dynasty. All three of Muhlenberg's sons served as pastors, but also had great influence in the early days of the United States. His eldest son Peter became an officer in the Continental Army commanding the Virginia 8th "German" Regiment (later commanded by Col. Abraham Bowman whose family owned the land that later became Pastor Niemeier's hometown, interestingly enough), and later served as a representative and senator for Pennsylvania in the US Congress. His son Frederick joined the Continental Army after the British burned his church; Frederick later became the first United States Speaker of the House. His third son, Gotthilf Henry Ernst, was a pastor and botanist (he also first described the bog turtle, which is named for him), as well as the first president of Franklin & Marshall College.


    A prayer for the commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg:
    "Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of Your people, we give You thanks for Your servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of the flock entrusted to his care. So they may follow his example and the teaching of his holy life, give strength to pastors today who shepherd Your flock so that, by Your grace,Your people may grow into the fullness of life intended for them in paradise; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever." (1096)


    (Image: Bust of Muhlenberg published in George Unangst Wenner, "The Lutherans of New York, their story and their problems," New York: The Petersfield Press, 1918.)

  • September 30

    + Commemoration of St. Jerome, Translator of the Vulgate Bible +

    "Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around AD 345. At a young age, he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian Desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the Western Church for more than 1,000 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the Early Church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem, but his remains were eventually taken to Rome." (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, p.771).


    "We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners, and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God's mercy." St. Jerome, 'Dialogue against the Pelagians' I.5.


    "In quoting my own writings my only object has been to prove that from my youth up I at least have always aimed at rendering sense not words, but if such authority as they supply is deemed insufficient, read and consider the short preface dealing with this matter which occurs in a book narrating the life of the blessed Antony. "A literal translation from one language into another obscures the sense; the exuberance of the growth lessens the yield. For while one's diction is enslaved to cases and metaphors, it has to explain by tedious circumlocutions what a few words would otherwise have sufficed to make plain. I have tried to avoid this error in the translation which at your request I have made of the story of the blessed Antony. My version always preserves the sense although it does not invariably keep the words of the original. Leave others to catch at syllables and letters, do you for your part look for the meaning." Time would fail me were I to unfold the testimonies of all who have translated only according to the sense." St. Jerome, "To Pammachius on the Best Method of Translating," (§6)


    A prayer for the Commemoration of St. Jerome:
    "O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever." (1093)


    (Image: "St. Jerome Writing" (1607/1608) by Caravaggio (1571-1610). St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta. Heritage Malta. Public Domain.)

  • September 29

    + Feast of st. Michael & all Angels +

    "The name of the archangel St. Michael means 'Who is like God?'  Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v.9) and Revelation (12:7).  Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil.  In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven.  Their victory is made possible by Christ's own victory over Satan and His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come" (Revelation 12:10).  Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God.  Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death." (Scott R. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, pp. 309-310)


    A prayer for St. Michael and All Angels:

    Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order.  Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen (F29)


    Illustration of St. Michael by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff from Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber Chronicarum) (f 141 v 2) (1493).

  • september 22

    + Jonah the Prophet +

    "A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour's walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond to God's insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bear's Jonah's name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah's three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41)." (Scott R. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, p.303)

    Jonah has historically been believed to have been buried in Nineveh, now the modern city of Mosul, Iraq, and his tomb was a place of pilgrimage for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. An Assyrian Church was erected over his tomb, which was also on the site of a palace built by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (681-669 BC). Following the rise of Islam in the region, the Prophet Yunus Mosque was built over the church and dedicated to Jonah (Yunus being Jonah's name in Arabic; Jonah is venerated as a prophet in Islam). In 2014, the terrorist group ISIS destroyed the mosque and tomb and sold artifacts from the rubble on the black market to finance their operations. However, portions of the ruins still remain.

    A prayer for the commemoration of Jonah:
    Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that your Chruch may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (1092)

    Illustration of Jonah from the Bentivoglio Bible (ca. 1270) (Walters W151403V) by the Miniatore di S. Alessio in Bigiano, the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.


  • September 20

    + Feast of St. Matthew,

    Apostle & Evangelist +

    "St. Matthew, also known as Levi, identifies himself as a former tax collector, one who was therefore considered unclean, a public sinner, outcast from the Jews. Yet it was such a one as this whom the Lord Jesus called away from his occupation and wealth to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Not only did Matthew become a disciple of Jesus, he was also called and sent as one of the Lord's twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). In time, he became the evangelist whose inspired record of the Gospel was granted first place in the ordering of the New Testament. Among the four Gospels, Matthew's portrays Christ especially as the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and establishes a new covenant of salvation in and with His own blood (Matthew 26:27-28). Matthew's Gospel is also well-known and beloved for its record of the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12); for the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and the Our Father (Matthew 5-7); and for the institution of Holy Baptism and the most explicit revelation of the Trinity (Matthew 28:16-20). Tradition is uncertain where his final field of labor was and whether Matthew died naturally [reported by Clement of Alexandria] or a martyr's death [per the Babylonian Talmud]. In celebrating this festival, we therefore give thanks to God that He has mightily governed and protected His Holy Church through this man who was called and sent by Christ to serve the sheep of His pastures with the Holy Gospel." (Scott R. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, pp.301-302)

     

    A Prayer:

    O Son of God, our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen (F28)

     

    Illustration of St. Matthew from the Ebbo Gospels (Ms. 1 f 18 v.), Carolingian, 9th Century.  Bibliothèque municipale de Épernay, France.