Monthly Archives: November 2012

Saint Andrew the Apostle

Andrew, whose name means “manly”, was the brother of Simon Peter and was born in Bethsaida, a village of Galilee. The Gospel according to John tells us that Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of the two disciples who followed Jesus after John had declared of him, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Andrew and the other disciple followed Jesus, and Andrew’s first act afterward was to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. For this reason, Andrew is given the title “the First-Called” by the Eastern Churches.

Though Andrew was not a part of the inner circle of disciples – Peter, James, and John, he is always named in the lists of the disciples. In Matthew and Luke, his name appears second, while in Mark and in the Acts of the Apostles he is listed after Peter, James, and John, as fourth in the list in company with Philip. Andrew appears prominently in several incidents in the Gospels. Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and in the Gospel according to Matthew Jesus calls them from their occupation, and they immediately respond to his call. Andrew was the disciple who brought the boy with the loaves and the fishes to Jesus for the feeding of the multitude.

The fourth century historian and bishop Eusebius writes that after Pentecost, Andrew preached in Scythia. Jerome and Theodoret locate his preaching in Greece (Achaia), and Nicephorus places him in Asia Minor and Thrace. The late second century Muratorian Fragment connects him with the writing of the Gospel according to John. A late tradition holds that he was martyred on November 30, c. 70 at Patras in Achaia. An ancient church still stands over the traditional site of his martyrdom. The earliest mention of his being crucified on an X-shaped (“Greek”) cross is from the tenth century. This tradition accounts for the X-shaped cross of St Andrew that appears in medieval and Renaissance iconography.

St Andrew’s body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople in 357 and later translated to the cathedral in Amalfi, Italy. The patriarchate of Constantinople grounds its claim to be an apostolic see (like Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome) on the tradition of his having been the first bishop of the Church at Byzantium, the older town which the emperor Constantine enlarged to found Constantinople. The Churches of Greece and Russia particularly give high honor to St Andrew, and because of a legend that certain of his relics were translated to St Andrew’s Church in Fife in the eighth century, he became a patron saint of Scotland (hence the appearance of the X-shaped Cross of St Andrew on the Scottish flag and on the British Union Jack).

The feast of St Andrew was observed as early as the fourth century in the East and by the sixth century at Rome. The feast day determines the beginning of the Church year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St Andrew’s Day, whether before or after. In most liturgical books the sanctoral calendar begins with the commemoration of St Andrew the Apostle.

prepared from material from Lesser Feasts and Fasts
and from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations
(Philip H. Pfatteicher, Fortress Press)

The Collect

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Deuteronomy 30:11-14

[Moses said to the people of Israel] For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Psalm 19
Caeli enarrant

The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,

Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.

In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

The Epistle
Romans 10:8b-18

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

The Gospel
Matthew 4:18-22

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

_____________________________________________________________________________

The scripture texts for 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 Andrew the Apostle was written by and is © Aidan Hart and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holy Days: Other Major Feasts

Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawai’i, 1863, 1885

In 1819, Kamehameha the Second, king of the recently-unified islands of Hawai’i, sat at table with several female relations in his court, effectively nullifying the elaborate religious system of kapu (taboo) that governed the day to day lives of Hawai’ians. This action brought about a crisis, as the king essentially overturned the traditional religious system by this simple act, leaving a void in Hawai’ian culture. Within only a few months, Christian (Congregationalist) missionaries arrived in Hawai’i from Boston aboard the Thaddeus. Stepping into the void created by Kamehameha’s rejection of traditional Hawai’ian religion, the missionaries commenced the Christian conversion of the Hawai’ian people.

Born in 1834, Alexander Liholiho was the grandson of Kamehameha the First, unifier of the Hawai’ian islands and a brutal, if effective, pagan ruler to whom Kamehameha the Second had succeeded. Alexander received his education from the Congregationalist missionaries at the Chiefs’ Children’s School (later the Royal School) in Honolulu. After his primary education, he received legal training. Named by his uncle, Kamehameha the Third, to succeed him as king, it was thought that the young now crown prince would benefit from foreign travel, and at the age of fifteen he and several companions toured the United States, the continent of Europe, and England. While in England, Prince Alexander attended services of the Church of England and was favorably impressed by the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, which stood in contrast to the austerity and extemporaneity of the Congregationalist services with which he was familiar at home.

