Monday, October 22, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

October 26: Alfred the Great [849-889]

It is always interesting to note the reaction of the un-churched or the non-theistic to those historical personages who make up our lesser feast days.  As they only know of Christianity through inane presentations in popular media and entertainment, the reality can often be surprising; sometimes disquieting for them.

When I used to teach Comparative Religion, those students un-blessed with membership in any recognizable religious tradition would often be surprised that monarchs could be considered holy representatives of the Gospel.  Actually, they used to phrase it as, "I thought there was separation of church and state."

Yes, so piecemeal was their education that they not only thought that church/state separation was to be found in the U.S. Constitution [it's not], but that it formed some transnational, pan-historical practice since the earliest days of organized civilization.  Sometimes a semester could be very long.

King Alfred, who was and is the only English monarch ever to carry the appellation "the Great", was not only a king who was charged with protecting his people and territories from the ravenous tribes of Vikings, but a Christian who, through blood, perspiration, and faith, protected early Anglican Christianity from paganism.  It was a considerable amount of blood, now that I think about it.  He was, and not ironically, also committed to education and judicial reforms, thus laying the foundation for English common law and the British love of learning from which even this blogger has benefited in his own meager way.

The story of his times gives fascinating insight into the tension that historically existed between Roman and Celtic Christianity.  The history is rather complicated and the hour early as I write this, so I will use the great gift of the Internet.  Namely, I will link.

The official biography of Alfred and history of his times may be found at the official website of The British Monarchy, which is worth reading for hours, and not just about Alfred.

The official biography from the Church of Rome may be found here.

A British site offers a secularized history, which is what one expects from British academic websites these days, as they love to pose as non-theists.  However, it is a breezy read.

O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.