Monthly Archives: May 2014

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

Hallelujah!
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.
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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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Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, 605

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collect

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

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

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

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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.

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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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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.

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

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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 Dunstan holding the devil by the nose with a pair of tongs. A surviving tenth century relic of him is a Glastonbury book containing scriptural extracts in Latin and Greek, an Old English homily on the Cross, and some ancient Welsh glosses, as well as a portrait of Dunstan prostrate at the feet of Christ. A thirteenth century inscription claims that the work is Dunstan’s, and it could well be his own work.

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

The Collect

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

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The propers for the commemoration of Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, 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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Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople, 389

According to Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Gregory of Nazianzus loved God, the art of letters, and the human race – in that order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collect

Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

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

The propers for the commemoration of Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople, are published on the Lectionary page website.

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