Sunday, November 17, 2013

This Week's Feasts

November 18: Hilda of Whitby, 680

Hilda was, for all intents and purposes, the spiritual head of the Celtic Church in the days before our tradition was consumed by the Church of Rome [only to be liberated 900 years later]. Ironically, she also played a large role in the synod that determined that our tradition would be a part of Rome; something that is debated with much passion to this day.

More of her may be read here.

November 19: Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1207-1231

I had a very pleasant evening once upon a time with the contemporary poet, Omar Pound.  His father was Ezra Pound, an even better known poet, as he appears even in high school text books [!], who had spent a portion of his life as a resident in the mental ward of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C.  [Another resident was the young man whose name is still not known to us who spent some curious time being treated not only by staff psychiatrists but by official exorcists of the Roman church.  His real story became the basis for the plot of The Exorcist.  Interestingly, after the young man was treated and discharged, the hospital sealed his room and never opened it again.]

I mentioned to Omar that, upon reading Bennett Cerf's memoir [now out of print; the title of which I've forgotten], I was surprised to discover that Ezra was hospitalized not due to mental disturbance, but by his friends [Cerf was Pound's publisher] to keep him away from punitive government officials, as Ezra had made several provocative public comments about fascism during a time of great sensitivity about the issue.

"Well, I won't comment on that," he said.  "But, father did have many personal conversations with St. Elizabeth during that time."

I'm sure the conversations between the 20th century poet and the 13th century princess would have been interesting.  Not only was she dedicated to the arts, but St. Elizabeth's devotion to nursing and serving the health needs of the poor, even to the extent of selling her portion of the royal jewels in order to build a hospital, explains why there are so many hospitals in the world that bear her name.  She would later enter religious life as a lay member of the Franciscan order.  As one may imagine, she was not popular with the other members of the royal family, but we don't remember their names, do we?

She is also the subject of one of the more obscure recurring miracles of the Middle Ages, namely the "Miracle of the Roses", of which more may be read at the link.

Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 20: Edmund, King of East Anglia, ? - 869

There is actually very little known of Edmund, less still if one relies solely on historically verifiable sources, however his spiritual importance must have been great in order not only to place him on the calendar of lesser feasts, but to maintain his placement even into the 21st. century.

What is known is that, well, we'll go to a source, shall we:
In 869, the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia and killed Edmund. He may have been slain by the Danes in battle, but by tradition he met his death at an unidentified place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Danes' demand that he renounce Christ: the Danes beat him, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him, on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubbe Ragnarsson. According to one legend, his head was then thrown into the forest, but was found safe by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling, "Hic, Hic, Hic" – "Here, Here, Here".
Besides, any story that includes organizations such as the "Great Heathen Army" and characters like "Ivar the Boneless" is bound to be memorable.

O God of ineffable mercy, you gave grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

November 23: Clement I of Rome, ? - circa 100

No, not another member of royalty this time, but the third non-apostolic Bishop of Rome, an office better known by the term "Pope".  As with many of these ancient characters, there is little that is known about him, save for a letter that he wrote in his official capacity to the church of the Corinthians.  Yes, them again.  They had so many issues that it seems a constant correspondence was necessary from the time of St. Paul until at least the time of St. Clement.  One of the things that's interesting about the letter is that it is so ancient, it was written either during the composition of the Gospel of John or sometime before it.  It is the eldest non-scriptural writing of which we know.

According to my late professor of scripture, Bruce Metzger, in his history of the formation of the Old and New Testaments as canonical literature [Canon of the New Testament {1987}]:
The letter was occasioned by a dispute in Corinth, which had led to the removal from office of several presbyters [an early name for "priest" - ed.] Since none of the presbyters were charged with moral offences, Clement charged that their removal was high-handed and unjustifiable. The letter was extremely lengthy — it was twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews — and includes several references to the Old Testament, of which he demonstrates a knowledge. Clement repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as Scripture.

New Testament references include Clement’s admonition to “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle” (xlvii. 1) which was written to this Corinthian audience; a reference which seems to imply written documents available at both Rome and Corinth. Clement also alludes to the epistles of Paul to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and the first epistle to the Corinthians; numerous phrases from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and possible material from Acts, James, and I Peter. In several instances, he asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus, although Clement does not attribute these sayings to a specific written account. These New Testament allusions are employed as authoritative sources which strengthen Clement’s arguments to the Corinthian church, but Clement never explicitly refers to them as “Scripture”.
It appears, at least according to the world view found in the First Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, that the most compelling scripture for the very earliest Christian church was that of the epistles, as the Gospels are never directly quoted.

Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability; Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what has already been revealed; and keep it blameless in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.