Last Week in Church History

Last weekend I started a series looking at the last week in church history.  Again, like last week, I'm not going to add to what I've written on Twitter each day (so some things might be worded in a way to fit the character limit for a tweet), but just thought it might be helpful to gather them together at the end of the week into one place in a more accessible form. (Also, the prayers are from traditional sources, sometimes slightly adapted.) So here goes for week 2 (17th - 22nd January). 

17th January — Anthony the Great


On this day, after 105 years on this earth, Anthony the Great rested in Jesus. As a young man, he heard Mt 19:21 being read in church: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” So he did.

Anthony (who was very wealthy) sold everything, gave the money to the poor, and moved out of the town into the desert to live a life of prayer and discipleship. When the devil severely tempted him with boredom, laziness or lust, Anthony resisted by running to the Lord in prayer.

Gradually others came to live in caves near Anthony in the desert, begging him to guide them in the spiritual life. And that’s how he became “the father of monasticism.” The Life of Anthony, written by his friend Athanasius, has been inspiring Christians for more than 1600 years.

Most gracious God, who called your servant Anthony to sell all that he had & serve you in the solitude of the desert: by his example may we learn to deny ourselves & love you before all things; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

18th January — Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria


What a day! Today we get to remember 2 of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church, 2 people who loved Jesus & His gospel so much that they were willing to proclaim the truth no matter what opposition they faced & 2 of my favourite people ever: Athanasius & Cyril!


Athanasius spent his life proclaiming & defending the truth that Jesus is true God (for only true God can save). He was at the Council of Nicaea & for the rest of his days called the church to unite in the Nicene faith, demonstrating the dangers of the Arian heresy.

As a result he was exiled 5 times and at times hunted down by imperial authorities, but none of that could stop Athanasius from teaching, preaching, and writing about the true Jesus.


His eventual successor in the See of St Mark (4 patriarchs later), Cyril of Alexandria, continued in his footsteps, seeing the close connection between who Jesus is and how He saves us.

Cyril wrote many biblical commentaries and works of theology, but much of his life was dominated by the struggle to defend the unity of the person of Christ against the Nestorian heretics.

When Nestorius refused to call Mary the Mother of God, Cyril rightly recognised it as a claim about Jesus (rather than a claim about Mary), because if Mary wasn’t the Mother of God, that would mean the One born of Mary wasn’t God!

Although imprisoned by the Emperor at one stage for his stance for the truth, Cyril was such a good and careful teacher on the person of Christ that, after his death, the Church considered his writings the standard of orthodoxy.

Ever-living God, whose servants Athanasius & Cyril testified to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation: help us, like them, to contend for the truth and to grow into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you’re wondering why to read ancient Christians like Athanasius & Cyril, Donald Fairbairn’s Life in the Trinity is an excellent book that will introduce you to the wonder and warmth of their teaching and how they help us see how good the Good News really is.


Even if you’ve never wondered about the church fathers, Life in the Trinity is still one of the best introductions to the glory & wonder of Christian doctrine of which I know. It’s a really fantastic book and I constantly recommend it to people.

19th January — Wulfstan of Worcester


On this day Wulfstan of Worcester finished his earthly pilgrimage. The last remaining English bishop after the Norman Conquest, he was devoted to pastoral care and alleviating the suffering of the poor. He also built the new cathedral in Worcester & founded Great Malvern Priory.

Wulfstan was a strong and outspoken opponent of slavery and worked for its abolition. Along with Lanfranc of Canterbury, he was responsible for ending the Bristol slave trade (from where slaves from across England were exported to Ireland).

Lord God, who raised up Wulfstan to be a bishop among your people & a leader of your Church: help us, after his example, to live simply, to work diligently & to make your kingdom known; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

20th January — Euthymius the Great 


Today we remember Euthymius the Great who lived in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. He moved into the desert near Jerusalem for a life of prayer, but so many people followed him there for help in living as Christ’s disciples that he ended up accidentally starting a church.

When the Lord used Euthymius to miraculously heal the son of a Saracen chief, the chief & many others became Christians and took the gospel back to their tribe. When large crowds flocked to Euthymius after the miracle, he fled fame and hid deeper in the desert.

In the desert he accidentally founded yet another church and monastery. He also ended up discipling an Empress. Having prophesied the date of his death, Euthymius returned to a life of solitary prayer in the desert for his final years.

Be like Euthymius: flee fame!

21st January — The Baptism of George Blaurock


Today marks the anniversary of the first believer’s baptism after the Reformation. In an underground church meeting in a house in Zurich, George Blaurock asked Conrad Grebel to baptise him upon his profession of faith.

After he was baptised, Blaurock went on to baptise the other believers present. Blaurock continued as a pastor in many parts of Switzerland (being driven from one place to another by constant exile), preaching the gospel & baptising many. He was eventually burnt at the stake.

Grant, Lord, that we who are baptized into the death of Christ may continually put to death our evil desires & be buried with him; & that through the grave & gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection; through his merits, who died & was buried & rose again for us.

22nd January — Vincent of Saragossa


On 22nd January we remember Vincent of Saragossa,a deacon in the 3rd century. Arrested during the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of the church, he was offered freedom if he would throw the Scriptures into the fire.

Vincent refused, saying he was ready to suffer anything for his faith in Christ. He was cruelly tortured to death, but through it all maintained such an impossible peace that it caused his gaoler to repent of his sins and turn to Jesus.

Almighty ever-living God, mercifully pour out your Spirit upon us, so that our hearts may possess the strong love by which the Martyr Vincent triumphed over all bodily torments. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, your Son.