Today we commemorate St. Alfred the Great, King of the West Saxons, Scholar, 899, and St. Cedd, Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of the East Saxons, 664. We will celebrate Holy Eucharist today at 12:00 p.m. (noon).
THE LIFE OF ST ALFRED THE GREAT
Born in the year 849, Alfred was the King of the West Saxons, who effectively brought to an end the constant threat of Danish dominion in the British Isles. He came to the throne at the age of twenty-two and, after establishing peace, set about bringing stability to both Church and State. He gave half of his income to founding religious houses which themselves acted as Christian centres for education, care of the sick and poor and respite for travellers. He was a daily attender at Mass and himself translated many works into the vernacular. He evolved a legal code based on common sense and Christian mercy. His whole life was marked by the compassion of Christ. He died on t his day in the year 899.
A READING FROM THE LIFE OF KING ALFRED BY BISHOP ASSER
In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 849 Alfred, King of the Anglo-Sanxons, was born at the royal estate called Wantage, in the district known as Berkshire. In 853 King Ethelwulf sent his son Alfred to Rome in state, accompanied by a great number of both nobles and commoners. At this time the lord Pope Leo was ruling the apostolic see; he anointed the child Alfred as king, ordaining him properly, received him as an adoptive son and confirmed him.
Now Alfred was greatly loved, more than all his brothers, by his father and mother — and indeed by everybody — with a universal and profound love, and he was always brought up in the royal court and nowhere else. In spite of all the demands of the present life, it was the desire for wisdom, more than anything else, together with the nobility of his birth, which characterised the nature of his noble mind; but alas, by the shameful negligence of his parents and turors, Alfred remained ignorant of letters until his twelfthh year, or even longer. However, he was a careful listener, by day and night, to English poems, most frequently hearing them recited by others, and he readily retained them in his memory.
He learned by heart the ‘daily round’, that is, the services of the hours, and then certain psalms and prayers; these he collected in a single book, which h e kept by him day and night, as I have seen for myself; amid all the affairs of the present life he took it around with him everywhere for the sake of prayers, and was inseparable from it. But alas, he could not satisfy his craving for what he desired the most, namely the liberal arts; for, as he used to say, there were no good scholars in the entire kingdom of the West Saxons at that time.
He used to affirm with repeated complaints and sighing from the depths of his heart, that among all the difficulties and burdens of his present life this had become the greatest: namely, that at the time when he was of the right age and had the leisure and the capacity for learning, he did not have the teachers. For when he was older, and more incessantly preoccupied day and night – or rather harassed – by all kinds of illnesses unknown to the physicians of this island, as well as by the cures (both domestic and foreign) of the royal office, and also by the incursions of the Vikings by the land and sea, he had the teachers and scribes to some extent, but he was unable to study.
He similarly applied himself attentively to charity and distribution of alms to the native population and to foreign visitors of all races, showing immense and incomparable kindness and generosity to all, as well as to the investigation of things unknown. Wherefore many Franks, Frisians, Gauls, Vikings, Welshmen, Irishmen and Bretons subjected themselves willingly to his lordship, nobles, and commoners alike; and, as befitted his royal status, he ruled, loved, honoured and enriched them all with wealth and authority, just as he did his own people.
COLLECT FOR ST. ALFRED THE GREAT
O Sovereign Lord, who 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.
LIFE OF ST. CEDD
Cedd was born in Northumbria in the late sixth century and joined the monastery of Lindisfarne where he served many years. When King Peada of the Middle Angles became a Christian, Cedd was sent with three other priests to preach the gospel in this new territory. Some time later, King Sigebert of the East Saxons was converted and Cedd, now an experienced missionary, went with another priest to Essex. After travellingn through the region they reported back to Lindisfarne where Cedd was consecrated Bishop for the East Saxons. He returned to Essex to continue his work, building churches and two monasteries, and ordaining deacons and priests. While on a visit to Northumbria he founded his third monastery, as Lastingham, where he died of fever in the year 664 after attending the Synod of Whitby.
A READING FROM TEH HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH AND PEOPLE BY THE VENERABLE BEDE
About this time, the East Saxons, who had rejected the faith and expelled Bishop Mellitus, once again accepted it under the influence of King Oswy of the Northumbrians. For Sigbert, their king, was a friend of Kingn Oswy and often used to visit him. Having now become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, Sigbert returned to London, theh capital of his earthly kingdom, after asking Oswy to send him teachers to convert his people ot the faith of Christ and to wash them in the fountain of salvation.
Accordingly, Oswy sent to the province of the Middle Angles and summoned the man of God, Cedd, whom he dispatched with another priest as companion to preach the Word to the East Saxons. When these priests had visited the entire province andn established a strong Christian community, Cedd returned home to Lindisfarne for consultations with Bishop Finan. When the latter learned the great success of his preaching, he invited to Lindisfarne two other bishops to assist him, and consecrated Cedd bishop of the East Saxons. When Cedd had been raised to the dignity of bishop, he returned to the province and used his increased authority to promote the work he had already begun.
He established churches in several places and ordained priests and deacond to assist in teaching the word of faith and baptizing the people, especially in the city which the Saxonsn calldd Orthona and in the placed called tilbury. Theh former stands on teh banks of teh River Blackwater, the latter on the banks of the River Thames. Here Cedd established communities of the servants of Christ and taught them to maintain the discipline of a Rule so far as these untutored folk were then capable of doing.
When Cedd had been bishop in the province for many years and had borne the responsibility for the monastery at Lastingham, whose rules he had established according to the use of Lindisfarne, he contracted the plague during a visit to the monastery, became ill and died. He was buried initially outside the walls of the monastery, but later when a stone church in honour of the blessed Mother of God was built, his body was re-buried in it on the right hand side of the altar. Cedd left the monastery in the care of his brother Chad who was later also to be consecrated a bishop. For there were four brothers, Cedd, Cynebill, Caelin and Chad, all famous priests of the Lord, itself a very rare occurrence, and two of the four became bishops.
COLLECT FOR ST. CEDD
O God, who to the blessed Abbot Cedd, gave grace to imitate Christ in his poverty, and with humble heart to follow him to the end: grant that all who enter the path of Gospel perfection may neither look back nor go astray from the way, but hastening to thee without stumbling, may attain the crown of eternal life whereunto you call them. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.