Archive for the ‘Saints of the 800s’ Category

Feast of St. Methodius I of Constantinople and St. Joseph the Hymnographer (June 14)   1 comment

Above:  The Expansion of Islam, 700-900

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  The Publishers Agency, Inc., 1957), H-11

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SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE (LATE 700S-847)

Defender of Icons and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

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SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER (LATE 700S-886)

Defender of Icons and the “Sweet-Voiced Nightingale of the Church”

Alternative feast day = April 3

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Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

–Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées

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A DUAL BIOGRAPHY OF ALMOST CERTAINLY THREE MEN

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On the Roman Catholic calendar Sts. Methodius I of Constantinople and Joseph the Hymnographer, contemporaries, share a feast day yet not a feast.  My process of preparing this post reveals that the fact they their stories contain many of the same background characters, however, so merging the feasts is efficient and feasible.

FROM SICILY TO ROME

Above:  St. Methodius I of Constantinople

Image in the Public Domain

St. Methodius I, born in Syracuse, Sicily, in the late 700s, came from a wealthy family.  He, educated in Syracuse, traveled to Constantinople for the purpose of seeking a position in the Byzantine imperial court.  He founded a monastery on the island of Chinos and supervised construction of that monastery instead.  St. Methodius I left Chinos soon after the the completion of the construction of that monastery, for St. Nicephorus I, from 806 to 815 the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, summoned him to the imperial capital and appointed him the apokrisiares, or church advocate, during the reign (813-820) of the Iconoclastic Emperor Leo V the Armenian.

Above:  St. Joseph the Hymnographer

Image in the Public Domain

St. Joseph the Hymnographer, frequently and perhaps hopelessly confused by many hagiographers with St. Joseph of Thessalonica, brother of St. Theodore Studites, also made his way to Constantinople.  St. Joseph the Hymnographer, born on the island of Sicily in the late 700s, came from a Christian family.  His parents were Plotinos and Agatha.  He moved to Thessalonica, where he became a monk.  There St. Gregory the Dekapolite, also a defender of icons, met our saint, whom he took to the imperial capital during the reign (813-820) of Leo V the Armenian.

IN ROME

St. Nicephorus I sent St. Methodius I on a mission to Rome.  During that time Leo the Armenian dismissed the Ecumenical Patriarch and exiled the absent St. Methodius I.

St. Gregory also sent St. Joseph to Rome, to deliver a message to Pope Leo III (in office 795-816).  St. Joseph remained in Rome for years.

BACK TO CONSTANTINOPLE

Both of our featured saints returned to Constantinople after Leo the Armenian died in 820 and during the reign (820-829) of Emperor Michael II the Stammerer.  Although Michael II initially halted the Iconclastic persecution and freed the political prisoners, he eventually resumed the persecution and imprisoned St. Methodius I, who had continued to resist Iconoclasm.  St. Joseph, a priest by this time, was back in the imperial capital also.  There he founded a church and an associated monastery.  In his absence St. Gregory had died.  St. Joseph transferred relics of his mentor to the new church.

THE REIGN OF THE EMPEROR THEOPHILUS (829-842)

The next ruler was Theophilus (reigned 829-842), an Iconclast.  The Emperor freed St. Methodius I, who persisted in resisting Iconoclasm.  Theophilus tolerated this until he became convinced that leniency toward St. Methodius I angered God, who supposedly punished the empire with defeats to Arab armies.  So, in 835, the Emperor ordered the arrest and torture of St. Methodius I, who had retorted that God was angry not over the veneration of icons but the destruction of them.  Byzantine guards broke St. Methodius I’s jaw and permanently scarred his face.  They also kept him incarcerated with two robbers in a cave on the island of Antigonus for seven years.

St. Joseph also resisted the Iconclastic policy of Theophilus.  Our saint therefore spent eleven years in exile in the Cheronese, in Crimea.

EXIT SAINT METHODIUS I

The reign of Emperor Michael III the Drunkard spanned from 842 to 867.  Until 856, however, the regent was his mother, the Empress Theodora.  She ordered defenders of icons freed.  The Empress also elevated St. Methodius I to the office of Ecumenical Patriarch.  In that capacity he presided over the church council that restored the veneration of icons.  He lived peacefully during his final years, dying in 847.

St. Methodius I also wrote some hymns.

