Caedmon, Poet, c. 680

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731, the Venerable Bede tells of an elderly lay brother, a herdsman named Caedmon, in the abbey of Streonæshalch at Whitby, presided over by the abbess Hilda (died 680, commemorated November 18). Though there must have been many before him, Caedmon is the first poet in English whose name is known to us, as he is also the first known Christian poet in the English language. One source suggests that Caedmon may have been of British origin, as his name is likely an Anglicization of the Cymric, Cadfan.

The Venerable Bede writes that at social entertainments, when Caedmon saw the harp coming towards him, meaning that it was soon to be his turn to play and to sing, he would leave the table and return home.

“Having done so at a certain time, and gone out of the house where the entertainment was, to the stable, where he had to take care of the horses that night, he there composed himself to rest at the proper time; a person appeared to him in his sleep, and saluting him by his name, said, “Caedmon, sing some song to me.” He answered, “I cannot sing; for that was the reason why I left the entertainment, and retired to this place because I could not sing.” The other who talked to him, replied, “However, you shall sing.” ­ “What shall I sing?” rejoined he. “Sing the beginning of created beings,” said the other. Hereupon he presently began to sing verses to the praise of God, which he had never heard, the purport whereof was thus : We are now to praise the Maker of the heavenly kingdom, the power of the Creator and his counsel, the deeds of the Father of glory. How He, being the eternal God, became the author of all miracles, who first, as almighty preserver of the human race, created heaven for the sons of men as the roof of the house, and next the earth. This is the sense, but not the words in order as he sang them in his sleep; for verses, though never so well composed, cannot be literally translated out of one language into another, without losing much of their beauty and loftiness. Awaking from his sleep, he remembered all that he had sung in his dream, and soon added much more to the same effect in verse worthy of the Deity” (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book IV).

Next morning Caedmon told the steward of the gift that he had received, and the steward conducted him to the abbess who, “in the presence of many learned men”, ordered Caedmon to tell his dream and to repeat the verses. All present concluded that “heavenly grace had been conferred on him by our Lord.” Thereafter, Caedmon put to verse any passage of Scripture expounded to him by the learned abbess and brethren, and Hilda made Caedmon a lay brother among the monks of the abbey, ordering that he should be taught the whole of sacred history.

“Thus Caedmon ‘ keeping in mind all he heard, and as it were chewing the cud, converted the same into most harmonious verse; and sweetly repeating the same, made his masters in their turn his hearers. He sang the creation of the world, the origin of man, and all the history of Genesis : and made many verses on the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their entering into the land of promise, with many other histories from holy writ; the incarnation, passion, resurrection of our Lord, and his ascension into heaven; the coming of the Holy Ghost, and the preaching of the apostles ; also the terror of future judgment, the horror of the pains of hell, and the delights of heaven; besides many more about the Divine benefits and judgments, by which he endeavoured to turn away all men from the love of vice, and to excite in them the love of, and application to, good actions; for he was a very religious man, humbly submissive to regular discipline, but full of zeal against those who behaved themselves otherwise; for which reason he ended his life happily”, ibid.

At the end of what Bede describes as a moderate (not life-threatening) illness, Caedmon perceived that death was near and asked to receive the eucharist. Having received communion in his hand, he asked whether all the brethren were in charity with him and free from anger. Replying that they were and asking whether he were in the same state towards them, Caedmon replied, “I am in charity, my children, with all the servants of God.” Taking communion, he marked himself with the sign of the cross, laid his head upon his pillow, and died.

Bede writes, “Thus it came to pass, that as he had served God with a simple and pure mind, and undisturbed devotion, so he now departed to his presence, leaving the world by a quiet death; and that tongue, which had composed so many holy words in praise of the Creator, uttered its last words whilst he was in the act of signing himself with the cross, and recommending himself into his hands, and by what has been here said, he seems to have had foreknowledge of his death.”

Caedmon was commemorated on February 11 at Whitby. He is commemorated on this day in the Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada.

None of Caedmon’s poems has survived, save the nine lines recorded by the Venerable Bede in Latin and in several Old English versions among the Latin manuscripts of the Ecclesiastical History extant. The text below is from one of those manuscripts, with Michael Alexander’s translation following (from The Earliest English Poems, Third Edition, Penguin Books, 1991).