In 1855, Alexander succeeded his uncle and took the oath as King Kamehameha the Fourth. A year after ascending the throne, Kamehameha married Emma Rooke, granddaughter of the British royal adviser to Kamehameha the First and great-grandniece of that king. Concerned about the growing influence of American missionaries in Hawai’i (a treaty to annex the Hawai’ian islands to the United States had been proposed during his uncle’s reign) and recalling his experience of Anglican liturgy while on his foreign tour a few years previously, the king and queen wrote to Queen Victoria, inviting the Church of England to send missionaries to his kingdom. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce recommended that the mission include a bishop who could organize the church in Hawai’i. With the approval of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States (prevented from providing any assistance by the outbreak of the War Between the States) and of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the mission was formed, and the Revd Dr Thomas Nettleship Stanley was consecrated a bishop for Hawai’i in Lambeth Chapel on the fifteenth of December, 1861. The new church was chartered as the Hawai’ian Reformed Catholic Church and became the official royal church of Hawai’i, with lands donated from the royal family’s own holdings.

Both the king and the queen were devoted to their people’s material and spiritual welfare. Kamehameha himself translated the Book of Common Prayer into Hawai’ian, adding a preface explaining “the new teaching”. Kamehameha and Emma were particularly concerned for the healthcare and education of their people. When the Hawai’ian legislature struck down an ambitious public healthcare agenda proposed by the king, the royal couple lobbied local businessmen, merchants, and other wealthy citizens to provide funds. Their efforts were overwhelmingly successful, and eventuated in the establishment Queen’s Hospital (now Queen’s Medical Center) in Honolulu, as well as a leprosarium for the treatment of leprosy patients on the island of Maui.

The royal couple’s only son, Albert, died at the age of four in 1862, and Kamehameha died the following year, on the thirtieth of November. Some eight hundred teachers and schoolchildren walked to pay their respects to their departed monarch, and the king was buried according to the rites of the 1662 Prayer Book, the liturgical standard for the Church of Hawai’i. Since Kamehameha had died on the feast of Saint Andrew, the first cathedral in Hawai’i, constructed under the sponsorship of his brother, King Kamehameha the Fifth, was named for and dedicated to that apostle. (The cathedral has served as the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai’i since the annexation of the islands to the United States.) Emma died in 1885, having dedicated the remaining years of her life to charitable endeavors.

prepared from various sources

The Collect

O Sovereign God, who raised up Kamehameha and Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

________________________________________________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawai’i, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The image above is of a stained glass window in Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, which includes Kamehameha and Emma in the lefthand panel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Clement, Bishop of Rome, c. 100

Believed from very early on to have been a late first century bishop of the Church in Rome and disciple of the apostles Peter and Paul, Clement is known today mainly for his letter to the Church in Corinth known as the First Letter of Clement to the Corinthians. Written about the year 96, the epistle is an early and significant witness to the function and authority of the ministers of the Christian Church. It also demonstrates for the first time the effective intervention of a bishop of Rome in the affairs of another Church, and it provides evidence for the residence and martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Rome.

The occasion of the letter was the action of a younger faction at Corinth (ever the troubled, divisive church) who had deposed the older presbyters because of dissatisfaction with their ministration. The unity of the Church was being jeopardized by a dispute over its ministry. Clement’s letter sets out a hierarchical and organic view of Church authority, insisting that God requires due order in all things, that the deposed presbyters must be reinstated, and that the legitimate authorities must be obeyed. He writes, “You, therefore, the prime movers of the schism, submit to the presbyters, and, bending the knees of your hearts, accept correction and change your minds. Learn submissiveness, and rid yourselves of your boastful and proud incorrigibility of tongue. Surely, it is better for you to be little and honorable within the flock of Christ than to be esteemed above your deserts and forfeit the hope which he holds out.”