EXIT SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER

St. Joseph’s fortunes under Theodora were mixed.  In 842 she made him the keeper of the sacred vessels at the Church of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople.  He had to go into exiles again, however, due to the political consequences of his condemnation of the cohabitation of Bardas, brother of Theodora.  St. Joseph returned from exile in 867, after the death of Bardas.

St. Joseph, back in Constantinople, ended his days as the Father-confessor for all priests in the city.  He died in 886.

St. Joseph wrote about 1000 hymns and liturgical poems of the Orthodox Church.  Some of them have come to exist in English-language translations, in hymnals of various denominations, usually Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, and Presbyterian.

THE MATTER OF CHRONOLOGY; OR, PEOPLE LEAD THEIR LIVES FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD

I have endeavored to write as accurately as possible.  As I have mentioned, hagiographers have long confused St. Joseph the Hymnographer with St. Joseph of Thessalonica.  This fact has complicated my task.  Even Orthodox Church resources I have consulted have offered untrustworthy information.  I have discerned some of this via simple mathematics.  According to some sources, the birth of St. Joseph the Hymnographer occurred in 816 and his family fled Sicily when he was 15 years old (in 831), due to the Arab invasion.  Also according to these sources, some years later St. Joseph arrived in Constantinople and carried a message to the Pope during the reign of Emperor Leo V the Armenian.  The reign of Leo the Armenian was 813-820, however.  ST. JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER DID NOT MOVE BACKWARD IN TIME.  I have also read of mutually exclusive exiles of St. Joseph during the reign of the Emperor Theophilus.  I have utilized Ockham’s Razor when making decisions about what to write.

I acknowledge readily, O reader, that my biography of St. Joseph the Hymnographer almost certainly contains elements of the life of St. Joseph of Thessalonica instead, due to the sources available to me.

CONCLUSION

Sts. Methodius I of Constantinople and Joseph the Hymnographer were faithful servants of God who suffered for their faith, due to imperial politics.  Their legacies have survived, fortunately.  The Orthodox Church has continued to venerate icons.  Also, many Christians, in their successive generations, to the present day, have sung hymns by St. Joseph.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIACH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servants

Saints Methodius I of Constantinople and Joseph the Hymnographer,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our won day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Sts. Aengus the Culdee and Maelruan (March 11)   Leave a comment

aengus

Above:  St. Aengus the Culdee

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE (DIED MARCH 11, 824)

Hermit and Monk

Also known as Saint Angus the Culdee, Oengus the Culdee, Oengus the Culdee, Oengus of Clonenagh, Dengus, et cetera

His feast day = March 11

co-author with

SAINT MAELRUAN (DIED IN 791)

Abbot

His feast transferred from July 7

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St. Aengus, born near Clonenagh, Ireland, became a culdee, or hermit, near the River Nore.  There he allegedly communed with angels.  Eventually St. Aengus became a monk at his home town.  He attracted so many disciples that he decided to transfer to Tallaght Abbey, near Dublin.  The founder and abbot of that monastery was St. Maelruan.  The two saints wrote the Rule of the Celidhe De (a monastic rule for hermits) and the Martyrology of Tallaght.  St. Aengus also composed the Feilire, a version of the martyrology in verse.  After St. Maelruan died in 791 St. Aengus left Tallaght Abbey and returned to life as a hermit.  Eventually he became a bishop.  St. Aengus died on March 11, 824.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we,

inspired by the devotion of your servants Saints Aengus the Culdee and Maelruan,

may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come;

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

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 12:33-37 or 9:57-62

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 722

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Feast of Sts. Ludmilla of Bohemia, Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, Agnes of Prague, Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Assisi, and Hortulana of Assisi (March 2)   Leave a comment

premyslid-dynasty-coat-of-arms

Above:  Coat of Arms of the Premyslid Dynasty

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT LUDMILLA OF BOHEMIA (CIRCA 860-SEPTEMBER 16, 921)

Duchess of Bohemia and Martyr

Her feast transferred from September 16

grandmother of

SAINT WENCESLAUS I OF BOHEMIA (907-SEPTEMBER 28, 929)

Duke of Bohemia and Martyr

His feast transferred from September 28

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SAINT AGNES OF PRAGUE (1205-MARCH 6, 1282)

Bohemian Princess and Nun

Also known as Saint Agnes of Bohemia

Her feast day = March 2

Alternative feast days = March 6 and June 8

corresponded with

SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI (JULY 16, 1194-AUGUST 11, 1253)

