Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Collect

Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Zephaniah 3:14-18a

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

Psalm 113
Laudate pueri

Give praise, you servants of the LORD; *
praise the Name of the LORD.

Let the Name of the LORD be blessed, *
from this time forth for evermore.

From the rising of the sun to its going down *
let the Name of the LORD be praised.

The LORD is high above all nations, *
and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high *
but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust *
and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, *
with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house *
to be a joyful mother of children.

The Epistle

Colossians 3:12-17

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The Canticle: The First Song of Isaiah
Ecce Deus

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

The Gospel
Luke 1:39-49

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

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.

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

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Apolo Kivebulaya, Evangelist in Central Africa and Presbyter, 1933

Apolo Kivebulaya was a Ugandan Anglican priest and evangelist who is considered the pioneer of Anglican missions in the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is also known as the “apostle to the Pygmies” for his work among the Bambuti people of the Ituri Forest in eastern Congo.

A brief biography of Apolo may be found in the online Dictionary of African Christian Biography.

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Apolo Kivebulaya, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Congo and to the Bambuti people. 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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The First Book of Common Prayer, 1549

This feast is appropriately observed on a weekday following the Day of Pentecost.

The first Book of Common Prayer came into use on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth. From it have descended all subsequent editions and revisions of the Prayer Book according to the use of the several Churches of the Anglican Communion.

This first Book of Common Prayer kept the structure of the Latin rite and preserved – in English translation – many of the prayers of traditional use, some of them altered according to reformed theological emphases. The preparation of the Book was undertaken by “the Archbishop of Canterbury and certain of the most learned and discreet bishops and other learned men of this realm”, known to us only as the Windsor Commission. Cranmer did confide that the Commission’s membership were representative men, “some favouring the old, some the new learning”. The man who did most to reform the English liturgy was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer himself. He had studied the life of the patristic Church and was familiar with such of the Eastern liturgies as were known in the West at the time (for example, Erasmus’ edition of the Liturgy of St John Chrystostom, to this day the chief eucharistic liturgy of the Eastern Church). Because new rites and ceremonies that obscured the Word of God and gave rise to distorted sacramental theology had crept in over the centuries, he recognized that the whole liturgical corpus needed overhauling and simplifying.

The principles governing the new Book were stated in its Preface (which may be found on page 866 in the Book of Common Prayer (1979)). First, the reformed lectionary was designed such that, instead of the broken and interrupted pieces of Scripture read in the medieval liturgy, the “whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof)” would be read over the course of a year. By such reading and by meditation on God’s Word, the clergy “should…be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine”. By the daily hearing of the Scriptures in church, the people “should continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.”

Second, the English language replaced Latin, “whereas St Paul would have such language spoken to the people in the Church, as they might understand, and have profit by hearing the same”. Third, the number of rubrics and the complex character of the offices, which required the use of many books, were reduced only to what was necessary and “plain and easy to understand”, and the many books reduced to one. Fourth, the diversity of English liturgical use – “some following Salisbury use, some Hereford use, some the use of Bangor, some of York, some of Lincoln” – would yielded to the uniform rites of the Book of Common Prayer.

In his book, The Liturgies of the Western Church, Professor Bard Thompson suggests that there were other principles implicit in the Book. Its liturgies and offices were meant to be as comprehensive as possible of all parties in the Church of England, those “favouring the old” and those the new learning. In other words, it was meant literally to be a catholic (“universal”) Book. The very title, The Booke of Common Prayer…After the Use of the Church of England, and The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass” invited the sympathy of conservatives and reformers alike. An overarching principle was the rule of charity, that “every man…be satisfied with his owne conscience, not iudging other mennes myndes or consciences” (Exhortation to Communion). The Windsor commissioners distinguished between those ceremonies of the medieval rites that were vain and superstitious, and those which served order and edification, a distinction made explicit in an appendix, “Of Ceremonies, Why Some Be Abolished and Some Retayned”. Appeal is made in this essay not only to St Paul the Apostle but also St Augustine of Hippo for the removing the “intolerable burden” of excessive and superstitious ceremonies.

While the structure of the Latin Mass was retained, some of the chief marks of the medieval cultus were abolished; viz., the Elevation, holy water, the veneration of images, the doctrine of purgatory, and the invocation of saints. The sanctoral calendar was drastically pruned only to those holy days commemorating the apostles and other New Testament saints closely associated with them, All Saints Day, and the major feast days of our Lord: Christmas Day, the Circumcision, the Purification of Mary (Candlemas), the Annunciation, the Visitation, Ascension Day, and Transfiguration. While the calendar of commemorations was pruned only to these, we should not fail to note that the observance of them is a sign of liturgical continuity with the pre-Reformation Church, as was the retention of the liturgical seasons and feasts of Advent, Christmastide, the Epiphany, Pre-Lent, Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and the season after Trinity. The continued use of the Psalter at the daily office, and the preservation of the ancient canticles of the office: the Magnificat, the Nunc dimittis, and Te Deum laudamus also stand as signs of liturgical continuity with the pre-Reformation Church.

Finally, this was a Book of common prayer, in the English language, ruled by the English Bible (the “Great Bible”, authorized by King Henry the Eighth in 1539, was the source of several of the biblical passages in the new Prayer Book), expecting the people’s attention and participation, requiring communion in both kinds and forbidding private masses. The originality of the Prayer book lay not only in its felicitous translations, paraphrases, and amendments of the old Latin forms, but also in its simplication of the complicated liturgical usages of the medieval Church, so that the book was suitable for use by the laity as well as by the clergy.

Cranmer and the commissioners drew on several sources that expressed both continuity with the pre-Reformation Church and with the Protestant Reformation. In simplifying the daily office of the Sarum Use of the Latin Rite from eight to two offices, Matins (Morning Prayer) and Evensong (Evening Prayer), the reformed breviary prepared in 1535 by Cardinal Quiñones in Spain provided a model. The Litany is based on a litany drawn up by Archbishop Cranmer during King Henry’s reign, and that litany was itself based on the Sarum Processionale, a form with precedents in a Greek litany brought to England c. 700, and on a German litany drawn up by Luther. Cranmer would later amend this earlier Litany to the form that we know as the Great Litany. The sources of the eucharistic liturgy were several: 1) the English Great Bible, from which the Psalms and Lessons were taken (save one); 2) the Latin rite according to the Sarum Use, that of Salisbury, the most influential liturgical use in England at the time; 3) the Orthodox liturgy, from which were taken the Prayer of St Chrystostom in the daily office and the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, in the eucharistic Prayer of Consecration; 4) the reformed liturgy of the Church at Cologne, prepared for Archbishop Hermann von Wied by the reformer Martin Bucer and others, and the Antididagma of Cologne, a conservative response to that liturgy; and 5) Cranmer’s own Order of the Communion of 1548, which had drawn on Lutheran precedents.

All in all, the first Book of Common Prayer was what Thompson characterized as “a reverent adaptation of the Latin rite, possessed of liturgical fitness and a deep eucharistic piety” (Liturgies, page 236). Cranmer and his colleagues had reformed the liturgy not only according to the reformed theology of the time but also by the use of earlier liturgies, maintaining and expressing liturgically (and theologically) continuity with the undivided Church of the first millennium through the pre-Reformation Church in England.

The Collect

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The propers for the commemoration of the First Book of Common Prayer are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, 605

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.

The propers for the commemoration of Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Bede the Venerable, Presbyter and Monk of Jarrow, 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.


The propers for the commemoration of Bede the Venerable, Priest and Monk of Jarrow, are published on the Lectionary Page website.


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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.


The propers for the commemoration of Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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.

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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 this day, together with her son Constantine. She is also commemorated on this date in the Calendar of the Church of England. The traditional date of her commemoration in the West in 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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Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, 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 Dunsant 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

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 southern part of Sudan became independent in 2011, as South Sudan, and a state of war exists between the two nations at present.  The bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and of the Roman Catholic Church in the Sudan are in the forefront of working for peace between the war-torn nations.

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 of South Sudan is 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 the proposal to the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church

The Collect

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant us your grace, that as the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, we too may be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, 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 Hope with Sudan, and the image is taken from the Hope with Sudan website.

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Thomas Rattray, Bishop of Dunkeld, 1743

Thomas Rattray came of a long-established Perthshire family. He was distinguished while still a layman for his theological writings. As a liturgical and patristics scholar, and drawing on early Eastern liturgies, he exerted a decisive influence on the Scottish Communion Office of 1764, and thus on the liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church and, through Bishop Samuel Seabury’s influence, the liturgy of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Rattray was a leader among those who contended that the appointment of a bishop belonged properly to the clergy of the diocese, with the approbation of the laity. His election as Bishop of Brechin in 1727 was declared void by the College of Bishops. He was later elected Bishop of Dunkeld, and became Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1739. An example of piety and strictness of life, he was one of the most learned bishops of his time. He died in the year 1743.

from Celebrating the Saints, with amendments

The Collect

O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant, Thomas Rattray, 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.


Bishop Thomas Rattray is commemorated in the Calendar of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

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