Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

St. Blaise Day, 3 February.

St. Blase was the bishop of Sebastea in Armenia, now Turkey, and a martyr of the early 4th century. Blaise was born into a wealthy family and was consecrated bishop a ta young age. Not long after his consecration, Christian persecutions reached Armenia, and Blaise was forced into the mountains with many other Christians to escape death. Very little is known of him, apart from the his Vita of the eighth or ninth century. He was known to Christians to have healed humans and animals alike; the most remembered cure being his healing of a boy with a fish-bone caught in his throat. After being healed, the boy often brought food and candles to the cave where Blaise was hiding and later to the jail where he would be held captive. This is why he is invoked against any kind of throat illnesses, and on St. Blaise's day, it is not uncommon for churches to bless peoples throats with two crossed candles.
     Blaise is a martyr, for in 316 he was captured by the Roman governor, recognized as a Christian bishop, and sentenced to death. Blaise was tortured with wool-combs before being beheaded, which is why he was patronized by the 19th century English wool industry. And like all martyrs, Blaise's example shows us how in the face of exclusion, mockery and accusation, we should never hide our faith in Christ from others, to follow and preach what we know is right unto death.
     His cult in the middle ages spread all over Europe as he was among the 'Fourteen Holy Helpers,' a cult of several saints, mostly martyrs, associated with healing qualities which arose after the disastrous black death in the 1340s. Churches as far as Canterbury claimed relics (although Canterbury claimed a great variety of relics) and there is a pilgrimage church in Bavaria, Germany, Basilica Vierzehnheiligen, where the saints appeared to a young monastic. Blaise continues to be venerated as a saint in the Anglican, Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman churches, where thousands of throats are yearly blessed in his remembrance. Today the Church of Dubrovnik, in Croatia, claims his relics and holds a pilgrimage each year on this day. He is usually depicted in episcopal vestments with candles and a wool comb.

Collect (From the Anglican Missal):
Almighty God, who didst call Blase to be a faithful pastor and servant of thy people, and to lay down his life in witness to thy Son: Grant that we, strengthened by his example and aided by his prayers, may in times of trial and persecution remain steadfast in faith and endurance, for the sake of him who laid down his life for us all, Jesus Christ our Savior; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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