Foundress of the Poor Clares

Her feast transferred from August 11

Alternative feast days = August 12, September 23, and October 3

sister of

SAINT AGNES OF ASSISI (1197-NOVEMBER 16, 1253)

Abbess at Monticelli

Her feast transferred from November 16

daughter of

SAINT HORTULANA OF ASSISI (DIED CIRCA 1238)

Poor Clare Nun

Also known as Saint Ortulana of Assisi

Her feast transferred from January 2

Alternative feast days = January 5 and August 18

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One of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize influences and relationships.  This post, with family functioning as the connective tissue, is consistent with that goal.

St. Methodius (circa 815-885), a great missionary bishop, converted Duke Borivoj I of Bohemia (reigned 867-889) and his wife, St. Ludmilla of Bohemia (circa 860-921) to Christianity.  The sovereigns’ attempts to convert their subjects prompted much opposition, even an exile.  Their oldest son, Spythinev I (reigned 894-915), preceded his younger brother, Vratislaus I (reigned 915-921), who seems to have died during a pagan uprising, in power.  The Dukes of Bohemia at the time had to contend with the domestic policy issue of Christianity vs. paganism and the foreign policy issue of whether to align the duchy with the East or with the West.  These issues created much turmoil in Bohemia.  Vratislaus I’s widow was Drahomira (circa 877 or 890-died after 934), daughter of a pagan chief.  She had made baptismal vows on her wedding day yet did not take them seriously.

Two princes–both of them minors–stood to succeed to the throne.  St. Ludmilla, who supervised the education of St. Wenceslaus I (907-929), her grandson, served as regent for him briefly until Drahomira ordered her assassination and took over as regent.  Drahomira instituted a program of persecuting Christians.  The following year, however, St. Wenceslaus I reached the age of majority, assumed power, exiled his mother, and reversed her policies.  He also allied the Duchy of Bohemia with Germany, which sent enough priests to serve in long-vacant parishes.  Our saint’s reign was brief, for his brother, Boleslav I “the Cruel” (reigned 929-972), ordered and participated in his assassination at a church door in 929.

Centuries later, when the same dynasty still governed Bohemia, another Wenceslaus I (reigned 1230-1253) wielded power as the King (not Duke).  He was a kinsman of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231).  The king had a sister, St. Agnes of Prague (1205-1282), who avoided a series of arranged marriages and became a nun.  She built a Franciscan hospital on land her brother (the King of Bohemia) donated.  St. Agnes also founded the Confraternity of the Crusaders of the Red Star to staff the hospital and its clinics.  In 1234, with the help of St. Clare of Assisi, with whom she corresponded for about 20 years, St. Agnes founded the Convent of St. Saviour, Prague.  (St. Clare sent five nuns.)  St. Agnes became the abbess of that abbey.  The good works to which she devoted herself included cooking for other nuns and mending the clothes of lepers.

St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) also came from a privileged family and devoted her life to serving God in the poor.  She was a daughter of Count Favorino Sciffi of Sasso-Rosso and St. Hortulana of Assisi (died circa 1238) and a sister of St. Agnes of Assisi (1197-1253).  St. Clare also preferred monastic life to an arranged marriage.  In 1212 the 15-year-old saint made her vows before St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1226) and founded the Poor Clares, who lived austerely and helped the poor.  A few weeks later, her younger sister, St. Agnes of Assisi, joined her.  Both monastic vocations prompted strong opposition in certain relatives, who eventually became resigned to the fact of their monastic lives.  St. Clare led the order, partially a family matter, for the rest of her life.  St. Agnes founded Poor Clare communities.  She also became the abbess at Monticelli in 1221.  The widowed St. Hortulana joined the order too.  St. Agnes also tended to the dying St. Clare, whom she followed in death shortly after her older sister’s demise.

Families are, when they function as they ought to do, nurseries of faith and kindness.  One might wonder what kind of man St. Wenceslaus I might have become without the positive influence of his grandmother.  One might also recognize that Sts. Clare and Agnes of Assisi learned their faith at home and in church, and that they influenced their mother in turn.  One might also wonder if St. Agnes of Prague would have been as successful in her vocation without the aid of her brother (the King of Bohemia) and St. Clare of Assisi.