Nu sculon herigean heofonrices Weard,
Meotodes meahte ond his modgeþanc,
weorc Wuldorfæder; swa he wundra gehwæs
ece Drihten, or onstealde.
He ærest sceop eorðan bearnum
heofon to hrofe, halig Scyppend:
þa middangeard moncynnes Weard,
ece Drihten, æfter teode
firum foldan, Frea ælmihtig.

Praise now to the keeper of the kingdom of heaven,
the power of the Creator, the profound mind
of the glorious Father, who fashioned the beginning
of every wonder, the eternal Lord.
For the children of men he made first
heaven as a roof, the holy Creator.
Then the Lord of mankind, the everlasting Shepherd,
ordained in the midst as a dwelling place,
Almighty Lord, the earth for men.

The Collect

Almighty God, you gave to your servant Caedmon singular gifts of rendering the holy Scriptures in verse, that the people of your Church at Whitby might be instructed in the faith and give praise to your holy Name: Stir up the hearts of your people, that they may joyfully sing your praises in this life and the life to come; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Creation: Saint Caedmon’s Hymn

An audio file of Caedmon’s Hymn (in Old English) may be found at the website for the Norton Anthology of English Literature (scroll down to find the file).

The icon Creation: Saint Caedmon’s Hymn is taken from Aidan Hart’s gallery of icons, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle

Paul, or Saul as he was known until he became a Christian, was a Roman citizen, born at Tarsus, in present-day Turkey. He was brought up as a devoted Jew, studying in Jerusalem for a time under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi of the day. Describing himself, he said, “I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).

A few years after the death of Jesus, Saul came in contact with the new Christian movement, and became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy”. Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was on the way to Damascus to lead in further persecution of the Christians when his dramatic conversion took place.

From that day, Paul devoted his life completely to Jesus Christ and especially to the conversion of Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles describes the courage and determination with which he planted Christian congregations over a large area of the land bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

His letters, the earliest of Christian writings, reveal him as the greatest of the interpreters of Christ’s death and resurrection, and as the founder of Christian theology. He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). His treatment throughout his letters of a theology in which Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the climax and fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham and renewed at Sinai, and his breathtaking rewriting of Israel’s central confession that the Lord God is One to include Jesus as that one Lord, is nothing less than brilliant.

Paul describes himself as small and insignificant in appearance: “His letters are weighty and strong,” it was said of him, “but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account” (2 Corinthians 10:10). He writes of having a disability which he had prayed God to remove from him, and quotes the Lord’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore Paul went on to say, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul is believed to have been martyred at Rome in the year 64, during the persecution under the emperor Nero. As a Roman citizen, he would have been executed by decapitation.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; 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
Acts 26:9-21

[Paul said to King Agrippa] “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.”

Psalm 67
Deus misereatur

May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

The Epistle
Galatians 1:11-24

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

The Gospel
Matthew 10:16-22

[Jesus said to the twelve] “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

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The scripture texts for the Lesson, the Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The icon is a fragment from a 13th century Roman fresco.

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Antony, Abbot in Egypt, 356

In the third century, many young men turned away from the corrupt and decadent society of the time, and went to live in deserts or mountains, in solitude, fasting, and prayer. Antony of Egypt was an outstanding example of this movement, but he was not merely a recluse. He was a founder of monasticism, and wrote a rule for anchorites.

Antony’s parents were Christians, and he grew up to be quiet, devout, and meditative. When his parents died, he and his younger sister were left to care for a sizable estate. Six months later, in church, he heard the reading about the rich young ruler whom Christ advised to sell all he had and give to the poor. Antony at once gave his land to the villagers, and sold most of his goods, giving the proceeds to the poor. Later, after meditating on Christ’s bidding, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” he sold what remained of his possessions, placed his sister in a “house of maidens,” and became an anchorite (solitary ascetic).

Athanasius of Alexandria, who knew Antony personally, writes that he spent his days praying, reading, and doing manual labor. For a time, he was tormented by demons in various guises. He resisted, and the demons fled. Moving to the mountains across the Nile from his village, Antony dwelt along for twenty years. In 305, he left his cave and founded a “monastery”, a series of cells inhabited by ascetics living under his rule. Athanasius writes of such colonies: “Their cells like tents were filled with singing, fasting, praying, and working that they might give alms, and having love and peace with one another.”

