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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 11,19-26

Those who had scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching also to the Greeks, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus to them. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord. The news of them came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas out to Antioch. There he was glad to see for himself that God had given grace, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord. Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. And it happened that they stayed together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians'.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After having crossed the boundary of ethnicity, the entire world was opening up, which for that time meant the territory of the great Roman Empire. The first stop for the Christian community was in Antioch, the third capital, after Rome and Alexandria, a city that was universally known for its importance not only in commerce, but also in religion and culture. The earliest stage of Christian history can clearly be seen as the history of preaching the Gospel in cities, starting with the most important. There was a sort of pastoral strategy guiding the life of the Christian community. Obviously, this strategy was not just the result of human calculation; it came from the desire to communicate the Gospel of love and freedom in the very heart of human history. From the very beginning, Christianity has had a universal dimension aimed at deeply changing human life. Even if the immediate cause of the first Christian mission seems once again to be persecution, in truth the real spiritual energy that moves the disciples of Jesus is the desire to spread the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Consequently, when the disciples came to Antioch they preached not only to the Jews but also the Gentiles who were part of the city. They needed to spread the leavening of the Gospel throughout the city. In fact, the community immediately experienced such extraordinary growth that Barnabas, originally from Cyprus, was sent from Jerusalem to help organize the community. It was in Antioch - we are in years 38-40 - that the disciples of Jesus were first called "Christians," probably because the notable influx of Gentiles distinguished this new group from the Jewish community. Until then those who had faith in Jesus were called by different names, such as "brothers" or "believers." Now they were given this name, which specified more clearly whose disciples they were. In a few lines, Luke describes the birth of a new experience in a great city of the empire, an experience so new that it had to be called by a new name, "Christian." Its newness did not come from a project or ideology, but from the fact that they followed Jesus, the Christ.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord