Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

St. C.S. Lewis, 22 November.

C.S. Lewis still has presence in our lives today as if he had died only yesterday. This is perhaps because of his many books, which attract the interest of all ages, are widely read. I know very little about Lewis. But  the little that I do know about him and all that I have read from his works shows him to be a holy man and a saint of the Church in all its meanings.
     Lewis grew up in County Ulster, Ireland and was a member of the the Church of Ireland as a child but lost his faith as a teenager. He attended the University of Oxford for Literature, especially interested in Norse literature, and after which he fought in World War One in 1917. He remained a staunch atheist for a long time, supporting it in many of his early debates and writings. But, after teaching at Oxford for some time he rejected atheism, converted to Christianity, and joined the Church of England in 1931, partly influenced my J.R. Tolkien and other colleagues. He described the end of the process as stubborn resistance to God and then in "Trinity Term...I admitted that God was God, and knelt down and prayed, perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. Later, in one of the Oxford debates of the 1930s when the question was posed "does God exist?," for the existence of God and additionally, though in a different setting, that Jesus was the Son of God, much to the surprise and contempt of many Oxford fellows. He married the Jewish American Joy Davidman in 1957, while she was in a hospital bed for treatment of bone-cancer. His faith spurred the dozens of books that he published, many of them written to support aspects of orthodox Christianity. These books include "Miracles," which supports divine miracles, and "The Problem of Pain," which explains the existence of pain and suffering in a world made by God.  His books "The Chronicles of Narnia" are based around deep Christian symbolism. He died in 1963 and was buried at his parish, Holy Trinity Headington Quarry.
     Lewis's sanctity exists in many parts and perspectives of his life. Lewis, as both well accomplished as a secular scholar and theologian; as both a for-some-time atheist and then a faithful, orthodox believer, stands for, among many things, the compatibility of natural knowledge and the orthodox Christian faith. In a time where the Christian faith has been attacked as archaic, superstitious, without reason, and hypocritical, orthodoxy is important and fortunately Lewis, certainly a man of reason and natural knowledge  has also provided us with a defense from these questions. As he himself was a non-believer who used reason to criticize the Church, his acceptance of Christ and defense of Christian religion serves as an motive for the Church's continuing support of orthodoxy. He serves as an example to the faithful and to the questioning that the Christians can fully accept orthodox Christianity and accept natural and scientific fact and reason at the same time, which is why he is so important to the modern Church.

Lewis was added to the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church of the United States in 2011 for November 22 with the following collect:

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike; Surprise us also with thy joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Narnia window at Holy Trinity Headington Quarry, Lewis's parish church.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

St. Hugh of Lincoln, Protector of the Oppressed, 17 November.

St. Hugh of Lincoln on a Carthusian altarpiece in Spain.
     St. Hugh was born at Avalon, France around 1140. A son of the Lord of Avalon, Hugh became affiliated with the Augustinians at an early age but eventually became a friar at the Grand Chartreuse  the head Carthusian monastery, because he desired a more isolated and contemplative life. It was during this time that Hugh became friends with the Cistercian Archbishop, St. Peter of Tarentaise, a man famously devoted to charity and humility, who became Hugh's mentor. Hugh  eventually became a priest and the procurator of the Grand Chartreuse which was a big deal for the Carthusian because unlike Black Benedictines, Cistercians or most other religious orders, only some Carthusian friars were ordained. In 1179, Hugh traveled to Witham in Dorset to fill the post as Prior of the first Carthusian House in England. Hugh nourished the community at Witham and settled disputes with the local villagers. It was at Witham that Hugh began his troublesome relationship with English Royalty, extending through the reigns of Kings Henry II, Richard I and John. In 1186 the chapter of Lincoln Cathedral elected Hugh as Bishop much to his surprise.
     It was during Hugh's episcopate that he really became a saint. Hugh worked to wrestle the church out from under royal authority, reminding several kings that they were not exempt from hell, and were, in fact, well into the journey there. His humility, a relic of his Carthusian day, was a trend in Hugh's episcopate that set him apart from most other bishops of his time, challenging the behavior of the Church. King Richard one said of him "If all the bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, no prince among us could raise his head against them." He regularly visited his diocese, moving systematically from palace to palace. On his visits he established a variety of charities for the disposed and never hesitated in counselling any person who approach him whether king, child or leper. It was recorded that he enjoyed children in particular and many times ate with lepers, instead of nobles, and washed their feet, a sincere demonstration of pious humility. He had a particular affinity to the burial of the dead, so that whenever he and his episcopal retinue came across neglected dead bodies, he would would personally bury them according to the appropriate rites preformed with deep piety, or when he came into a town where there was a funeral, he would ask permission to say the Mass. While Lincoln Cathedral was being built, Hugh helped to work on the its construction by carrying a yoke to and from the work site. He also protected the Jews of his diocese in Lincoln and Oxford from popular violence. It was recorded that all the Jews participated in his funeral procession along with the 3 Archbishops, 14 bishops, 100 abbots, 3 kings and thousands of others when he died on this day in 1200.
     If all the bishops of the modern Anglican Church were like St. Hugh of Lincoln, not only would all secular rulers be unable to raise their head against them, but the Church would be strong in faith and unity, and the greatest example of charity and care for human life in all the world.
     Even if just a few bishops, personally worked in communities to strengthen both people's role in society and relationship to Christ and the Church, by washing people's feet, by calling the homeless to sleep inside, to visit the homes of the lonely, the elderly, the afraid ...the list does not end, the Church would be what it really is...the body of Jesus Christ, living and doing what Christ did and does.
     The example of people like St. Hugh is key to the existence and mission of the Church. From his time to our time, the population for whom he showed so much Christian love had increased exponentially-and it its the Church's job to grow and do what he did-what Christ wants us to do-for all those people. The primary role of the Church is to maintain its true faith, to bring it to all people, and to treat them as Jesus would. There are other specifics, but in general it cannot afford to dwell elsewhere.

Almighty God, who sent your servant Hugh to minister to kings and princes, children and lepers alike; to be an example of apostolic ministry for the Church and an example of Christian charity and humility for the world; grant that we, as the Church and as individuals, may minister to the world with the same penetrating humility, undaunted faith, and caring charity in the message of our Savoir Jesus Christ, Your son, who with You and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Hugh is often depicted with the goose that followed him around in one town in the diocese as here in stained glass from York and on a poly-chrome reredos.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Feast of the Consecration of St. Samuel Seabury: the Bestowal of the American Episcopate: The first Bishop in the United States of America.

This feast annually marks the official establishment of the Anglican Church in the United States and is therefore as important to Episcopalians as the arrival of St. Augustine in Kent is to the Church of England, and the whole Anglican Communion. Samuel Seabury is to the U.S. what St. Aidan was to Northumbria, what St. Columba was to the Picts, what St. Patrick was to the Irish, and, as said before, what St. Augustine was to the English. He was the missionary who finally secured the Apostolic line on America. And for this reason he is a man of 'blessed memory,' as St. Bede would have said it, to the Church in the United States. 

     Seabury grew up in the Colony of Connecticut and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1753. He became a member of a missionary group in the colonies and successively served as Rector to the parishes of Christ Church New Brunswick, NJ, Grace Church Jamaica, NY, and St. Peter's Westchester County, NY. Both before and after the Revolutionary War, Seabury remained loyal to the Church of England and advocated for the establishment of a bishopric in the colonies. After the war, he was elected in a meeting of the Church in Connecticut to seek Episcopal consecration in England. He was denied consecration by the Archbishop of Canterbury because Church of England Bishops had to swear an oath to the king, which was problematic for the now American Seabury. So he sought consecration by the non-juror bishops of Scotland, who were in hiding because they refused to recognize the Hanoverian dynasty and, as Episcopalian in structure and catholic in worship, were suppressed by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Scots agreed to consecrate Seabury on the conditions that they call themselves the 'Episcopal' Church, to get back at the Hanoverians in England, and that the Americans included the Epiclesis after the words of institution in the rite for Holy Communion. Seabury was consecrated on this day in 1784 by the bishop and suffragan of Aberdeen, and the bishop of Ross and Caithness in Aberdeen. He went on the establish the Church in Connecticut and Rhode Island, participated in the first consecration of a bishop in America, Claggett of Maryland, and served as the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. He died in 1796 and in buried in St. James Church, New London. 

