Monday, October 8, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

Robert Grosseteste, [circa 1168–1253]

One of the greatest intellects produced by our tradition, Grosseteste, who was the Bishop of Lincoln in what was the "English Church" [that is, the Church of Rome in England, the forerunner of the  Church of England], was a talented theologian, philosopher, and scientist.  As a bishop, he was also an able and active leader, pastor, and administrator.  Oh, for a bishop these days who is any of just one of those things.

Here's a portion of his biography from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, no less:

" of the most prominent and remarkable figures in thirteenth-century English intellectual life. He was a man of many talents: commentator and translator of Aristotle and Greek patristic thinkers, philosopher, theologian, and student of nature. He was heavily influenced by Augustine, whose thought permeates his writings and from whom he drew a Neoplatonic outlook. But he was also one of the first to make extensive use of the thought of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes. He developed a highly original and imaginative account of the generation and fundamental nature of the physical world in terms of the action of light, and composed a number of short works regarding optics and other natural phenomena, as well as works of philosophy and theology. As bishop, he was an important figure in English ecclesiastical life, focusing his energies on rooting out abuses of the pastoral care, which in later life he traced to the papacy itself. He made a powerful impression on his contemporaries and subsequent thinkers at Oxford, and has been hailed as an inspiration to scientific developments in fourteenth-century Oxford.

O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Robert Grosseteste to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Vita Dutton Scudder, [1861-1954]

To be honest, I don't really know what recommends Scudder to the calendar as she seems a rather ordinary member of the Episcopal Church's Caucasian gentry. She was certainly of an academic intelligence, as she was educated at Smith College and Oxford; she spent her teaching career in the English department at Wellesley College. Scudder was an Episcopalian.

She was gay, or at least we are told so, although the notion of socially active gay women in Boston was a cliché even by the late 19th century. She was an avowed Socialist with an affection for Karl Marx, espoused pacifism, was pained by her class consciousness and attempted to atone for being privileged by working on behalf of what the educated, moneyed world regarded as the "underclass".

She lived a long life filled with comfort, like most of her contemporaries in the gentry. I'm guessing that, as with many recent additions to the lesser feast calendar, she serves to represent a political demographic in the Episcopal Church. Certainly, privileged white people who favor socialism and suffer from oikophobia make up about half of those with whom I've worked over the last thirty years, so she does have some representation.

I find her collect below somewhat bland, as if its author also didn't really know why she was included on a calendar of martyrs, high achievers, literary artists, church musicians, scientists, or cultural forerunners. Perhaps, one bright and shining day, one of those members of the "underclass" will be given a calendar date. Am I a dreamer or what?

Most gracious God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in your Church witnesses who, after the example of your servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand firm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Philip [?]

He is often confused with Philip the Apostle, especially since his work spreading the Gospel earned him the title of "evangelist".  This Philip, however, is regarded as the "proto-deacon", that is, one who best represents the realized calling of what is now a specific, ordained ministry of service in sacramental Christianity. 

From the occasionally reliable Wikipedia comes this fair pocket biography:

Saint Philip the Evangelist appears several times in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the Seven Deacons chosen to care for the poor of the Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 6). He preached and performed miracles in Samaria, and met and baptised an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, in Gaza, traditionally marking the start of the Ethiopian Church (Acts 8). Later, he lived in Caesarea Maritima with his four daughters who prophesied, where he was visited by Paul (Acts 21).
More may be read of him at the link.

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.