Clement uses the terms “bishop” and “presbyter” interchangeably in the letter, and both internal and external evidence (e.g., the letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans) suggests that the episcopate not only at Corinth at the time but also at Rome, was plural; i.e., that those Churches were ruled and overseen by a council of presbyter-bishops – so that Clement was probably one of the bishops of the Church in Rome at the time. It would not be until the middle of the second century that the single, or monarchical, episcopate of one bishop in a church surrounded by the presbyters and deacons, would arise at Rome. In Clement’s letter, it is the “rulers” of the church (the presbyter-bishops) who lead its worship and “offer the gifts” of the Eucharist, just as the duly appointed priests of the Old Testament cultus performed the various sacrifices and liturgies in their time. In setting out the bare lineaments of apostolic appointment of ministers in the churches, Clement lays the groundwork for Tertullian and Irenaeus of Lyons, who would uphold the apostolic succession of bishops and presbyters against the gnostics in the late second century: “The Apostles preached to us the Gospel received from Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was God’s Ambassador. Christ, in other words, comes with a message from God, and the Apostles with a message from Christ. Both these orderly arrangements, therefore, originate from the will of God. And so, after receiving their instructions and being fully assured through the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as confirmed in faith by the word of God, they went forth, equipped with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, to preach the good news that the Kingdom of God was close at hand. From land to land, accordingly, and from city to city they preached, and from among their earliest converts appointed men whom they had tested by the Spirit to act as bishops and deacons for the future believers.”

In keeping with his organic view of the Church, Clement commends each Christian to his place in the whole Body of Christ, in words that recall the Apostle Paul: “Therefore the whole of our body be maintained in Christ Jesus, and let each submit to his neighbor’s rights in the measure determined by the special gift bestowed on him. Let the strong care for the weak, and the weak respect the strong; let the rich support the poor, and the poor render thanks to God for giving them the means of supplying their needs; let the wise man show his wisdom not in words but in active help; the humble man must not testify for himself, but leave it to another to testify in his behalf. He who is continent must not boast, knowing that it is another who confers on him the ability to remain continent. Let us therefore reflect, brethren, of what clay we were made, what and who we were when we entered the world, out of what grave and darkness our Maker and Creator has brought us into the world, where he had prepared his benefits before our birth. Since, then, we owe all these blessings to him, we are obliged to thank him in every way. To him be the glory forever and evermore. Amen.”

There is evidence that Clement’s epistle was read in the liturgy at Corinth around the year 170, and several ancient manuscripts include it in their canonical books of the New Testament, along with a second letter, erroneously ascribed to Clement (“Second Clement”), which is actually an early homily of unknown authorship on the character of the Christian life and the importance of penance. The text of Clement’s genuine epistle was lost to the Western Church during the Middle Ages (when Clement was thought of primarily as an early martyr) and was not rediscovered until 1628.

Aside from his authorship of this letter, we know little for certain about Clement. In fact, his name is not mentioned in the letter itself, which is addressed by “the Church of God…at Rome” to “the Church of God…at Corinth”. Despite this, Clementine authorship was not doubted in antiquity and has been called into question in modern times on only slender evidence. Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome state that the letter was written by Clement “as a representative of the Church of Rome”. Clement’s episcopate (presbyterate) probably fell sometime between the years 92 and 101. That he may have been of Jewish origin is inferred from his fondness for drawing heavily on the Old Testament for illustrative material. He has been identified by some with the Apostle Paul’s fellow laborer of the same name, mentioned in Philippians 4. Though the medieval Church remembered him primarily as a martyr, neither the place nor the manner of his death is known.

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

The Collect

Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability; Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what has already been revealed; and keep it blameless in your service; 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 Clement, Bishop of Rome, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The quotations from First Clement are taken from Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation (edited by Johannes Quasten and Joseph C. Plumpe).

2 Comments

Filed under Commemorations

Edmund, King of East Anglia, Martyr, 870

Born of Saxon stock, Edmund was brought up as a Christian and became king of the East Anglians before 865.  In 869 to 870 an army of Vikings, led by Ingwar, invaded East Anglia.  Edmund led his army against them but was defeated and captured.  He refused to renounce the Christian faith or to rule as Ingwar’s vassal.  He was then killed, whether by being scourged, shot with arrows, and then beheaded, as the traditional account relates, or by being “spread-eagled” as a sacrifice to the gods in accordance with Viking practice elsewhere.  His death took place at Hellesdon in Norfolk, and his body was buried in a small wooden chapel nearby.  Around 915 his body was discovered to be incorrupt and was translated to Bedricsworth, later call Bury St Edmunds.  In 925 King Athelstan founded a community of two priests and four deacons to take care of the shrine.  His veneration growing through the years, with its fulfillment of the ideals of Old English heroism, provincial independence, and Christian sanctity, by the eleventh century his feast figured prominently in monastic calendars in southern England and later in that of Sarum.  His relics were again translated in 1095 to a large new Norman church and re-enshrined in 1198.

