This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29 -- Feast of Saint Narcissus of Jerusalem

 Ancient Bishop Who Helped Establish Easter Sunday

The wrong Narcissus
There is no debate that Easter is a moveable feast, but the question of when it falls has vexed Christianity for a long time.  These days, the Western Church calculates it by one formula but the Eastern Church uses another.  [I shouldn't even call it Easter which properly shouldn't even be called Easter, since that was a spring festival of resurrection for an Ishtar-like goddess.]  The Eastern feast of Jesus' resurrection often comes a week after the Western one, which allows Greeks and Russians to pay half-price for chocolate eggs and marshmallow chicks -- nice for them.

Wrong Again
Way, way back -- long before the Brits quarreled over the date of Easter at the Synod of Whitby -- a Council was held in Jerusalem to determine whether Easter would always align with Passover or would always be on a Sunday.  Today's saint, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, co-chaired the Council and fell squarely on the side of Sunday.  Obviously, his faction prevailed, a decision that weathered every schism Christianity has since suffered.

Narcissus was eighty when he took over as Patriarch of Jerusalem.  Being bishop anywhere for the first few centuries was a risky gig -- and Jerusalem was a very high profile spot.  Actually, at the time, the city was called Aelia Capitolina, having been rebuilt by order of the Emperor Hadrian in the 130s after Vespasian's army demolished it in 70.  Narcissus was consecrated in180, and he was the thirtieth bishop.  That's an average tenure of five years, by my calculation.
That's the old boy

Eusebius credits Narcissus with a lot of miracles, but only one seems to get repeated by all the internet sources. I'll repeat it to.  Having already determined that the feast of the Resurrection would fall on Sunday, Narcissus was distressed to find one year on the Saturday prior that the church had run out of lamp oil.  He filled the lamp with water, prayed really hard, and the water was turned to oil.

Water to oil
At some point in his career, Narcissus was accused of something foul.  No one ever says what it was, but it must have been a heavy crime because he abandoned Jerusalem and went to live in the wilderness.  The folks who accused him were eventually found to be liars -- one source indicates that they suffered appropriate punishments for their false witness -- but by then another Patriarch had been appointed.  When that man died, folks assumed that Narcissus must have also died, so they appointed yet another.  When he died, Narcissus returned to Jerusalem and was warmly welcomed back to his old See.  He was thus the 30th and 33rd Patriarch of Jerusalem, though he shared the spot with Saint Alexander of Cappadocia for his last several years.  He lived to be 116 or 117. 

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