3 February, Saturday – On Noise And Knowledge

3 Feb – Memorial for St. Blaise, bishop and martyr; Memorial for St. Ansgar, bishop

Blaise (d. 316) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him in prayer.

Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games, and found many waiting outside Blaise’s cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to and healed his fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats of Blaise’s feast day.

Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn out with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.

Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

 

Ansgar (801-865) was born to the French nobility. He was a Benedictine monk at Old Corbie Abbey in Picardy, and New Corbie in Westphalia. He studied under St. Adelard and St. Paschasius Radbert. He accompanied the converted King Harold to Denmark when the exiled king returned home.

He was a missionary to Denmark and Sweden. He founded the first Christian church in Sweden in c.832. He was abbot of New Corbie c.834. He was ordained Archbishop of Hamburg by Pope Gregry IV. He was a papal legate to the Scandinavian countries. He established the first Christian school in Denmark, but was run out by pagans, and the school was burned to the ground. He campaigned against slavery.

He was Archbishop of Bremen. He converted Erik, King of Jutland. He was a great preacher, a miracle worker, and greatly devoted to the poor and sick. Sadly, after his death most of his gains for the Church were lost to resurgent paganism.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 3:4-13

King Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the greatest of the high places – Solomon offered a thousand holocausts on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon during the night. God said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘You showed great kindness to your servant David, my father, when he lived his life before you in faithfulness and justice and integrity of heart; you have continued this great kindness to him by allowing a son of his to sit on his throne today. Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you. What you have not asked I shall give you too: such riches and glory as no other king ever had.’

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Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

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“… but for understanding so you may know what is right…”

In the Tao Te Ching, there is a famous saying, that “those who know are not learned; those who are learned do not know”. It used to bother me that the Tao Te Ching was advocating for us to remain blissfully ignorant. And then I grew up, started reading the news and realized that the more ‘knowledge’ you acquire, the more ‘noise’ you have to deal with. Noise can seem important if you dress it up with enough bells and whistles, but it serves no purpose other than to waste our time. How do we tell the differnce between knowledge that harms and knowledge that heals? Solomon’s request was for exactly that – to be able to discern truth from the noise.

It’s so easy to be misled. You won’t even feel like you’re going astray. How often have we mindlessly surfed the Internet only to look up and find that we’ve lost half a day? For instance, it has taken me an entire day to write this reflection. Why? Because I’ve been faffing about, looking at headlines, allegedly so I can ‘stay engaged and informed’. Noise throws you off your purpose, and you may not even be aware that it’s happening.

Whatever our ambitions, we are finite beings. We grow weary, our days on earth are numbered, our efforts are not inexhaustible. So how we apply ourselves is important. We may think that wisdom lies in the acquistion of knowledge, but that isn’t the case. Will we live more meaningful lives by chasing every headline out there? I don’t think so. Wisdom comes from living simply, according to His commandments. Wisdom comes from making Him our unwavering purpose. Without Christ as our focus – and our filter – we are exactly as he decribed the crowd; lost like sheep without a shepherd. We’ll fall for every distraction that calls our name.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern between things that are of God, and things that are of this world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who resides within us and guides our thoughts and actions.

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