Saint Luke the Evangelist

Luke was a Gentile, a physician, and one of Paul’s disciples and fellow missionaries in the early spread of the Gospel through the Roman world. He is the author both of the Gospel that bears his name and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. He apparently did not know Jesus, writing that he compiled his narrative from the report of “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1). A tradition attested by Eusebius holds that he was one of the first members of the Christian community at Antioch.

Much can be gleaned about his character from his writings. In his Gospel the elements particular to him include much of the account of the virgin birth of Jesus, some of the most moving parables such as those of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and the words of Jesus during his passion to the women of Jerusalem and the penitent malefactor who was crucified alongside Jesus. All of these elements emphasize the compassion of Christ, which together with Luke’s emphasis on poverty, prayer, and purity of heart make up much of his specific appeal to the Gentiles, for whom he wrote this Gospel of the Savior of the world. Women figure more prominently in Luke’s Gospel than in any other, including Mary, Elizabeth, the widow of Nain, and the woman who was a sinner. Luke also emphasizes Jesus’ deity, from the angelic announcement of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” that applies the Roman imperial titles of soter (savior) and kyrios (lord) not to Caesar in Rome, but to the newborn child in the backwater town of Bethlehem; to the subtlety of the Greek words used to address Jesus by different persons (or angels) at different times through his Gospel. In the first part of his Gospel, up through the passion and death of Jesus, human beings address Jesus as “master”, while angels refer to him as “Lord” (the Greek kyrios echoing the Hebrew adonai, a term applied to God). After his Resurrection, through the witness of God’s vindication of him, Jesus is called “Lord” by his disciples.

In the Acts of the Apostles Luke shows himself a remarkably accurate observer, concerned with making necessary links between the history of the early Church and the contemporary history of the Roman Empire. As noted about his Gospel, above, Luke showed himself an artist with words, which is perhaps the basis for the tradition that he was a painter and that he made the first icon of the Blessed Virgin. For this reason, Luke has become the patron not only of physicians and surgeons, but also of artists. When he is represented with the other Evangelists, his symbol is an ox, derived from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1) and sometimes explained by reference to sacrifice in the Temple in the early chapters of his Gospel.

Luke was with Paul until the apostle’s martyrdom in Rome. What became of Luke after this is unknown. Early tradition holds that he wrote his Gospel in Achaia, and that he died at the age of eight-four in Boetia. In 357 the emperor Constantinus the Second had the presumed relics of Saint Luke translated from Thebes in Boetia to Constantinople, where they were placed with the relics of Saint Andrew in Church of the Holy Apostles. The observance of his feast day on the eighteenth of October is quite old in the East, but it appears on Western calendars only in the eighth century. The date itself is universal, and may be based on the actual date of his death.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; 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.

The Lesson
Sirach 38:1-4,6-10,12-14

Honor the physician according to your need of him,
for the Lord created him;
for healing comes from the Most High,
and he will receive a gift from the king.
The skill of the physician lifts up his head,
and in the presence of the great he is admired.
The Lord created medicines from the earth,
and a sensible man will not despise them.

He gave skill to human beings
that he might be glorified in his marvelous works.
By them he heals and takes away pain;
the pharmacist makes of them a compound.
His works will never be finished;
and from him health is upon the face of the earth.
My child, when you are sick do not be negligent,
but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you.
Give up your faults and direct your hands aright
and cleanse your heart from all sin.

Give the physician his place, for the Lord created him;
let him not leave you, for there is need of him.
There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians,
for they too will pray to the Lord
that he should grant them success in diagnosis
and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.

Psalm 147:1-7
Laudate dominum

Hallelujah!
How good it is to sing praises to our God! *
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; *
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted *
and binds up their wounds.

He counts the number of the stars *
and calls them all by their names.

Great is our LORD and mighty in power; *
there is no limit to his wisdom.

The LORD lifts up the lowly, *
but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; *
make music to our God upon the harp.

The Epistle
2 Timothy 4:5-13

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.

The Gospel
Luke 4:14-21

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, vhe went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

__________________________________________________

The icon of Saint Luke the Evangelist is from the hand of Master Theodoric, the fourteenth century Prague court painter of the Holy Roman emperor Charles the Fourth.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holy Days: Other Major Feasts

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and Martyr, c. 115

Presumably of Syrian origin, nothing is known of the early life of Ignatius of Antioch or even of his episcopate before his last journey from Antioch to Rome, during which he was under military guard because he had been condemned to death for being a Christian in Trajan’s persecution of the Church. In the course of this journey, while still in Asia Minor, he wrote seven letters which make him one of the most important witnesses to the faith and order of the subapostolic Church. Four of the letters were written at Smyrna, where he had been received with great honor by Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, and many others of the faithful. These letters were addressed to the churches at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, and Rome. The remaining three letters to Polycarp and to the churches at Philadelphia and Smyrna were written while he was at Troas.

The letters reveal Ignatius to be ardently devoted to Jesus Christ, whose deity and resurrection from the dead they clearly affirm. Against the docetic teaching that exalted the deity of Jesus against his humanity, Ignatius writes: “Stop your ears therefore when anyone speaks to you that stands apart from Jesus Christ, from David’s scion and Mary’s Son, who was really born and ate and drank, really persecuted by Pontius Pilate, really crucified and died while heaven and earth and the underworld looked on; who also really rose from the dead” (To the Trallians, 9). The letters also urge unity in and through the Eucharist and the local bishop, who presides at the Eucharist: “Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for, one is the Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with his Blood, and one altar, just as there is one bishop assisted by the presbyters and the deacons, my fellows servants. Thus you will conform in all your actions to the will of God” (To the Philadelphians, 4). Against those who object that a teaching is not in the “official records”, that is, in the Old Testament Scriptures, he insists that Jesus Christ is himself the content of the Scriptures: “When I heard some say, ‘Unless I find it in the official records – in the Gospel I do not believe'; and when I answered them, ‘It is in the Scriptures,’ they retorted: ‘That is just the point at issue.’ But to me the official record is Jesus Christ; the inviolable record is his Cross and his death and his Resurrection and the faith of which he is the Author” (To the Philadelphians, 8).

Ignatius believed the Church to be God’s holy order in the world, so he shows great concern for the proper ordering of the Church’s teaching, worship, and common life. He writes: “You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed that of the Father; follow the presbyters as your would the Apostles; reverence the deacons as your would God’s commandment. Let no one do anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church” (To the Smyrnaeans, 8). Of note, this is the first occurrence of the word “catholic” as a description of the Church. Ignatius describes the church at Rome as the one founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul, and therefore worthy of special reverence.

Ignatius describes himself as a servant, a disciple, and the “bearer of God” (theophoros), convinced of Christ’s presence within him. On his way to Rome for execution, he called himself “God’s wheat…and by the teeth of wild beasts I am to be ground that I may prove Christ’s pure bread.” He was thrown to the lions in the Colosseum and died almost at once. His letters were soon translated into Latin and several Eastern languages. One of his letters was cited by the sixth century British cleric, Gildas the Wise.

The Church at Antioch has kept his feast on the seventeenth of October from very early, as the Roman Church has done since 1969, and since that time, many Anglican Churches as well. The Book of Common Prayer (1662) keeps his feast day on the seventeenth of December, the date of the translation of his relics.

prepared with material from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
and Ancient Christian Fathers: The Epistles of St Clement of Rome and St Ignatius of Antioch (trans. James Kleist)

The Collect

Almighty God, we praise your Name for your bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray, the willing tribute of our lives and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, Bishops and Martyrs, 1555

Nicholas Ridley was born around 1500 at Willemotewicke, Northumberland, and received his education at Pembroke College, Cambridge, with which he was connected for many years. After studying at Cambridge, he furthered his studies at the Sorbonne and at Louvain, returning to become a Fellow of Pembroke Hall around 1530. A close friend of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and a supporter of the archbishop’s reforming views, Ridley became Cranmer’s chaplain in 1537, and vicar of Herne, Kent, in 1538. He was chosen Master of Pembroke Hall in 1540 and chaplain to King Henry the Eighth and Canon of Canterbury in 1541.

A member of the circle of Cambridge academics attracted to the Continental Reformation, from around 1535 he had definite leanings towards the teachings of the Reformers, partly through a study of Ratramnus’ book on the Eucharist.

Early in the reign of King Edward the Sixth, Ridley was made Bishop of Rochester and a member of the commission that prepared the first Book of Common Prayer (1549). In 1550 he was transferred to the See of London, where he showed himself a diligent advocate and thorough administrator of the principles of the Reformation. Like fellow reforming bishop Hugh Latimer, he preached against the social injustices of his age. In 1553 he supported the claims of Lady Jane Grey to the Crown, and on Queen Mary’s accession he was deprived of his see and imprisoned. With Cranmer and Latimer, he participated in 1554 in the Oxford disputations against a group of Roman Catholic theologians and would not recant his reformed theology, leading to his excommuncation. He was sentenced to death and burned at the stake with Latimer at Oxford on October 16, 1555.

Born the son of a yeoman farmer around 1485 at Thucaston, Leicestershire, Hugh Latimer was graduated from Clare College, Cambridge, and became a Fellow of the college in 1510. After ordination to the priesthood, in 1522 his eloquence and zeal in reforming abuses and defending social justice led the University to license him as one of the twelves preachers commissioned to preach anywhere in England. Though of a conservative bent, from around 1523 his opinions began to become suspect to the ecclesiastical authorities, and according to his own account, he was dramatically converted to the doctrines of the Reformers by Thomas Bilney, a Cambridge scholar who was later burned at the stake (in 1531) as a heretic. When in 1525 Ridley declined the request of his bishop, West of Ely, to preach a sermon against Martin Luther, he was forbidden to preach anywhere in the diocese. After skillfully defending himself before Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, he was again allowed to preach throughout England. Latimer’s directness of method, his understanding of human character, his homely style and ready wit won his sermons greater influence, and a sermon preached before King Henry the Eighth in Lent of 1530 won him royal favor. This same homiletical character, his passionate devotion to the reform of Church and society, and his zeal for the moral life of Christian clergy and people made him one of the outstanding preachers of the English Reformation.

After Cranmer’s appointment to the See of Canterbury in 1533, Latimer’s position further improved, and when, in 1534, Henry formally broke with Rome, Latimer was appointed a royal chaplain. Appointment to the See of Worcester followed in 1535, and in his sermons as bishop he continued to denounce social injustices and other contemporary corruptions, attacking also Catholic teaching on purgatory, images, and other points. He supported the King in the dissolution of the monasteries. But in 1539, when in accordance with his Protestant beliefs he opposed the Act of the Six Articles (Henry’s statement of conservative Catholic doctrine), he resigned his see on hearing that this was the King’s wish. Taken into custody, he was freed in 1540, but was ordered to leave London and was forbidden to preach. Little is known of the intervening years, but in 1546 he was confined to the Tower of London, to be released the following year on the accession of Edward the Sixth. He became very popular as a court preacher, continuing to denounce abuses in Church and society. On Queen Mary’s accession he was arrested and imprisoned, refusing to flee the country. After the Oxford disputations, he was excommunicated. Refusing to recant, he was condemned as a heretic to be burned at the stake with Nicholas Ridley at Oxford on October 16, 1555. His last words to Ridley are famous: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as (I trust) shall never be put out.”

from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer, Bishops and Archbishop, are published at the Lectionary Page website. This sanctoral calendar, in keeping with that of the Church of England, commemorates Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, on March 21.

1 Comment

Filed under Commemorations

Teresa of Avila, Monastic, 1582

Born of an aristocratic Castilian family at Avila in 1515, Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada showed precocious piety by playing as hermits with her younger brother and by once running away from home with him, hoping to reach Morocca and to die as martyrs. She was reared at home according to her station in life until she was fourteen, when her mother died. In adolescence she became interested in romances and fashion, whereupon her father sent her to be educated by Augustinian nuns in the town. A year and a half later she fell ill, and after reading St Jeromes’ Letters during her convalescence, she decided to become a nun. Her father was at first unwilling, but later gave consent, and Teresa entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation in Avila at twenty. A year later she fell ill again, possibly from malaria. She left the convent to stay with her family during the treatment of her illness, and on her recovery three years later she returned to the convent.

At this time the community at the Incarnation was large, comprising one hundred forty nuns, and the nuns’ observance of the rule was relaxed. The parlor was frequented by ladies and gentlemen of the town, and the nuns were able frequently to leave the cloister. In this atmosphere where solitude and poverty seem lightly to have been esteemed, Teresa first practiced mental prayer, then abandoned it, to take it up again after her father’s death, never again to give it up. Gradually she entered more deeply into the practice of prayer until in 1555 she experienced an interior conversion, identifying herself with two penitents, St Mary Magdalene and St Augustine of Hippo, whose Confessions were deeply influential in the formation of her piety. She was helped by Dominican and Jesuit spiritual directors, but her visions and other experiences became more widely known through indiscretion and led to misunderstanding, ridicule, and even persecution.

