Monthly Archives: March 2015

Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines and of Western New York, 1929

Born in Canada in 1862, educated at Trinity College of the University of Toronto, and ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, Charles Henry Brent came to the United States where, in 1901, the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church elected him Missionary Bishop of the Philippines. Though he arrived in Manila with all the trappings of the new American establishment, Bishop Brent soon demonstrated that he would resist the nationalistic and cultural imperialist temptations that marked some Protestant missions. He refused to waste his time in criticism of the Roman Catholic faith of most Filipinos. He declined to serve as a mere chaplain to the wealthy American expatriate community in Manila. As a missionary bishop, he determined instead to go to the multitude of non-Christians in the islands and to see that American government of the islands was responsible.

Bishop Brent founded several schools and a charity hospital in Manila. He began a crusade against the opium trade, which he expanded to the Asian continent, becoming in 1909 a sort of early 20th century “drug czar” as President of the Opium Conference in Shanghai.

His evangelistic missions took him to the sophisticated Chinese community of Manila and to the pagan and uncivilized Igorots of Luzon. He initiated a Christian mission among the hostile Moros of the Sulu Archipelago. But by 1917 his health was such that he accepted election as Bishop of Western New York, having declined three previous elections to remain at his post in the Philippines.

As remarked in Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980), Bishop Brent

was the outstanding figure of the Episcopal Church on the world scene for two decades. The central focus of his life and ministry was the cause of Christian unity. After attending the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910, he led the Episcopal Church in the movement that culminated in the first World Conference on Faith and Order, held in Lausanne in 1927, and over which he presided.

The historian James Thayer Addison described Brent as “a saint of disciplined vigor…a priest and bishop who gloried in the heritage of his Church, yet who stood among all Christian brothers as one who served…He was everywhere an ambassador of Christ.”

While serving as Bishop of Western New York, Brent preached a sermon at the consecration of Dr E. M. Stires as Bishop of Long Island, which sermon Brent entitled, “The Authority of Christ”. The concerns of the truly catholic bishop and ecumenist show in his admonition that

The unity of Christendom is no longer a beautiful dream. It is a pressing necessity for the arousing of that passion for Christ which will be the most flaming thing in the world…Nationalism began to eat into the body of Christendom four hundred years ago and has continued to work until Christianity has been nationalized instead of the nations being Christianized…Until the churches unite we shall have to move as men grievously wounded—haltingly, lamely, without a supernational and final guide in the moral and spiritual movements of the time. We shall be unable to invite the nations to walk in the light of the Kingdom of God and in this way bring their glory and honor, together with that of their rulers, into it.

One of Brent’s prayers for the mission of the Church was included in the American Book of Common Prayer (1979):

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Bishop Brent died in 1929.

The Collect

Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one: Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The propers for the commemoration of Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines and of Western New York, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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The Annunciation of Our Lord

The feast of the Annunciation celebrates the angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she was to become the mother of the Messiah, and her willing submission to God’s will, whereupon the Word of God was conceived and made incarnate in her womb. The celebration of the feast probably began in the East in the fifth century and was introduced into the West in the sixth and seventh centuries. By the time of the Tenth Synod of Toledo in 656, it was celebrated nearly universally in the Church. While the feast falls exactly nine months before December 25, it is likely that the dating of the birth of Jesus depends on the dating of his conception, rather than the other way round. There was widespread belief amongst first century Jews in the “integral age” of prophets and other great men of God, like Abraham; that is, that their lives formed an integral whole, and that they died on the same dates as their birth or conception. Thus, from a presumed dating of the crucifixion to March 25, the angelic announcement to Mary and the conception of Jesus were dated to March 25, and the birth of Jesus to December 25, nine months later.

Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a Son who would be the Messiah, the Son of the Most High, whose name would be Jesus. Astounded, Mary asked how this could be so, since she was a virgin and as yet unmarried. The angel replied that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, and through this divine means she would conceive. “With God,” said Gabriel, “nothing is impossible.” The same God who had caused Mary’s elderly and barren cousin Elizabeth to conceive would also cause her to conceive without the agency of a man. ” The Messiah was to be born, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). Mary was chosen by the grace of God to be the mother of the Messiah, and so Gabriel called her “favored one”, and Mary’s assent to the angelic announcement opened the way for God to accomplish the salvation of the world, so that all generations call her “blessed” (Luke 1:48).

Cyril of Jerusalem was the first to use the title Theotokos, “God-bearer”, for the Blessed Virgin Mary, a title that was affirmed by the Council of Ephesus (the Third Ecumenical Council) in 431. In the mid-second century Justin Martyr wrote that Mary is “the new Eve”, and as the mother of the New Israel, Mary is the counterpart to Abraham, the father of the chosen people of God.