Antony visited Alexandria, first in 312, to encourage those suffering martyrdom under the emperor Maximinus; later, in 335, to combat the Arians by preaching, conversions, and the working of miracles. Most of his days were spent on the mountain with his disciple Macarius.

He willed a goat-skin tunic and a cloak to Athanasius, who said of him: “He was like a physician given by God to Egypt. For who met him grieving and did not go away rejoicing? Who came full of anger and was not turned to kindness?…What monk who had grown slack was not strengthened by coming to him? Who came troubled by doubts and failed to gain peace of mind?”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

O God, by your Holy Spirit you enabled your servant Antony to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil: Give us grace, with pure hearts and minds, to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for Antony, Abbot in Egypt, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Kentigern, Missionary Bishop in Strathclyde and Cumbria, 603

There are many legends but little known history regarding Kentigern. All the sources are from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Most are from the northern part of Britain, where Kentigern’s evangelistic and pastoral ministry took place. The sources contain various folkloric elements which are considerably older than the eleventh century, but which have no clear historical value (including in one source a confrontation with the druid Merlin). From these traditions we may with some assurance of historicity assume that Kentigern was the son of a British prince (perhaps Owain of Rheged) and of illegitimate birth. Under his nickname Mungo (meaning “darling”) was educated by Bishop Serf at Culross and became a monk in the austere Irish tradition. He later traveled to the northern British kingdom of Strathclyde (Stratclut), in what is now southwestern Scotland, where he was ordained bishop by another Irish missionary bishop. He continued the work of Saint Ninian in preaching the Gospel to the people in the vicinity of Dumbarton, the capital of the kingdom of Strathclyde, and established a religious foundation near Dumbarton, around which the city of Glasgow later grew. Persecuted by the pagan king Morcant Mwynfawr, Kentigern fled to Cumbria (in the kingdom of Rheged) for some time. On the accession of Morcant’s brother, king Riderch Hael the Generous, he was summoned back by the already-baptized king to continue his work of evangelism among the Britons of Strathclyde. Kentigern likely lived to the age of 85, and he died and was buried at his religious foundation at Glasgow. His relics are claimed by Glasgow Cathedral.

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Kentigern, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of northwestern Britain. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Kentigern, Missionary Bishop, is commemorated on his traditional feast day of January 13 in the Calendars of the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church. He is commemorated on January 14 in the Kalendar of the Church in Wales as well as that of the Anglican Church in North America, so as not to conflict with the commemoration of Hilary of Poitiers.

The icon of Saint Kentigern is from Aidan Hart’s gallery of Western Orthodox saints and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, 367

Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, was a prolific writer on Scripture and doctrine, an orator, and a poet to whom some of the earliest Latin hymns have been attributed. Augustine called him “the illustrious doctor of the Churches”. Jerome considered him “the trumpet of the Latins against the Arians”. For his defense of the Nicene faith, he is also known as “the Athanasius of the West”.

Hilary (Hilarius) was born in Pectavus (later Poitiers) in Gaul, about 315, into a pagan family of wealth and power. In his writings, he describes the stages of the journey that led him to the Christian faith. He was baptized when he was about thirty years old.

In 350, Hilary was made Bishop of Poitiers. Although he demurred at first, he was finally persuaded by the people’s acclamations. He proved to be a bishop of skill and courage. His orthodoxy was shown when, in 355, the Emperor Constantius ordered all bishops to sign a condemnation of Athanasius (the bishop of Alexandria, champion of Nicene trinitarianism against the Arians), under pain of exile. Hilary wrote to Constantius, pleading for peace and unity. His plea accomplished nothing, and, when he dissociated himself from three Arian bishops in the West, Constantius ordered Julian (later surnamed the Apostate for his conversion to Neoplatonic paganism) to exile Hilary to Phrygia. There Hilary remained for three years, without complaining, writing scriptural commentaries and his principal work, De Trinitate (On the Trinity).

Hilary was then invited by a party of the semi-Arians, who hoped for his support, to a council at Seleucia in Asia, largely attended by Arians; but with remarkable courage, in the midst of a hostile gathering, Hilary defended the Council of Nicaea and its definition of the Trinity, giving no aid to the semi-Arians. He wrote again to Constantius, offering to debate Saturninus, the Western bishop largely responsible for his exile. The Arians feared for the outcome of the debate and persuaded Constantius to return Hilary to Poitiers.

