September 14: Today in Christian History

September 14, 258

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was beheaded during the persecution under Roman Emperor Valerian. Under Valerian a new edict was issued against the Christians. Cyprian, not wishing to hide this time, was arrested, exiled to a place north of Carthage, and finally condemned to death. On hearing the decision, he said only "Deo gratias." He was beheaded on September 14, 258.

September 14, 407

Early church father John Chrysostom, the greatest preacher of his age, dies in exile when, in poor health, he is forced to travel on foot in bad weather. 

Nicknamed the “Golden Mouth” for his skills as his generation’s greatest orator, John Chrysostom was one of the early church’s most powerful preachers. However, Chrysostom died in infamy on this day, September 14, 407, because he employed his considerable skills to call out the hypocrisy, immorality, and sins of excess that plagued the flock God had called him to lead. But while Chrysostom displayed considerable rhetorical ability from an early age, few would have guessed that he would go on to such prominence. 

September 14, 1321

Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, died. Facing execution in Florence for refusing to pay a fine; resulting from his political activities in 1302, Dante wandered before settling in Ravenna, Italy. There he died in September 1321, shortly after finishing The Divine Comedy. Some speculate that he had caught malaria

September 14, 1741

George Frederick Handel finished composing "The Messiah," which began only 24 days earlier. George Frideric Handel wrote Messiah in the late summer of 1741 when his future as a composer was in real jeopardy. The opera ventures he instituted, and which had thrived for nearly two decades, were waning in popularity and about to fail. To help pay the bills Handel turned to oratorio, a genre musically related to opera but without staging and costumes. Even with Messiah, though, Handel was still finding his footing in oratorio. He had penned only a handful of works in the genre, some of which (especially Israel in Egypt, from 1739) were initially failures. And Messiah was itself a risky project. Though the English audiences had for several decades embraced Handel as their favorite composer, that admiration was no guarantee of this work’s success. 

September 14, 1814

Francis Scott Key, Episcopal layman and cofounder of the American Sunday School Union, was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The song didn't become the national anthem until 1931.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: September 14

This feast commemorates three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena; the dedication of the churches on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by Heraclius II. 

Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also called Universal Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross or Holy Cross Day, liturgical feast celebrated on September 14 to honour the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. In the Eastern churches, the feast dates back to the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the site of Christ’s tomb) in Jerusalem circa 335. It was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in the 7th century and is also observed in various Protestant traditions, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism.

September 14, 1967

On this day, Scott Dawson was born. He is an American author and preacher, and the founder of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association (SDEA), and of the Strength to Stand Conference movement. He received his ordination and certificate of gospel ministry by order of the Roebuck Park Baptist Church. He preached his first sermon at the age of 16. Shortly after, he began speaking at various churches. By the age of 20, Scott founded the evangelistic association that would come to be known as SDEA (Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association). Since 1987, the organization has founded and directed numerous music festivals featuring Christian artists and speakers.

September 14, 1985

Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon released Benjamin Weir, an American missionary. He had been their captive for 16 months. During the time Benjamin Weir was being held hostage in Lebanon, Iran was at war with Iraq. The Shiite militants holding Weir hostage were sympathetic to Iran. Israeli officials approached the United States with a secret proposal to broker a deal where 508 American-made anti-tank missiles would be traded to Iran in return for Weir's release. This deal was finally approved by US Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger and became the first of two arms-for-hostage swaps. A scandal ensued when details of this swap were made public, and a special presidential review board, called the "Tower Commission," was appointed to investigate.

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