His iconography includes an arrow (often a golden arrow), the supposed instrument of his martyrdom, or else a wolf, believed to have guarded his head after death.

adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God of ineffable mercy, you gave grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

________________________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Edmund, King of East Anglia and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon of St Edmund the Martyr was written by Helen McIldowie-Jenkins and is reproduced here with her generous permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231

Born at Pressburg in 1207, the daughter of King Andrew the Second of Hungary, Elizabeth (Erzsébet) was brought up in Thuringia and in 1221 married Louis the Fourth, Landgrave of Thuringia. Ardent, passionate, and handsome, she enjoyed a married life of extraordinary happiness, bore three children, and was generous to a fault. Louis was sympathetic to her extravagant almsgiving and allowed her to spend her dowry in providing for the poor. During a famine and epidemic in 1226, while he was in Italy, Elizabeth sold her jewels and established a hospital for the sick and the poor, and she opened the princely granaries to supply their needs.

In 1227 Louis went on crusade under Frederick the Third, and in less than three months he died of plague. Elizabeth was first incredulous, then distraught almost to the point of insanity. His death was a turning point in her life.

Her brother-in-law Henry, regent for her young son the Landgrave Herman, drove her from the court. Some advisers wished her to marry again, but she refused. In 1228 she settle at Marburg under the spiritual direction of her confessor, Conrad of Marburg, whom she had known since 1225. Conrad’s direction was domineering and severe, and he made Elizabeth dismiss her favorite ladies-in-waiting, for whom he substituted two harsh companions, who would punish her with slaps in the face and with blows from a rod.

Already attracted to their piety and special charism by her longtime concern for the sick and the poor, Elizabeth became a Franciscan tertiary, expressing her ardor in a love of poverty, the relief of the sick, the poor, and the aged by building and working in a hospital close to her modest house. She made ample provision for the education of her own children (her son Herman was deposed by Henry and sent into exile as well). She occupied herself with such tasks as spinning and carding, and cleaning the homes of the poor and fishing to help feed them. She refused an offer to return to Hungary, preferring to live out her life in resilient exile, a life of self-denial and service to the poor that lasted only two or three years. She died on the sixteenth of November 1231 at the age of only twenty-four, exhausted by her austerities. She was canonized only four years later by Pope Gregory the Ninth, and her relics were translated to the Church of Saint Elizabeth in Marburg where they remained until they were removed to an unknown place by Philip of Hesse in 1539. With Louis of France, Elizabeth shares the title of patron of the Third Order of Saint Francis.

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

The Collect

Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

______________________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Elizabeth of Hungary are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, 1200

Born into a noble family at Avalon, near Grenoble in Burgundy, Hugh received his education and made his profession in the priory of the Augustinian Canons at Villarbenoit. At twenty-five he joined the Carthusians, the strictest contemplative order of the Church at the time, at their major house, the Grande Chartreuse. He became procurator of the house around 1175 and was invited by King Henry the Second of England to become prior of his languishing Carthusian house at Witham, Somerset, founded by the king in reparation for the murder of Thomas Becket. The Charterhouse was insufficiently endowed and had been ruled by two unsuitable priors in succession. Under Hugh the monastery soon flourished and attracted several distinguished monks and canons to its membership.

In 1186, Henry chose Hugh as Bishop of Lincoln, but he refused to accept because he believed the election was uncanonical. Eventually he undertook to rule this, the largest diocese in England at the time, reluctantly and only in obedience to the prior of the Grande Chartreuse. To serve him in the task of overseeing his diocese, Hugh chose worthy and learned men as his canons, to several of whom, as archdeacons, he delegated much of the government of the diocese.

Hugh was reputedly the most learned monk in England, and he revived the schools of Lincoln to such an extent that the writer Gerald of Wales considered them second only to those of Paris. He rebuilt his cathedral, damaged by an earthquake, sometimes aiding the workmen with his own hands. He held synods and visitations, traveled ceaselessly to consecrate churches, confirm children, and bury the dead. His justice was proverbial, and he was appointed to act as a judge-delegate by three popes in succession, for some of the most important cases of his time. The king also appointed him to act in his court. Hugh was austere but gentle, intransigent but tender. He was always a friend of the oppressed and the outcasts, especially lepers (whom he tended himself), and he risked his life in riots to save Jews from death.