Although the festival has long been associated with the Mary (in England it is called “Lady Day”), it is a feast of our Lord – the feast of the Annunciation of our Lord, the commemoration and celebration of his conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In many parts of western Europe, throughout the Medieval period, the Renaissance and even into the eighteenth century, March 25 was considered the beginning of the new year, reflecting the idea that with the Lord’s conception a new age had begun. There was also a tradition that March 25 was the day on which the world was created, thus joining the first creation and the new creation in one day.

prepared from various sources, including
the New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Isaiah 7:10-14

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Psalm 40:5-11
Expectans expectavi

Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God!
how great your wonders and your plans for us! *
there is none who can be compared with you.

Oh, that I could make them known and tell them! *
but they are more than I can count.

In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure *
(you have given me ears to hear you);

Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required, *
and so I said, “Behold, I come.

In the roll of the book it is written concerning me: *
‘I love to do your will, O my God;
your law is deep in my heart.”‘

I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; *
behold, I did not restrain my lips;
and that, O LORD, you know.

Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; *
I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

The Epistle
Hebrews 10:4-10

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Canticle
The Song of Mary, Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Gospel
Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.


The scripture texts for the Lesson, the 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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James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, 1656

James Ussher was born in Dublin in 1581 into a respected Anglo-Irish family. He entered the newly-founded Trinity College, Dublin at the age of thirteen. Already a gifted polyglot, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree by 1598 and received his Master of Arts and a Fellowship by 1600. He was ordained to the diaconate (and possibly to the presbyterate on the same day) in 1602 by his uncle Henry Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. In 1606 he was appointed chancellor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and prebend of Finglas, and became the first professor of theology at Trinity College and a Bachelor of Divinity in 1607, subsequently receiving his doctorate in divinity in 1612. He later served Trinity College as vice-chancellor and as provost. In 1621 he was appointed Bishop of Meath by King James the First, becoming a national figure in Ireland as a member of the Privy Council, and he was nominated Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in 1625.

Ussher was an historian and scholar of vast learning and erudition and was acquainted with most of the English writers and divines of his day. The breadth of his learning made him an authority on subjects as diverse as the early history of the Irish Church (which he sought to demonstrate as differing from the Roman Catholic Church and being closer to the reformed Church of Ireland) and the epistles of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. His researches on the latter uncovered two manuscripts in libraries in England (and a third that he traced to the Medicean library in Florence) on the basis of which he demonstrated the authenticity of seven genuine letters, thereby producing the strongest extant evidence of the existence of episcopacy in the early Church at a time when the authenticity of the Ignatian epistles, and the existence of the episcopate in the early Church, was under attack by presbyterian churchmen and divines in England and Scotland.

Although a Calvinist in theology, Ussher was at least conciliatory with William Laud, the High Church archbishop of Canterbury who strenuously resisted Calvinist Puritans in the Church of England, supporting Laud’s appointment as Chancellor of Trinity College in 1633. However, he resisted Laud’s pressure to bring the Church of Ireland into conformity with the Church of England, and at a convocation in 1634 ensured that the English Articles of Religion were adopted in addition to the more Calvinistic Irish Articles, not instead of them, and that the Irish canons were redrafted on the basis of English canons, rather than being replaced by them.

In 1640, in the midst of the turbulence of the growing conflict between King Charles the First and Parliament, Ussher left Ireland for what would be the last time. His home and income were destroyed in the Irish uprising of 1641, and Parliament voted him an annual pension. During the governmental conflict that became the English Civil Wars and the religious conflict between the supporters of episcopacy and its presbyterian detractors, he endeavored to bring about a reconciliation between the episcopalians and the presbyterians in the Church of England. Eventually the irresolution of the conflict and open warfare led him to choose between his Puritan allies in Parliament and his instinctive loyalty to the monarchy.

With the establishment of a presbyterian government in the Church and the defeat of the royalist cause, Ussher retired to his scholarly studies. In 1647 he produced a treatise on the origin of the Creeds. His most famous work, the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world) was published in 1650, and its second volume, Annalium pars postierior, in 1654. In this work he calculated the date of Creation and produced a chronology of the world from that date, October 23, 4004 BC to the present-day. While his chronology fell into disrepute (mostly through twentieth century association with “young earth” creationism), this work represented a considerable feat of scholarship, requiring great depth and breadth of learning in what was then known of ancient history, including the rise of the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans, as well as expertise in the Bible, biblical languages, astronomy, and ancient calendars and chronology. His account of extrabiblical historical events, such as the dates of the deaths of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar, is usually in close agreement with modern accounts.

