by Gregory Wismar
In some ways August is the “quiet season” of the calendar by which we mark the passage of time. It is the only month that consistently has no major holidays listed among its 31 days. While there may not be special secular celebrations, our church-year calendar supplies us with three memorable festal days: the Day of Saint Mary, Mother of Our Lord on the 15th; the Day of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle, on the 24th; and the Day of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist on the 29th. The days of Saints Mary and Bartholomew have long histories in synodical listings of feasts and festivals; the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist has been reintroduced in conjunction with the new Lutheran Service Book. An observance of these three ecclesiastical days can bring a sense of holy energy to this quiet corner of the year.
In a 1531 Christmas sermon on the birth of Jesus, Martin Luther stated: “It is true, Mary is praiseworthy and can never be lauded and extolled enough. For the honor of having been chosen from all the women on earth to be the mother of this Infant is exceedingly high and glorious” (What Luther Says, Page 1, 256). As the mother of our Lord, Mary serves as an example of selfless devotion and unconditional obedience to the will of God.
How does Mary describe herself in Luke 1:38?
How does she speak of her role in God’s plan for salvation? (Luke 1:49)
What is she doing the last time she is mentioned in the Bible? (Acts 1:14)
Although the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts give us an extensive portrait of Saint Mary, there is very little written in the Bible about Saint Bartholomew. His name appears only when it is included on the lists of Jesus’ disciples supplied by the evangelists Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, and Saint Luke, and once in the Book of Acts.
With whom is his name “paired up” in Matt. 10:3 and Luke 6:14?
Where do we also find him in the Book of Acts? (1:13)
What event had he just witnessed in this account? (Acts 1:1–12)
Church tradition suggests that Bartholomew became an apostle immediately after the ascension of Jesus and brought the Gospel to Armenia, the first nation to embrace the Christian faith as a national religion.
What promise did Jesus make to His disciples on the night He was betrayed? (Luke 22:24–30)
According to church tradition, Bartholomew’s life ended with his martyrdom. Many notable disciples’ lives ended in their being killed for their faith. Even the cousin of Jesus, John the Baptist, met the end of his earthly life in this way.
At whose instigation and in what way was John the Baptist martyred? (Mark 6:17–29)
How did Jesus describe John the Baptist and his witness? (John 5:35)
What great announcement was at the center of the proclamation of John the Baptist? (John 1:29–31)
What did Saint Paul recall about the message of John the Baptist? (Acts 13:24–25)
Each month the calendar of feasts and festivals (Lutheran Service Book, Page xi) supplies specific days that are designated for celebrating special people of God and their lives of faith. In this “quiet season,” start with observing the three feasts and festivals for August and begin to discover the riches to be found in such holy remembering!