Feast of St. Alcuin of York (May 20)   2 comments

Carolingian Empire 843

Above:  The Carolingian Empire, 843

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK (CIRCA 735-MAY 19, 804)

Abbot of Tours

Stating that one stands on the shoulders of giants is accurate is many contexts, including the life and legacy of St. Alcuin of York, a scholar, educator, and theologian.

St. Alcuin, a native of York, Northumbria, entered the world in the 730s.  Sources have proven to be inconsistent regarding the year, with some offering 732 and others stating 735, always with the caveat “circa.”  He attended the cathedral school at York, the most renowned institution of learning in England.  Our saint taught there form 766 to 778, became a Roman Catholic deacon in 770, and served as the headmaster from 778 to 782.

St. Alcuin made his greatest contribution in the Frankish Kingdom/Carolingian Empire.  In 781 he was returning from a visit to Rome when he met King Charles I “the Great,” a.k.a. Charlemagne (reigned 768-814; Holy Roman Emperor, 800-814) at Parma, Italy.  Our saint accepted the monarch’s offer to lead the Palace School at Aix-en-Chapelle.  St. Alcuin made that school the center of learning in the kingdom and organized schools throughout the realm.  He also encouraged the study of secular liberal arts as means of spiritual edification, taught members of the nobility and the royal family, wrote works on education and grammar, and played a crucial role in preserving knowledge and reviving education in Western Europe after the demise of the Western Roman Empire.

St. Alcuin was also an important liturgist.  He revised the liturgy of the Frankish Church, basing his revision on the Georgian and Gelasian sacramentaries.  Our saint also introduced the sung creed into the Frankish liturgy and arranged notive masses for each day of the week.  St. Alcuin’s work led the the Roman Missal and to liturgical uniformity in Roman Catholicism.  He was also responsible for preserving many prayers, including the Collect of Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

Many of St. Alcuin’s written works have survived.  There were, for example, 310 Latin letters, a treasure trove for historians who study the 700s.  He also left theological works (often refutations of heresies), hagiographies, and commentaries on the Bible.  His revision of the Vulgate has not survived, however.

St. Alcuin served as the Abbot of Tours, presiding over Marmoutier Abbey in Alsace, from 796 to 804.  The roles (if any) he played in politics during his final years have been unclear for a long time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER VIETS GRISWOLD, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up

your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning:

Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions

of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 39:1-9

Psalm 37:3-6, 32-33

Titus 2:1-3

Matthew 13:10-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 379

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Posted February 15, 2016 by neatnik2009 in May, Saints of the 700s, Saints of the 800s

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2 responses to “Feast of St. Alcuin of York (May 20)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Sts. Willibrord and Boniface (November 7) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of St. Adelard of Corbie (January 22) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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