More the conciliator than the controversialist, Ussher sought to achieve in his Reduction of the Episcopacy unto the Form of Synodical Government (1641) a common ground or via media between presbyterians and episcopalians, whereby presbyters would be involved in a synodical government of the church and the central role of the episcopacy would be preserved. While it was rejected in its day both by the High Church episcopalians and the Puritan presbyterians, Ussher’s rationale, grounded in the theology of the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer and in the Scriptures, turned out to contain the essence of the form of church government that has evolved in most provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Ussher died on March 21, 1656. So great was his reputation for scholarship, tolerance, and sincerity that on his death he was given a state funeral and burial in the chapel of Saint Paul in Westminster Abbey by Oliver Cromwell, despite his earlier support for the royalist cause and his writings in support of episcopacy. His funeral is thought to have been the only time that the burial office of the Book of Common Prayer was read in the Abbey during the Commonwealth period. His gravestone, placed in 1904 by the Provost of Trinity College, bears a Latin inscription, the English translation of which reads:

“In pious memory of JAMES USSHER who was born in Dublin in 1581, entered among the first students of Trinity College, promoted to the archiepiscopal see of Armagh, primate of all Ireland, the hundredth heir of St Patrick the apostle of Ireland, historian, critic, theologian, most learned among the holy, most holy among the learned, exiled from his own in this city of Westminster, he fell asleep in Christ in 1656. He was expelled from his sacred see and country by those same seditions which went on to grant him burial in this church among the most honoured….”

prepared from various sources

The Collect

O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant James Ussher, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Archbishop James Ussher is not included in any Anglican calendar with which I am familiar. I propose his inclusion in a common Anglican sanctorale because of his scholarship, his work for reconciliation between factions of Christians in the Church of the day, and his support for synodical government under the authority and leadership of bishops.

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Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332

Armenia was the first state to become officially Christian, and this set a precedent for the adoption of Christianity in the Roman Empire in the fourth century (beginning with the emperor Constantine, and becoming more thoroughly so under the emperor Theodosius). As a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, Armenia endured many shifts of policy, as first one and then the other empire became the kingdom’s “protector”.

Gregory, known as the Illuminator and as the Apostle to the Armenians, was born about 257. According to legend his father was an Armenian or Parthian of noble birth who assassinated the Persian king Chosroes the First. As an infant Gregory was rescued and taken to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was brought up as a Christian. There he married a woman named Mary, who bore him two sons. About 280, he returned to Armenia as a missionary, eventually converting the Armenian king, Tiridates the Great (Armenian Trdat), to the Christian faith. With the king’s help, the country became Christian, and paganism was rooted out. About 300, Gregory was ordained a bishop at Caesarea. He established his cathedral at Vagharshapat, which came in time to be known as Echmiadzin (Ejmiadzin) and which remains to this day the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Church.

There is no record that Gregory attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, but according to tradition he sent his younger son Aristages in his stead, whom he had ordained as his successor as the catholicos (bishop) of the Armenian Church. Gregory spent his last years in ascetic solitude, and he died around the year 332.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The propers for the commemoration of Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Among the works written by the late Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness is his Prayer of St Gregory, written in honor of St Gregory the Illuminator.

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1556

Thomas Cranmer was the principal figure in the Reformation of the English Church and was primarily responsible both for the first Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and for its first revision in 1552, as well as for the first version of the Articles of Religion.

Cranmer was born at Aslockton, Nottinghamshire on July 2, 1489. At fourteen he entered Jesus College, Cambridge where by 1514 he had obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees and a Fellowship. In 1526 he became a Doctor of Divinity, a lecturer in his college, and examiner in the University. During his years at Cambridge, he diligently studied the Bible and the new doctrines emanating from the Reformation in Germany.

A chance meeting with King Henry the Eighth at Waltham Abbey in 1529 led to Cranmer’s involvement in the “King’s affair” – the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer prepared the defense of the King’s cause and presented it to the universities in England and Germany, and to Rome.

While in Germany, Cranmer became closely associated with the Lutheran reformers, especially with Osiander, whose daughter he married. When Archbishop Warham died in 1532, the King obtained a papal confirmation of Cranmer’s appointment to the See of Canterbury, and Cranmer was consecrated on March 30, 1533. Among his earliest acts was to declare the King’s marriage null and void. He then validated the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Her child, the future Queen Elizabeth the First, was Cranmer’s godchild.

Cranmer’s sincere belief in the king’s supremacy in all matters, civil and ecclesiastical, was the mainspring of his political actions. This explains his many compromises with his reforming ideals; and it finally led to his undoing.