In 360, Hilary was welcomed back to his see with great demonstrations of joy and affection. He continued his battle against Arianism, but he never neglected the needs of his people. Angry in controversy with heretical bishops, he was always a loving and compassionate pastor to his diocese. Among his disciples was Martin, later bishop of Tours, whom Hilary encouraged in his endeavors to promote the monastic life.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with additions

The Collect

O Lord our God, you raised up your servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having you for our Father, and may abide in your Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645

 

Elevated to the see of Canterbury in 1633, William Laud had already been King Charles’ principal ecclesiastical adviser for several years beginning when Laud was serving first as Bishop of Bath and Wells and then as Bishop of London. Born in 1573, after the Church of England’s reformed character had been established by the Elizabethan Settlement, he was the most prominent of a new generation of churchmen who disliked many of the ritual practices which had developed during the reign of Elizabeth the First (many of which began during the reign of her younger brother, Edward VI), and who were bitterly opposed by the Puritan party in the Church of England.

Laud believed the Church of England to be in direct continuity with the medieval Church, and he stressed the unity of the Church and State, exalting the role of the king as Supreme Governor of the Church. He emphasized the ministerial priesthood and the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and caused consternation by insisting on the reverencing of the altar, returning it to its pre-Reformation position against the east wall of the church, and hedging it about with rails. (During Edward’s reign, and Elizabeth’s, altars had been removed, and simpler communion Tables set lengthwise – long axis oriented east-west – in the chancel of the church. Those who intended to take communion would move from the nave into the chancel at the offertory, and the priest or bishop would preside at the eucharist, standing on the north side of the Table.)

As head of the courts of High Commission and the Star Chamber, Laud persecuted Puritans and was abhorred for the harsh sentencing of some of the prominent members of the party. His identification with the unpopular policies of King Charles, his support of the Bishops’ War against Scotland in 1640 (triggered, in part, by Charles’ and Laud’s attempt to impose an English prayerbook on the Church of Scotland), and his efforts to make the Church independent of Parliament, made him widely disliked. He was impeached for treason by the Long Parliament in 1640, and finally beheaded on January 10, 1645.

Laud’s reputation remains controversial to this day. Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners. He was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England. He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his convictions – though these attempts at reform were marred by his treatment of those who strenuously disagreed with him theologically and liturgically. In many ways he was out of step with the views of the majority of his countrymen, especially in his espousal of royal Stuart views of the “Divine Rights of Kings”. The historian Nicholas Tyacke rates Laud as one of the greatest of the Archbishops of Canterbury, not giving him complete approval, but recognizing that his contribution to the future of the English Church was of major importance.

Writing in the Church Quarterly Review in 1945, A.W. Ballard stated that

As far as doctrine was concerned Laud carried on the teaching of Cranmer and Hooker. He held that the basis of belief was the Bible, but that the Bible was to be interpreted by the tradition of the early Church, and that all doubtful points were to be subjected, not to heated arguments in the pulpits, but to sober discussion by learned men. His mind, in short, like those of the earlier English reformers, combined the Protestant reliance on the Scriptures with reverence for ancient tradition and with the critical spirit of the Ranascence.

Laud made a noble end, praying on the scaffold: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy on me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”

The prayer for the Church on page 816 in the Book of Common Prayer (1979), added to the American Prayer Book in 1928, was written by Archbishop Laud. It was first published in A Summarie of Devotions (1677), adapted from his manuscripts. The original version of the prayer reads:

Gracious Father, I humbly beseech Thee for Thy holy Catholic Church, fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where it is superstitious, rectify it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is in want, furnish it; where it is divided and rent asunder, make up the breaches of it; O Thou Holy One of Israel. Amen.

taken from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with additions, including from
Fathers and Anglicans: The Limits of Orthodoxy (Arthur Middleton, Gracewing 2001) and Commentary on the American Prayer Book (Marion J. Hatchett, Harper San Francisco 1995)

The Collect

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant William Laud, 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, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, Bishop in South India and Evangelist, 1945

The first Indian bishop of the Anglican Church in India, Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah was born in 1874 in a small village in one of the most economically deprived areas of South India (now in the state of Andrha Pradesh), the son of Thomas Vedanayagam, an Anglican priest, and Ellen, a woman with a deep love and understanding of the holy Scriptures. Samuel became a YMCA evangelist at nineteen and secretary of the organization throughout South India only a few years later. He saw that, for the Church in India to grow and to bring ordinary Indians to Jesus Christ, it had to have indigenous leadership. He helped create the Tinnevelly-based Indian Missionary Society in 1903, and was a co-founder of the National Missionary Society of India, an all-India, Indian-led agency founded in December 1905. At the age of thirty-five he was ordained to the presbyterate, and three years later (December, 1912) he was consecrated as the first bishop of the new Diocese of Dornakal, with eleven bishops of the Anglican Church in India participating in the liturgy at St Paul’s Cathedral in Calcutta. Bishop Azariah was the first Indian to be consecrated a bishop in the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

As bishop, his work moved from primary evangelism to forwarding his desire for more Indian clergy and the need to raise their educational standards. By 1924, the ordained leadership of the Diocese of Dornakal included eight English-born priests and fifty-three Indian clergy. Bishop Azariah was also an avid ecumenist and one of the first to see the importance, indeed the necessity, of a united Church to mission and evangelism (a passion that would be taken up by others in India, like the missionary Lesslie Newbigin). Azariah died on January 1, 1945, two years before the inauguration of the united Church of South India.

In The History of Nandyal Diocese in Andhra Pradesh, Constance Millington writes,

Azariah had two great priorities in his work: evangelism and the desire for Christian unity.

He understood evangelism to be the acid test of Christianity. When asked what he would preach about in a village that had never heard of Christ, Azariah answered without hesitation: ‘The resurrection.’ From a convert he demanded full acceptance of Christianity which would include baptism and which could therefore include separation from family and caste. He claimed that Christianity took its origin in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outburst of supernatural power that this society manifested in the world.

Azariah recognised that because four-fifths of Indian people live in villages, for the Church to be an indigenous one it must be a rural Church. He was constantly in the villages, inspiring and guiding the teachers, clergy and congregations. He blamed the missionaries for not training people in evangelism, and thought their teaching had been mission centred instead of Church centred, and he pleaded with missionaries to build up the Indian Church. Much of the Christian outreach in his area was among the outcast people. Gradually as Christianity spread amongst the villages, the social situation began to change, the Christian outcasts gaining a new self-respect as they realised their worth in the eyes of God.

Azariah considered that one of the factors that hampered evangelism, and possibly the deepening of the spiritual life of the convert, was the western appearance of the Church in both its buildings and its services. As early as 1912 he has visions of a cathedral for the diocese to be built in the eastern style, where all Christians could feel spiritually at hom regardless of their religious background and race. Building was delayed because of the Great War in Europe, but finally his dream was realised when the cathedral of The Most Glorious Epiphany was consecrated on January 6, 1936. The building is a beautiful structure embodying ideas from Christian, Hindu and Moslem architecture. Its dignity and spaciousness create a very different effect from that of the nineteenth and twentieth century Gothic churches and furnishings scattered elsewhere in India. (N.B. For a description of the Cathedral Church of the Epiphany in Dornakal, see here. Also scroll up to the preceding page at this site for a description of Bishop Azariah’s indigenization of the liturgy.)

If evangelisation of India was Azariah’s first priority, the second was that of Church unity. He was the two as inter-related. He believed that a united Church was in accordance with the will of God, ‘that we may all be one’, and he also believed that a United Church would be more effective for evangelism. Addressing the Lambeth Conference in 1930 he pleaded:

“In India we wonder if you have sufficiently contemplated the grievous sin of perpetuating your divisions and denominational bitterness in these your daughter churches. We want you to take us seriously when we say that the problem of union is one of life and death. Do not, we plead with you, do not give us your aid to keep us separate, but lead us to union so that you and we may go forward together and fulfil the prayer, ‘That we may all be one.'”

Bishop Samuel is commemorated in the sanctoral calendars of the Anglican Church in North America and the Church of England on January 2.

prepared from material in Celebrating the Saints (compiled by Robert Atwell), A History of the Church of England in India (The Rt Revd Eyre Chatterton), and others

The Collect

God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Samuel Azariah to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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