About the Commemoration
Cornelius was the first Gentile converted to the Christian faith. What is known about Cornelius is given in chapters 10 and 11 of the Acts of the Apostles. A centurion was commander of a company of one hundred men in the Roman army; he was a Roman citizen, a well-paid career military officer.
The book of Acts reports that the conversion of Cornelius occurred as a result of divine intervention and revelation and as a response to the preaching of St. Peter, and his conversion, together with that of his household, was regarded as a new Pentecost and an anticipation of the later decision to admit Gentiles as full and equal members of the Church.
According to tradition, Cornelius was the second bishop of Caesarea, the metropolitan see of Palestine. He was included on the Episcopal calendar in 1979 Book of Common Prayer and in the Methodist For All the Saints, but he is not on the General Roman Catholic calendar. Cornelius is commemorated by the Eastern Churches on September 13.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Cornelius the Centurion
From a sermon by Theodore P. Ferris
Christianity grew up in much the same way as an individual grows up, and growing up is never easy. One of the most difficult problems in growing up is the problem of leaving home. One cannot nestle in the shelter of home forever, nor can one ignore the fact that sheltering there would have been no life at all. A man must break away from home as a bird leaves the nest, and yet he must not forget the fact that he owes his life to his home.
Christianity was born in a Jewish home. It can never repay its debt of gratitude to that home. There it learned about the moral majesty of God. In that home it learned that religion and morality should go hand in hand in an inseparable union. But like all offspring, it had to leave home. The world-wide implications of Christianity could not be confined within the walls of Judaism. Judaism was the religion of a nation; Christianity was the religion of all nations. The swaddling clothes had to be stripped away; the exclusiveness of Judaism had to be overridden; its provincialism had to be displaced by universalism. The break had to be made; and it was made.
The process of growing up is usually punctuated by specific events. An adolescent leaps from stage to stage and each stage is begun by a specific event: the first trip away from home; the first love affair; a failure in school; the loss of a friend; the first money ever earned. In much the same way Christianity grew up. It was a succession of events, no one of which by and in itself might seem to be of any great significance, but each of which marked a new stage in the growth of the Jewish child. The story of Peter and Cornelius is such an event. It is the story about the first time a Gentile was publicly and officially welcomed into the Christian fellowship without conforming to the requirements of the Jewish law.
…When Peter and Cornelius finally met, it was as though a great wall was once and for all removed. Here were a Jew and Gentile standing face to face with nothing between them. Peter proceeded to tell the story which he had already told many times, the story of how Jesus went about doing good, how God was with him, how he was killed and God raised him on the third day, how he is now the judge of all people everywhere. That was all Cornelius needed to know. Without any more ado, without any ceremony whatsoever, Cornelius and all his family and friends were filled with the Holy Spirit, and on the basis of that they were baptized.
Theodore P. Ferris, “Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles,” in The Interpreter’s Bible (New York and Nashville: Abingdon, 1954), 9:132-33, 136.
O God, by your Spirit you called Cornelius the Centurion to be the first Christian among the Gentiles: Grant to your Church such a ready will to go where you send and to do what you command, that under your guidance it may welcome all who turn to you in love and faith, and proclaim the Gospel to all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Readings: Psalm 67 or 33:1-5, 20-21; Acts 11:1-18; Luke 13:22-29
Prayers: For those in military service; For converts to the faith; For an inclusive church.
Preface: Pentecost (BCP)