The only liturgical innovations of any consequence in Henry’s reign were the king’s order that an English Bible be placed in every church, and the publication in 1544 of the English Litany, drawn up by Cranmer at the king’s request during wartime.

In the reign of King Edward the Sixth, Cranmer had a free hand in reforming the worship, doctrine, and practice of the Church, leading to the publication of the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, which would come to be the defining text of Anglicanism. At Edward’s death the archbishop unfortunately subscribed to the dying King’s will that the succession should go to Lady Jane Grey, the king’s Protestant cousin, rather than to Mary, his Catholic sister. For this, and for his reforming work, he was arrested, deprived of his archbishopric, and imprisoned on the orders of Queen Mary the First, daughter of Henry the Eighth by Catherine of Aragon, and a staunch Roman Catholic who aimed to restore the English Church to papal obedience.

Cranmer wrote two recantations of his supposedly heretical doctrines during his imprisonment, but at the end, during a sermon given immediately prior to his execution, he recanted his recantations. He died heroically, saying, “forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for if I may come to the fire, it shall first be burned.” This he did at Oxford on March 21, 1556.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with amendments

The Collect

Father of all mercies, who through the work of your servant Thomas Cranmer renewed the worship of your Church and through his death revealed your strength in human weakness: by your grace strengthen us to worship you in spirit and in truth and so to come to the joys of your everlasting kingdom: through Jesus Christ our only Mediator and Advocate, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.


The Collect is adapted from the propers provided for the commemoration of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Reformation Martyr, in the Church of England’s Common Worship.

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Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1711

Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells
(National Portrait Gallery)

Born in 1637, Thomas Ken was educated at Winchester College for boys and at Hart Hall, Oxford, and in 1657 he was made a Fellow of New College, Oxford. After serving several pastoral cures, he came to Winchester in 1672 as a teacher. During his employment at Winchester he wrote a book of devotion for the boys and possibly the morning and evening hymns for which he is perhaps best known, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun” and “All praise to thee, my God, this night”, both of which conclude with his metrical setting of the Gloria Patri, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”. In 1679 King Charles the Second appointed him chaplain to the Princess Mary at The Hague, during which service he publicly rebuked Mary’s husband, William the Prince of Orange and stadholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, for his ill treatment of Mary. Later appointed Charles’ own chaplain, in 1683 he refused the use of his house to Nell Gyn, the king’s mistress. Charles respected the boldness of “little black Ken” and in 1684 named him to the see of Bath and Wells. It was Ken who gave the king absolution on his deathbed. In 1688, King James the Second, who succeeded his brother Charles the Second and who was a Roman Catholic, commanded his Declaration of Indulgence, which granted liberty of worship to all Christians (including Roman Catholics) throughout the realm of England, to be read in all the churches. Ken was one of the seven bishops who refused to do so, for which they were briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London and tried in Westminster on a charge of seditious libel, all seven being acquitted by a verdict of “not guity” on the second day of the trial. (The seven bishops believed that the Declaration diminished the authority of the Church of England, and the opinion of the country was largely with them.) The case marked the limits of Anglican obedience to a Roman Catholic king, and James never recovered his authority. By the end of the year, James was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution by his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange. Despite his opposition to Jame’s declaration, Ken joined the other Nonjuring bishops in refusing to take the oath of allegiance William and Mary as king and queen, believing themselves still to be bound by their oath to James as king, since – although deposed – he was still alive. He was thereafter deprived of his see and lived the rest of his life in retirement, though Queen Anne offered him his old see on the death of his successor. He respectfully declined the offer, despite the fact that by this time his previous oath had been dissolved by the death of James the Second in exile. Ken died on March 19, 1711 in retirement at Longleat, the country home of Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, a friend since his Oxford days. He was buried at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome. A man of devotion and loyalty to the Church of England, he lived an ascetic life as a celibate and a scholar. He provided this epitaph in his will: “I die in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith, professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West: more particularly, I die in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.”

prepared from various sources, including The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Collect Almighty God, you gave your servant Thomas Ken grace and courage to bear witness to the truth before rulers and kings: Give us strength also that, following his example, we may constantly defend what is right, boldly reprove what is evil, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; 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 Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

Project Canterbury has published online a number of Thomas Ken’s works.

Traditionally, and in several Churches of the Anglican Communion, Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, is commemorated on this date. In this sanctoral calendar, because the commemoration of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, is transferred to March 20 to accommodate the commemoration of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, on March 21, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne is commemorated on September 4, the date of the translation of his relics to Durham Cathedral.