May we support and encourage each other in our vocations from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by the fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726

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Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius (February 14)   1 comment

cyril-and-methodius

Above:  Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYRIL (CIRCA 826-869)

Missionary in Moravia

Born as Constantine

brother of 

SAINT METHODIUS (CIRCA 815-885)

Missionary in Moravia and Archbishop of Sirmium

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APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS

FATHERS OF SLAVONIC LITERATURE

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Sts. Cyril (born as Constantine) and Methodius were brothers, influential missionaries, the Fathers of Slavonic Literature, and the Apostles to the Slavs.  The brothers were natives of Thessalonica, where their family was prominent.  Constantine taught philosophy at the Byzantine imperial university at Constantinople while St. Methodius was a provincial governor.  Sometime prior to 863 both saints became priests.  Circa 863, at the request of Duke St. Ratislav of Moravia (reigned 846-870), Emperor Michael III the Drunkard (reigned 842-867) dispatched the brothers to that duchy as missionaries.  They succeeded, due in large part to their linguistic skills, for which Michael III selected them.  Sts. Constantine/Cyril and Methodius preached in the vernacular language and developed the Cyrillic alphabet.  They also had to contend with the strong opposition of certain German missionaries.  The brothers returned to Rome by 868.  That year Constantine became a monk and took the name “Cyril,”  He died in the Eternal City the following year.

St. Methodius, the new Archbishop of Sirmium, with jurisdiction over Moravia, returned to that kingdom and resumed his missionary work.  Certain German bishops opposed him, of course.  Some of them went so far as to arrange for his incarceration for more than two years.  Eventually Pope John VIII (reigned 872-882) secured our saint’s release in exchange for withdrawing permission to use Slavonic as the main liturgical language.  Later some German bishops in Moravia arranged for Rome to recall St. Methodius on false allegations of heresy.  That matter resolved, our saint returned to that duchy, where he spent the rest of his life.  When St. Methodius returned he took with him papal permission to use the Slavonic language in the liturgy.

St. Methodius also translated the Bible and canon and civil law into Slavonic.

He died in 885.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit

you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius

to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people:

Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ,

and make us one unified family under the banner of the Prince of Peace;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 96:1-7

Ephesians 2:13-22

Luke 10:1-9

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Feast of Sts. Anskar and Rimbert (February 3)   Leave a comment

anskar

Above:  St. Anskar

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ANSKAR (801-FEBRUARY 3, 865)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen

Also known as Saint Ansgar

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SAINT RIMBERT (830-JUNE 11, 888)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen

Also known as Saint Rembert

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These two saints were pioneering figures in Scandinavian Christianity.

St. Anskar, born at Amiens, Picardy, in 801, came from Gallic nobility.  Eventually he became a Benedictine monk in Picardy then (in 1822) at New Corbie, Westphalia.  Later St. Anskar became the first Archbishop of Hamburg (in 831), and therefore chief missionary to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  In 832 he founded the first Christian church in Sweden.  As archbishop St. Anskar founded churches and schools, opposed slavery, and cared for the poor and the sick.  He also doubled as the Abbot of New Corbie (starting in 834) and as the Bishop of Bremen (from 848 to 865).  His episcopal title as leader of the two sees was Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen.  In his missionary work St. Anskar had the support of Danish kings Horik I (reigned 827-854) and Horik II (reigned 854-860s).  He also secured royal recognition of Christianity as a legal religion in Denmark.

St. Anskar died at Bremen on February 3, 865.

Among his fellow missionaries in Scandinavia was St. Rimbert (830-888), a monk, his friend, and immediate successor (865-888) as Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen.  St. Rimbert, St. Anskar’s biographer, helped to fight off Vikings.  In 884 the monk-archbishop led an army that drove Vikings out of East Frisia.

Sts. Anskar and Rimbert laid the foundations of the Church in Scandinavia.  Unfortunately, resurgent paganism reversed most of their accomplishments.  However, growth in Scandinavian Christianity finally began to take root a century after these saints’ efforts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK COOK ATKINSON, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

THE FEAST OF KAMEHAMEHA IV AND EMMA ROOKE, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAII

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Almighty and everlasting God, you sent your servants Anskar and Rimbert

to sow the seeds of faith among  the people of Scandinavia:

Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things,

knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a fruitful conclusion;

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

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

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 96:1-7

Ephesians 2:13-22

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Posted November 28, 2016 by neatnik2009 in February, Saints of the 800s

