Monthly Archives: May 2013

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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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.

Tomb of St Bede the Venerable (Durham Cathedral)

Tomb of St Bede the Venerable (Durham Cathedral)

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

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

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

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

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

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

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

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


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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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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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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Alcuin, Deacon and Abbot of Tours, 804

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

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

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

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

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

The Collect

Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The propers for the commemoration of Alcuin, Deacon and Abbot of Tours, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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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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Julian of Norwich, c. 1417

Julian of Norwich

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

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

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

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

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

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The propers for the commemoration of Dame Julian of Norwich are published on the Lectionary Page website.


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Monnica, Widow and Mother of Augustine of Hippo, 387

Born in north Africa at Tagaste of Berber parents, Monnica was married to Patricius, a Latinized provincial of Tagaste. By her patient persistence Monnica won over her husband, who was baptized the year before he died. By Patricius, Monnica was the mother of three children: Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetus. She is especially venerated as the mother of Augustine, later bishop of Hippo, and in her patient treatment of him through many years of anxiety ending in his conversion, she is seen as the model of Christian motherhood.

Most of our information about Monnica comes from Book IX of Augustine’s Confessions. We learn that that when he was young, Monnica enrolled him as a catechumen according to the custom of the day, but his dissolute life caused her so much distress that at one time she refused to allow him to live in her house. Advised by a presbyter of the Church that the time for his conversion had not yet come, she relented and gave up arguing with him, turning instead to prayer, fasts, and vigils, hoping that these would succeed where argument had failed. Eventually Augustine went to Rome, deceiving his mother about the time of his departure in order to travel without her. He went on from Rome to Milan, but Monnica followed him. She was esteemed by Ambrose, the bishop of that city, who also helped Augustine towards conversion to Christ and a deep moral transformation, which took place in 386. As a consequence, Augustine renounced his mother’s plans for his marriage, determining to remain celibate, and with his mother and a few close friends he withdrew for a period to prepare for baptism. Augustine was baptized in 387. Monnica and his friends set out on the jounrey to Africa with him, but she died along the way, at Ostia, where she was buried.

Augustine writes that his brother expressed sorrow, for her sake, that she should die so far from her own country. She said to her sons, “It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.” To the question, whether she was not afraid at the thought of leaving her body in an alien land, she replied, “Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.”

Modern excavations at Ostia uncovered her original tomb, but her mortal remains were transferred in 1430 to the Church of Saint Augustine in Rome.

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

The Collect

O Lord, through spiritual discipline you strengthened your servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The image of Monnica is from Saint Monica’s Church in the Diocese of Trenton, from a study of the saint done by John Nava, the artist who created the stunning tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Saint Monnica is also depicted in one of the tapestry panels (below).

The propers for the commemoration of Monnica, Widow and Mother of Augustine of Hippo, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373

Rarely in the history of the Church has the course of its development been more significantly influenced by one person than it was by Athanasius in the fourth century. It is not an exaggeration to say that by his tireless defense of the phrase in the Creed of Nicaea, homousios, “of one being [with the Father]”, he preserved orthodox teaching for the Church in the East during a doctrinally turbulent time in the Church’s history. Two of the late fourth century defenders of the Nicene teaching noted his contribution, Gregory of Nazianzus calling him “the pillar of the Church”, and Basil the Great saying that Athanasius was “the God-given physician of her wounds”.

Born about 296 in Alexandria of Christian parents who were probably Egyptian (several writers commented on the darkness of his skin), Athanasius was educated in the catechetical school in that city. He joined the clergy about 312 and was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Alexander in 319. He quickly gained attention by his opposition to the teaching of the Alexandrian presbyter Arius, whose denial of the full deity of the Second Person of the Trinity (the Son) was gaining widespread acceptance through the East. Athanasius accompanied Alexander as his secretary and theological adviser to the Council of Nicaea in 325, which dealt with the Arian controversy. Athanasius was successful in winning acceptance of the phrase, homousios, despite the fact that a number of the bishops objected to the use of a phrase not drawn directly from the Scriptures. Athanasius realized that nothing less than the unequivocal expression of the full Godhead of the Son in homousios was necessary to defend the Church’s confession of Jesus against the Arians.

On Alexander’s death in 328, Athanasius, whom Alexander had named as his successor, became bishop of Alexandria, with the general approval of the bishops of Egypt. As a new bishop, Athanasius made extensive pastoral visits in the entire Egyptian province (over which the bishop of Alexandria was metropolitan), but he faced vicious opposition from numerous schismatics who had opposed his election to the episcopate.

Throughout the fractured and tumultuous course of his episcopate, Athanasius defended Nicene christology against emperors, magistrates, councils, bishops, and theologians. He suffered exile five times, to places as far-flung as northern Gaul and the Libyan desert. Supported by the bishops of Rome and generally supported by the Church in the West, Athanasius sometimes seemed to stand alone in the East for the catholic faith, hence the phrase that became a byword: Athanasius contra mundum – Athanasius against the world. In his own city he became a beloved bishop, so that by the time of his last exile, in 364, the emperor Valens had to recall him after only four months to avoid an insurrection in the city. He then remained in his see until his death on May 2, 373. During his forty-five year episcopate he had spent altogether seventeen years away from his see in exile.

Athanasius wrote voluminously. His Defense against the Arians and The History of the Arians remain the best extant sources of knowledge about the Church in the first half of the fourth century. His brilliant treatise On the Incarnation, written in his youth, and his Discourses against the Arians remain among the clearest and most forceful explanations of the unity of the triune God and of the necessity of the incarnation of Jesus. His biographical Life of Saint Antony was immensely popular (it was known to English hagiographers at the time of the Venerable Bede) and had a wide influence in promoting monasticism. Because Alexandria was recognized as having the best astronomers in the classical world, it fell to the bishop of Alexandria to send out a festal letter soon after the feast of the Epiphany each year, giving the proper date for the beginning of Lent and for the celebration of the Paschal feast (Easter). In his Festal Letter of 367, his thirty-ninth such letter, Athanasius gave the oldest extant list of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, calling them “the springs of salvation”.

In On the Incarnation, he writes: The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in his great love took to himself a body and moved as man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway. He became himself an object for the sense, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which he, the Word of God, did in the body. Human and human-minded as men were, therefore, to whichever side they looked in the sensible world, they found themselves taught the truth.”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980),
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, and The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations

The Collect

Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servant Athanasius, to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition, trusting solely in the grace of your eternal Word, who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The image is a Coptic icon of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria.

The propers for the commemoration of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, are published on the Lectionary page website.

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Filed under Commemorations