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March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

St. Narcissus of Jerusalem - 29 October 2008

Life in second- and third-century Jerusalem couldn’t have been easy, but St. Narcissus managed to live well beyond 100. Some even speculate he lived to 160. He was rge thirtieth bishop of Jerusalem. In 195, he and Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, presided in a council of the bishops of Palestine held at Caesarea, about the time of celebrating Easter; in which it was decreed that this feast is to be kept always on a Sunday, and not with the Jewish passover.

Eusebius assures us, that the Christians of Jerusalem preserved in his time the remembrance of several miracles which God had wrought by this holy bishop; one of which he relates as follows. One year on Easter-eve the deacons were unprovided with oil for the lamps in the church, necessary at the solemn divine office that day. Narcissus ordered those who had care of the lamps to bring him some water from the neighboring wells. This being done, he pronounced a devout prayer over the water; then bade them pour it into the lamps; which they did, and it was immediately converted into oil, to the great surprise of the faithful. Some of this miraculous oil was kept there as a memorial at the time when Eusebius wrote his history.

We do know that Narcissus became bishop of Jerusalem in the late second century. He was known for his holiness, but there are hints that many people found him harsh and rigid in his efforts to impose church discipline. One of his many detractors accused Narcissus of a serious crime at one point. Though the charges against him did not hold up, he used the occasion to retire from his role as bishop and live in solitude. His disappearance was so sudden and convincing that many people assumed he had actually died.

Several successors were appointed during his years in isolation. Finally, Narcissus reappeared in Jerusalem and was persuaded to resume his duties. Bending under the weight of extreme old age, made St. Alexander his coadjutor. This primitive example authorizes the practice of coadjutorships; which, nevertheless, are not allowable by the canons except in cases of the perpetual inability of a bishop through age, incurable infirmity, or other impediment as Marianus Victorius observes in his notes upon St. Jerome. St. Narcissus continued to serve his flock, and even other churches, by his assiduous prayers and his earnest exhortations to unity and concord, as St. Alexander testifies in his letter to the Arsinoites in Egypt, where he says that Narcisus was at that time about one hundred and sixteen years old.

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