Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury and Missionary, 605

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Born in the first third of the sixth century, Augustine, the prior of the pope’s own monastery on the Caelian Hill in Rome, was sent by Pope Gregory the Great at the head of a small band of Benedictine monks as missionaries to the English people. Arriving on the shores of England in 597, they were welcomed at Thanet by the pagan Kentish king, Ethelbert, and his Christian Frankish wife, Bertha, and the king granted them a dwelling in his capital city of Canterbury. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the Venerable Bede writes that as the monks approached the city, bearing before them a silver cross and an icon, “the likeness of our Lord and Savior painted on a board”, they sang this prayer:

We pray Thee, O Lord, in all Thy mercy, that Thy wrath and anger may be turned away from this city and from Thy holy house, for we are sinners. Alleluia.

Once in Canterbury, Bede tells us that the monks “began to emulate the life of the Apostles and the primitive Church.” He writes,

They were constantly at prayer; they fasted and kept vigils; they preached the word of life to whomsoever they could…They practiced what they preached, and were willing to endure any hardship, and even to die for the truth which they proclaimed.

Their mission to the Kentish people met with great success. Conversions followed rapidly – so rapidly, in fact, that extant sources tell us that Augustine and his monks were hard-pressed to keep pace. In a letter to Eulogius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Gregory wrote that on Christmas Day of 597, over ten thousand converts were baptized in and around Canterbury. (Even allowing for some exaggeration, this indicates that large numbers of the Kentish people became Christians through the Augustinian mission.) Around 601, Ethelbert, who had remained friendly to Augustine and his monks and sympathetic to the Gospel from the beginning of the mission, was converted to faith in Christ and was baptized, becoming the first Christian king in England.

When, at Ethelbert’s invitation, Augustine and his monks took up residence in Canterbury they assembled to worship, to celebrate the Eucharist, to preach, to pray and to baptize in an old church in the city, built perhaps two centuries before and dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. This old church, which was probably already in use by Liudhard, Queen Bertha’s chaplain (it was perhaps he who had dedicated the church to Saint Martin), stood as a reminder of an earlier Christian presence in Britain, a presence that predated the invasions of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the fifth and sixth centuries and went back to the days of Roman Britain.

Augustine established Canterbury as his episcopal see, but it is not clear form the extant evidence when he was consecrated to the episcopate. Writing about a century later, Bede states that Augustine was consecrated by the Etherius, the archbishop of Arles, in Frankish Gaul, after the conversion of Ethelbert. However, contemporary letters from Gregory the Great refer to Augustine as a bishop prior to his arrival in England, one of these letters referring to Augustine consecration as having occurred before leaving Gaul for England.

With the king’s strong support, Augustine established episcopal sees at Rochester and at London, then the capital of the kingdom of the East Saxons (Essex) and under the overlordship of the Kentish king, thus establishing Canterbury as a metropolitan see, with jurisdiction over other episcopal sees, a jurisdiction that eventually extended to the whole of England, though Augustine’s own mission barely extended beyond Kent.

Before his death, Augustine consecrated Laurence as his successor. Augustine died on May 26, 605 and was buried in Canterbury, in the portico of what is now St Augustine’s Church. His body was later translated to the abbey church, which became a place of pilgrimage and veneration.

The Collect

O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations; We bless your holy Name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The icon of Saint Augustine of Canterbury is taken from Aidan Hart’s gallery of icons and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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Bede the Venerable, Presbyter and Monk of Jarrow, Teacher of the Faith, 735

Priest, monk, and biblical scholar, Bede was the first English historian. He was educated from the age of seven, first by Benedict Biscop at Wearmouth and afterwards by Ceolfrith at Jarrow (near Durham in Northumbria), where he was to be a monk for the rest of his life. There, as he later wrote, “spending all the remaining time of my life…I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, teaching, and writing.”