Hugh was the friend and critic of three Angevin kings: Henry the Second, John, and Richard the First. He excommunicated royal foresters and refused to appoint courtiers to Church benefices, and he never shrank from reproving the king for unjust exactions from his people. He refused to raise money for Richard’s foreign wars, yet Richard said of him, “If all bishops were like my Lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could lift his head against them.”

After visiting his home and various monasteries in France, Hugh fell mortally ill in his London house. On his deathbed he gave instructions regarding the completion of his cathedral and his own funeral arrangements. He died on the sixteenth of November, 1200.

One of his sermons, on care for the dead, has survived and several of his sayings. One of the latter was that lay people who practiced charity in the heart, truth on the lips, and chastity in the body would have an equal reward in heaven with monks and nuns. In 1220 he was canonized by Pope Honorius the Third, the first Carthusian to receive this honor.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O holy God, you endowed your servant and bishop Hugh of Lincoln with wise and cheerful boldness, and taught him to commend the discipline of holy life to kings and princes: Grant that we also, rejoicing in the Good News of your mercy, and fearing nothing but the loss of you, may be bold to speak the truth in love, in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Saint Hugh is usually depicted iconographically with his tame swan from his manor house at Stow, or with a chalice holding the infant Jesus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations

Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093

Granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside and grandniece of King Edward the Confessor, Margaret was well educated, mostly in Hungary, where her family was raised in exile during the rule of the Danish kings in England. As one of the last members of the Anglo-Saxon royal family, she was in danger after the Norman Conquest and took refuge at the court of Malcolm the Third, king of Scotland, made famous by Shakespeare in his play Macbeth. Intelligent, beautiful, and devout, Margaret married Malcolm in 1069 or 1070. Their union was exceptionally happy and fruitful for the Scottish nation, producing eight children. Two of her children, Alexander and David, became kings of Scotland. Through Margaret and her daughter Matilda English monarchs from the reign of Henry the Second to the present day can trace their ancestry to the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon kings of England.

According to her biographer Turgot, prior of Durham and bishop of Saint Andrews, Margaret sought with considerable zeal to reform what she considered to be careless practices in the Church in Scotland, then at a low ebb in its ecclesial life. She insisted that the observance of Lent was to begin on Ash Wednesday, rather than on the following Monday. She further insisted that the Mass be celebrated according to the accepted Roman rite of the Church, and not in barbarous form and language. The Lord’s Day was to be a day when, she said, “we apply ourselves only to prayers”. She played a prominent role in the foundation of monasteries, churches, orphanages, and hostels for pilgrims. She and Malcolm together worked to rebuild the abbey of Iona, made famous centuries before by Columba and Aidan, and they had Dumfermline built to be a burial place for the Scottish royal family, like a Scottish Westminster Abbey.

Margaret’s private life was devoted to prayer and reading, lavish almsgiving (including the ransoming of Anglo-Saxon captives), and ecclesiastical needlework. She saw to the spiritual welfare of her large household, providing servants with opportunity for regular worship and prayer. Her influence over the king was considerable as he, strong-willed and initially rough in character, came through love for her to value what she valued. Turgot wrote that Malcolm saw “that Christ truly dwelt in her heart…what she rejected, he rejected…what she loved, he for love of her loved too.” Although he could not read, he liked to see the books she used at prayer and would have them embellished with gold and silver bindings. One such book thought to be hers, a pocket Gospel with fine portraits of the Evangelists, survives in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. A psalter at Edinburgh University Library may well have been hers, too.

Margaret lived just long enough to learn of the tragic deaths of her husband and one of their sons on a military expedition against the English king William Rufus, who had confiscated her father’s estates in England. Worn by her austerities and the rigors of childbearing, Margaret died on the sixteenth of November, 1093, at the age of forty-seven. She was buried beside Malcolm at Dunfermline, and her body was translated in 1250. At the Reformation, her body and Malcolm’s were translated to the Escorial in Madrid. Her work among the people and her reforms of the Church made her Scotland’s most beloved saint, and the Roman Catholic Church named her a patron of Scotland in 1673.

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

The Collect

O God, you called your servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave her zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her 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.

________________________________________________________________________________

The propers for the commemoration of Margaret, Queen of Scotland, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commemorations