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Saint Joseph

All that we know for certain of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and the husband of the Mary, the mother of Jesus, is written in the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke. He is called just, or righteous; that is, deeply concerned for living rightly according to the Law of God. He was of Davidic descent, but was not of noble or royal birth. He worked as a carpenter or builder. At the time of Jesus’ virginal conception and his birth, Joseph was betrothed to Mary. His doubts about her conception and the decisions to go to and to return from Egypt were the occasions for angelic admonitions that came to him through dreams. In the face of humiliation and scandal, he accepted the vocation of protecting Mary and being a foster father to Jesus. He provided care and protection for the infant Jesus and his mother in taking them to Egypt to escape Herod’s paranoiac slaughter of the children at Bethlehem, and he reared Jesus as a faithful Jew in their home at Nazareth. Joseph led his family to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover when Jesus was twelve years old, according to contemporary Jewish custom; and “in great distress” he and Mary sought out Jesus when on the return journey they had traveled a day from Jerusalem and could not locate Jesus among the home-going crowd of relatives and acquaintances, finally finding him in the precincts of the Temple, where he was sitting among the rabbis who were amazed at his understanding. Thereafter Joseph disappears from the Gospel accounts, save for a few references to Jesus as Joseph’s son, and later Christian tradition presumes that he died before Jesus began his public ministry.

The pseudepigraphal Protevangelium of James makes him elderly at the time of his betrothal to Mary, and almost all Christian art has depicted him so, but the demands implied in his protection of Mary and Jesus and in the upbringing of Jesus make this unlikely. A fifth or sixth century document known as the History of Joseph the Carpenter was influential in creating a liturgical devotion to Saint Joseph, which probably began in the East but which reached its full development much later in the West. It appears that liturgical devotion in Ireland and Britain preceded a general devotion to the saint, as there are martyrology entries for Joseph from the eighth century in Wales and slightly later in Irish sources, and the feast of Saint Joseph was celebrated at Winchester, Worcester, Ely, and other centers before 1100.

Saint Joseph is the patron of fathers, of laborers (especially carpenters), and of all who desire a holy death. In medieval art he seldom appears alone, but is nearly always depicted with Mary or Jesus. Many churches, hospitals, religious congregations, colleges and towns bears Saint Joseph’s name, and the frequent use of Joseph as a Christian name is some evidence of his widespread popularity.

The little that we know of him for certain is a testimony to a righteous man’s trust in God in the midst of perplexing and distressing circumstances.

prepared from material in Lesser Feasts and Fasts
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
2 Samuel 7:4,8-16

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Psalm 89:1-4, 26-29
Misericordias Domini

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing; *
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

‘I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”

He will say to me, ‘You are my Father, *
my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

I will make him my firstborn *
and higher than the kings of the earth.

I will keep my love for him for ever, *
and my covenant will stand firm for him.

I will establish his line for ever *
and his throne as the days of heaven.”

The Epistle
Romans 4:13-18

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

The Gospel
Luke 2:41-52

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.


The scripture texts for the Lesson, the 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 Joseph is taken from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery icon store website.

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Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, 386

Born in or near Jerusalem around the year 315 and educated there, Cyril became a presbyter and was entrusted by Maximus, the bishop of Jerusalem, with the instruction of catechumens. These catechetical discourses are his most famous works and were probably written by him between 348 and 350.

This work consists of an introductory lecture, the Procatechesis, and eighteen Catecheses based on the articles of the creed of the Church of Jerusalem, and were given before the Pasch (Easter) to candidates for Baptism. These lectures may have been used many times by Cyril and his successors, and the form of them that we possess today may have been considerably revised from the original. They probably formed at least part of the pre-baptismal instruction that Egeria, a pilgrim nun from Spain, witnessed at Jerusalem near the end of the fourth century and described with great enthusiasm in her Travels.

Cyril’s Five Mystagogical Catecheses are lectures on the sacraments, delivered to the newly baptized after the Pasch, and are now thought to have been composed, or at least revised, by John, Cyril’s successor as bishop of Jerusalem, based substantially on Cyril’s own teaching.

Cyril became bishop of Jerusalem around 349 and soon became involved in controversy with Acacius, the metropolitan bishop of Caesarea and a leading proponent of Arianism, and his claims to precedence and jurisdiction over the Church at Jerusalem and its bishop. Cyril refused to appear before a council of bishops who charged him with contumacy and with having sold church goods to relieve the poor. (Earlier Cyril had secretly sold valuable ornaments, including a particularly valuable episcopal vestment that had been given to the church by the emperor Constantine, in order to feed the poor of Jerusalem in the midst of a drastic food shortage.) Constantius, the emperor at the time, was brought into the dispute, and Cyril was exiled in 357. He was reinstated as bishop in 359 by the Council of Seleucia, which also deposed his opponent Acacius, though Cyril twice suffered banishment later.