Bede was ordained deacon at nineteen, and presbyter at the age of thirty, about 703. His life was uneventful, as the outside world measures such things. He apparently traveled little, probably never leaving Northumbria. Being continually occupied with monastic life and with his writing, made possible by the acquisition of books by Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith, he was little acquainted with courts and kings. A moving contemporary account of his death on the eve of the Ascension in 735 survives, revealing the veneration felt for him by his disciples. The account tells how he spent his last days, singing the psalms, working on his translation of the Gospel according to Saint John into English. Knowing that he was to die soon, Bede pressed onwards with his translation and finished it, dictating his last sentence to the boy who was serving as his scribe. That evening he also sang antiphons from the divine office, especially those for Ascension Day, and he died singing Gloria Patri: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. When news of his death reached English missionaries on the continent, Saint Boniface wrote that “the candle of the Church, lit by the Holy Spirit, was extinguished”.

Bede was the greatest scholar of his time in the Western Church. He wrote commentaries on the Scriptures based on patristic interpretations. His treatise on chronology was the standard for a long time. He also wrote on orthography and poetic meter, but it is as a historian that his talents truly shone. His most famous work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written in Latin, remains the primary historical source for the period from 597 to 731, when Anglo-Saxon culture developed and flourished and the Christian faith triumphed. Bede’s methods were ahead of his time. He consulted many documents, carefully evaluated their reliability, and cited his sources. His interpretations were balanced and judicious. He also wrote a History of the Abbots (of Wearmouth and Jarrow), and a notable biography of Saint Cuthbert, both in prose and in verse.

Bede’s character shines through his work: an exemplary monk, an ardent Christian, devoted scholar, and a man of purity and grace. He receive the unusual title of Venerable more than a century after his death. According to one legend, the monk writing the inscription for his tomb was at a loss for a word to fill out the couplet:

Hac sunt in fossa
Bedae [blank] ossa

(This grave containes
the [blank] Bede’s remains.)

That night an angel filled in the blank space: Venerabilis.

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

The Collect

Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship: Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Tomb of St Bede the Venerable (Durham Cathedral)
Tomb of St Bede the Venerable (Durham Cathedral)

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Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, 1870

Jackson Kemper was born in Pleasant Valley, New York, on December 24, 1789. He graduated from Columbia College in 1809 and was ordained deacon in 1811, and presbyter in 1814. Thereafter he served Bishop William White as assistant at Christ Church in Philadelphia. (In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, diocesan bishops in the Protestant Episcopal Church also continued their ministries as rectors of parishes.) At Kemper’s urging, Bishop White made his first and only episcopal visitation in western Pennsylvania.

In 1835, Kemper was ordained bishop in accordance with a canon that provided for missionary bishops to serve the frontier and in foreign countries. Kemper immediately set out on his travels through the vast territory committed to his episcopal charge. Assigned to Missouri and Indiana, Kemper also laid foundations in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas; and made extensive missionary tours in the South and Southwest. His unofficial title was “Bishop of the Whole Northwest”.

Kemper established Kemper College in St Louis, Missouri, to help train clergymen for specialized tasks in the Church, including preparation for the sometimes harsh life of the frontier. The College failed in 1845 from inadequate funding. Nashotah House, which he founded in 1842 with the help of James Lloyd Breck and his companions, was more successful, as was Racine College, founded in 1852. Both institutions reflected Kemper’s devotion to beauty in liturgy.

Kemper pleaded for more attention to the Native Indians and encouraged the translation of the Prayer Book into native languages. He described a service among Oneida Indians which was marked by “courtesy, reverence, worship – and obedience to that Great Spirit in whose hands are the issues of life.”

From 1859 until his death in 1870, Kemper served as the diocesan bishop of Wisconsin.

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Lord God, in your providence Jackson Kemper was chosen first missionary bishop in this land, and by his arduous labor and travel congregations were established in scattered settlements of the West: Grant that the Church may always be faithful to its mission, and have the vision, courage, and perseverance to make known to all people the Good News of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A number of documents related to Bishop Kemper, including the sermon preached at his consecration and a biography, An Apostle of the Western Church, are published on the Project Canterbury website.

The seminary that Kemper founded with James Lloyd Breck, Nashotah House, continues to prepare Anglican and Episcopalian students for ministry in and to the Church.

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Helena, Protector of the Holy Places, 330

Born at Drepanum (later renamed Helenopolis in her honor) in Bithynia, possibly an innkeeper’s daughter, about the year 270 Flavia Iulia Helena became the wife or concubine of the Roman general Constantius Chlorus. When he became co-emperor (Caesar) in the West in 292 he repudiated her in order to marry the stepdaughter of his patron, the Western Augustus Maximianus Herculius. But her son, who became the emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, greatly honored and respected her, bringing her to the imperial court on his accession in 308 and conferring on her the title Augusta. In about 312, when over the age of sixty, she became a Christian under Constantine’s influence. She was so devout that contemporaries thought that she had been a Christian since childhood. She dressed modestly and gave generously to churches, to the poor, and to prisoners. In 326 she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she provided the wherewithal for the building of a basilica on the Mount of Olives and another at Bethlehem. According to Ambrose of Milan, she had a part in the finding of the True Cross, the cross on which Jesus was crucified, though this is generally thought a pious legend rather than history. Constantine was with her when she died in the Holy Land about the year 330. Her body was taken to Constantinople and buried in the imperial vault in the Church of the Apostles.

In the Eastern (Orthodox) Church, she is commemorated on May 13, together with her son Constantine. She is also commemorated on that date in the Calendar of the Church of England. The traditional date of her commemoration in the West is August 18.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Celebrating the Saints,
and The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations

The Collect

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 this 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.

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Alcuin, Deacon and Abbot of Tours, 804

Alcuin (Old English, Ealhwine) was born in Northumberland around 735 into a noble family related to Willibrord, the first missionary to the Frisians. Alcuin was educated at the cathedral school in York under Egbert, archbishop of York and a pupil of Bede the Venerable. Ordained a deacon in 770, he then became the head of the York school. Under Ælberht, bishop and then archbishop of York, he visited Rome and the Frankish court and helped to create a library at the cathedral where he served as librarian and Master of the Schools. Following a meeting in 781 with Charlemagne in Pavia, the Frankish king persuaded him to join the court scholars at Aachen and to serve as his chief minister, with special responsibility for reviving education and learning in the Frankish dominions.

Alcuin withdrew from court life in 796 to become abbot of Saint Martin’s at Tours, where he died on May 19, 804. He was buried in the Church of Saint Martin.

Alcuin was man of vast learning, integrity, and personal charm. In his direction of Charlemagne’s palace school at Aachen, he was primarily responsible for the preservation of the classical heritage of European civilization. Under his direction and influence, schools were revived and established in cathedrals and monasteries, and manuscripts both pagan and Christian from classical antiquity were collated and copied. His own writings include biblical exegesis; a major theological work on the Trinity; moral and philosophical essays; manuals of grammar, rhetoric, orthography, and mathematics; and poems on a wide variety of subjects.

Under Charlemagne’s authority, Alcuin also led the Carolingian liturgical reform. He revised the Roman lectionary and adapted the Gregorian sacramentary for use in Gaul (Francia) by incorporating elements from the Gelasian sacramentary and composing a series of festal and votive masses. This liturgical work preserved many of the Collects that have come down to the present day, including the Collect for Purity of Heart with which the Anglican eucharistic liturgy has begun since the original 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

prepared from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

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.

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Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury and Reformer of the Church, 988

Under King Alfred the Great, England in the ninth century made considerable military, political, cultural, and some ecclesiastical recovery from the Danish invasions. But it was not until the following century that there was a revival of monasticism. In that revival, the leading figure was Dunstan.

Born near Glastonbury of a noble West Saxon family with royal connections, Dunstan received his education from Irish monks at Glastonbury and joined the household of his uncle Athelm, archbishop of Canterbury, and then the court of King Athelstan. In 935, accused of “studying the vain poems and futile stories of the pagans and of being a magician”, he was expelled from court. In 936 he made a private monastic profession to Alphege, bishop of Winchester, and was ordained to the presbyterate. He returned to Glastonbury, where he lived as a hermit and practiced the crafts of painting, embroidery, and metalwork. In 939 Edmund became king of Wessex, recalled Dunstan to court, and installed him as Abbot of Glastonbury in 943, endowing the monastery generously. The Danish invasions and the hostility of local magnates had in the previous century nearly extinguished monasticism in England, and the restoration begun under Dunstan, following the Rule of St Benedict, was to be one of his principal achievements. Dunstan attracted disciples to Glastonbury, enlarged the buildings, and gave new life to a monastic establishment of already great antiquity.

With the accession of Edwy to the crown of Wessex in 955, Dunstan’s enemies at court contrived his exile. He went to Mont Blandin in Ghent (now Belgium), where he saw for the first time a monastery typical of the Benedictine revival. King Edgar recalled Dunstan to England in 957, appointing him bishop of Worcester, then of London. In 960, Edgar named Dunstan archbishop of Canterbury. Thus began the fruitful collaboration between king and archbishop which reformed the Church in England largely through the monastic order, such that this period was regarded after the Norman Conquest as a “golden age”. Together with his former pupils, Aethelwold, bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, bishop of Worcester (later of York), Dunstan led the monastic revival. The three have been described as “contemplatives in action”, bringing the fruits of their monastic prayer life to the wider concerns of Church and State. The revival brought better education and discipline among the clergy, the end of landed family interest in the Church, the restoration of former monasteries and the establishment of new houses, a revival of monastic life for women, and a more elaborate and carefully ordered liturgical worship.

This revived and reformed monasticism was set forth in the “Monastic Agreement”, a common code for English monasteries drawn up by Aethelwold c. 970, primarily under Dunstan’s inspiration. Important features of this monasticism were its close tie between the monasteries and the Crown (not least for protection against local lay lords); its liturgical additions, including prayers for the royal family; and its insistence on the importance of the scriptorium and the workshops of the monastery. This close tie between the Church in England and the Crown was expressed liturgically in the coronation rite, the earliest extant text of which was compiled for King Edgar by Dunstan and his colleagues.

Dunstan was a zealous diocesan bishop. He insisted on the observance of marriage laws and on fasting. He built and repaired churches and often acted as judge. He inspired some of Edgar’s laws, particularly the codes of Whitbordecctan and of Andover (the code of Andover enjoins the practice of some handicraft on every priest). On Edgar’s death his elder son Edward, Dunstan’s protégé, succeeded to the throne. His assassination in 978 was connected with the anti-monastic reaction that followed Edgar’s death. Dunstan presided at the translation of Edward’s body to Shaftesbury in 980.

With increasing age Dunstan spent more of his time at Canterbury with the monks in his household, occupying himself with teaching, the correction of manuscripts, and the administration of justice. He remained active until his death, preaching three times on Ascension Day in 988. He died two days later, May 19, aged nearly eighty. It has been said that the tenth century gave shape to English history, and Dunstan gave shape to the tenth century.

Hagiographical tradition makes Dunstan a painter, musician, and metalworker, and these claims have some foundation. Bells and organs were attributed to him. Some metalworker’s tools of the tenth century survive at Mayfield convent and are claimed to be his. Artists sometimes depicted Dunstan holding the devil by the nose with a pair of tongs. A surviving tenth century relic of him is a Glastonbury book containing scriptural extracts in Latin and Greek, an Old English homily on the Cross, and some ancient Welsh glosses, as well as a portrait of Dunstan prostrate at the feet of Christ. A thirteenth century inscription claims that the work is Dunstan’s, and it could well be his own work.

adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints,
Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations

The Collect

O God of truth and beauty, you richly endowed your bishop Dunstan with skill in music and the working of metals, and with gifts of administration and reforming zeal: Teach us, we pray, to see in you the source of all our talents, and move us to offer them for the adornment of worship and the advancement of true religion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The Martyrs of Sudan, 2011

The Church Missionary Society began work in 1899 in the Sudan in Omdurman, and the Christian faith spread rapidly among Africans of the southern region of the country. Until 1974, the Diocese of Sudan was part of the (Anglican) Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East.  The Church in the Sudan reverted to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury until the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, consisting of four new dioceses, was established in 1976.

In 1983 the government of Sudan was seized by Islamicists who declared sharia, requiring all Sudanese to convert to Islam on pain of death.  On May 16 a small group of Anglican and Roman Catholic chiefs in southern Sudan, together with their bishops, clergy, and laity, declared that they “would not abandon God as [they] knew him”.  With that declaration the second cycle of the Sudanese civil war began.  (The first cycle of the civil war had started with the departure of the British from Khartoum in 1957 and ended in 1972.)  Peace was finally signed on January 9, 2005, but two and a half million of the Sudanese people had been killed, most of them Christian.  By the end of the civil war, two thirds of the six million people of southern Sudan were internally displaced, and another million were in exile throughout Africa and the rest of the world, including the bishops of most of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.

The second century north African theologian Tertullian wrote, semen est sanguis christianorum (the blood of the Christians is seed), often paraphrased “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  Christians were estimated to be only five percent of the population in southern Sudan in 1983, but today nearly ninety percent of the population ois either Anglican or Roman Catholic.  In the words of their bishops, the Sudanese Christians “live only on the mercy of God…whether we live or die we are the Lord’s…we have had nothing else but the grace of God and his guidance.”

adapted from the Anglican Communion website
and a proposal to the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church

The Collect

Almighty God, you gave your servants the Martyrs of Sudan boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The image of the Martyrs of Sudan was painted by Awer Bul, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  The iconographical painting was commissioned by the organization Hope with Sudan.

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Pachomius, Abbot and Organizer of Monasticism, 346

Fact and legend are difficult to distinguish in many later lives of Pachomius, the founder of cenobitic monasticism. He was probably born in Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) to pagan parents in the late third century. He likely served as a Roman army conscript and, after his discharge in 313, was converted to faith in Christ and baptized. His conversion seems to have been prompted by his impression of seeing the ready support of Christians for fellow Christians suffering in the Great Persecution of the early fourth century, even if they had not previously known them.

He became for a time a disciple of the hermit Palaemon and afterward founded a monastery at Tabennisi in the Thebaid near the Nile River about 320, where his fame soon attracted large numbers of monks. Prior to Pachomius’ introduction of cenobitic monasticism, in which monks live together in common, Egyptian “monasticism” was characterized by hermits like Antony, men and women who withdrew into the desert to live alone and apart from other hermits, perhaps coming together only for the celebration of the eucharist on Sundays. Modern historian Diarmaid MacCulloch writes in his book, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, that the self-selecting and communal life of the military, with clear boundaries and conventions, may have led Pachomius to devise a set of common rules for hermits to preserve their solitude while becoming members of a common group living together. He set up his first community at Tabennisi not in the desert, to which hermits retreated, but in the deserted houses of a village which he found abandoned, close to the banks of the Nile. Other monastic foundations followed (the second was also founded in an abandoned village), and his sister is credited with founding communities for women along similar lines, centered around manual labor and the study of the Scriptures.

At his death in 346 Pachomius was ruling as abbot-general over nine monasteries for men and two for women. His monastic Rule later influenced important persons in the development of both Eastern and Western monasticism, including Basil the Great, John Cassian, Caesarius of Arles, and Benedict of Nursia.

taken also from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Collect

O God, your blessed Son became poor for our sake, and chose the Cross over the kingdoms of this world: Deliver us from an inordinate love of worldly things, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Pachomius, may seek you with singleness of heart, behold your glory by faith, and attain to the riches of your everlasting kingdom, where we shall be united with 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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Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople and Teacher of the Faith, 389

Gregory of Nazianzus and the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa are known together as the Cappadocian Fathers, theologians whose writings in the ecclesiastically tumultuous decades between the first Council of Nicaea and the first Council of Constantinople helped secure the orthodoxy of the Nicene teaching on the Triune God in the Church. Gregory was born about 330 in Nazianzus in Cappadocia (in modern day Turkey), the son of the local bishop. He studied rhetoric in Athens, where Basil, his lifelong friend, and Julian, the future emperor who would be known as the “Apostate”, were fellow students. In 359 he left Athens to become a monk, leading a solitary life with Basil in beautiful surroundings in Pontus. Their theological discussions and manner of life bore fruit in Basil’s organizational talents and in the contemplative Gregory’s theological depth and penetrating thought. After two years, Gregory returned home to help his father, then eighty years old, administer his diocese and estates. In a town rent by heresies and schism, Gregory’s defense of his father’s orthodoxy in the face of a violent mob brought peace to the town and some fame to Gregory.

In 361, against his own inclination, Gregory was ordained to the presbyterate. He fled to Basil for ten weeks, but eventually returned to his new duties, resolved to live an austere, priestly life. He wrote an apology for his flight, and this work became a classic text on the nature and duties of the presbyterate.

