Anskar, also known by his Latin name Ansgarius, was born in 801 near Amiens. He was educated and professed as a monk in the nearby monastery of Corbie.
Anskar was in Correy, Westphalia, when King Harold of Denmark asked for a Christian evangelist for his people. Harold had been in exile and during that time had been converted to Christianity. Anskar agreed to accompany him and in 826 became a missionary to the Danish people. A few years later he made a missionary journey to Sweden. In Anskar he was consecrated bishop of Hamburg. After the Vikings sacked Hamburg in 845, the pope made Anskar archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen and gave him also some responsibilities for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Anskar devoted his energies to founding schools and preaching and was famous for his great charity to the poor. He attacked the slave-trade of the Vikings, but was unable to end it. Anskar was not very successful in Sweden, which soon reverted to paganism, until the eleventh century. His greatest achievements were in Denmark (of which country he is the patron saint) and in northern Germany. Even so, Anskar saw no real harvest of his labours in his own day. He died in Bremen in 865 and was buried there.
By the end of the third century, the church had come to have a quite significant place in Greco-Roman society, and the conversion of Constantine ensured that Christianity would be the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Alongside this there developed some key theological debates about the person of Christ. These two factors combined to produce a growing interest in the places and events associated with the life of Jesus, and pilgrims began to flock to Palestine.
Jerusalem became a centre for liturgical innovation, and one of the festivals that grew up in the fourth century was the commemoration of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The festival was ordered at Constantinople by the emperor Justinian in 542, and gradually spread throughout the church in both east and west. Candles have been associated with the festival from at least the seventh century. Pope Sergius instituted a procession with candles as part of the ceremonies, during which the antiphon lumen ad revelationem (“a light for revelation”) and the Nunc dimittis were sung. This gave rise to the name “Candlemas” for the festival.
The festival commemorates the incident, recorded only by Luke, in which Jesus is brought to the Temple and is greeted by Simeon and Anna. Luke gives the reason for the visit to the Temple as “for their purification according the law of Moses” and “to present him [Jesus] to the Lord”. Within the Jewish tradition, the purification of the child’s mother required a sacrificial offering at the Temple. The offering in respect of the first-born child was a monetary offering and did not require the presence of the child at the Temple. Luke’s account combines the two themes. His interest is not in the rites themselves, however, except to show that Jesus’ status as Saviour of Israel rests on obedience to the Law. Luke’s telling of the story has many structural similarities to the story of the child Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-2:11).
Luke’s real interest, however, is in the events that happen in the Temple with Simeon and Anna. Simeon is described as one who was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel”, a phrase reminiscent of the later chapters of Isaiah. So here in the Temple, the centre of Jewish worship, both Law and Prophets bear witness to Jesus as the fulfilment of the hopes of Israel.
Simeon’s Nunc dimittis enlarges the vision of God’s work to encompass the Gentiles, making the same theological point as the story of the magi in Matthew’s Gospel. But Simeon goes on to emphasise that the coming of the messiah will bring division as well as hope, for not all Israel will accept him. But Luke does not leave the story on this negative note, and, in Anna, the very epitome of the faithful worshipper of God, he reiterates the theme of the promise of God “to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”.
In Ireland and in places on the continent of Europe influenced by Ireland, St Brigid became second only to St Patrick in significance. The development of the stories about Brigid seems to have had much to do with the promotion of the importance and even supremacy of Kildare in the church in Ireland.
Brigid is remembered in particular for her compassionate care of the people of Ireland. Her name is variously given as Brigid, Bridget, and Bride. Virtually no reliable historical facts about her are known. Even the date of her death (525) is only approximate. The “Lives” of Brigid are mainly the miracles she is reputed to have performed and stories about her. Nevertheless, even these materials shed interesting light on the part she plays in the affections of the Irish people.
Brigid is portrayed as a person of deep compassion, and the scope of this shows something of the hopes and fears of the Irish people of her day. According to tradition, Brigid was born near Kildare and was baptised by St Patrick. She became a nun and set up and presided over the monastery of Kildare as its abbess. As a result, Kildare became significant in the spread of Christianity in Ireland. The stories about her are many:
Brigid was known to turn water into milk or beer for the celebration of Easter.
When she was a teenager, Brigid was trying to go see Saint Patrick but was slowed up by the crowd. To get through, she healed people along the way who were waiting for St. Patrick to heal them.
The prayers of Saint Brigid were known to still the wind and the rain.
In one story, Brigid protected a woman from a nobleman who had entrusted a silver brooch to the woman for safekeeping but then secretly threw it into the sea. He charged her with stealing it, knowing that he could take her as a slave if a judge ruled in his favor. The woman fled and sought refuge with Brigid's community. Providentially, one of her fishermen hauled in a fish which, when cut open, proved to have swallowed the brooch. The nobleman freed the woman, confessed his sin, and bowed in submission to Brigid.
On another occasion, Brigid was travelling to see a physician for her headache. She stayed at the house of a Leinster couple who had two mute daughters. The daughters were traveling with Brigid when her horse startled, causing her to fall and graze her head on a stone. A touch of Brigid's blood healed the girls.
When on the bank of the River Inny, Brigid was given a gift of apples. She later entered a house where many lepers begged her for these apples, which she offered willingly. The woman who had given the gift to Brigid was angered by this, saying that she had not intended her gift for lepers. Brigid was angry at the woman for withholding from the lepers and cursed her trees so they would no longer bear fruit. Yet another woman also gave Brigid the same gift, and again Brigid gave the apples to begging lepers. This time the second woman asked that she and her garden be blessed. Brigid then said that a large tree in the woman’s garden would have twofold fruit from its offshoots, and it came to pass.
One Easter Sunday, a leper had come to Brigid to ask for a cow. She said she would rest and would help him later; however, he did not wish to wait and said he would go somewhere else for a cow. Brigid then offered to heal him, but the man stubbornly replied that his condition allowed him to get more than he would if he were healthy. After convincing the leper that this was not so, she told one of her maidens to have the man washed in a blessed mug of water. When this was done, the man was healed and vowed to serve Brigid.
One of the more commonly told stories is of Brigid asking the King of Leinster for land. She told the king that the place where she stood was the perfect spot for a convent. It was beside a forest where they could collect firewood and berries. There was also a lake nearby that would provide water, and the land was fertile. The king laughed at her and refused to give her any land. Brigid prayed to God and asked him to soften the king's heart. Then she smiled at the king and said, "Will you give me as much land as my cloak will cover?" The king thought that she was joking and, hoping to get rid of her, he agreed. She told four of her sisters to take up the cloak, but instead of laying it flat on the turf, each sister, with face turned to a different point of the compass, began to run swiftly, the cloth growing in all directions. The cloak began to cover many acres of land. The king was persuaded, and soon after that became a Christian and began to help the poor; he even commissioned the building of a convent. Legend has it that the convent was known for making jam from local blueberries, and a tradition has sprung up of eating jam on St. Brigid’s Day.
In other legends she is identified with the Virgin Mary (“Mary of the Gael”), since Brigid looked just like the Mary that Bishop Ibor saw in a vision on the night before he met Brigid.
Charles was the second son of James VI of Scotland, who became James 1 of England. He was born in Scotland in 1600 and came to England after his father’s accession. Charles was delicate as a child, though in later life he became quite robust and a good horseman. A studious person, he had interests ranging from theology to plays; he also had a taste for music and painting.
Charles succeeded his father on 27 March 1625, becoming “Supreme Governor” of the Church of England under the Elizabethan Act of Supremacy. He found among the church leaders, an Arminian party that was moving away from the strict Calvinism of the Puritans towards a theological position closer to traditional Western Catholicism in doctrine and style of worship. He used and abused his power and authority to foster them and to advance and promote High Churchmen, notably William Laud. Laud had become Bishop of St David’s in 1621 and was successively translated to Bath and Wells, London, and Canterbury.
One result of Charles’ politically inept championship of episcopacy was increasing political opposition, culminating in the Long Parliament of 1640 and the civil war that erupted in England in 1642. Charles’ abduction, trial and eventual execution by fanatical leaders of the army on 30 September 1649 made a martyr of an incompetent politician. Whatever may be said of his indecision, faithlessness and imprudence in public affairs, he maintained in private life a character of high moral standard, even of beauty.
In 1661 a form of prayer commemorating the execution of King Charles was drawn up for use on 30 January each year. Its inclusion in the Book of Common Prayer underlines the mindset of the triumphant royalists and episcopalians of the Restoration. The service was removed from the Prayer Book in 1859.
8:00am Holy Communion (BCP)
10:00am Zoom Service
February 5 - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 5 - Daily Offices
February 3 - St Anskar
February 2 - Candlemas
February 1 - St Brigid of Ireland
January 30 - King Charles I
January 29 - 4th Sunday of the Epiphany
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