Homily: St Wenceslaus

St Wenceslaus was a duke, in Bohemia. One thing, there's no "slaus" in the Eastern European languages; his name really is "Wenceslav", much nicer. "Slaus" is a Anglicization, or Latinization of "slav", which means "glory". In the Russian liturgy you'll hear them repeat "slav, slav, slav". We probably use "slaus" from "laus", or praise. The Slavs came from three brothers, who got to the Carpathians and divided up: one went west, forming the Czechs, one north to form the Poles, and one east to form Russia. These were then evangelized by Saints Cyril and Methodius, who were Slavs or Greeks. The Czechs were also evangelized by missionaries from Germany. A generation or two after this evangelization was when Wenceslaus lived. His father was Christian, but his mother and brother were not. He was raised Christian by his grandmother, Ludmilla, herself a saint. He was duke of Bohemia, reigning from Prague. He was killed by his brother Boleslaus at the church doors, after feasting with him. His last words were of forgiveness to his brother. This is what the Christian life is, a life of forgiveness.

The readings are full of misery today; they are very Jewish. Job curses the day he was born, that he is male, that he nursed. The reading there clearly shows a belief that it is better to be dead than to be alive, there is so much misery in life. The Psalm is more of the same: I cry out, I clamor, a call for help, being surfeited with troubles, near death... "With all your billows you overwhelm me"...it's like being buffeted with a wave when you're body-surfing. These readings are just full of the misery and suffering of life. And that is the good news, because the faith encounters the misery of life. The Jews had a real sense of misery, that the Gentiles did not. The Gentiles did not encounter misery, they tried to gloss over it and ignore it; they had great heroes. If the story of David had been written by Gentiles, there would have been no Bathsheba.

In the Gospel today Jesus is among the Samaritans, but is going to Jerusalem. He is going to Jerusalem, even though Mount Zion is nowhere near as impressive a mountain as is the Samaritans' Mount Gerizim. Of course, in Israel, none of the mountains are really impressive. No offence to our Wisconsin brothers, but it's a little like going to Holy Hill. But he was going to Jerusalem, and because of this they would not welcome him. He was going to Jerusalem, which is the place of his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. By uniting our misery with his passion, we too can redeem the misery and suffering in the world.

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