*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 20th of May 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
It is the 20th of May and thus the historical feast day of St…. wait.. St. Lucifer? That’s right- one of two early church figures called Lucifer… so we will have to explain that and put him in his context.
And it just happens that his context is the 4th century which overlapped with the reign of Julian the Apostate, which you may have heard about yesterday.
First, his name. Lucifer means light bearer. Or it’s a reference to Venus when Venus appears as the Morning Star. It comes from the Hebrew word Helel (Hay-lake), a word with the root meaning of “shining one” and can also mean “day” or refer to a specific constellation.
In the book of Isaiah, in the King James version, “Lucifer” is capitalized and refers to the devil. However, the same word is in Job, the Psalms, 2 Peter, and there it refers to a constellation or morning light/day.
The King James Bible is a 17th-century English translation, so the tradition of “Lucifer” being synonymous with the devil is a current happening and a distinctly English one. So… a 4th-century Italian could be called “Lucifer” without all the baggage.
We don’t know much about Lucifer until he makes his way into Ecclesiastical histories in 354.
You may remember that the Emperor was a nephew of Constantine- Constantinus II at this time. Constantinus was a Christian but an Arian.
A quick refresher: an Arian emphasizes the unity of God over the Trinity model, which came to dominate Christian theology. Arianism- at its best, was trying to stay true to the vital principle of monotheism. Of course, they didn’t say that Jesus was chopped liver- just a skootch “less than” God the Father.
If the Christological debates seem remote- that’s ok- it was a completely different context. But the question of questions holds: whom do you say that Jesus is? Church councils would affirm the full divinity of Christ by stating that he is of the same substance as the father and, while begotten, was not made; that is, there has never been a time when Christ was not.
Lucifer was a bishop called on to ask Constantinus II for a council to clear the name of Athanasius, whom the Arians condemned. Constantinus, being an Arian, was not too keen on Lucifer and his pals, so he exiled them.
And then Constantinus died. All good, right? Nope. Julian the Apostate was Emperor but only for a few years. After his death, some semblance of the order returned to the church- but the question arose: what to do with the now condemned Arians?
Lucifer of Cagliari would be the founder of an unfortunate sect called the “Luciferians,” which is NOT whatever shows up on Google but rather a sect from the time of St. Lucifer that was strict interpreters of the Nicene creed and rejected amnesty for former Arians and the Bishops not deemed tough enough on Arians.
So- with Lucifer of Cagliari, we see two of the most critical questions in the early church: 1) who was Jesus? And 2) How far can grace be extended to fallen sinners?
You may see a spark of what would become the Donatist controversy. As later persecution came and some abandoned the faith, when they returned, some were told that they were not welcome, but the baptism and sacraments they had once performed were invalid.
Lucifer of Cagliari disappears from the record, as does his Luciferians. He has been given sainthood- at least by local acclaim from his native Sardinia (that Island in the Mediterranean between Italy and North Africa). St. Lucifer, or Lucifer of Cagliari, died on this the 20th of May in 370.
The Last Word for today comes from the daily lectionary- from Proverbs because I’m trying to mix in more OT readings.
The Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He reserves ability for those with integrity.
He is a shield for those who live a blameless life.
He protects the paths of justice
and guards the way of those who are loyal to him.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 20th of May 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who knows “St. Lucifer” sounds silly- but what about St hilarious, St lawdog, St. Olav the Thick, St Teath, and St. James the Dismembered… He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man heading out tonight for his first Angels game of the season…I've never caught a ball, but I always bring my glove. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.