After twenty-five years or more of this more relaxed religious life, she determined to found a house where the primitive Carmelite rule would more strictly be observed. She met with opposition from ecclesiastical and civil authorities, but her new house of St Joseph at Avila, founded in 1562 with thirteen nuns in conditions of poverty, hardship, and solitude, became the example for sixteen other houses during her lifetime and provided inspiration and an example for reforms in other countries and centuries. Personal poverty was signified by the coarse brown wool habit and the leather sandals. The regimen of manual work, together with alms, provided their income for a very simple way of life which included perpetual abstinence from meat. Teresa herself took her turn at sweeping, spinning, and other household tasks. Teresa’s robust common sense and prudence, and her trust in God’s providence, allied with an extraordinary capacity for work and organization overcame many obstacles. In selecting candidates for this austere way of life, she insisted above all on intelligence and good judgment (“God preserve us from stupid nuns,” she remarked), because she believed that intelligent people see their faults and allow themselves to be guided, while narrow-minded people fail to do so, but are pleased with themselves and never learn to do right.

During the late 1560s she was also active in the reform of the Carmelite friars in association with John of the Cross and this, like her own convents, met with much opposition from the unreformed Carmelites, but eventually the Discalced (reformed) Carmelites were recognized and given and independent juridical structure.

Teresa’s teaching on prayer was complemented by John’s more theological approach, and her own writings in a vivid vernacular stress among other things the existence of different kinds of prayer which are neither rudimentary nor properly mystical. Fortunately for posterity she commited her teaching to writing, and she authored several books, including her autobiography, the story of her foundations, The Way of Perfection (written for nuns), and The Interior Castle, her most mature teaching on prayer and contemplation.

Teresa established her last foundation of Discalced Carmelite sisters at Burgos in 1582, and died on her way back to Avila at Alba de Tormes on October 4 (Old Calendar). Her body was buried and still rests there. In 1662 she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church, the first woman so honored.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Teresa of Avila, Nun, are published on the Lectionary Page’s website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, Bishop of Shanghai, 1906

Born on the sixth of May 1831, of Jewish parents, in the Lithuanian town of Tauroggen (then part of the Russian Empire), Joseph Schereschewsky’s early education was directed toward the rabbinate, but during graduate studies in Germany he became interested in Christianity through missionaries of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, and through his own reading of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament.

In 1854 Schereschewsky emigrated to America and entered the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh to train for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. After two years, he decided to become an Episcopalian and to finish his theological studies at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, from which he graduated in 1859.

After ordination, in response to Bishop William Boone’s call for missionaries in China, Schereschewsky left for Shanghai. Always facile in languages, he learned to write Chinese during the voyage. From 1862 to 1875 he lived in Beijing and translated the Bible and parts of the Prayer Book into Mandarin. After Bishop Channing Moore Williams was transferred to Japan, Schereschewsky was elected Bishop of Shanghai in 1877 and was consecrated at Grace Church, New York City. He established St John’s University in Shanghai and began his translation of the Bible and other works into Wenli. Stricken with paralysis and confined to a wheelchair, he resigned his see in 1883.

Schereschewsky was determined to continue his translation work, and after many difficulties finding support, he was able to return to Shanghai in 1895. Two years later, he moved to Tokyo, where he died on the fifteenth of October, 1906.

With perseverance that rose to the heroic, Schereschewsky completed his translation of the Bible with the help of Chinese and Japanese secretaries, typing some two thousand pages with the middle finger of his partially paralyzed hand. Four years before his death, he said, “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted.” Joseph Schereschewsky is buried in the Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo, next to his wife, who supported him constantly during his labors and his debility.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980), alt.

The Collect

O God, in your providence you called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his infirmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land. Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the confidence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, Bishop of Shanghai, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Philip, Deacon and Evangelist

Philip the Evangelist, later regarded as a deacon, who is not to be confused with Philip the Apostle, was one of the seven Greek-speaking men chosen by the apostles to distribute food and alms to the widows and poor of Jerusalem (Acts 6).

After the death of Stephen, another of the Seven, Philip went to Samaria to preach the Gospel (Acts 8), converting the people there from the sorceries of Simon Magus. Simon himself is said to have been one of his converts. In his travels south to Gaza, Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch, a servant of the Ethiopian queen, reading the passage in Isaiah about the suffering servant. The two traveled together discussing the passage, and the Ethiopian became a believer. He asked for baptism and received the sacrament from Philip.

