This is surely a Feast Day tailor-made for Evangelicals, who do not normally keep such days—and it is, at the same time, a Feast for other Anglicans as well, who find St Paul’s teaching difficult to receive - especially of women's ministry and divine election!
Normally, an apostle or saint is commemorated in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) on the day of his martyrdom/death. The exceptions to this are St John the Baptist (his birth) and St Paul (his conversion)—and the two Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which in reality point to her Son and so are feasts of the Lord Jesus.
According to reliable tradition, St Paul was martyred in Rome together with St Peter, and the two are commemorated together in ancient and modern Calendars on June 29; but for the English Reformers, what seemed the most important fact to commemorate with respect to Paul was his conversion and so they gave June 29 to Peter alone and January 25 solely to Paul, so each had one day.
Here is the Anglican Collect for St Paul’s Day:
O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may shew forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Or, for those who prefer to address the Lord our God as “You” we may pray:
God, You who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul. caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray You, that we, recalling his wonderful conversion, may display our thankfulness unto You for this, by following the holy doctrine that he taught: through Jesus Christ our Lord; Amen.
Let us now examine the content of this solid prayer.
O God, who through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul.
The Collect is addressed to God the Father, who acted, that is revealed his will, in the work of St. Paul. Specifically, it was the preaching of the Apostle to the Gentiles that God used for his purposes: “Christ send me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” (1 Cor.1:17). Paul’s assistants could baptize converts, but only Paul could preach and teach the things and for the ends that God the Father required, for he was the chosen ambassador, to whom was given the divine message.
Hath caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world.
Though other apostles had their sphere of apostolic ministry and influence, St Paul was the chosen apostle to the non-Jewish peoples. He preached and taught widely in the Roman Empire, concluding in the capital, Rome, itself. “From Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the Gospel of Christ,” said Paul (Romans 15:19). Then, added to his personal presence as ambassador and teacher was his later influence as author of Letters, which were read all around the Roman world and beyond.
Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance
We have three accounts of the conversion, one from St Luke and two from St Paul himself, preserved by St Luke (Acts 9:1-23; 22:1-22; 26:1-24). However, in the providence of God, the account of the martyrdom of St Paul did not enter the Canon of Scripture. We are to meditate upon this conversion so as to see within it the grace and mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen Lord, and made known in a highly personal way to Saul of Tarsus. Only as we reflect upon it, can we have it in memory so as to be able to recall it and the purposes of God revealed in it.
May shew forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same.
We thank God our Father not only for the personal experience of eternal salvation in Christ Jesus received by Saul, who became Paul the apostle, but also for the apostolic ministry of this converted Jew to the Gentiles. But we need to shew our thankfulness more practically! How?
By following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To follow his holy doctrine is to read and receive his teaching, to believe it and to act upon in practical obedience and service. And we to do this because we are disciples of Jesus, St Paul is the apostle of Jesus, and by following St Paul we are brought near to Jesus Christ our Lord in faith, hope and love.
Amen. And all God’s people say, “So be it, LORD.”
January 21, 2008 www.pbsusa.org drpetertoon@ yahoo.com