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Feast of Alfred the Great (October 26)   Leave a comment

England 878

Above:  Map of England in 878

Image in the Public Domain

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ALFRED THE GREAT (849-OCTOBER 26, 899)

King of the West Saxons

An old saying tells that power wears down those who do not have it.  That is certainly true in the Turkish Republic.  Even before the recent failed coup President (previously Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the judiciary to imprison journalists whose reporting was critical of him.  He thereby proved that he lacked respect for the freedom of the press.  Now, after the coup, he is targeting not only soldiers but journalists, judges, academics, and civil servants en masse.  It is a witch hunt.  The republic is really a dictatorship.  Erdogan’s power wears down those who do not have it.  Patriotism and law and order are the last refuges of a scoundrel, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

Power need not wear down those who lack it, however.  If the right person uses power for proper purposes it builds up the nation–or, in the case, of King Alfred the Great, the only monarch in English history to be “the Great,” the kingdom as a whole.

Alfred the Great was the last King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex) and the first King of the Anglo-Saxons (from 878).  His mother was Osburh/Osburga (died in 854), a noblewoman.  Our saint’s father was King Aethelwulf (reigned 839-858).  Alfred, born in 849, was the youngest of five children who survived to adulthood.  Aethelwulf sent his four-year-old son to visit Rome, where Pope St. Leo IV (reigned April 10, 847-July 17, 855) sponsored the prince at his confirmation.  Two years later Alfred accompanied Aethelwulf on a pilgrimage to Rome.  The prince learned to read English prior to his twelfth birthday.  He did not learn to read Latin until 887, when he had been king for some time.  Aethelwulf’s three elder sons succeeded him, in order, prior to Alfred’s accession:

  1. Aethelbald (reigned 858-860),
  2. Aethelberht (reigned 860-865), and
  3. Aethelred I (reigned 865-871).

Alfred’s public life spanned 866-899.  That public life began with Alfred assisting his elder brother, Aethelred I, resist Danish invaders, a persistent threat for generations.  In 868 the prince married Ealhswith/Ealswitha (died 902), from the Mercian royal family.  Alfred succeeded Aethelred I in 871, becoming the King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex).  The fight against Danish invaders continued throughout his reign.  One phase of that struggle ended in 878, when Alfred took the title “King of the Anglo-Saxons.”  In that year Alfred did not kill Guthrum, the leader of the Danish invaders; no the monarch forced Guthrum to convert to Christianity and stood as his godfather.  Another stage of that struggle ended in 896.  Alfred left behind a military legacy, including a naval fleet and reorganized militias.  He was, in fact, the “Father of the English Navy.”

Alfred did more than maintain the independence of his realm and became one of the greatest early English monarchs.  He also built up his realm and improved the lives of his subjects.  The monarch, for example, issued a law code, joining the ranks of Hammurabi (reigned 1792-1750 B.C.E.) and Justinian I (reigned 527-565 C.E.).  He also encouraged art, architecture, education, and monasticism.  Alfred recruited experts from the continent of Europe to revitalize learning.  He also ordered that children in his court learn both English and Latin.  Furthermore, the king, in 892, began to translate major Latin texts in theology and philosophy.  Other also translated major Latin texts.  Over time confusion regarding which of these Alfred translated has developed.  The monarch also founded a convent and a monastery.  His attempt to revive monasticism failed, however, due to a lack of public interest.  Alfred was ahead of his time in that regard.

Alfred died on October 26, 899.  He was about 50 years old.  His son, Edward the Elder (reigned 899-924), succeeded him.

George P. Knapp, late Professor of English at Columbia University, wrote:

It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not the magnitude of Alfred’s military achievements, nor the extent of the country which he governed, that lift him into the ranks of the world’s great men, but the beauty and moral grandeur of his character.  In him were combined the virtues of the scholar and the patriot, the efficiency of the man of affairs with the wisdom of the philosopher and the piety of the true Christian.  His character, public and private, is without a stain, and his whole life was one of enlightened and magnanimous service to his country.

–Quoted in The Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 1, page 380

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FLORA MACDONALD, CANADIAN STATESWOMAN AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF NANCY BYRD TURNER, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN EDITOR

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

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O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might

establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people:

Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world,

and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Wisdom 6:1-3, 9-12, 24-25

Psalm 21

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Luke 6:43-49

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 653

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Feast of St. Alcuin of York (May 20)   3 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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