Consecration of St. Samuel Seabury from St. Paul's Edinburgh.
     St. Samuel Seabury is an important example for the Episcopal Church, and all Churches of the Anglican Communion, as an enthusiastic missionary, supporter of the faith, and father of the Church. Both diocesan and missionary bishops can look up to him when they work to penetrate their own diocese with the Gospel or to bring it to new places and establish new Churches. As I said in my post The Church is in Need of Her Saints, "the Church owes much of her existence to these men and women who died for the faith or kept clean the Church of corruption. Today by placing a candle before the image or relic of a saint we are both thanking our mortal ancestors for giving us the Church and praying that we as Christians might be able to imitate the extreme dedication to Christ that these saints exercised." Samuel Seabury is saint, father, and missionary of the Anglican Church, whose work, as a mortal follower and herald of Christ, we members of the modern Church, should hope to emulate. When we say a prayer remembering St. Samuel Seabury we are thanking Christ for his sacrifice, and for our salvation; for all the comfort that we get from him because holy men and women like Samuel Seabury secured the faith for us. 

Eternal God, you blessed your servant Samuel Seabury with the gift of perseverance to renew the Anglican inheritance in North America: Grant that, joined together in unity with our bishops and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The miter of St. Samuel Seabury.
Because Samuel Seabury was the first of any bishop in America, there is some literature surrounding his miter, (which I think should be treated as a relic). It is kept by the Diocese of Connecticut in Hartford. The following poem is by A. Cleveland Coxe.

THE rod that from Jerusalem
  Went forth so strong of yore;
That rod of David's royal stem,
  Whose hand the farthest bore?
St. Paul to seek the setting sun,
  They say, to Britain prest:
St. Andrew to old Caledon;
  But who still further West?

Go ask!--a thousand tongues shall tell
  His name and dear renown,
Where altar, font, and holy bell,
  Are gifts he handed down:
A thousand hearts keep warm the name,
  Which share those gifts so blest;
Yet even this may tell the same,
  First mitre of the West!

This mitre with its crown of thorn,
  Its cross upon the front;
Not for a proud adorning worn,
  But for the battle's brunt:
This helmet--with Salvation's sign,
  Of one whose shield was faith;
This crown--of him, for right divine
  Who battled unto death!

Oh! keep it--till the moth shall wear
  Its comeliness to dust,
Type of a crown that's laid up where
  There is nor moth nor rust;
Type of the LORD'S commission given
  To this, our Western shore;
The rod of CHRIST--the keys of heaven,
  Through one, to thousands more.

They tell how Scotia keeps with awe
  Her old Regalia bright,
Sign of her independent law,
  And proud imperial right;
But keep this too for Scotland's boast;
  'Twill tell of better things,
When long old Scotia shall have lost
  Those gewgaws of her kings.

And keep it for this mighty West
  Till truth shall glorious be,
And good old Samuel's is confest
  Columbia's primal see.
'Tis better than a diadem,
  The crown that bishop wore,
Whose hand the rod of David's stem
  The furthest Westward bore.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

St. Dyfrig of Wales, 14 November. (Also known as St. Dubricius or Devereux)