Philip traveled as a missionary, preaching in every city from Azotus (Ashdod) northwards to Caesarea, where he and his four daughters, who were known as prophets, established a residence. It was there that he entertained the Apostle Paul (Acts 21). Philip’s activities toward the end of his life are the subject of speculation, but Basil the Great writes that he became bishop of Tralles in Lydia in Asia Minor.

Philip’s feast day in the Eastern Church is October 11, and in the West the date is usually June 6. Some Anglican Churches observe his feast on October 11.

prepared from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations

The Collect

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

__________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Philip, Deacon and Evangelist, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Paulinus, Bishop of York and Missionary, 644

One of the second group of monks sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great in 601, Paulinus became the first bishop of York through a favorable political opening. Edwin, the king of Northumbria, of which kingdom York (Roman Eboracum, then British Ebrauc) was the chief city, sent a request to Eadbald the king of Kent, to marry his sister Ethelburga. Eadbald’s first answer was that a Christian woman could not be given in marriage to a pagan husband. But when Edwin answered that Ethelburga and her entire household should have complete freedom of conscience, and that he might even become a Christian himself, consent was given to the marriage. Paulinus was consecrated a bishop by Archbishop Justus on the 1st of July, 625, and traveled north with Ethelburga and her household as her chaplain, with the hope that the conversion of the Northumbrian people to the Gospel would soon follow.

The first baptisms were of Edwin and Ethelburga’s infant daughter and twelve others of the royal household on the feast of Pentecost in the following year. After papal epistolary pleadings with both the king and his queen to influence her husband, Edwin himself converted to the Christian faith after a vision during a period of exile from his kingdom. Having called together a council of the chief nobles of his kingdom in 627, Edwin was counseled by the pagan high priest, Coifi, to give careful consideration to the new teaching, frankly admitting that, “in my experience, the religion that we have hitherto professed seems valueless and powerless”. He further counseled the king that, “if on examination you perceive that these new teachings are better and more effectual, let us not hesitate to accept them.” The other councilors gave similar advice. Edwin then granted Paulinus permission to preach, renounced idolatry, and professed his acceptance of the faith of Christ. On Easter Day, the 12th of April, 627, the king was baptized in the timber Church of Saint Peter the Apostle in York. The king’s baptism was preceded by Coifi’s desecration of the pagan shrines where once he had presided as high priest and followed by the baptisms of many of his nobility “and a large number of humbler folk” (Bede, Ecclesiastical History). Paulinus, with the assistance of his deacon, James, administered these baptisms in various places in what would become Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. For the next six years, Paulinus preached throughout the kingdom of Northumbria.

Paulinus’ ministry in Northumbria was cut short by the death of Edwin in battle with the pagan king Penda of Mercia and his Christian ally, Cadwallon of Gwynedd, in the year 633. Ethelburga returned to Kent, and Paulinus, thinking that there was no future for Christianity in Northumbria without the king, returned south with her. He was appointed Bishop of Rochester, where he served for the rest of his life.

With the later succession of Edwin’s nephew, Oswald, to the rulership of Northumbria, Christian missions returned to that northern kingdom with the coming of Aidan and his monks from Iona, where Oswald had been converted to the Christian faith and educated in exile during Edwin’s reign. What seed was planted by Paulinus’ Romano-Kentish mission to Northumbria was saved and brought to full flower by the Irish mission.

In his Ecclesiastical History, the Venerable Bede gives a report of Paulinus’ appearance which had been told to him by an abbot who heard the description from an elderly man who had been baptized, many years before, by the saint: “a tall man having a slight stoop, with black hair, an ascetic face, a thin hooked nose, and a venerable and awe-inspiring presence”.

Paulinus died on the 10th of October, 644. The day has been observed as his feast in northern England and in English monasteries from shortly after his death.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People

The Collect

God our Saviour, who sent Paulinus to preach and baptize, and so to build up your Church in England: Grant that, inspired by his example, we may tell all the world of your truth, that with him we may receive the reward you prepare for all your faithful servants; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

_______________________________________________

The icon of Saint Paulinus of York (and Rochester) is taken from the website of the Angelus Workshop.

The sparrow appears in the icon in recollection of a parable or simile in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. Bede puts the parable in the mouth of one of Edwin’s councilors, though it has also been attributed to Paulinus himself (perhaps the councilor had heard the parable from Paulinus).

“When we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow thorugh the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe form the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations