Monthly Archives: August 2011

Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 651

The Gospel first came to the people of northern England in 627, Edwin, king of Northumbria, was converted by a mission from Canterbury led by Paulinus, who became the first Bishop of York.  Edwin’s death in battle in 632 was followed by a severe pagan reaction.  A year later, his exiled nephew Oswald gained the kingdom and proceeded at once to restore the Christian faith in Northumbria.

During his youthful exile, Oswald had lived at the island monastery of Iona, where he was converted and baptized.  Hence he sent to Iona, rather than to Canterbury, for a bishop by whose teaching and ministry the Northumbrians might come to faith in Christ.  The first bishop sent from Iona was an austere man who left England after a time, having met with no success in his preaching, reporting to the Irish fathers that the English were an ungovernable people of an obstinate and barbarous temperament.  During a conference held to decide whom the monks of Iona would next send to the English, Aidan, a monk of Iona, remarked to the previous missionary, “Brother, it seems to me that you were too severe on your ignorant hearers.  You should have followed the practice of the Apostles, and begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching, and gradually nourished them with the word of God until they were capable of greater perfection and able to follow the loftier precepts of Christ.”  At these words, the monks realized that Aidan was the man to be made bishop and sent to the English.  Thus Aidan, a man of great gentleness, moderation, and holiness, was sent as the new head of the mission to Northumbria.  Aidan centered his work not at York but on the tidal island of Lindisfarne, which Oswald had granted to the Irish for their missionary endeavors.

Aidan and his missionary monks and the English youths whom they converted and trained diligently worked to establish and extend the Church of Christ throughout the kingdom of Northumbria.  The king himself often accompanied Aidan on his preaching journeys and translated his sermons into English, for Aidan was not fluent in the English language.  Bede writes of Aidan, that

Among other evidences of a holy life, he gave the clergy an inspiring example of self-discipline and continence, and the highest recommendation of his teaching to all was that he and his followers lives as they taught.  He never sought or cared for any worldly possessions, and loved to give away to the poor who chanced to meet him whatever he received from kings or wealthy folk.  Whether in town or country, he always traveled on foot unless compelled by necessity to ride; and whatever people he met on his walks, whether high or low, he stopped and spoke to them.  If they were heathen, he urged them to be baptized; and if they were Christians, he strengthened their faith, and inspired them by word and deed to live a good life and to be generous to others…If wealthy people did wrong, he never kept silent out of respect or fear, but corrected them outspokenly.  Nor would he offer money to influential people, although he offered them food whenever he entertained them as host.  But, if the wealthy ever gave him gifts of money, he either distributed it for the needs of the poor, as I have mentioned, or else used it to ransom any who had unjustly been sold as slaves.  Many of those whom he had ransomed in this way later became his disciples; and when they had been instructed and trained, he ordained them to the priesthood.

Aidan died on this day in 651, at the royal town of Bamburgh.

quoted passages are from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, translated and © Penguin Books (1990)

The Collect

O loving God, you called your servant Aidan from the peace of a cloister to re-establish the Christian mission in northern England, and endowed him with gentleness, simplicity, and strength:  Grant that we, following his example, may use what you have given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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


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The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Messiah, preceded Jesus both in his birth and in his death.  His way of life and his preaching closely resemble that of the prophets of the Old Testament, his message being one of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom.   At Jesus’ baptism John recognized him as that coming Messiah when he saw the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus.  And like the faithful prophets of Israel before him, John did not hesitate to denounce immorality and evil in even the highest places of power, denouncing the incestuous union of Herod Antipas with his niece and half-brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herod imprisoned him for doing so, likely also fearing that John’s denunciation might spark a rebellion against him by more zealous Jews.  John’s death was brought about through the hatred that Herodias had for him and by Herod’s weakness.  When Herodias’ daughter (traditionally named Salome, though her name is not given in the biblical text) pleased the king with her dancing at a feast to celebrate his birthday, he promised here that, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”  At her mother’s instigation, she demanded the head of John the Baptist, then languishing in prison at Machaerus by the Dead Sea.  Despite his initial reluctance, he fulfilled his promise, and without giving John a trial of any kind, dispatched an executioner to behead him.  St Augustine of Hippo commented on John’s death and Herod’s perfidy, “We see how a pledge which was given rashly was criminally kept.”

The commemoration of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is found in the sanctoral calendar of the Church of England, both in the 1662 Prayer Book and in Common Worship.

The Collect

O God, you called John the Baptist to be in birth and death the forerunner of your Son:  Grant that as John gave his life in witness to truth and righteousness, so we may fearlessly contend for the right, even unto the end; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


The Collect is from the 1736 Paris Missal and the 1985 Roman Sacramentary, translated by Philip H. Pfatteicher.

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Louis, King of France, 1270

A man of unusual purity of life and manners, Louis the Ninth of France was sincerely committed to his faith and to the demands of the Christian life.  Courageous and fearless in battle, patient and uncomplaining in adversity, he was an impartial, just, and compassionate monarch.  The one word that best summarizes his character is integrity.

Louis was born at Poissy, April 25, 1214, and was crowned King at Rheims on November 29, 1226, succeeding his father, Louis the Eighth.  His early religious exercises of devotion and asceticism were inspired by his mother, Blanche of Castille.  Louis died, August 25, 1270, while on crusade at Tunis and was buried with his royal peers in the basilica of Saint Denis near Paris.

Louis’ crusading adventures in the Middle East and in North Africa were of little historical consequence.  Such ventures were part of the piety of his time.  Throughout his life he was diligent in attending divine worship and constant in his charities, both open and secret.  Louis had an intelligent and active interest in the theological issues of his day.  But his primary concern was to put Christian ethics into practice in both his personal and his public life.

After his canonization in 1297, Louis’ relics were transferred to the Sainte Chapelle, the Gothic chapel in Paris which he built as a shrine for relics of our Lord’s Passion.  The building itself is a fitting monument to his genuine piety and beautiful character.

Because of his determined effort to live a personal life of Franciscan poverty and self-denial in the midst of worldly power and splendor (he wore a hair shirt under his royal garments), Louis is honored as a patron saint of the Third Order of Saint Francis.  In North America, Louis is honored in New Orleans as the titular saint of that city’s cathedral church.  The city of French Louisiana that bears his name, Saint Louis, is home to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, as well as the Basilica of Saint Louis (“the Old Cathedral”).

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

O God, you called your servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave him zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; 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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Saint Bartholomew the Apostle

Bartholomew appears in the New Testament simply as one of the twelve apostles listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and against in Acts.  The name is a patronymic representing the Aramaic bar Tolmai, “son of Tolmai [Ptolmey]” (cf. Simon Bar-jonah in in Matthew 16).  Bar-tholomew may therefore have another, personal name.  In the Synoptic lists he is joined with Philip.  In the Fourth Gospel, however, Philip is associated with Nathanael rather than Bartholomew, and it is sometimes suggested that the apostle’s given name was Nathanael.  The identification of Nathanael with Bartholomew, dating from the ninth century, is reflected in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Gospel for the day…Nathanael was from the town of Cana in Galilee where Jesus performed his first miracle.  He was invited to discipleship by Philip, who told him that he and Andrew and Peter had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  At first Nathanael was doubtful, but after a word from Jesus, he followed.  Early patristic writers suggest that Nathanael was not one of the Twelve and stands in Saint John’s Gospel as a representative of Israel coming to God.

The story of his call (John 1) is all that is recorded in the New Testament of the life of Nathanael, but there are several traditions about the life and labors of Bartholomew.  Some sources credit Bartholomew with having written a Gospel, the existence of which was known to Jerome and Bede, but which is now lost.  Bartholomew is variously reported to have preached in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India.  In connection with India, Eusebius says that Bartholomew left a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew that Pantaenus of Alexandria, a missionary of the latter half of the second century, found there in the hands of the local people.  Most of these traditions agree that Saint Bartholomew spent his last years preaching in Armenia and that he was flayed and beheaded in Albanus (modern Derbend) on the Caspian coast.  [In Western iconography he is traditionally represented holding a flaying knife, one of the instruments of his martyrdom.]  The Armenian Church commemorates him on two days during the year:  once together with Saint Thaddeus and again together with another Armenian martyr.

A very different tradition of Bartholomew’s mission appears in the traditions of the Coptic and Ethiopian churches, who also revere him highly, observing his feast day on August 29.  Their accounts tell of his preaching at an oasis in Upper Egypt (there is a special commemoration of the event on November 15), then going among the Berbers where he was rescued from wild beasts by a cannibal, and finally preaching along the coast of North Africa where a local king, Agrippa, had him sewn into a leather bag and dropped into the sea.

Bartholomew’s relics are venerated in the tenth-century Church of Saint Bartholomew on the island Isola Tiberina in Rome.  He is the patron of the city and cathedral of Frankfurt, which claims to possess his skull.  [Emma, the wife of the Danish Cnut, king of England and Denmark, gave an arm of Saint Bartholomew to Canterbury Cathedral in the eleventh century, which probably contributed to the diffusion of his veneration in England.]

August 24 has been Saint Bartholomew’s feast day on calendars of the Western Church since the eighth century, but the reason for the date is not known.  The Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate him with Saint Barnabas on June 11[, and the Church of the East in Persia commemorated him on June 13].

In European history Saint Bartholomew’s Day is remembered for the massacre of Reformed Protestants (Huguenots) that took place on this day in Paris in 1572.

taken from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations
(Philip H. Pfatteicher), with additions

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; 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 Bartholomew was painted by Antonio da Venezia, c. 1376.

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Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, 1153

Bernard, fiery defender of the Church in the twelfth century, was known for the ardor with which he preached love for God “without measure”.  He was absorbed, even to the neglect of his own health, in support of the purity, doctrine, and prerogatives of the Church.  He fulfilled his own definition of a holy man:  “seen to be good and charitable, holding back nothing for himself, but using his every gift for the common good.”

Born in 1090 near Dijon, Bernard was the son of a Burgundian knight and landowner.  He was educated at Châtillon-sur-Seine by secular canons and became known as a youth for his charm, wit, learning, and eloquence.  At the age of 22, with thirty-one companions including some of his brothers and other noblemen, he became a monk at the languishing, poverty-stricken, reformed monastery of Cîteaux.  This influx of new monks saved the monastery from extinction, and under Bernard’s influence the Cistercian Order was transformed.

After a few years probation, Bernard was made abbot of Clairvaux, a new foundation.  In conditions of acute poverty he was at first too severe on his community.  On realizing this, he gave up preaching, improved the food, and generally improved the condition of the abbey with the assistance of the local bishop.  With the abbey on a firm footing, Bernard devoted himself to writing letters and sermons, often denying himself sleep to do so.  He preached so persuasively that in time sixty new Cisterican abbeys were founded in France and elsewhere, including five abbeys in the British Isles, all of them affiliated with Clairvaux.  At the same time, Clairvaux itself grew steadily, until it numbered seven hundred monks at Bernard’s death.

By 1140, Bernard’s writings had made him one of the most influential figures in the Western Church.  He participated actively in every controversy that threatened the Church.  He was an ardent critic of Peter Abelard’s attempt to reconcile inconsistencies of doctrine by reason, because he thought that such an approach denigrated the mysteries of the faith.

When a former monk of Clairvaux was elected Pope as Eugenius the Third, Bernard became his spokesman and counselor.  He preached the crusade against the Albigensians and the Second Crusade to liberate Jerusalem, winning much support for this crusade from France and Germany.  When that Crusade ended in disaster, Bernard was roundly attacked for having supported it.  He died soon after in 1153 and was canonized in 1174.

Among Bernard’s writings are treatises on papal duty, on love, on the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and perhaps his most renowned work, a commentary on the Song of Songs (the Song of Solomon).  Catenas of his devotional poetry have been set as devotional hymns, including “Jesus, the very thought of thee” and “Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts”.

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

The Collect

O God, by whose grace your servant Bernard of Clairvaux, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; 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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Saint Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ

The Revd Dr Philip H. Pfatteicher has written a particularly good essay for this day in his book, The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations:  A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints, and I reproduce most of the essay here:

In the person of the Virgin Mary, the Church has seen an image of itself, the representative of the community of the faithful, a model of what each Christian ought to be:  prayerful, humble, joyfully submissive to the will and word of God, devoted to her Son and loyal to him even when she did not understand him.  the honor paid to her goes back to the earliest days of Christianity, and because she is the mother of the Redeemer she is accounted preeminent among the saints.  The words of the song ascribed to her, Magnificat, as well as her humble acceptance of the will of God bear more than accidental similarity to the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.  More is known about her that about most of the apostles.

Mary the mother of Jesus is mentioned in a number of places in the Gospels and the book of Acts, and a dozen incidents of her life are recorded:  her betrothal to Joseph (Matthew 1:18); the annunciation by the angel that she was to bear the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38); her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39-45); the birth of her Son (Matthew 1:24-25, Luke 2:1-7); the visits of the shepherds (Luke 2: 8-20) and of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12); the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple in accordance with the Law (Luke 2:22-38); the flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15); the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:41-51); the wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11); her presence at the crucifixion when her Son commended her to the care of Saint John (John 19:25-27); and meeting with the apostles in the upper room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Spirit (Acts 1:14).  She is thus pictured as being present at all the important events of her Son’s life.

The other books of the New Testament are silent about Mary.  Saint Paul, no recording her name, says simply that Jesus was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).  Little is known about the rest of her life, which traditions say she spent in Jerusalem (the tomb of the Virgin is shown in the Kidron Valley) or Ephesus.  The second century Protoevangelium of James identifies her parents as Anne and Joachim.

The angel’s words in Luke 1:32 imply that Mary was descended from David (or that the early Church believed that she was descended from David).  She is a model of bold but tender love:  she stood at the Cross to watch her Son die as an enemy of the state; Jesus’ brothers are not reported to have been present.  The earliest feasts celebrating her death were observed in Palestine from the fifth century, possibly at Antioch in the fourth century.  The date of August 15, ordered by the emperor Maurice [ruled 582-603], probably originated with the dedication of a church in her honor.  By the sixth century the observance of the date of August 15 was widespread in the East, and the feast day gradually became known as the Feast of the Dormition (Koimesis), the “Falling Asleep”, or passing from this life, of the Virgin.  In the seventh century this feast day was observed in rome, and from there it spread throughout the West, where by the ninth century it had come to be called the Feast of the Assumption (referring to the reception of Mary’s body and soul into heaven in anticipation of the general resurrection of the bodies of all the dead at the last day).  The belief, apparently unknown to Ambrose (+397) and Epiphanius (+403), appears in certain New Testament apocrypha form the latter fourth century and was first formulated in orthodox circles in the West by Gregory of Tours (+594).  In the East, the writings of Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (+730), and other…authors testify to the acceptance of the doctrine.  In 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed that the teaching of the Assumption was elevated to the status of a dogma in the Roman Catholic Church…

Mary’s perpetual virginity (virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus) is first asserted in the apocryphal book of James, may have been taught by Irenaeus (+c. 202)and Clement of Alexandria, and was certainly held by Athanasius (+373), who used the term “ever virgin”.  The teaching was accepted by East and West from the fifth century onward and was given additional impetus at the Council of Ephesus (431), which upheld the title Theotokos (bearer of God), common from the fourth century.  [The perpetual virginity of Mary was also accepted and taught by the Reformers, including Martin Luther and John Calvin, and John Wesley stated in a letter to a Roman Catholic that he, too, accepted the doctrine.]

The Collect

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; 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
Isaiah 61:10-11

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.

Psalm 34:1-9
Benedicam Dominum

I will bless the LORD at all times; *
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

I will glory in the LORD; *
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD; *
let us exalt his Name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me *
and delivered me out of all my terror.

Look upon him and be radiant, *
and let not your faces be ashamed.

I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me *
and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him, *
and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; *
happy are they who trust in him!

Fear the LORD, you that are his saints, *
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The Epistle
Galatians 4:4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The Gospel
Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Lesson, 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 of Saint Mary the Virgin, known as the Theotokos of Canada, was written by André J. Prevost and resides at All Saints Orthodox Cathedral in Edmonton.

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Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, 1667

Jeremy Taylor, one of the most influential of the Caroline Divines, was educated at Cambridge and, through the influence of William Laud, became a Fellow of All Souls at Oxford.  He was still quite young when he became chaplain to King Charles the First and, later during the Civil War, a chaplain in the Royalist army.

The success of the Parliamentary forces brought about Taylor’s imprisonment, and after the final Parliamentary victory in the Civil War, Taylor spent several years in forced retirement as chaplain to the family of Lord Carberry in Wales.  It was during this time that his most influential works were written, especially Holy Living and Holy Dying (1651).

Among his other works, Liberty of Prophesying proved to be a seminal work in encouraging the development of religious toleration in the seventeenth century.  In it, Taylor states:

“[W]hatsoever is expressed, or is to these purposes implied, is made articulate and explicate, in the short and admirable mysterious creed of St Paul, Rom. x.8.  ‘This is the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’  This is the great and entire complexion of a Christian’s faith; and since salvation is promised to the belief of this creed, either a snare is laid for us, with a purpose to deceive us, or else nothing is of prime and original necessity to be believed, but this, Jesus Christ our Redeemer; and all that which is the necessary parts, means, or main actions working this redemption for us, and the honor for him, is in the bowels and folds of the great article….”

Despite Taylor’s unquestioned literary genius, he was not asked to have a part in the Prayer Book revision of 1662.  The first American Prayer Book, however, incorporated one of his prayers, part of which has been adapted to serve as the Collect for his commemoration.  Another of his prayers has been added to the American Prayer Book of 1979.

Taylor’s theology has sometimes been criticized, most bitingly by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who claims that Taylor seems to “present our own holy life as the grounds of our religious hope, rather than as the fruit of that hope, whose ground is the mercies of Christ.”  No such complaint, however, was ever made about his prayers, which exemplify the best of Caroline divinity, blended with great literary genius.

In later life, Taylor and his family moved to the northeastern part of Ireland, where he accepted a lectureship in the patronage of the Earl of Conway.  After the restoration of the monarch, King Charles the Second nominated him to the bishopric of Down and Connor, to which the small adjacent see of Dromore was later added.  As bishop, Taylor labored tirelessly to rebuild churches, restore the use of the Prayer Book, and overcome continuing Puritan opposition.  As vice-chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin, he took a leading part in reviving the intellectual life of the Church of Ireland.  He remained to the end of his life and man of prayer and a pastor.  Taylor caught fever from a sick person whom he had visited and died on this day in 1667.  He was buried in Dromore Cathedral.

taken from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980),
with amendments and additions

The Collect

O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, like your servant Jeremy Taylor, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; 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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