Bardsey Island where St. Dyfrid retired, North Wales. "The island of one thousand saints."
     St. Dyfrig was a monk and bishop of sixth century Wales. Raised a Christian he established abbeys at Hentland, where the parish church is dedicated to him, and Moccas, both in Herefordshire, which became renowned centers of Welsh Christian learning and produced many more saints. He acted as a missionary bishop to parts of Herefordshire and southern Wales and eventually became the Archbishop of Caerleon, Primate of the ancient Welsh Church. As Archbishop he fostered the Welsh monasticism to which he was so accustomed on a much larger scale establishing more abbeys and churches with the help of his friend, the Abbot St. Illtud and St. Cadog the hermit, and consecrating some of Wales' most important saints bishops, including St. Samson and St. Deiniol. In 545, he is said to have called a synod Llandewi Brefi for the Church to uniformly reject the Pelagian heresy, which suggests his possible association with St. Germanus of Auxerre. It was at this synod that Dyfrig passed the Archbishopric of Caerleon to St. David of Wales, and retired to Bardsey, the Island of Saints, where he died at the famous monastery. His relics were translated in the 12th century to the Cathedral at Llandaff, where they still rest. Though St. David is dully remembered as the great saint of the Welsh people, Dyfrig was key to the stability of the Welsh Church. Monasteries would remain the core of Celtic Christianity for centuries to come and Dyfrid greatly contributed to their establishment in Wales, securing the strength and ability of the Christian religion in a tumultuous time period with no end in sight. Dyfrig, although not the founder of Christianity in Wales should be considered one of its greatest fathers, and thus one of the fathers of Christianity in Britain and of the whole Anglican Church.
     The time period in which Dyfrig lived is dark with uncertainty. But what we do know about Dyfrig and his passionate nurturing of the faith is precious to our Church's history and modern life when she looks back to her roots to see who watered the seedling that became the tree. Although Dyfrig may seem, then, like an obscure, eclipsed figure, our Church is directly descended from his work and only through the revival of his work can the Church continue the mission established by Our Savior and nurtured by St. Dyfrig 1460 years ago. There are many saints like Dyfrig, whose lives are partly missing to us in the fog of time but who's examples and works passed the Church to us so that we, though we too may someday be obscured in the same fog, can pass on the same beloved faith for generations 1460 years from now.
Llandaff Cathedral, established by St. Dyfrig.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, elected Archbishop of Canterbury.

     Today, the one hundred and fifth Archbishop was announced following the Queen's approval at Lambeth Palace to be the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham. 

"In his opening statement at Lambeth Palace, Bishop Justin said he was “astonished and excited” to be taking over from Dr Rowan Williams, who stands down as Archbishop at the end of December. Acknowledging the many challenges faced by the Church, he said it will be a privilege to provide leadership "at a time of great spiritual hunger"."

From the website of the Archbishop:

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!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Feast of St. Winifred, 3 November (also called St. Winefride, Gwenffrewi or Wenefreda)

Fragments of St. Winifred's Shrine at Shrewsbury Abbey.
     Winifred was a welsh princess of the 7th century, who decided to become a nun instead of marrying, joining a monastery in northern Wales. The legend follows that her suitor, Caradog, was enraged with her decision and pursued her, similar to the stories of St. Frideswide and of St. Etheldreda in faraway East Anglia who chose the religious life much to the dismay of the young King Ecgfrith of Northumbria. Caradog struck of the head of Winifred and where it fell a spring appeared, a reoccurring theme in the cult of saints in Wales. Winifred picked up her head and brought it to the renowned missionary and abbot, St. Beuno who restored her to life. Winifred proceeded to become the abbess of Gwytherin, a monastery in Denbighshire, and made a pilgrimage to Rome. She died in A.D. 660 and was buried at Gwytherin but was translated by benedictine monks in the 12th century to the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Shrewsbury, where her relics were venerated in a shrine up to the reformation. The well, where her head landed, continues to be maintained as a pilgrimage site. Winifred is featured in the "Cadfael" series, by Ellis Peters, which takes place at Shrewsbury Abbey during the 12th century.
     Although few of us will ever have the honor of witnessing a miracle exactly like that of St. Winifred, her story remains part of the larger Christian journey. Her persistence to enter a life fully dedicated to the work and thought of Christ, is an example for all Christians today who may becoming priests or religious themselves or who may be looking for a way to integrate Jesus into every aspect of life outside of the religious life and find others who discourage them from doings so or suggest that a person's Christian life should be more private. Followers of Christ carry on a faith that must be expressed in every aspect of life and so by no means can we both live Christianity privately and support the faith fully. St. Winifred is among those saints who lead all Christians to seek full intimacy with Christ in an ordained religious, or lay life despite any form of persecution or discouragement. With St. Winifred's example, we, as Christians, must embody the faith in our own lives and proclaim the love of Christ for the rest of the world to know also.
Gwytherin Church; probably built on the foundations of Winifred's monastery.
The Martyrdom of St. Winifred in Shrewsbury Abbey.