Christ the Lord has promised us the Holy Spirit: come, let us adore him, alleluia.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
|Other saints: Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1473 - 1541)|
Arundel & Brighton
Margaret Plantagenet was the niece of King Edward IV, and was born in 1473. These were troubled times. Her father, the Duke of Clarence, was executed for treason, by the King, his own brother, while she was still a small child. Her brother Edward of Warwick might have been King of England but for the establishment of the House of Tudor by Henry VII after Bosworth Field in 1485. She herself could have posed a threat to the new dynasty, but instead of having her imprisoned or executed the King arranged for her marriage to a loyal supporter of his, Sir Richard Pole. The couple lived at Lordington, near Chichester, where probably their children, including the future Cardinal, were born.
Before long the Poles were appointed to the household of Prince Arthur and his wife Catherine of Aragon. Margaret and Catherine became firm friends. But within a year Arthur died; and within three years her husband also died, leaving her to bring up their five children. However, for a time all went well. Margaret successfully petitioned for the restoration of her titles and property, confiscated at her father’s attainder, and was admitted to her title of Countess of Salisbury. No doubt because of her friendship for Queen Catherine, whom Henry VIII had married after the death of Arthur (with papal dispensation), she was appointed as governess and head of the household to Princess Mary, (later Queen Mary Tudor). At that time the King used to say that his kingdom did not contain a nobler woman than the Countess.
But in the 1530’s came the King’s “great matter”, his divorce from Queen Catherine. Needless to say, Margaret disapproved strongly, as did her son Reginald, who was forced to take refuge on the Continent from the King’s anger. The divorce and Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn brought England into schism. The King tried hard to get Reginald on to his side, but of course to no avail. His book “De unitate” enraged the King, and when the Pope made him a Cardinal, that was the last straw. He vented his anger on the Cardinal’s family. It was now the year 1539. Margaret’s eldest son, Lord Montague, and other relatives, were executed for treason; and Margaret herself was subjected to a long period of interrogation, first at her own home near Havant, and then at Cowdray Park near Midhurst, the property of one of her interrogators, the Earl of Southampton. They sought evidence of treason, whether by support of her son the Cardinal, or by proving some involvement with the uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.
The reports of the interrogators give us some indication of the remarkable steadfastness of this elderly lady, now approaching seventy years of age. Not only did her questioners fail to extract any admission of guilt, even after rough handling; it is clear that they both feared and grudgingly respected her. Cromwell was unable to bring her to trial for lack of evidence, so he persuaded a subservient Parliament to pass an Act of Attainder by which she was condemned purely on suspicion, without any trial.
The Countess was taken to the Tower. The sentence for treason was death, but Henry forbore to have it executed, and for two years she was kept in the Tower, suffering greatly from the cold and damp.
It was finally the fact of her royal blood that brought about her execution. The King feared a rebellion of Yorkist sympathizers, following a Rising in the North. Margaret, the “last of the Plantagenets”, must be eliminated, and he ordered her execution. She was beheaded on East Smithfield Green, within the precincts of the Tower, on 27th May 1541, and buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
But the underlying cause of her death was undoubtedly the fact that the King could not silence the opposition to him in Europe, in which her son the Cardinal had so large a part, coupled with her own indomitable refusal, from the time of the divorce onwards, to compromise the unity of the Church. Her last words were, “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake”.
The Church formally gave her the title Blessed in 1886.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Gregory of Nyssa (335 - 395)|
Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of St Basil of Caesarea (“St Basil the Great”). He, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, “Gregory of Nazianzus”, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. They were active after the Council of Nicaea, working to formulate Trinitarian doctrine precisely and, in particular, to pin down the meaning and role of the least humanly comprehensible member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Basil was the leader and organizer; Gregory of Nazianzus was the thinker, the orator, the poet, pushed into administrative and episcopal roles by circumstances and by Basil; and Gregory of Nyssa, although not a great stylist, was the most gifted of the three as a philosopher and theologian. Together, the Cappadocian Fathers hammered out the doctrine of the Trinity like blacksmiths forging a piece of metal by hammer-blows into its perfect, destined shape. They were champions – and successful champions – of orthodoxy against Arianism, a battle that had to be conducted as much on the worldly and political plane as on the philosophical and theological one.
The works of Gregory of Nyssa whose extracts appear as Second Readings are not as rhetorically beautiful as those of Gregory of Nazianzus, who was an acclaimed orator; but they are helpful and clear. Most of them are commentaries on Scripture passages. They involve the mind and deepen the understanding.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||(1 Corinthians 15:3-5) ©|
Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; he was buried; and he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures. He appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Ephesians 2:4-6 ©|
God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Romans 6:4 ©|
When we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.