Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feast of St. Willibrord, Apostle to Frisia, 7 November and the Dancing Procession of Echternach

St. Willibrord: Apostle to Frisia, first Archbishop of Utrecht.
     St. Willibrord was one of the earliest of the Anglo-Saxon missionaries to the Germanic peoples. His mission to the pagans of what are now the Netherlands sparked a century of English sponsored missions to bring the Gospel to Frisia and Germany. Many saints would follow this first Archbishop of Utrecht, penetrating deep into barbaric lands and placing their lives in jeopardy. Willibrord was born near York in Northumbria A.D. 658 and was educated in the abbey of St. Peter at Ripon by St. Wilfrid. When he returned to England in 690, he organized a mission with twelve other monks to bring Christ to Frisia. He gained support for his mission from Pippin II of the Franks and Pope Sergius who consecrated him a bishop. Willibrord soon established a cathedral at Utrecht and a flourishing monastery at Echternach, now Luxembourg, in much the same fashion that St. Augustine established the Church in Kent a century before. He was repelled once and his churches burned, but he returned and rebuilt everything and even sent further missions into Denmark and Germany. He died in 739 and his body was enshrined at the Abbey at Echternach where it remains.

    Willibrord's life is important to the modern Church as an example of missionary perseverance. The Church has lost members all over the world, and it is in need of leaders like St. Willibrord to penetrate into each and every community, even, and especially where there are church congregations already. The setbacks that Willibrord experienced to his work was much more forceful and damaging than the silent yet quick declination that the Church today is experiencing, and so a reformulated interest in his example and thanksgiving in the his work and the work of the many saints like him is important to the revitalization to the Church where she exists and to spread the love of Christ where it has yet to thrive.

     The Dancing Procession of Echternach
     The cult of St. Willibrord became very strong in Luxembourg, Belgium, and in the Netherlands, where, to this day, Europe's only dancing procession is held every year on St. Willibrord's day. The procession begins with the chanting of the Litany of St. Willibrord and then the procession dances through the city, into the abbey and right down into the crypt to pass the shrine of St. Willibrord, while the bishop sits over the entrance to the crypt, blessing pilgrims as they pass beneath him.

This video, though a bit dramatic in presentation, captures both older and more recent films of the St. Willibrord Dance. 
And this, from last year:

     O Lord our God, who dost call whom thou willest and send them whither thou choosest: We thank thee for sending thy servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve thee, the living God; and we entreat thee to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of thy service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, we ask you especially on this day when a new Archbishop of Canterbury has been chosen to give him the strength and perseverance of St. Willibrord and all thy saints, that he may help to heal the Church and extend its mission to all corners of the earth; we ask this through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen

Shrine of St. Willibrord at Echternach Abbey.
The Litany of St. Willibrord:

Lord, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy,
Christ, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear our prayer!
God the Father in heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Trinity, Have mercy on us.
Blessed Mary, pray for us.
Blessed Mother of God, pray for us.
Blessed Virgin of all virgins, pray for us.
St Willibrord, pray for us!
St Willibrord, Guiding Light of the Church,*
*pray for us, St Willibrord
St Willibrord, Bright-shining star of our country,*
St Willibrord, Missionary to our homeland,*
St Willibrord, special protector of this our land,*
St Willibrord, first apostle of the Netherlands.*
St Willibrord, founder of monasteries and churches,*
St Willibrord, promotor of progress and knowledge,*
St Willibrord, teacher of truth,
St Willibrord, passionate interpreter of the teaching of Christ,*
St Willibrord, ceaseless proclaimer of the Holy Gospel,*
St Willibrord, teacher of true faith,*
St Willibrord, founder of peace and justice,*
St Willibrord, model of hope and reconciliation,*
St Willibrord, conqueror of injustice and discord,*
St. Willibrord, Architect of Community and Unity,*
St Willibrord, Destroyer of idols,*
St Willibrord, Patron Saint of children,*
St Willibrord Gentle guide of the lost,*
St Willibrord , Support of the homeless,*
St Willibrord, Friend of the persecuted,*
St Willibrord, Light of the blind,*
St. Willibrord, Refuge for the sick,*
St Willibrord, Gentle father of the poor,*
St Willibrord, Comforter of the afflicted and sorrowful,*
St Willibrord, Helper to the suffering,*
St Willibrord, True voice of God,*
St Willibrord, Humble servant of Jesus Christ,*
St Willibrord, Mighty advocate in heaven,*
St Willibrord, Miraculous healer,*
St Willibrord, True witness and confessor of Christ,*
St Willibrord, Saviour of those who doubt their faith,*
St Willibrord, Supporter of the carer and educator,*
St Willibrord, Hope of those who pray,*
St Willibrord, Model of patience and gentleness,*
St Willibrord, Example of active love,*
St Willibrord, Master of joy and life,*
St Willibrord, Disciple of Christ,*
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Lord, hear our prayer!
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Lord, have mercy on us!

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