Cyril’s orthodoxy had been questioned, both by the Homoousians (the supporters of the Nicene formulation) and by the Arians. It is true that he was earlier doubtful of the term homoousios (of one substance (or being) [with the Father]), as were many of the “conservatives” during the Arian controversy who were uncertain of the creedal use of words not found in the Scriptures (like homoousios), but he later took full part in and consented to the conclusions of the Council of Constantinople in 381, which finally determined the Nicene formulation as the orthodox teaching of the catholic Church. Cyril was probably always orthodox in his intent, if not always in his language.

It is thought likely that Cyril instituted the observances of Palm Sunday and Holy Week during the latter years of his episcopate in Jerusalem. In so doing, he organized devotions for the many pilgrims who thronged Jerusalem during those days as they visited the sacred sites. These observances are described in delighted detail by the pilgrim nun Egeria, again in her Travels, and likely through the influence of pilgrims like her led to the development of Holy Week observances throughout the Church, East and West.

Cyril died at Jerusalem on March 18, 386. He was about seventy years old and served as bishop for thirty-five years, of which about sixteen were spent in exile.

prepared from material in Lesser Feasts and Fast
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Strengthen, O Lord, the bishops of your Church in their special calling to be teachers and ministers of the Sacraments, so that they, like your servant Cyril of Jerusalem, may effectively instruct your people in Christian faith and practice; and that we, taught by them, may enter more fully into the celebration of the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The propers for Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Patrick, Bishop and Missionary of Ireland, 461

Magonus Sucatus Patricius was born about 385 in an unknown town of Roman Britain. He was the son of a certain Calpornius and of his wife, Concessa. Patrick’s father appears to have been a decurion (a town councilor) and was thus a man of some social standing. He was probably advanced in years when he took holy orders as his father (Patrick’s grandfather) Potitus had done before. Potitus was a presbyter, and Calpornius a deacon. Both had probably joined the clergy for the same reason: to escape the increasing financial burden of municipal office in the late Roman Empire. The atmosphere of Patrick’s home and social surrounding was, as he himself attests in his Confession, anything but devout.

At the age of sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders from the family estate, which was probably situated in southwestern Britain near the sea, at a place known as Bannavem Taburniae. He was sold as a slave in Ireland. Seventh century Irish tradition holds that Patrick served the druid Miliuc maccu Boin near Slemish in what is now County Antrim.

Up to the time of captivity, Patrick had led the life of an irresponsible upper class youth. He followed worldly ways and turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of the clergy. At school he seems to have cared more for games than grammar. On one occasion he sinned gravely, and this seriously trouble his conscience in later years. Of this time he writes in his Confession, “I did not believe in the living God, nor did I so from my childhood, but lived in death and unbelief until I was severely chastised and really humiliated, by hunger and nakedness, and that daily.”

In the solitude of Slemish, tending the flocks of a “barbarian” master, Patrick found God. His discovery enabled him patiently to endure the hardships of his servitude and to lead a life of prayer and voluntary mortification. At the end of six years he heard a voice in his dreams, announcing God’s forgiveness and bidding him to go to his country and his people. A ship, the voice indicated, was waiting to take him home. He walked two hundred miles before he found the ship which the voice in his dream had promised, a ship that was carrying Irish hounds to the continent.

When and how Patrick managed to return home to Britain is unknown. He seems to have found his parents still at his old home. They urged him to stay with them, but he became more and more convinced that God was calling him to take the Gospel to his former masters. In a dream he heard the voice of the Irish calling him back, and his dream was confirmed in spiritual experiences that he describes in words taken from the Apostle Paul.

For his education and formation, Patrick went to Gaul and became attached to the church at Auxerre, under its famous bishop Germanus. Here Patrick took learning seriously, making up for the misspent school days of his youth. He came to know the Latin Bible well, but to judge from his writings in an inelegant and sometimes rustic Latin, his scholarly achievements were modest. His spiritual life was all the more intense, and in due course he was ordained to the diaconate.

During these years, Patrick never lost sight of his ultimate goal: to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Irish. His opportunity came in 429 when Palladius, a native of Gaul and the archdeacon of Pope Celestine, recommended sending Germanus into Britain to combat the Pelagian heresy. In carrying out that mission, Germanus also considered the affairs of the small and scattered Christian communities of Ireland, who naturally looked to the Church in Britain for guidance. Under the circumstances, it seemed best to give the Irish their own bishop, and Patrick’s name was raised as a possible candidate. His superiors in Gaul had their doubts. This well-disposed but half-educated Briton was not the sort of man to be raised to such a responsible office. There seems also to have been opposition to his candidacy in Britain. Neither did Patrick consider himself worthy of the episcopate.

Palladius was nominated by a synod held in Britain under Germanus, and was sent to the Irish with papal authority in 431 as the first “bishop of the Irish who believe in Christ”. Patrick was sent from Auxerre to Ireland the following year, along with the presbyter Segitius, but before leaving Gaul, they learned that Palladius had died. On returning to Auxerre, Patrick was consecrated bishop, and he made for Ireland without delay. The Irish Annals date Patrick’s arrival to the year 432.

Our knowledge of Patrick’s missionary work among the Irish is drawn mostly from his own writings and from a circular letter which contains canons drawn up by himself together with the bishops Auxilius and Iserninus. Certain things stand out. Patrick concentrated early on the conversion of the princes, knowing that their subjects would follow their example. With the passage of years, he relied more and more on a native clergy, drawn mainly from the local nobility. In adapting the organization of the Western Church to the conditions of Ireland, where there were no cities, he made the tuatha, or local principalities or kingdoms, his dioceses; and the episcopal sees, called civitates (Latin for “cities”), were organized along quasi-monastic lines. (It is not clear that Patrick himself was a monk.) Monasticism in time became a defining characteristic of the early medieval Irish Church.

Patrick appears to have begun his mission in the north, the region he had known in his youth as a slave, where he early on established his episcopal see at Armagh, apparently because of its proximity to the most powerful king in Ireland. From the base of a small school and familia in residence at Armagh, Patrick made his missionary journeys throughout the island, to the west and the southwest. (Armagh remains the primatial see of the Irish Church, both for the Anglican Church of Ireland and for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, to this day.) There seems to have been little or only late contact with the Palladian Christianity of the southeast. That Patrick later exercised authority over the other bishops of the island may be seen from his censure of the bishops of Mag Ái.

Patrick’s missionary task was not easy. He met with strong opposition on the part of the druids and also of the older generation among the ruling class. He writes of twelve dangers to his life and declares that he has to face the possibility of martyrdom. He had severe critics even among his fellow Christians, in Ireland as well as in Britain and on the continent. In his native Britain feeling against him seems to have been particularly strong, and this opposition flared when he demanded the excommunication of the British prince Coroticus (Caradog), who in a reprisal raid against the Irish had killed or captured into slavery a number of Patrick’s new converts.

Patrick’s writings, his autobiographical Confession and The Letter to Coroticus, are the first literature identified with certainty from the British Church. Though he had little learning and less rhetoric, Patrick possessed sincere simplicity of life and a deep sense of pastoral care. He was concerned with abolishing paganism and idolatry, he made no distinctions of class in his preaching, and he was ready for imprisonment or death in the cause of Christ. He maintained into his old age a consciousness of his being an unlearned exile and formerly a slave and fugitive who learned to trust completely in God.

Under the year 441 the Irish Annals records Patrick’s “approval in the Catholic Faith” by the new pope, Leo the First (the Great), but nothing is known regarding the form of this act, and there is no evidence that Patrick journeyed to Rome to have received this papal approbation. According to seventh century tradition, Patrick died at Saul in Ulster on March 17, 461. He left Ireland, the country of his youthful slavery in which he came to know God’s mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, a country that thirty years prior had been largely pagan, virtually a Christian land.

prepared from The Works of St. Patrick
(Ancient Christian Writers series, Paulist Press)
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The icon of Saint Patrick was written by and is © Aidan Hart, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

The propers for the commemoration of Patrick, Bishop and Missionary of Ireland, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604

One of the most important bishops of Rome and most influential writers of the Middle Ages, Gregory the First is one of only two popes (the other being Leo the First), to have been given the epithet “the Great”. Born around 540, Gregory was the son of a Roman senator and entered the service of the state as a young man. In 573, after he had served as Prefect of Rome, he sold his substantial properties, giving generously to the poor and founding six monasteries in Sicily and a seventh in Rome. The following year he retired to a monastic life in his own foundation of Saint Andrew’s on the Caelian Hill. There he became distinguished for the austerity of his life. Pope Benedict the First called him out of the monastic life to serve as one of the seven deacons of Rome, and in 579 Benedict’s successor, Pelagius the Second, appointed him apocrisiarius (ambassador) in Constantinople. After six years of distinguished service during which he learned of the larger affairs of the Church, Gregory returned to Rome to become abbot of Saint Andrew’s. Apparently convinced that the future of Christianity lay with monasticism and not with the declining Eastern Roman Empire, he hoped to lead a group of missionaries in taking the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxons in Britain after seeing English children or youth on sale as slaves in the Roman market around the year 573. He is said to have remarked on their beauty as being like that of angels, whereupon he was told that they were in fact Angles – causing him to say, Non Angli, sed angeli: “Not Angles, but angels.” But this was not to be his ministry. Shortly after he returned home from Constantinople, Pope Pelagius died of the plague, and in 590 Gregory was elected his successor. Reluctantly he accepted and was confirmed Bishop of Rome by the emperor in Constantinople.

During his pontificate he faced a number of crises: floods, famine, plague, and a Lombard invasion. There were also the overarching matters of the dominance of Constantinople of church affairs and the need of the barbarian peoples (the Germanic invaders and those beyond the remnants of the Western empire) to hear the Gospel. He fed the Roman populace with food from the papal granaries. He organized the defense of the city of Rome against the Lombard invaders, and in 592-3 he concluded a peace with the Lombards, separate from the Eastern Empire, virtually ignoring the Exarch of Ravenna, the Byzantine emperor’s representative in Italy. Gregory appointed governors to Italian towns, administered with prudence the vast estates of the Church of Rome, and assumed many of the roles of a civil ruler in the absence of imperial authority in Italy.

One of Gregory’s most notable achievements was the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. He personally took the lead in the whole process, sending Augustine, prior of his own monastery of Saint Andrew’s on the Caelian Hill, and a number of fellow monks to southeastern Britain, to the Jutish kingdom of Kent, where they achieved within a few years the conversion of the people and of their king, Ethelbert. Gregory continue personally to guide the mission in matters that perplexed Augustine by sending a supporting group of missionaries, along with liturgical vessels, books, and vestments, in 601; and by writing to Ethelbert and his Christian queen, Bertha on various matters. The close relationship between Rome and the English Church was continued by Gregory’s successors, and in many ways the Church in England was closer to the papacy than the Church in Gaul was. The first Life of Gregory was written in England, and from the biographies written by the Venerable Bede, Aldhelm, and the anonymous biographer of Whitby come eulogies of Gregory as “the apostle of the English”, “our father and apostle in Christ”, and “he from who we have received the Christian faith, he who will present the English people to the Lord on the Day of Judgment as their teacher and apostle”.

Gregory’s writings are remarkable for their volume and their quality. His principal achievement was to pass on to succeeding generations the wisdom of the Fathers of the Graeco-Roman world, such as Origen, Augustine of Hippo, and Ambrose of Milan, in such works as his Homilies on the Gospels and the Moralia on the Book of Job. His Pastoral Care, a classic on the work of the ministry, formed the medieval episcopate more deeply than any other book and was translated into English at the behest of the West Saxon king Alfred the Great. Both the Pastoral Care and the Dialogues, or Lives of the saints, were standards works in most early English libraries, and their popularity did not cease with the Norman conquest of England. Gregory’s letters (some 854 in all) reveal his wisdom, prudence, and preoccupation with problems both civil and ecclesiastical, including monasticism, the missionary role of the Church, the legitimacy of icons, the integrity of catholic doctrine, and the reproof of prelates who gave themselves grand titles. He himself preferred to be known as the “Servant of the servants of God”, a title preserved by his successors in the see of Rome to this day.

His role in the development of the Roman liturgy and its chant was considerable, though the extent of his role is disputed. He certainly modified various minor features and composed a number of prayers which formed the nucleus of the Gregorian Sacramentary, though this work reached its final form after his death. Many prayers in the sacramentary, if not actually written by him, were inspired by his through and phraseology. Since the tenth century his name has been associated with “Gregorian” chant: while the chant bearing his name arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Gallican and Roman chant, he probably played a role in the gradual codification and adaptation of several preexisting forms of plainsong.

During much of his life he suffered from both gout and gastritis, but he seldom allowed these ailments to affect his work. Even when reduced to ill health just before his death, he still dictated letters and cared for the needs of the churches. He died, probably in his mid-sixties, in 604. He was soon declared a saint, and his feast on March 12 was given a high rank from early times and was universally celebrated, along with feasts of his translation (removal of his relics) on September 3 and the anniversary of his ordination on March 29. Some thirty-two ancient churches in England are dedicated to him, and he was highly esteemed in the East (where he is known as Gregory Dialogos on account of his Dialogues) and in ancient Ireland, where he was even given an Irish royal genealogy. This “Apostle to the English” is commemorated in the Calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and in all subsequent Anglican sanctoral calendars.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The icon of Saint Gregory was written by and is © Aidan Hart, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

The propers for the commemoration of Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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