Gregory was not to live in peace for long, however. His friend Basil had become the metropolitan bishop of Caesarea, and in his fight against the Arian emperor Valens, Basil compelled Gregory to be consecrated bishop of Sasima, an unhealthy border town, in order to maintain his own influence in an area under dispute with a rival bishop in Tyana. According to Gregory, Sasima was “a detestable little place without water or grass or any mark of civilization.” He felt like “a bone flung to the dogs”, and this episode caused a serious rift in the relationship between the two lifelong friends. Basil accused Gregory, who never visited Sasima, of slackness, while Gregory was prepared neither to live in a hostile and unpleasant town nor to become a pawn in ecclesiastical politics. Basil and Gregory were later reconciled, but their friendship never recovered its former warmth. Gregory continued as bishop coadjutor to his father at Nazianzus until his father’s death in 374. Gregory’s own health broke down in 375, and he lived in Seleucia for the next five years, during which time Basil died.

After the death of the Arian emperor Valens, who had persecuted the orthodox catholic Christians, peace returned to the Church. In 379, Gregory removed to Constantinople, where for over thirty years the Arians had been in the ascendancy. Orthodox believers even lacked a church in which to gather, and neighboring bishops had sent Gregory, against his protests, to restore the orthodox community in the city. Gregory appeared in Constantinople as a new man, no longer in despair, and as one afire with the love of God. He transformed his own house into a church, and there he preached his famous five sermons on the Trinity, discourses marked by clarity, strength, and a charming gaiety. Through his skillful and profound teaching his reputation spread, and his congregation increased. Arians attacked him by slander, insults, and violence, but Gregory persisted in preaching the faith and doctrine of Nicaea. In 381, the new and orthodox emperor Theodosius entered Constantinople and expelled the Arian bishop and his clergy. That same year the Council of Constantinople was convened and finally established and confirmed the conclusions of the Council of Nicaea as the authoritative teaching of the Church. It was during this Council that, on a rainy day, the crowds gathered in the Great Church of Hagia Sophia acclaimed Gregory bishop, after a ray of sunlight suddenly shone upon him.

However, opposition to him did not cease, and for the sake of peace he resigned the see of Constantinople and returned to his home town of Nazianzus, where he died in 389. Because of the clarity, power, and depth of his teaching on the Trinity, he is given the epithet the Theologian.

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

The Collect (of a Teacher of the Faith)

Almighty God, you gave your servant Gregory of Nazianzus special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth revealed in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The icon of Saint Gregory Nazianzus is taken from the website of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

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Julian of Norwich, Anchoress, c. 1417

Julian of Norwich

Little is known of the early life of the mystic and spiritual writer whom later generations have known as Dame Julian, except for the probable date of her birth (1354). Her own writings in the Revelations of Divine Love are concerned only with her visions, or “showings”, that she experienced when she was thirty years old.

On the seventh day of a grave illness, after she had already received the last rites, she was suddenly freed from all pain. She then had fifteen (or sixteen) visions of the Passion of Christ which brought her great peace and joy. “From that time I desired oftentimes to learn what was our Lord’s meaning,” she wrote, “and fifteen years after I was answered in ghostly [spiritual] understanding: ‘Wouldst thou learn the Lord’s meaning in this thing? Learn it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it thee? Love. What showed he thee? Love. Wherefore showed it he? For Love. Hold thee therein and thou shalt learn and know more in the same.’ Thus it was I learned that Love was our Lord’s meaning.”

Julian had long desired three gifts from God: “the mind of his passion, bodily sickness in youth, and three wounds – of contrition, of compassion, of will-full longing toward God.” Her illness brought her the first two wounds, which then passed from her mind. The third, “will-full longing” (divinely inspired longing), never left her.

She became an anchoress at Norwich soon after her recovery from illness, living in a small dwelling attached to the Church of St Julian (by which name she became known to later generations). Even in her lifetime, she was famed as a mystic and spiritual counselor and was visited frequently by clerics and lay persons, including the famous mystic Margery Kempe. Kempe says of Julian: “This anchoress was expert in knowledge of our Lord and could give good counsel. I spent much time with her talking of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Lady Julian’s book, Revelations of Divine Love, is a tender and beautiful exposition of God’s eternal and all-embracing love, showing how his charity toward humanity is exhibited in the Passion of our Lord. Again and again she referred to Christ as “our courteous Lord”. Many have found strength in the words the Lord had given her: “I can make all things well; I will make all things well; I shall make all things well; and thou canst see for thyself that all manner of things shall be well.”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; 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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