Sunday, November 10, 2013

This Week's Feasts

November 12: Charles Simeon [1759-1836]

Every teacher hopes either to be a great scholar, whose written work is lasting and foundational, or at least inspirational to the subsequent generation.  While the lesser feast calendar is filled with those who have done marvelous academic and social work, behind them, somewhere in a small corner of history, is that teacher who inspired, encouraged, and directed them to that place of achievement.

Henry Martyn, the great missionary to India and translator of scripture, and William Wilberforce, the crusader who pushed for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, about whom we have written in The Coracle, shared something beyond just their Anglican heritage.  Both were students of Charles Simeon, the modest and long-time chaplain [55 years!] of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge University.

He was known for his zeal and passion about social justice, something that often made him the subject of humor to his contemporaries.  However, his students appreciated Simeon's world view and found in it an admirable perspective to emulate.  Charles Simeon rests on our calendar to represent all those teachers whose style and technique, while ridiculed during their working days, inspired mightily those who have changed the course of human spirituality and moral history. 

Much more of Simeon may be found here, at his eponymous website.

O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by your unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see your hand; that, following the example and teaching of your servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve you with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 14: The Consecration of Samuel Seabury [1729-1796]

Seabury, the first bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, was consecrated as such on this day in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1784.  He was born, lived and died in Connecticut.  His election, the one that marks the birth of our branch of the Anglican Communion, occurred at Glebe House in Woodbury, Connecticut, a scant six miles from where these words are being composed.  There is much written about him, as you may expect, including this from the Anglican Calendar:

A crucial date for members of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America is the consecration of the first Bishop of the Anglican Communion in the United States. During the colonial era, there had been no Anglican bishops in the New World; and persons seeking to be ordained as clergy had had to travel to England for the purpose. After the achievement of American independence, it was important for the Church in the United States to have its own bishops, and an assembly of Connecticut clergy chose Samuel Seabury to go to England and there seek to be consecrated as a bishop. However, the English bishops were forbidden by law to consecrate anyone who would not take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. He accordingly turned to the Episcopal Church of Scotland. When the Roman Catholic king James II was deposed in 1688, some of the Anglican clergy (including some who had been imprisoned by James for defying him on religious issues) said that, having sworn allegiance to James as King, they could not during his lifetime swear allegiance to the new monarchs William and Mary. Those who took this position were known as non-Jurors (non-swearers), and they included almost all the bishops and clergy of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. Accordingly, the monarchs and Parliament declared that thenceforth the official church in Scotland should be the Presbyterian Church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland thereafter had no recognition by the government, and for some time operated under serious legal disablities. However, since it had no connection with the government, it was free to consecrate Seabury without government permission, and it did. This is why you see a Cross of St. Andrew on the Episcopal Church flag. In Aberdeen, 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated to the Episcopate by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles.
In return, he promised them that he would do his best to persuade the American Church to use as its Prayer of Consecration (blessing of the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper) the Scottish prayer, taken largely unchanged from the 1549 Prayer Book, rather than the much shorter one in use in England. The aforesaid prayer, adopted by the American Church with a few modifications, has been widely regarded as one of the greatest treasures of the Church in this country.
We give you thanks, O Lord our God, for your goodness in bestowing upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

November 16: Margaret, Queen of Scotland [1045-1093]

From Kiefer's Hagiography:

Margaret was the grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside, King of the English, but was probably born in exile in Hungary, and brought to England in 1057. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, she sought refuge in Scotland, where about 1070 she married the King, Malcolm III. She and her husband rebuilt the monastery of Iona and founded the Benedictine Abbey at Dunfermline. Margaret undertook to impose on the Scottish the ecclesiastical customs she had been accustomed to in England, customs that were also prevalent in France and Italy. But Margaret was not concerned only with ceremonial considerations. She encouraged the founding of schools, hospitals, and orphanages. She argued in favor of the practice of receiving the Holy Communion frequently. She was less successful in preventing feuding among Highland Clans, and when her husband was treacherously killed in 1093, she herself died a few days later (of grief, it is said).
O God, you called your servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave her zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 17: Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln [1135 (?) -1200]

Again, from Kiefer [I have included more than usual, as Hugh is not terribly well-known by contemporary Anglicans yet is an important, and rather interesting, character]:

As a sign of his remorse for his role in the murder of the Archbishop Thomas a Becket, King Henry II founded the first house in England of the strict monastic order called the Carthusians. Difficulties arose with the first two priors, and a French noble recommended Hugh de Avalon, who at that time had been a monk at the mother house of the order for 17 years.

On his arrival in England in 1176, Hugh found that the building of the monastery had not begun. Worse, no compensation had been paid to those who would have to lose their lands and property to make room for it. Hugh refused to take office until these persons had been paid "to the last penny." He intervened again on behalf of the builders, whose pay was not forthcoming.  Henry loved him for his plain speaking. "I do not despair of you," Hugh said to him at their first interview; "I know how much your many occupations interfere with the health of your soul." Henry, impressed by his frankness, swore that while he lived he should not leave his kingdom, and took so much pleasure in his conversation, and paid so much heed to his counsels, that a rumor arose that Hugh was his son. Hugh's biographer wrote that "of all men only Hugh could bend that rhinosceros to his will."  
When Henry was in danger of shipwreck, he cried out, "If only my Carthusian Hugh were awake and at prayer, God would not forget me."  This affection never diminished, though Hugh dared to oppose the king, particularly in the matter of keeping bishoprics vacant in order that their revenues might fall to the king's treasury.  
One of the worst examples was Lincoln, which, except for a few months, had been without a bishop for eighteen years. Hugh was elected to the post in 1186, and his monastic superiors ordered him to accept. After so long a period of neglect, there was great need of reform. Hugh employed priests of great piety and learning, and made the fullest use of his authority in disciplining his clergy.  
He took a stern view of the ill-treatment of the poor by the royal foresters, and when a subject of the church of Lincoln suffered at their hands he excommunicated their chief.  He also refused to appoint a royal favorite to a meaningless but lucrative post. Henry was furious, and summoned him to his presence. He came, and Henry turned away his face and would not speak, but by way of ignoring his presence took out a torn glove and began to sew it. At last Hugh said, "How like you are to your relations at Falaise." The king might have resented this allusion to the humble birth of William the Conqueror's mother, the daughter of a glove-maker, but he only laughed, and the quarrel was made up.       
Riots against the Jews broke out in England at the time of the Third Crusade. In defence of the persecuted, Hugh faced armed mobs in Lincoln, Stamford and Northampton and compelled their submission.  Hugh refused to raise money for the foreign wars of King Richard the Lion-Heart, calmed the king's rage with a kiss, and persisted in his refusal: this was the first clear example on record of the refusal of a money-grant demanded directly by the crown, and an important legal precedent. Richard said, "If all bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could raise his head against them."  
His relations with King John were less happy. John showed him an amulet, which he said was sacred and would preserve him. Hugh replied, "Do not put your trust in lifeless stone, but only in the living and heavenly stone, our Lord Jesus Christ." The following Easter he preached at length on the duties of kings, and the king slipped out partway through.   
Devout, tireless, and forgetful of self, Hugh also had wit, a temper that he described as "more biting than pepper," and a great love and concern for children and the defenceless. He visited leper-houses and washed the ulcerous limbs of their inmates.  He was fond of animals, and they of him. Birds and squirrels came readily to his hand. He had a swan that would feed from his hand, follow him about, and keep guard over his bed, so that no one could approach it without being attacked.       
In 1200 the king sent him on an embassy to France. His mission was a success, but he took ill and returned to England to die on 16 November 1200. John Ruskin called him "the most beautiful sacerdotal (priestly) figure known to me in history."
O holy God, you endowed your servant and bishop Hugh of Lincoln with wise and cheerful boldness, and taught him to commend the discipline of holy life to kings and princes: Grant that we also, rejoicing in the Good News of your mercy, and fearing nothing but the loss of you, may be bold to speak the truth in love, in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen